Man delivering package from delivery van

Last mile delivery strategies for fleets

One of the biggest trends to come out of coronavirus is an acceleration of a pre-existing trend that could have well been inevitable; the shift toward e-commerce. Thousands and thousands of businesses in the UK upgraded or introduced ecommerce platforms as brick-and-mortar stores became inaccessible during the pandemic.

With this shift, though, comes a whole new set of supply chain considerations for businesses. How do you put in place infrastructure that allows you to get your goods to consumers with competitive costs, timings, and customer satisfaction? That’s the challenge a lot of businesses are facing, and perhaps the most complex part of that supply chain problem is the last mile of delivery, which is exactly what we’re going to explore today.

What is first mile and last mile delivery?

Within any supply chain, whether regional or global, it’s typically the case that the first mile and the last mile of delivery is the most strategically challenging for commercial fleets. That’s why these parts of the freight journey are referred to with special terminology.

Last mile delivery, for example, is often the most complex part of a supply chain. In terms of cost alone, it typically amounts to around 40% of the total cost of delivery, and as you can imagine requires a bunch of technical considerations such as:

  • Route efficiency; how best to navigate the (typically) urban environment in which parcel recipients reside.
  • Environmental impact; are our methods of transport and delivery having a particularly negative impact in terms of pollutants? Are there greener methods through which journeys can be completed?
  • Customer-focused challenges; how can we give customers realistic delivery times and maintain a high quality of service?

This same set of considerations applies, to a lesser extent, to the first mile of deliveries – whereby goods must often be transported from a manufacturing plant to a distribution centre.

Last mile logistics

To understand the scale of the logistical challenges associated with final mile deliveries, here are some real-world practicalities that must be factored into supply chain management:

1. Maintaining a competitive cost per kilometre

Tracking the exact routes covered by your fleet and reporting on those journeys digitally is a challenge in of itself (one in fact, that we can help you with), but beyond this- how do you ensure that your drivers are pathing from destination to destination in an efficient way?

Particularly for smaller businesses, it’s essential that you have the right technology in place to GPS track routes for the sake of efficiency. This allows you to calculate optimal routes to enable timely deliveries without resulting in lorries of cars racking up too many miles.

Naturally, an ideal solution would factor in how many legs are associated with each trip, which is typically the more the merrier unless individual legs cover lots of kilometres. These challenges are made much more discoverable and digestible with the right tech in place.

Delivery van with open back doors showing cardboard boxes

2. Maximising vehicle capacity

Every fleet operator in the UK would love to be able to claim that each of their vehicles operates at 100% capacity, but this is virtually never the case. That’s because customers expect timely deliveries, which we’ll get onto, but the key element to consider here is cost.

If your vehicles are covering vast distances while at half capacity, you’re going to quickly find each delivery becoming less profitable. That’s especially an issue if you aren’t already taking steps to reduce the cost of fuel for your drivers.

3. Managing customer expectations

When you think of efficient last mile deliveries, relatively accurate delivery time windows and quick deliveries, made not long after products or services have been ordered, which companies come to mind?

For us, it’s Amazon deliveries and Uber services.

The sheer speed of Amazon deliveries, backed by a well thought-out, nationwide distribution network sets the bar very high for consumers when they consider what they should expect from a delivery service. For smaller businesses who will likely never be able to match these distribution capabilities, it’s important to focus on understanding which elements of last-mile delivery customers expect, and channelling efforts into improving in these areas.

As a starting point, a good place to focus may be on expected delivery windows. Gone are the days where simply allocating a day, or perhaps a 10-hour time window for delivery, is considered adequate by customers.

When services such as Uber can provide pinpoint accuracy with drivers’ arrival, or Tesco deliveries can allocate a two-hour window, customers come to recognise that as the norm. So, as a fleet operator or small business, you’ll need to ensure you’re taking reasonable steps to modernise and upgrade your last-mile delivery service to maximise customer satisfaction. If this is a real struggle for you, then it could at least be worth ensuring you’re realistic with your customer base.

