In the latest instalment of our fleet industry executive interview series, we spoke to Penny Brooks, Managing Director for EMEA at SmartDrive Systems, about the company, the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, the opportunities created by video safety technologies, the move towards remote fleet management and the importance of big data…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
SmartDrive Systems, (now part of Omnitracs), helps fleets reduce bad costs, by reducing fleet risk and collisions, whilst protecting and exonerating drivers when not-at-fault. Our video-based, managed service safety programme performs the ‘heavy lifting’ for fleets, enabling them to implement a proactive, programmatic approach to reducing on-road risk.
This is achieved primarily through identifying risky driving behaviour, such as distracted driving, speeding, close following, and many more, providing the fleet with the mechanism to work in a supportive and objective manner to coach drivers to safer performance.
Many of our existing customers also integrate the programme into their driver incentive schemes, identifying and rewarding drivers for safe driving practices and improvements.
What have been the biggest challenges the Fleet Services industry has faced over the past 12 months?
The last 12 months have been an extraordinary time! COVID has presented a massive challenge to the industry, both in terms of suppliers to the industry continuing to service and support existing clients, and in terms of new business growth.
Ourselves, and many other fleet services companies like us, have had to find new ways to conduct our business and support our customers, which will likely have an ongoing impact for some time to come.
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
The increasing digitalisation of fleet management operations to optimise efficiencies and reduce costs during this time, has led to a number of very interesting emerging opportunities in our space of video-safety.
What is the biggest priority for the Fleet Services industry in 2021/2022?
Unsurprisingly, we’re seeing an increasing focus on remote fleet management solutions and services. COVID and other macroeconomic factors have meant that operational efficiency and minimising fleet risk are key to enable many fleets to remain competitive and protect their employees.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021/2022?
In line with above, developments in remote fleet services data capture and data analytics is a significant trend, through converged fleet management systems, particularly in areas such as telematics, in-cab video, and AI.
We’re seeing a lot of movement from on-premise to SaaS solutions, which although not new, is accelerating more rapidly than ever before, in line with improved connectivity and the Internet of Things, (IoT).
With all of this we will see a trend for deeper data security, with many fleet managers shifting focus to strategic management and upskilling in IT to adopt newer roles.
Additionally, the increasing push toward electric and autonomous vehicles will be a key trend, with many companies rolling out electric vehicles from cars to commercials. With autonomous vehicles, one of the key trends will be finding ways of how to manage automated vehicles fleets with regard to on-road risk, as safety is a key concern.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
Remote fleet management systems that provide real-time visibility across operations.
In 2023 we’ll all be talking about…?
Hopefully not another COVID lockdown! Rather where we are going, or have been, on our foreign holidays!
On a more serious note, we’ll be talking more about ‘big data’, analytics and associated security than we are today. Fleet operators and other members of the fleet services sector will have greater insights into how to make use of this upsurge in data to understand every aspect of a fleet’s behaviour, to gain efficiencies, improve safety and protect the environment.
Which person in, or associated with, the Fleet Services industry would you most like to meet?
HRH The Princess Royal, as Patron of Transaid, the international development organisation that works to transform lives through safe, available, and sustainable transport. I have great admiration for her and the hard work and focus she puts into furthering Transaid’s aims.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Fleet Services sector?
It’s continually changing and many faceted dimensions. I spent 15-years at a major truck and van OEM before joining SmartDrive and believed I had a thorough understanding of the sector. However, I soon realised that wasn’t the case and I continue to gain new insights daily that inform my experience and understanding of this exciting and dynamic industry.
You go to the bar at the Fleet Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
A perfectly chilled glass of white burgundy.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Witnessing the difference that our technology makes to our customers operations and knowing that I’m part of an organisation that is helping to save lives and reduce casualties on our roads.
And what’s the most challenging?
Balancing daily operational tasks against the wider priorities of leading business growth. Like many people, there’s not enough hours in the day. Keeping a focus on my ‘ruthless priorities’ is key.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.
Peaky Blinders or The Crown?
Peaky Blinders at a push. Watched the first series, it was great. Watched the second series, not so great. Started watching the third series…gave up after first episode. Even Cillian Murphy wasn’t enough to keep me watching!