8th August 2016

How telematics will help ease the UK’s congestion problem

By the year 2030, traffic congestion in the UK is predicted to rise 63% compared to late-2014 levels and cost the economy over £21 billion, according to a joint study by INRIX and the Centre for Economics and Business Research1. Drilled down to a more localised level, the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce reckoned not so long ago that local businesses lose £3 million each and every day because of gridlocked, crawling traffic2. These figures are far from insignificant, congestion understandably leaving many business and private motorists feeling pretty angry.

Greater Manchester, not that far away from Trak Global’s HQ in Crewe, has been suffering from combined travel chaos for some time now, with smart motorway upgrades along stretches of the M60, M6, M62 and M56 motorways, a sinkhole recently closing the city’s important Mancunian Way for several weeks, the Metrolink tram network being expanded and remodelling of the A556 all happening at the same time.

Smart motorways have been put on a pedestal as one of the primary cures for congestion, the Highways Agency (now Highways England) reporting that journey times reduced by 27% and motorists enjoyed a 4% reduction in fuel costs within just six months of the M42’s smart motorway scheme opening3. It will be a year before most of the major smart motorway upgrades are anywhere near completion, though, and the DfT’s latest figures identified a 2.2% rise in UK traffic volumes in 2015, primarily comprised vans. How can telematics systems help reduce congestion now and in the future?

For businesses whose vehicles are actively and regularly monitored by telematics, whether more traditional ‘black box’ hardware systems or purely app-based solutions like Appy Fleet, fleet managers can identify and predict ad hoc congestion in real time, alerting their drivers digitally and suggesting alternative routes. Analysing cross-fleet data over longer periods of time will also highlight which routes routinely result in fleet vehicles becoming slowed down for prolonged periods, the subsequent avoidance of such routes helping firms run more efficiently both in terms of time and also fuel spend.

In the Danish city of Aarhus, ten dynamic digital signs have been deployed that gather data from vehicles’ Bluetooth devices in real time by using sensors which record MAC addresses and anonymously formulate a picture of each vehicle’s typical journey patterns, from routes and times to driving styles and periods of rest – often due to congestion4. This information enables road signs to be updated in real time to advise of the best routes, helping traffic flow more smoothly – and telematics apps can do this very same job.

After enduring long delays, private and commercial drivers alike are prone to release pent-up frustration by accelerating more keenly and driving at faster speeds to make up for lost time. Colby College in Maine, USA, published guidance on such driving in May 2015 which clearly stated that “aggressive driving can be caused by heavy traffic congestion”5. However, faster, erratic and more aggressive driving increases a vehicle’s fuel consumption and additionally places the driver and those around them in relatively more danger. By educating fleet drivers on the benefits of driving smoothly to keep them safer and also more relaxed, fleet fuel bills will inadvertently reduce, boosting bottom lines.

Couriers, utilities and other firms who are cynical that their employees will be happy about telematics devices being fitted to their vehicles now have the answer in the form of Appy Fleet, which simply operates using a smartphone and can even be switched to private mode, negating any privacy gripes. Some organisations whose drivers have still shown a reluctance over telematics have found that gamification has helped employees embrace this increasingly prevalent technology, staff rewarded with extra holidays, vouchers or other perks in return for driving smoothly – even if they’ve been impacted by congestion.

 

Sources:

1 http://inrix.com/press/traffic-congestion-to-cost-the-uk-economy-more-than-300-billion-over-the-next-16-years/

2 http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/business-news/congestion-costing-west-midlands-economy-9890252

3 http://www.localgov.co.uk/Highways-Success-for-hard-shoulder-scheme/10641

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/11/british-road-traffic-increased-record-22-per-cent-last-year

4 https://www.austraffic.com.au/blog/wed-17062015-2302/bluetooth-devices-and-driving-behaviour-help-ease-traffic-congestion

5 http://www.colby.edu/humanresources/wp-content/uploads/sites/170/2015/05/Aggressive-Driving-Safety-Talk.pdf