Ensuring technology meets the expectations of government fleets
Smartrak’s Marketing Communications Manager, Matthew Perkins, talks with Director of Sales, Casey Molloy and Business Development Manager, Chris O’Kane about the insights they’ve gained into the unique expectations of government and local authority customers.
Matthew Perkins: As two of Smartrak’s most experienced people in the government sector I wanted to know if the years you’ve spent working with various local and national government entities has provided a unique perspective on their requirements.
Chris O’Kane: Government departments and local authorities have always occupied a key vertical for Smartrak. We recognised from the very beginning that these were organisations with fleets consisting of a range of vehicle types. They also often had plant and equipment held within their pools.
Casey Molloy: And their operational environments can be diverse and challenging, especially when you consider the duties government organisations such as Fire and Emergency and the Police perform. It was obvious to Smartrak that a narrow solution that focused only on vehicles wouldn’t have the scope or flexibility to meet the mission-critical requirements of these customers.
This understanding highlighted the need for tracking and protecting staff as well as assets. Virtually every government entity has staff working in the community, so the requirement for visibility over their staff as well as vehicles is universal.
CO: For Smartrak, this complexity was seen as an opportunity. As a technology developer with a broad focus across assets and people, we could see how a unified platform would deliver maximum benefit while minimising the administrative burden.
CM: Of course, meeting the requirements of government customers has also benefitted our corporate customers by presenting them with a comprehensive solution offering that can scale up to support virtually every operational need.
MP: Government entities operate under scrutiny from multiple audiences, with ministers, elected officials, the public, and the media all expecting clarity over the desired outcomes of a project and the return on investment. How does Smartrak meet this need, and is it any different to the private sector?
CO: The expectation that there will be a return on the dollar spent is common right across the board. Although government entities may have a stronger focus on the way the solution meets duty-of-care responsibilities (both for staff and members of the public). These are publicly owned entities after all, so there is a very clear realisation that the public holds them accountable for the way they operate, both from a cost-efficiency and safety point-of-view.
CM: Government-mandated sustainability targets are also going to bring increasing pressure on local and national government fleet managers to reduce carbon footprints, primarily by adopting EVs and reducing the size of their fleets. Smartrak is taking a leadership role in supporting this and can already point to our involvement in notable successes in the private sector, such as our customer Meridian Energy. They have been a standout performer in EV adoption and our solutions have supplied vital data to support that. Nick Robillard, the Procurement and Property Manager at Meridian, was clear on this point; he said: “Data is the enabler.”
MP: Sustainability is certainly one area I’d like to drill down into, but for the moment let’s concentrate on a return on the dollar and duty-of-care.
CO: Multiple aspects come into play here, but as we’ve already mentioned, visibility is the key to everything. Smartrak’s solutions offer multiple levels of visibility. A vehicle driver can see what vehicles are available at any given time, what their day’s work schedule entails, and who they will be travelling with or transporting.
The next layer of visibility ensures that the Fleet Manager or Team Leader also has eyeballs on what’s happening in the vehicle, or even outside of it. This is real-time knowledge of adherence to work schedules or unexpected events such as accidents.
And finally, the senior leadership team, who are managing resources and balancing budgets, have up-to-date information at their fingertips in the form of customisable reports. In fact, practically everything that affects an organisation’s ability to work productively and safely can be addressed within a unified Smartrak Solution.
CM: Plus, this information is available across multiple departments, from HR to operations management, to budgeting, and IT. This is a significant reservoir of data, which brings us to an important point:
When we speak of the deep and inclusive ability to offer visibility such as this it can seem overwhelming. But Smartrak’s solutions categorise the information, presenting what’s required to the right audience. Our experience, through thousands of deployments, ensures that the right information is presented, through immediate notifications, reports, and historical analysis.
With visibility like this, employees are protected and their workdays enhanced, while the senior leadership teams are provided with the information for cogent decision making.
MP: We touched earlier on our ability to support sustainability targets and the adoption of EVs. I’d like to expand on that now.
CM: Sustainability is a core objective of our Development Roadmap and supporting EV adoption is in there. This is particularly relevant for fleet operators in the government sector, as the New Zealand Government is pushing aggressive sustainability goals. This is an important milestone in the growth of EVs in New Zealand and we’re already gearing up for the technology that will be needed to support this change. Some of the issues that need to be looked at such as building EV charging stations into route maps are already being addressed and helping to solve the range anxiety question that inevitably comes up when contemplating EV adoption. But others will require more work to solve. That’s why they’ve been included in our Development Roadmap.
A major hurdle to get over is remotely capturing the charge available in a vehicle and calculating whether it can do a trip that’s been booked through an organisation’s pool booking system. It seems simple, but there are differing technologies for registering battery charge across the various vehicle manufacturers. Our solution will need to be compatible with most of them to offer a sufficiently comprehensive solution. How we’re going to achieve this is one of the big questions occupying our solution developers.
CO: We also need to take note of the government’s wording on reducing emissions with government fleets: alongside the drive to increase the percentage of EVs, there’s also a clear requirement to ‘optimise’ vehicle fleets.
The realisation that optimisation has a crucial role to play alongside buying in EVs is wholeheartedly endorsed by us. A more efficient ‘optimised’ fleet burns less fuel and reduces its carbon footprint, even before a single EV gets into the parking lot. That’s why our Development Roadmap is focused on a range of measures.
MP: So tell us more about this broadscale approach to the challenge. Because it obviously will be a challenge for some fleets, there simply aren’t suitable EV alternatives for some specialist vehicles.
CO: For them, using Smartrak’s existing solutions to optimise their fleets will be a help. But that’s not all. The Development Roadmap includes further initiatives that will help.
Corporate Car Sharing is gaining a lot of interest from forward-thinking companies who see achieving peak utilisation as an almost impossible task. Corporate Car sharing can help here. By allowing organisations or government departments to share fleets, the requirement to carry ‘excess’ vehicles to meet peak demand is reduced. This reduces the overall vehicle count and simultaneously maximises the productivity of the remaining assets.
MP: What challenges are likely to arise when government departments share fleets?
CO: They are the same as with any enterprise-level organisation in the corporate sector. Namely attributing cost correctly, so users pay for the amount of time they are using vehicles, managing health and safety requirements, checking that drivers are licensed to drive the vehicle they want to hire, and managing availability. These are practical issues that come up and the technology to solve them is already here, there just has to be a broader realisation that for white fleet vehicles, there are sometimes better options than owning a fleet that’s exclusively yours to use.
We are also a long way down the track of understanding how a smart booking solution will recommend appropriate vehicles for each journey; offering a small hatchback instead of a 4WD, for instance. Or recommending that a trip to a meeting is an excellent opportunity to share a ride. We call this Journey Planning, and the beauty is, the solution will do all the hard work of collating all of the requests and the available resources. Recommending smarter journey decisions will become an automatic procedure, with no added administrative burden.
MP: Smartrak’s technology leadership is certainly a big part of the story, but our culture plays a big role as well.
CM: Our Purpose Statement specifically states that we want to generate positive change in our customer’s operations. That means we have to deliver verifiable benefits that users will enjoy using and be encouraged to embrace. Everything we do is about making a difference. This isn’t technology for technology’s sake – the innovations have to help.
Look at our values: Commitment to each other’s success, reliability in our promises, embrace a challenge, and learn from everyone. These are fundamental to a proactive, partnering, and questing culture. We have seen first-hand how that resonates with customers who are invested in the civic good.