The GBFE spotlight shines the light on Colin Paterson, head of marketing at DriveTech UK – part of the AA and specialist in fleet and driver risk management and training solutions – who reveals the company’s direction as well as his own views on the future of fleet and gives yet another vote for the Ford Mondeo as being the most influential fleet car ever.
How did you get into the fleet sector?
I’ve worked in telematics with one of the original (stolen) vehicle tracking businesses – TRACKER, which also developed one of the early vehicle fleet tracking systems – pioneering days indeed! In addition, spells at Cobra (now Vodafone Automotive) and IAM RoadSmart meant that the fleet marketplace has often been close to my heart and mind.
What is your current role and what are your responsibilities?
I’m head of marketing at DriveTech, the driver risk management and driver training business – and span both the fleet/occupational driver marketplace, and the driver offender retraining side of our business (delivered in partnership with police forces across the country). We’re part of the AA. My responsibilities (along with my sterling colleague Leanne!) in essence involve all aspects of marketing and communications (external and internal). It even includes facing Darren at Fleet World persistently (and admirably) trying to sell new opportunities to reach our fleet marketplace, including the Great British Fleet Event.
What do you think has been the most influential fleet car ever?
Ford Mondeo: mainstream, simple, good range, the archetypal default sales representatives car with ‘specification envy’ discussed in sales meetings up and down the country – folk vying to get one up on the “LX” with a “GLX” or even a “Ghia” badge of honour (I’m showing my age, er, experience). Mondeo-man (not the most attractive term) became almost part of the English language to personify a distinctive type!
What one fleet industry-relevant thing would you change if you were able to go back in time?
The ability for every one of the businesses I’ve worked for winning award after award in the annual honours events! But on a more serious note, a clearer understanding of the implications of fuel choice, most specifically the yo-yo like decision-making from national government, that pushed diesel to be the default and admirable choice and is now being hunted out for health crimes against humanity, and leaving a large existing in-use car parc of increasingly less appealing vehicles.
What is DriveTech’s focus for 2019?
Growth, and customer focus. A drive to encourage the occupational driver market to recognise the value of ongoing driver training and road safety awareness. Invest in quality risk management to reduce longer term costs and protect your staff and other road users. Entry level services such as licence checking are valid, but our emphasis is on the provision of a more holisitic driver training package where clients are committed to a robust and actionable driver safety and driver training programme.
What’s in the pipeline for DriveTech in the future?
We are part of the AA, and an established driver training and driver risk management provider with some really great and significant customers. We are ambitious and keen to expand our reach – a current exciting addition is our accreditation as an End Point Assessment company for apprentice drivers in the bus, coach and tram sector. A great way of supporting our sector and helping the professional drivers of the future to realise a great career!
What are the key trends to look out for in fleet?
The need to make sure that the technology in vehicles doesn’t become so intricate and clever that the driver is forgotten, doesn’t fully appreciate much of the tech on the vehicle and therefore remains less safe and effective than they should be.
Vehicle ownership will increasingly change and ‘flexible mobility options’ will gradually replace the archetypal single-ownership pride and joy company car. Different powertrains – currently battery electric power – is starting to come of age, although I do have a sneaking feeling that hydrogen power does seem to have a significant appeal too if some of the practicalities can be overcome.
Given the current uncertainty from government, what can fleets do to mitigate this?
Stay calm and carry on. Uncertainty and indecision seem to be the new norm… so learn to be open-minded, less rigid, and try to build flexibility and contingencies into key processes and actions. Easy to say, but in reality more difficult to achieve, as we all know! Even when Brexit is finally over (whatever that actually means) there will be increasing short term-ism in decision-making. So train people to be more flexible, less silo in thinking, and prepared for more frequent change.
In the short 5-10 year term, what do you see changing in the fleet world?
Vehicle ownership, more involvement from health and safety and risk management personnel, and less pureplay “fleet manager”.
Imagine it’s 2040: how do you see the fleet world?
Electric scooter-like vehicles legalised in the UK and much better regulated and safety managed (essential!), and carried in the boot of every larger vehicle to allow longer haul travel to be achieved in the larger vehicle – and the e-scooter used to go those last few miles into ULEZ and other less car friendly environments – for ease of access, reduced urban pollution, and with a better chance of finding a parking space! (I’m now off for a lie down).
What are your thoughts on electrification, an opportunity or a red herring?
Big opportunity as long as the generation of the electricity in the first place can be done through natural power generation, not eating further into our precious fossil fuels.