Boosting your last mile delivery strategy

We hope that we’ve given you a good idea of the key areas within last-mile deliveries to look out for when trying to improve your operation. There’s also a huge contingency element to last mile deliveries that are worth investigating; what if your vehicles encounter bad weather while moving freight? What if certain routes become inaccessible?

One final piece of advice from us would be to look out for the innovations that are coming to last mile deliveries. For example, what if drones could prove to be a sustainable, automated, and effective way of delivering certain goods for local businesses? While this technology may feel like it’s not quite on our doorstep, keeping an eye on the latest industry news around this topic could be worth your time.

How could Fuel Card Services help?

At Fuel Card Services, we specialise in supporting drivers and fleets with the right technology needed to track last mile deliveries, maintain vehicles, and record mileage. Our range of fleet services is designed to give you access to:

  • Advanced telematics – a fully customisable tracking system tailored to your fleet’s requirements that can improve safety for your drivers.
  • MileageCount – an intelligent, automated system for accurately reporting mileage claims.
  • DriversClub – our fast and free fuel-finder app that helps your drivers quickly locate their nearest fuel pump.

If you’re serious about improving your last mile deliveries through upgrading your fleet technology, then contact our friendly experts to find out how we can support you. Or see how we can help you save money on fuel cards to improve every journey.

Unlock fuel savings using Tele-Gence Telematics

Knowing how to save fuel must be a priority for any fleet manager. This is typically the largest expense involved with running company vehicles, accounting for up to 60 per cent of operating budgets.

What’s more, fuel prices are on the rise. According to government figures, a litre of petrol cost an average of 115.39p at the start of 2021. Yet by the end of May, this had risen to 128.15p. Over the same period, the cost of diesel rose from 119.97p to 131.82p per litre.

However, there are a range of things businesses can do to make fuel savings. One of the best solutions is to secure the right fuel card, which can give you crucial discounts on petrol and diesel. But another is to use telematics.

This technology works well alongside tools like fuel cards, and our Tele-Gence solution can offer big savings. So how does this work and what benefits could it bring to your fleet?

What is telematics?

Telematics refers to a collection of technologies that work together to offer fleet managers much more data about the performance of their vehicles.

It’s sometimes conflated with vehicle tracking, but there’s much more to it than this. While GPS tracking tools are a central part of a good telematics solution, it also uses vehicle monitoring sensors, analytics tools, cameras and other real-time information to build a complete picture of your activities.

This has a wide range of benefits. For example, it can improve the safety of your fleet and provide detailed reporting that takes much of the hassle out of paperwork such as calculating expenses.

But telematics’ ability to reduce your fleet’s fuel consumption is one of the biggest advantages of this technology, and it can do this in a number of ways.

5 ways Tele-Gence helps your fuel usage

Fuel Card Services’ Tele-Gence is an advanced solution that offers a wide range of benefits to businesses of all sizes. But when it comes to telematics fuel saving strategies, there are several ways you can use this technology to your advantage.

1.  Better route planning

GPS navigation system on car dashboard showing roadworks

One of the easiest and most obvious ways to use less fuel is to do less driving. Driver tracking and route planning tools help you achieve this. If an individual is taking a less-efficient route to get from A to B, the technology can identify this and suggest a better alternative.

However, the most fuel-efficient route isn’t necessarily the shortest. If the most direct route by mileage takes you through a busy section with many traffic lights, or an area of high congestion that means a lot of stopping and starting, this will use more fuel than a longer, but smoother route.

A key feature of telematics is its ability to spot when a vehicle is idling. One reason for this may be if it’s stuck in traffic, or if a driver has left the engine running while making stops. Either way, this is highly damaging to fuel efficiency. For instance, if your vehicle has a three-litre engine, just ten minutes of idling could use almost a third of a litre of fuel.

Telematics can greatly reduce this idling time. Better route planning is one way to do this, but another is by helping adjust driver behaviour.

