This week, the Great British Fleet Event talks to Terry Hiles, general manager at DAVIS (powered by Licence Check) about his past, the present and DAVIS’s ability to manage the compliance around drivers and vehicles to minimise corporate risk and ensure duty of care.
Hiles kicked off his career as a college lecturer before moving into IT sales before embarking on various management roles.
Like many of his time, Hiles’ first car was a Mini Clubman which appeared to have been cut and shut with an old welder, rather than being a factory model – or perhaps it was one, but wasn’t the best made car. Times have changed for Hiles, however, who now enjoys fulfilling his passion for Italian sportscars, flitting between an Abarth 595 Competitzione and an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. He comments that which car he takes depends, “according to the amount of fuel remaining in the tank on the day and whether I have to carry anything larger than a small bag. Boot space in the Alfa is laughable.”
Hiles’ car passion extends to his lust for an early 60’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider (in red), which he says he’d just sit and stare at, though perhaps at odds with this sentiment is his want for a Microlino, as he’s always wanted a bubble car! Perhaps his taste in Tabasco Habanero Sauce, which he says is the one thing he couldn’t live without, goes someway to explaining this.
Music is always on in Hiles’ cars, with a particular fondness for modern Jazz and classic albums from the 80’s, he says. He assures us this isn’t to drown out any foibles with his cars, but instead to help him concentrate on driving.
It wasn’t until early 2015 when Hiles first got involved in the fleet sector, after joining Licence Check. “That proved to be an eye-opener. Up to that point I had been a fleet vehicle beneficiary, but never fully appreciated the complexities of trying to manage a tribe of people like me in a multitude of different locations and vehicles to a tight budget,” he comments.
What is DAVIS’s focus for 2019?
Our focus for 2019 is to continue to pursue the strategy to diversify the compliance based modular services that we can offer our clients. Our business has traditionally been built upon driving licence validation and checking. This will remain a key component of our services, but we will continue to enhance and develop other modular services that address wider aspects of vehicle and driver compliance. New services will include enhanced risk intervention options, a mobile capability and a flexible driver task and remote management module. All of our development will stem from customer demand.
How much have you found the fleet sector is changing?
The fleet sector has always been forced to respond to external factors such as government policies and legislative changes. These pressures will only increase over time. The threat presented by global warming and an environmental backlash against single use or non-recyclable materials are already driving changes in the fleet sector and such pressures will serve to drive more extensive, expensive and dramatic changes over time. We have responded by allowing customers to set environmental attributes within their vehicle approvals processes in our DAVIS software as encouraging a more environmentally conscious style of driving by reporting on driver behaviour behind the wheel. Since change begins at home, we also keep our own business practices and consumption under regular review.
What’s keeping today’s fleet manager awake at night?
A multitude of questions without definitive answers and a lack of certainty about the future. Fleet managers are being pushed by legislators and environmental lobbyists towards greener alternatives. But the technology supporting a number of these alternatives is relatively new and the infrastructure lags behind the technology. Its also not clear which non-fossil alternative will reign supreme in the future. Electric vehicles are currently in the ascendancy, but there have been scientific breakthroughs with hydrogen fuel cells that could make them much cheaper, safer, less environmentally polluting and space efficient than their battery equivalent – with a far greater range between recharges. It all helps to make investing for the future more challenging.
How do you see that continuing to change over the next 5-10 years?
Fossil powered vehicles will lose their dominance at an ever-increasing rate due to public pressure, rocketing pump prices and heavy local taxation. Different types of alternatively fuelled vehicles will make up the fleet according to the business requirements and local infrastructure. These vehicles will have artificial intelligence to have fewer accidents, will be more reliable and capable of self-management for servicing and repairs. The internal fleet manager role will be split between other management functions such as Health and Safety, HR, IT and Operations with each taking over certain tasks. Vehicle fleet management as an after-sales function will be taken over by vehicle manufacturers.
What sort of challenges and opportunities could this present?
The greatest challenge will be in employee working patterns which may have to accommodate the physical attributes or limitations of their vehicle. Working hours and breaks may need to accommodate recharging times and locations. In the early stages delivery routes may similarly be affected by the availability and location of refueling stations. Self-driving vehicles will present opportunities for recreation or working during the journey and could extend the working week. Fleets can best prepare by closely watching developments in technology, public policy and consumer attitudes and behaviour and making informed choices based upon such observations.
What would you like to see change in that time to help the sector move forwards?
I would really like to see some real investment and incentives for those UK universities and organisations that are at the cutting edge of automotive design and alternative fuel technology. We have some of the brightest and best engineering minds in the world in the UK. It’s time we led the way.
What’s in the pipeline from your company in 2019?
Enhancements in the driver risk profiling and scoring; a better range of intervention options in those cases where risk is indicated and real time driver behaviour reporting.