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Tech tackles fleet operators’ woes

With the widespread uptake of mobile phones and contactless technologies, along with improving Internet connectivity in SA, some existing challenges facing fleet operators can be tackled.

So says Shadab Rahil, MD of ICT solutions provider,Paradigm Group, who notes South African and international fleet operators alike are facing numerous challenges.

He believes many of the solutions available on the market do not provide fleet operators with enough, if any, real-time controls to manage and control their fleet fuel usage.

The lack of flexibility and control provided by current solutions in the industry, such as bank fleet cards and automated vehicle identification (AVI) solutions, do not meet the requirements expected by fleet operators and makes a very challenging environment for them, he says.

“Unfortunately, fraud is not uncommon in the industry and significantly more difficult to detect in the absence of real-time, relevant information.”

AVI Shortfalls

He points out while AVI does provide certain levels of security as far as “fuel-in-tank” is concerned, it comes at a prohibitive cost to many fleet operators, as they are expensive to install and maintain.

To top this, fleet operators who depend on their vehicles being on the road to keep their businesses profitable have to take their vehicles off the road to get this equipment installed and maintained – which can be a regular occurrence in the event of equipment failure, Rahil says.

In case of bank cards, Rahil notes, the industry has not moved much in the past decade or so. “Fleet operators do not even have basic controls such as determining whether the correct driver or vehicle is at the forecourt.”

They usually find out about the fraud only at the end of month when they receive their monthly statements just like any other bank card solution, he notes, adding these cards are also prone to cloning and skimming as the majority are based on magnetic stripe cards without PINs.

“Although some banks have introduced EMV fleet cards in recent years, the uptake has been slower than anticipated due to the fees charged to the merchant which results in limited acceptance.”

He says this is mainly due to the high inter-change rates and bank transaction fees that are applicable to these cards. “These EMV cards also only provide PIN security as an additional benefit without much real-time controls to the fleet operators.”

Mobile Apps

Instead of distributing cards to drivers, fleet operators can use mobile apps such as Payment24, developed by Paradigm Group, to conduct transactions, says Rahil.

“The mobile application can be freely downloaded from the major app stores, which means there is no card-printing, issuing and management fees.

“With the widespread adoption of contactless readers in banking terminals such as Spire, Ingenico and Verifone, it now is possible to use Payment24 tamper-proof contactless stickers to verify vehicle presence at the forecourts using these banking terminals.”

He also notes using a cloud-based solution provides fleet operators with the ability to get real-time access to every aspect of their fuel management capabilities.

“This is conceivably one of the biggest game changers for fleet operators who have been looking for a solution which can provide them with current information in order to control and seamlessly manage their entire fleet at their fingertips.”

Scaling Up

Tony Willis, ICT enterprise architect at T-Systems in SA, says technologies such as telematics, mobile, in-memory computing, big data and cloud technology can solve some logistics problems fleet managers face.

Telematics systems are used to collect a wide variety of data that can enhance intelligence about the end-to-end logistics supply chain, says Willis.

Big data and business intelligence technologies allow data to be combined, aggregated, modelled and queried in order to develop business intelligence, he explains, adding in-memory computing technologies allow the intelligence to be derived at markedly faster speeds.

“Cloud technologies allow for flexible scaling up and down of the underlying technology infrastructure (as and when required) that supports particularly the big data systems – lowering overall cost of ownership of technology infrastructure.

“And finally, mobile technologies allow for this information to be delivered in near real-time to the relevant users anywhere, on the device of their choice.”