Thinking out of the box
With proven benefits for reducing fuel costs and increasing driver safety, telematics is increasingly finding its way on to fleets’ radars. But for some firms the cost, contracts and hassle involved will always be too much, which may explain why there is an ever-increasing number of apps available to offer some of the benefits of telematics in a much more digestible format.
I must admit to having some scepticism over whether such apps offer as detailed an insight as telematics though. And wondering how accurate they really are.
Already renowned for its expertise in driver performance management, GreenRoad launched just such an app last year – the GreenRoad Smartphone Edition – which we put to the test.
How it works:
Available for Android smartphones, the GreenRoad Smartphone Edition uses advanced, patented algorithms to detect how well the driver is doing and then provide real-time in-vehicle feedback. Just like the telematics-based GreenRoad system, the app measures driving style using green, amber and red alerts.
All the driver needs to do is download the app, log in and then activate the system on their journeys (automatic activation is also available). The system then uses functionality including GPS and built-in accelerometers to detect what the driver is doing.
Any actions deemed risky or fuel-inefficient, such as harsh braking, are flagged up with an amber or red visual warning and an audio alert. At the end of the journey, the driver is presented with a summary, which is also available to managers as part of the GreenRoad Central mobile and online accounts with fleet summary dashboards and driver-specific drill-down detail.
My own results:
I have to fess up to having gained a high proportion of red alerts during the time I tested the app – particularly for speeding as well as cornering, harsh acceleration and braking. However, in my defence I made no attempt to change my driving style. And in fact within a few weeks of running the app, I put the maximum speed limit up from 70 to 80mph as otherwise it would start giving red alerts from 65mph, which seemed a bit premature to me, but may explain my issues with speeding.
I was a bit sceptical about getting alerts over cornering and braking on straight stretches of road where I’d been keeping up a steady speed but Chris Deakin, UK account manager at GreenRoad, told me that the alert can appear up to 60 seconds after the infraction has been made and directed me to my own online results to check this out.
The driver/fleet benefits:
Chris added that a key part of the system is that drivers do have access to their own data and it was handy to log in after journeys to see not only where I’d been and the prevailing speed limit but also the course of the road to understand more about reasons behind the alerts.
Management access to the system also means that fleets can create league tables – which GreenRoad says can play an important part in getting drivers on board and supporting the system.
The firm adds that whilst there are a growing number of driver behaviour apps out there, the GreenRoad Smartphone Edition is the first one that will consolidate the data across a whole fleet.
It’s certainly a good insight into driver behaviour – my results concurred with other risk management systems I’ve tested – and for firms looking to cut their fuel costs and/or get to grips with road risk management, it can pinpoint those drivers that need further action without the need for a full-blown telematics system. However, though the app can be set up to automatically activate in a moving vehicle, there is always the option for the driver to switch off their phone altogether. And as with telematics systems, the fleet manager needs to analyse and act on the data generated to maximise the benefits.