Installing telematics enabled West Yorkshire Police to cut its incident rate by 34%, boost vehicle utilisation and reduce its fuel expenditure. It helped the constabulary to remove one million miles of unnecessary or wasted journeys and reduce the fleet size by 120 vehicles.

Yet there is still far more to come from fully exploiting the technology, according to head of transport Steve Thompson.

He fitted the system into 600 marked and plain divisional vehicles, focusing on those which had the most collisions.

By taking this approach, Thompson was able to forecast and realise a rapid return on the investment, which helped when seeking sign off for the initiative.

Key to telematics success is taking a proactive approach to managing the data. West Yorkshire Police uses the results to inform its driver training programmes, tackling those drivers who need the most support with the right type and level of training.

“If we aren’t proactive by providing data on the drivers and addressing the issues, we will get to a position where people aren’t bothered about the results because they are not held accountable,” Thompson says. “Once you have the data, you have to use it.”

However, the rate of incident reduction has now started to slow as many of the bigger challenges have been resolved.

“Our main issue now is small bumps, especially reversing,” he says, although he has procedures in place to tackle these, too.

“We do spot checks on how cars are parked and encourage staff to reverse park. We have also fitted reversing sensors on all vans which was an instant success.”
Driver training has further reinforced the basics to help minimise reversing incidents. In instances where there are two people in vans, for example, the passenger is encouraged to get out and help the driver reverse safely.

As part of the changes to incident procedures, West Yorkshire Police ended its policy of charging the excess to the end-user [the regional units), which was introduced seven years ago.

Although the policy had the desired effect at the time, the emphasis has now changed to focus on a more proactive approach via the driver training team, senior management and local policing units.

“We are addressing the common causes by undertaking more investigation,” Thompson says.

“When we charged the excess back it put pressure on the department to find the money to pay for collisions, so that was where their focus went. Now we can address the issues through telematics and driver training and take a different approach, including disciplinary.”

Telematics isn’t just about improving driver performance from a safety point of view. Thompson is also using it to cut vehicle idling times, which he has identified as a significant issue on the fleet.

And it tells him who is behind the wheel at any time as drivers have to swipe their identify card before the car starts.

“Data from the telematics tells us that many cars are spending a lot of time idling – some as much as 12 hours,” he says. “It’s because of all the computer systems.
“They park up, put run lock on and leave the car idling.”

He has set a modest reduction target of 4% initially by raising awareness of the issue, but is also mindful of the changing demands on modern policing which is seeing officers spending more of their time out in the field.

Consequently, cars have been fitted with laptops so officers do not have to constantly return to the office to file reports. Additionally, their pocket books are soon to be replaced by smartphones enabling notes to be taken electronically. This will remove the need to type up information afterwards.

“There is a risk that a car becomes a mobile office, but we have to be aware of potential problems such as backache and the impact of idling on fuel costs if heating or air-con are left running,” Thompson says.

He adds: “Ideally we want them to go about their business away from the station but also away from the car – the phones mean they can download all the information at the scene.”

The telematics system is also helping to boost utilisation which will determine the optimum size of fleet West Yorkshire Police needs to operate. This is becoming even more vital as officers spend a greater amount of their time out on the road.

“We are confident that we will be able to remove some under-utilised vehicles but we have to balance that with the new operating model,” says Thompson.

“You could question whether that means we actually need more vehicles, but it isn’t about that; it’s about vehicles being on the road at the critical times of the day.

“The data shows all the peaks and troughs which give the end-users the confidence that if we are going to take vehicles off the road it won’t have a negative impact.”

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