2.  Improve driver behaviour

Telematics lets you see exactly how your cars and vans are being driven, and in turn, this allows you to step in and offer advice to those who are getting from A to B in the least fuel-efficient way.

As well as idling, harsh acceleration, speeding  and heavy braking all result in more fuel being used, and telematics software can track all of these parameters in real-time. Tele-Gence even allows you to collate this vehicle telematics data in a ‘league table’ that shows your best and worst-performing drivers.

You can then use this insight to improve driver training and make sure it’s targeted where it’s most needed. The Energy Saving Trust, for example, noted that smart driving training can reduce drivers’ fuel consumption by around 15 per cent, leading to typical annual savings of between £200 and £250 per driver a year.

Continuous monitoring of driver behaviour lets you check if the advice is sinking in. What’s more, in addition to reducing your fuel speed, this is a great driver safety tool, and can help prolong the life of your vehicles.

3.  Find cheaper fuel

Selection of petrol and diesel fuel pumps

Using fuel cards to secure cheap petrol and diesel is essential for many firms, but this only works if drivers know where they can use these solutions.

Looking for the cheapest fuel can often be a careful balancing act. If you go too far out of your way to find a cheap filling station, you may end up using more fuel to get there and back than you’d save in reduced costs. However, telematics fleet savings can help with this by directing your drivers to the cheapest and most practical fuel sites.

4.  Keep your vehicles in top condition

Poorly-maintained vehicles tend to use more fuel than those in good condition, so having a clear plan for maintenance and being able to spot potential problems early is another way to reduce your spend. Again, telematics tools can help with this by connecting to vehicle diagnostics units to identify issues proactively, as well as provide alerts when scheduled maintenance is due.

This can help your fuel spend in a number of ways. From simple steps such as helping ensure your tyres are at the correct pressure to replacing filters and keeping your engine in good condition, solid maintenance offers many benefits.

5.  Prevent fraud

Finally, telematics can be hugely useful in cracking down on issues such as fuel fraud and unauthorised usage of company vehicles. For example, these tools can be used to alert fleet managers if a vehicle is being used outside of approved hours or is in a geographical area it shouldn’t be. This enables you to investigate further and provides undeniable evidence if there’s a dispute.

It can also work alongside fuel cards to track any fuel fraud. By comparing GPS data from the telematics with info from fuel cards, it can tell instantly if someone is using a company fuel card to fill another vehicle.

Fuel saving is just one of the many telematics benefits you can enjoy with the right technology. Contact us today to find out what else Tele-Gence solutions can do for you.

Bird's eye view of motor way with telematics data monitoring vehicles

Creating a business case for introducing telematics

Whilst we know that telematics can offer fleets a great deal of benefits, it is worthwhile for fleet managers to craft a business case that outlines the potential return in investment.

In some scenarios, the prospect of saving on fuel won’t be enough to sway a business to incorporate telematics into their fleet. However, a strong business case that details the other advantages of telematics could be the way to persuade a boardroom.

Would your business benefit from telematics?

Before you consider proposing the introduction of telematics to you fleet, you should evaluate whether it is in the best interest of the business.

The upfront cost of telematics is often the reason some workplaces reject the idea. However, it is important to consider the long term benefits. When used to efficiently, businesses have the potential to achieve a 100% return on investment in their first few months of using telematics.

Even if business owners are made aware of the potential fuel savings and increased productivity, they are still cautious to opt into the use of telematics.

They may be worried that drivers would view its installation as a breach of their privacy. Maintaining a good relationship with drivers is a key part of fleet management, so this concern is shared by many.

When used correctly, however, telematics do not pose a threat to the drivers’ privacy. The technology helps to improve communication amongst the fleet. This saves time and boosts efficiency.

When building a business case in favour of telematics, expect any resistance to come in the form of the above concerns. Knowing the full benefits of telematics can help to remove any doubts your business may have.

How can telematics improve fleet management?

