The North East Autism Society is fitting sophisticated in-vehicle driver behaviour technology to its vehicle fleet on the recommendation of supplier Activa Contracts.

The Society, which is headquartered in Chester-Le-Street, delivers a wide range of services to children and adults with autism including education, social and vocational programmes, employment skills and provides a range of residential homes, supported living arrangements and short break facilities.

The Society operates a fleet of more than 60 vehicles, typically Vauxhall Vivaro Minibuses and Ford C-Max MPVs to transport children and adults with autism which are driven by some 270 people.

By the end of 2018 all vehicles on the Society’s fleet will be equipped with Lightfoot, which is seen as a key tool by Activa Contracts to not only help fleet managers meet occupational road risk management obligations, but to cut overall operating costs.

The Society initially equipped 10 vehicles with Lightfoot and last month (December) a further nine vehicles were equipped with the technology due to be rolled-out across the remainder of the fleet in 2018 as new vehicles are introduced and current models defleeted.

Lisa Murphy (second left), governance support manager, North East Autism Society, outside the organisation’s headquarters with (left to right): child carer, Sheila Shickle; Leonnie Stubbs, a resident at the Society’s Wallingford children’s residential home; and Deb Fleetham, registered manager.

The majority of vehicles are provided by Activa Contracts on contract hire with full maintenance agreements and operated on four-year/100,000-mile replacement cycles. A handful of short-term hire vehicles are also provided by the Milton Keynes-based vehicle leasing and fleet management company, which has been a supplier to the Society for almost four years and also undertakes drive licence validation on behalf of the Society. Additionally, the Society continues to manage out a small number of vehicles that were previously outright purchased and, on disposal, will be replaced by contract hire units.

The UK’s leading in-cab driver behaviour system, which can be fitted to company cars and light commercial vehicles, delivers via a dashboard-mounted screen real-time visual and verbal guidance to employees on their driving style.

This approach directly influences driving style ‘in the moment’ and empowers drivers to modify the way they drive, quickly becoming second nature. In this respect the technology is a significant step-change from traditional telematics products that provide ‘after the event’ data, which fleet managers have to analyse extensively and then respond to retrospectively.

Fleet decision-makers receive a weekly email highlighting the at-the-wheel performance of individual drivers in a colour coded chart and their ranking within the fleet, organised from the best driver downwards. Underpinning the weekly reporting, Activa Contracts undertakes analytical reviews and makes recommendations, if specific driver-targeted interventions are required.

The in-vehicle option has the ability to cut fleet accident rates by up to 60% and fuel bills by as much as 20%, while reducing vehicle wear and tear, insurance premiums and carbon dioxide (CO2), emissions, according to Lightfoot.

In addition to playing a vital role in cutting fleet operational overheads, Lightfoot also provides a vehicle tracking option. It enables fleets to track their assets, optimise their operations and keep their personnel secure.

Lightfoot technology is part of Activa Contracts’ suite of vehicle and driver risk management solutions available to customers.

Lisa Murphy, the Society’s governance support manager, who is in charge of the fleet, said:

Lightfoot technology is being introduced for multiple reasons but all linked to safety and encouraging people to adopt a smoother style of driving when behind the wheel. Reducing insurance premium as a consequence of fitting the technology across the fleet, limiting vehicle wear and tear on components, and also delivering fuel savings as a result of smoother driving will cut fleet costs with the savings ploughed into the running of frontline services. Additionally, Lightfoot’s tracking tool means that the Society can continuously monitor each vehicle’s location, which is important in respect of both drivers and occupants’ personal safety.

The Society recorded fuel savings of 8.6% - equivalent to around £15,000 a year - on its initial 10-vehicle pilot.

Ms Murphy said:

Fuel bill cuts were not the major priority, but being a charity all financial savings are welcome. About 130 drivers took part in the pilot and there was real engagement between them and the technology. Lightfoot gave employees clear visibility as to their driving ability and they all wanted to improve. The analytics available to drivers, managers and head office exceeded our expectations. The Society acknowledges the top drivers each week and that encourages others to improve.

Anne Cunnell, Activa Contracts’ area manager and the Society’s account manager, said: 

Cost management and safety are agenda-topping items for the Society and fleet decision-makers generally and equipping vehicles with Lightfoot technology delivers results in both respects. The tool improves and sustains good driver behaviour. It is like having a driver trainer sitting next to a driver every second they are on the road, encouraging them in real-time to drive in the most efficient way possible and making sure they do not slip back into bad habits. Simultaneously with changing driver behaviour, evidence suggests that Lightfoot delivers a swift return on investment delivering immediate results.