Are your fleet drivers using technology correctly?

I am a great lover of new technology.

I’m not always brilliant at operating it, I’ll be the first to admit, but technology has such potential to improve our lives and the society we live in.

It can also dominate our lives in unfortunate ways if used incorrectly – or fail to provide the expected improvements to the benefit of society.

Take the smart phone. What a great invention! It does so much for us that it’s actual primary purpose – as a method of verbal communication – is really not its number one usage.

Deloitte has just published its findings on our usage of mobile phones and while it is littered with all those brilliant aphorisms for user groups – ‘Silver Swipers’ for the 55-75 age group and ‘Screenagers’ for teens – it also makes slightly disturbing reading because of the smartphone’s addictive nature.

Among 16-19-year-olds, 66% will check their phones during the night – as will 33% of all the report’s respondents – and 26% of all those screenagers will respond to messages they receive after falling asleep at night.

As for me, when I’m asleep, that’s it: zzzz time…

So what? The report also found that nearly 40% of users thought they were using their smartphones too much: a useful tool had become addictive; technology mis-used.

And it seems the same thing is happening in the fleet world. Not with phones, but with PHEVs, those plug-in electric hybrids offering low CO2 emissions with the promise of exceptional fuel savings.

I’m a big fan of electrification because I think it shows the way forward – greener technology allowing users to drive cars with reduced environmental damage.

Except another report came across my desk this week that suggests that all is not well in PHEV land.

The report, by mileage capture experts TMC extracted from the company’s mileage capture and audit system, showed that PHEV models were achieving far below their quoted mpg – and as a result were emitting higher levels of CO2 into the atmosphere during real world usage.

The data sample wasn’t large: 14 models of hybrid and seven models of PHEV representing 12 different manufacturers in regular fleet use.

Nevertheless, from this sample the PHEVs achieved an average of almost 45 miles per gallon equivalent to actual CO2 emissions of 168 grams per kilometre (g/km). That compares with the cars’ advertised emissions (which determine the drivers’ benefit-in-kind tax rates), which averaged 55g/km.

So what are we to make of this? What’s gone wrong?

PHEV technology works when it is used correctly and used by fleets for the right purpose. For example, for high mileage drivers, diesel is still the best performing choice because of the exceptional long distance fuel consumption diesel provides.

For mixed use, PHEVs should make a strong case for themselves…as long as the battery is charged so the car can be used in EV mode for those shorter urban journeys. That way the CO2 and fuel savings can be realised.

It’s rather like stop-start technology. How many drivers have turned this off, so that expected fuel savings aren’t as strong, the benefits missed?

There’s no question that PHEVs must play an important part in future fleet choice. But only as long as the cars are suitable for purpose, and fleets educate drivers about how to use PHEVs effectively.

Otherwise it’s a great piece of technology that’s going to waste – with expensive and potentially world-serious implications.

So if you are a fleet manager that wants to make use of the latest in electrified green technology, talk to us. We can help you make sure it’s suitable for your fleet application, and that you, your driver, and the environment all benefit.

It’s about harnessing technology to work for you in the right way.

Now where’s that off switch on my smartphone…?