Birds eye view of road showing telematics connecting the vehicles

Reduced fuel costs

The benefit that is likely to appeal to many businesses is that you can reduce fuel costs. The 2016 RAC Telematics Report states that users were reducing their fuel use by up to 55%. By following the most efficient routing provided by the telematics, drivers are reducing their overall miles.

Fleet managers can see when their vehicles are frequently idling and make adjustments so this is avoided in future.

If drivers are consistently wasting fuel by speeding and aggressively breaking, the fleet manager will be notified and can take action accordingly.

Reduced maintenance costs

Telematics can warn fleet managers when there are mechanical issues in their vehicles. Getting these issues fixed early on reduces the risk of breakdowns in the future.

This reduces not only the maintenance cost, but unexpected downtime as well. The less time your vehicles spend being repaired, the more time they can spend on the road.

Reduced administrative costs

With the extensive data received through telematics, fleet managers can reduce time spent on admin. Accurate mileage reports mean filing taxes and expense reports is a painless task. With more time to spend on other aspects of fleet management, the business is saving money.

Improved customer service

Your business case should acknowledge the customer service benefits of telematics. Customers are able to stay informed about the location of their deliveries, and be given estimated time of arrival.

Seeing the business run smoothly and meeting deadlines is likely to improve customers’ impression of your services, making them more likely to return.

Increased driver safety

A benefit of being able to keep track of a driver’s location is that, in case of an accident, emergency services can be sent directly to them.

Feedback about a driver’s dangerous habits can also help them to improve their driving. This will greatly reduce the risk of accidents in the future. Fleet managers can use the data to train drivers to amend specific, dangerous habits they have developed.

A business case should always highlight the financial benefits

Hands on iPad with telematics graphics connecting a fleet of lorries and a plane

Remember that your business will need to understand how telematics can save them money. Fleet managers need to give a strong business case that gives a clear outline as to how this technology will keep spending down, despite the initial costs.

If your business remains unconvinced, remind them that their competitors will adopt the use of telematics. Get there first, and you’ll be able to reap the rewards.

For more information about what telematics can do for your fleet, get in touch with the team at Tele-Gence.

Tele-Gence helps to reduce costs across your fleet, as well as offering improved safety and security. It also integrates seamlessly with your fuel card account, further reducing administration time and costs.

Birds eye view of road showing telematics connecting the vehicles

Telematics for fleets: Debunking common black box myths

There are many add-ons to vehicles today that are designed to improve life for drivers. From heated windscreens to reversing cameras, we enjoy a more luxurious life on the road than our grandparents could have dreamt of.

One development that is coming ever more to the fore in our always-on, internet-connected society is telematics. Not only does this provide benefits for the casual driver, but the phenomenon could also be a real boon when it comes to fleet management too.

However, many businesses have a number of negative preconceptions about telematics. Let’s take a look at some of them and whether they might be unfounded.

What is telematics?

First: what exactly do we mean by telematics? The term itself is a compound derived from the Greek ‘tele’ (distant) and the information processing word ‘informatics’.

It was first used in a French government report in 1978 discussing the mass computerisation of society. Telematics refers to the transmission of information over long distances, but it generally now relates to vehicle technology in particular.

A telematics system is simply a piece of tech that fits within a crash-resistant box inside a vehicle. From there, it can receive wireless information, communicate with a server and display data, whether that is to drivers themselves or fleet managers.

With the advent of better connectivity and factors such as 5G, telematics is really taking off and many businesses are using it to better manage their fleet-based workforce.

Indeed, according to the recent Insurance Telematics Market report from ResearchAndMarkets.com, it is expected that the insurance telematics market alone will grow by 18.5 per cent per year between 2021 and 2026.

Myths and misconceptions

Despite this, many people remain suspicious of telematics. Let’s take a look at some common myths and try to debunk them.

1.   It’s too much like Big Brother

Contrary to popular belief, telematics won’t tell tales to the police and it can’t record your conversations. Your smartphone is actually far more invasive than any black box. Fleet drivers may understandably feel concerned about monitoring, but managers should reassure them that they are protected by company policies concerning privacy whenever they’re at work.

