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How are GCC's FM fleet management plans changing?

fmME, with inputs from John Bambridge, speaks to industry experts about how telematics can support the fuel- and cost-efficiency targets facing the Middle East’s fm fleet managers

Meet the fleet: Transguard Group’s fleet comprises more than 1,000 units across all its activities.
Meet the fleet: Transguard Group’s fleet comprises more than 1,000 units across all its activities.

At a briefing hosted this September, UAE-based security services provider Restrata noted the growing potential of telematics tools to cut overheads within the context of fleet management – referencing fuel consumption, scheduling, and even the prospects of user-based insurance in the Gulf.

Steve Edgett, VP of situational awareness and tracking at Restrata, told attendees: “The recent explosion of technologies around connectivity and data analytics is changing the game, and that rapid innovation is forcing us to reconsider how we define fleet telematics.”

While vehicle telematics have long been utilised to reduce fleet costs and improve safety, Edgett highlighted the growing number of ways in which increasingly competitive sensors and systems can monitor a wide array of fleet functions, such as driver behaviour.

He also described the variety of smart sensors currently available for monitoring widespread and costly behaviours such as excessive idling, and noted that driver health and drowsiness can now be monitored with greater accuracy through ECG monitors built into clothing.

Vehicle and driver tracking technologies are already being encouraged in the UAE, with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) working on a vehicle defect monitoring system that will require all heavy vehicles in Dubai to be fitted with telematics devices.

This February, Ahmed Bahrozyan, CEO of the RTA’s licensing agency, said the organisation is in the final stages of setting up a monitoring centre that will be linked with smart detection devices on heavy vehicles. The centre will communicate with the RTA’s road patrols to identify violating vehicles.

Numerous advancements have been made across the global telematics sector, and vehicle manufacturers have even developed systems exclusive to their units, such as Daimler’s FleetBoard – this, even though cost concerns have a tendency to hinder tech uptake in the GCC.

However, UAE-headquartered Transguard Group’s fleet management team remains among regional FM’s most tech savvy. Managing director Greg Ward says the company’s fleet currently consists of more than 1,000 units, spread across armoured, staff, and staff transport vehicles.

“We expect the fleet to grow by 20% in the next 12 months to keep pace with business unit growth forecasts,” Ward tells fmME.

Transguard’s telematics

Transguard’s extensive work in the cash and the security services sectors intensifies its remit of telematics implementation, with the company already having installed a satellite tracking system in all its vehicles to monitor vehicle usage, geofencing, and out-of-office (OOF) hours, as well as driver behaviours such as speeding, harsh braking, and Salik use.

“The satellite tracking system has allowed the business to improve its vehicle utilisation and reduce costs in fuel usage as well as road toll charges by up to 80%,” Ward reveals.

“Staff vehicles are fitted with a fob card system to identify the person driving the unit, ensuring that non-authorised staff cannot drive it.

“We are currently engaged in a project to introduce the Transport Planning System, which is aimed at enhancing our capabilities in route planning and vehicle efficiency. The route planner, which is the highlight of the system, will be used to plan the journey by taking into account the route with the shortest travel time.”

Dubai’s aviation sector is one of Transguard’s busiest markets, and the company’s fleet management programmes also extend to its workforce management plans.

“All our aviation personnel work on-site at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport,” Ward explains.

“As these are 24-hour operations covering cargo, ground staff, baggage handling, wheelchair assistance, and engineering, there are multiple shifts requiring a continual movement of staff. Thus, all staff working at these locations reside within 30 minutes of their work locations, allowing minimal travel time, which is really important from an employee wellbeing perspective too.”

Buyer’s call

The armoured vehicle fleet used by Transguard’s cash services division consists of Mercedes, Peugeot, VW, Ford, and GMC units, with all new vehicles being the latter. Meanwhile, the company’s staff transportation fleet consists of mini buses carrying 12 to 15 passengers; Toyota Coaster or Mitsubishi Rosa 34-seater vehicles; and Ashok Leyland 56-seater buses.

According to Ward, Transguard’s fleet purchases are a combination of full ownership and long-term leasing: “All armoured vehicles used in cash transportation must be wholly owned by Transguard. All B4-level armouring retrofit works are carried out in the UAE.

“As per Dubai Police Department of Protective Systems (DPS) requirements, all CCTV electronics and satellite tracking [features] live connectivity to DPS tracking and monitoring systems.

“In terms of staff transport, all our vehicles are leased or outsourced. We prefer to lease rather than own the staff transport fleet in order to have the flexibility required to grow in line with business needs,” Ward adds.

Biofuel benefits

Restrata’s briefing covered the growing potential of telematics to reduce carbon not only as a matter of fleet efficiency, but as a function of corporate social responsibility.

During his address, Edgett commented: “Leading logistics firms are now monitoring carbon emissions as a key performance indicator – for both the savings in fuel costs and the environmental factor. Prices of plug-n-play vehicle trackers, which plug directly into the vehicle’s data bus, have also dropped significantly, and hardware costs are easily manageable.”

He explained how Restrata’s fleet telematics and data management software, SecureLocate, also has the potential to connect to every device – from telematics devices to mobile phones – within a company as part of a larger situational awareness and tracking offering.

SecureLocate also encompasses trip planning and is technologically agnostic, allowing it to connect to 3,000 different types of sensors – a level of openness that Restrata points out is in keeping with the rise of the Internet of Things.

Margareta AbuRas, MD of Integral DMCC, partnered with Restrata earlier this year to support the delivery of SecureLocate solutions to her customers.

Commenting at the briefing, she said: “The efficient utilisation of assets has an impact on operational costs and highlights how quickly a business can expect returns from fleet telematics.”

The contribution of telematics platforms to improving fuel efficiency cannot be overlooked, especially as low global oil values drive up fuel prices across the GCC region. Unsurprisingly, biofuels are finding a foothold in the region, and Ward says up to 95% of the diesel consumed by Transguard is biofuel.

He adds: “We estimate our initiative [to use biodiesels] reduced our carbon emissions by 1,000 tonnes.

“We have the right people, processes, and systems to ensure the highest efficiency in fleet management. This gives us an edge over our competitors as we are able to cost transportation at an overall lower price point.

“We even have companies approaching us to take on the management of their fleets, which is [an opportunity] that we are interested in and are looking at,” Ward concludes.

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