Confronting Congestion: What Your Fleet Can Do
One thing that unites private, commercial and company car drivers is their dislike of traffic and congestion. After all, what could one possibly enjoy about it? But it’s not just a matter of stress or missed appointments, it also costs UK businesses a fortune in lost productivity; in 2017 alone, £915 million was lost because of crammed roads. In addition, a recent survey by Mercedes-Benz revealed congestion to be the second greatest barrier to fleet growth, behind only rising fuel-costs. To make matters worse, analysts predict that traffic volumes will only increase over coming years. So what can fleet managers and decision-makers realistically do to get around it?
According to TomTom Telematics, congestion increases the average amount of time a vehicle spends on the road by a thought-provoking 129 hours a year. Beverley Wise, TomTom Telematics’ director director, has suggested that better utilisation of data can help to mitigate wasted time. She said “traffic remains a serious issue for business and the resulting delays have potential implications for productivity, customer service standards and even employee wellbeing. Unfortunately, congestion levels continue to rise, and the UK economy is paying the price for this at a time when the landscape is already challenging enough.” She concluded “but although solutions to the wider traffic problem are incredibly complex, businesses can take action now to mitigate its effect by using data to develop smarter working schedules and shift patterns to help employees avoid driving at peak times.”
But there are solutions beyond ever advancing telematics technology. John Pryor, chairman of AFCO, has suggested that fleets can take a broader approach. This could include extensive journey planning and dynamic mapping in order to avoid traffic hotspots. He’s also suggested that fleets can introduce more flexible working hours for staff, allowing them to work at home and to arrive later in order to leave later. All of this does, however, depend upon the fleet’s operations and the needs of its company and customers. Pryor did emphasise, however, that fleets also have a role to play in reducing their own contributions to congestion and rising levels of traffic. He said “driver discipline is frequently poor as they ‘hog’ the middle or outside lanes of dual carriageways and motorways when the inside lane could be used, while also blocking junctions.”
Congestion is a fact of life and it’s only going to get worse. Fleets need to employ multi-faceted strategies in order to mitigate lost productivity. In the best cases, this will involve extensive use of telematics, centralised journey planning and an arguably modern approach to staff working hours. Whilst variable working hours and allowing staff the opportunity to work from home may sound novel, businesses need to consider the cost-saving advantages in the long-term. In the meantime, it’s up to the government and local authorities to develop a strategy for maintaining and developing ever stretched and tested transport infrastructure.
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