With this in mind, meetings to showcase and demonstrate new fleet telematics systems may be a great way of preventing any ‘Big Brother’ concerns. Even better, competitions using telematics data for merit points are likely to help persuade staff that this type of tech could really be the future.

2.   It will cost too much

There will of course be an upfront cost when it comes to installing telematics. However, as with most technology, it is becoming less expensive as it is more widely rolled out. In addition, although vehicles will be off the road while they are updated – and therefore not part of the fleet – installation time has fallen to less than an hour in most cases.

What’s more, telematics could actually save fleets money in the long term. Servers can send users monthly reports about the condition of every vehicle in a fleet, flagging up problems and preventing potential breakdowns.

They can also find petrol stations where fuel cards can be used for discounts; check vehicle locations to ensure drivers are within designated routes; and monitor fuel management to identify where economising could take place.

Other benefits include:

  • Automated pre-trip inspections
  • Regular expense reports to assist with tax compliance
  • Electronic distribution of tasks to prevent drivers needing to return to depots

According to the RAC, businesses could expect to save up to 15 per cent a year on fuel, wear and tear and accidents through using telematics.

An electronic display showing diagnostics being run on a car

3.   We’ve already got GPS and apps. As a small business, we don’t need telematics

Telematics is so much more than simply GPS tracking, as we’ve touched on above. Whether you’ve got two employees or hundreds, having dedicated technology to better understand and improve performance could be a real boost for compliance and your finances.

Consider also the following situations:

  • Telematics can call for help automatically if drivers are ever in a crash
  • Users have an SOS function to summon assistance themselves if there is an emergency other than an accident
  • Time-series data can be collected to keep freight in the optimum condition, e.g. ensuring cold food stays cold
  • Audible warnings can be issued for hazards such as upcoming roadworks
  • Telematics can connect with clients and customers to boost satisfaction by showing them expected delivery times and other data
  • Black boxes can be activated in the event of theft to track vehicles

All of this is far more than single apps can do – all in one place.

4.   It’s a distraction for drivers

Unlike smartphones and traditional sat nav devices, telematics can read and dictate things like messages and maps. Therefore, although they have more functionality, they don’t bother drivers as much with visual notifications. This could actually help to reduce stress and incentivise better driver behaviour.

Furthermore, since reports can flag up unwanted habits such as idling for too long and harsh cornering, fleet drivers may find themselves keen to concentrate more on the roads, not less.

5.   It’s data overload – we can’t cope

Telematics doesn’t necessarily require a lot of resources: it can be customised for particular alerts and reports to improve efficiency. That way, you can ensure you’re only getting the information you really need, when you want it.

Simply setting aside a little time every so often to monitor it should be enough – and it could even save time and money, not cost them.

As you can see, telematics is far more than glorified GPS. It has an ever-growing list of functions that could help fleet managers in all kinds of industries, whatever their size.

If you want to know more about how to incorporate this type of tech into your operations, just get in touch with Fuelcard Services today for expert advice.

Overhead view of vehicles on a motorway with digital tracking overlay.

What’s the difference between telematics and vehicle tracking?

You’ll no doubt have heard a lot about technologies such as vehicle tracking and telematics in recent years. These tools are an increasingly important part of any business’ fleet operations. Without them, firms won’t have crucial insight into what their drivers are doing or how to improve efficiency.

But if you’re unfamiliar with these technologies, you may be asking ‘what’s the difference?’ Vehicle tracking solutions and telematics are sometimes used interchangeably. But in fact, there are a wide range of differences that separate the two. Therefore, if you’re looking to reduce fuel costs, boost safety or increase productivity, you’ll need to know exactly what they do.

Understanding vehicle tracking

Vehicle tracking, as the name suggests, lets you keep an eye on your fleet at all times. Using satellite-based GPS technology that feeds information back to base via mobile networks, you can see where all your vehicles are in real time. This includes who’s on the move, who’s at an appointment and who might be available.

This can assist you in making better decisions about how to run your fleet. As well as helping drivers find their destination, the data gleaned from this can be used to help fill in mileage reports and other records.

The key benefits of this technology

Vehicle tracking solutions help you build a picture of where your vehicles are and how to best optimise their routing. Real-time tracking can ensure drivers avoid any congestion points and provides accurate estimates for when they can expect to arrive at their destination. In turn, this helps with overall planning and can even boost customer satisfaction by giving them more info on when to expect your employees.

GPS tracking tools can also help you spot any vehicles that are being used where or when they shouldn’t. For example, you’ll be able to see if a car or van is being used out of hours. Geofencing solutions can also enable you to set up a designated area for your operations. If a vehicle strays outside of these restrictions, you’ll quickly be able to see this. This will also be hugely valuable if you fall victim to theft, as it can help the police home in on the vehicle.

What is telematics?

Speedometer with 'telematics' written on it

Vehicle tracking services alone, however, only offer a partial picture. This is where telematics comes in. A key factor that separates telematics from simpler vehicle tracking solutions is the amount of data and reporting tools you have available.

A good telematics solution will offer all the same benefits as a GPS tracking system, but will also build on this with much more detailed information about the vehicle and its driver. For instance, telematics tools offer more insight about how the vehicle is being driven. It can record not only speed, but also information about how frequently or harshly the accelerator and brakes are being used. It can also show you how long engines spend idling.

Elsewhere, integration with the vehicle’s diagnostic computer can give you early warning of any potential issues, letting you better plan for any repairs or maintenance.

Telematics software can also integrate directly with reporting tools. This helps you much more easily calculate fuel usage, driving hours and expenses claims, to name but a few. With information displayed in easy-to-use dashboards, this means you have a complete picture of everything your fleet is doing at your fingertips.

The benefits of going beyond vehicle tracking

One of the key benefits of a good telematics solution is the impact it can have on driver behaviour. With the system recording a wide variety of metrics, you can easily see who’s driving sensibly and who could be putting themselves and other road users at risk. This lets you step in with training programmes, a warning or even disciplinary action for those who are frequently speeding, tailgating or otherwise driving erratically.

As well as making your fleet safer, this also has a direct impact on your fuel consumption. Smoother driver inputs and less time spent idling means you use less petrol or diesel. As this is one of the biggest expenses for any fleet, this is a simple way of reducing your expenditure and saving the company money.

This is before you take into account the fuel savings that can be achieved through better monitoring and route planning. As well as ensuring your drivers are following routes that provide the best efficiency, fuel tracking systems offer a quick and easy way of reducing your consumption and protecting your business.

Cracking down on fuel fraud

Close up of hand holding a fuel pump at filling station

You can also see at a glance where and when fuel cards are being used by your drivers, and ensure the time and location match the vehicle. This is a vital tool in cracking down on fuel fraud issues such as people sharing cards and using them to fill up personal vehicles.

Fuel fraud is actually a significant problem for many firms, with research from Shell revealing that almost two-thirds of fleet managers in the UK (65 per cent) view this as a major issue. If left unchecked, it could easily end up costing you huge amounts of money, so it’s essential you’re able to spot this and take action.

Improving your day-to-day workload

A good telematics system also means much less time spent on paperwork. With detailed reporting on everything from fuel efficiency and mileage to emissions, it automates and streamlines what would otherwise be tedious manual tasks. This also ensures accuracy and leaves you free to spend your time on more worthwhile, value-adding activities.

A complete fleet management solution

A telematics solution therefore offers a full fleet management and vehicle tracking solution. Compare this to a more limited GPS-only monitored service and it’s easy to see where the extra value lies.

Research by Verizon suggests effective telematics software offers a wide range of benefits. Among the results businesses have seen include:

  • Fuel economy improved by 18 per cent
  • Economical driving increased by 15 per cent
  • Harsh braking incidents down by 77 per cent
  • Engine idle time reduced by 64 per cent
  • Driving hours decreased by 24 per cent

If you’d like to know more about what telematics can do for your business, get in touch with our experts today.