One of the key themes in fleet management is cutting costs, saving time and sharing resources more efficiently. Fleet Auto News’ Caroline Falls talks with PoolCar’s MD Kurt Lingohr about how his technology is helping organisations around the world.
FAN: In a 100 words can you tell me what PoolCar is and when it was formed?
LINGOHR: PoolCar is for organisations with shared vehicles who are challenged with low utilisation and under pressure to reduce fleet size and budget. We have developed a mobility platform that improves utilisation, tightens processes and controls, delegates accountability and can reduce an organisation’s fleet size by at least 10 percent. We were formed in 2010 and our product lines are the PoolCar software, our own inhouse designed KeyMaster electronic key cabinets, and Rolln vehicle keyless entry black box (which will be available in early 2018).
FAN: I hear PoolCar won an award for promising fleet solutions. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
LINGOHR: The editorial team of APAC CIO Outlook magazine conducted a detailed review of over 100 fleet management service providers across APAC and hand-picked 10 vendors on the basis of their technical expertise and understanding of the fleet business. PoolCar was named in the top 10 for delivering in their words “phenomenal results year after year by joining forces with their clients”.
As an example of the results we can achieve, take our in-house developed key cabinets. When someone books a car they can enter their booking number into the cabinet to release their key (and only their key). A camera takes a happy snap of the driver in case a dispute about a speeding fine comes in. If the key isn’t collected within a certain grace time the booking is automatically cancelled as a “no-show” thereby freeing up the car for someone else to use. To date we have logged over 265,000 key movements (in/out) and cancelled more than 70,000 no-show bookings, which has a real impact on vehicle availability.
FAN: How have you engaged with fleet operators to develop your business?
LINGOHR: It’s very much collaborative and we go to extraordinary efforts to build relationships and empathise with the customer’s day-to-day challenges of running a fleet. We speak with fleet operators every day from all corners of the world and figure out ways to make our mobility products better and more relevant. It’s a non-stop learning curve but the cool part is we see what works, what doesn’t and then codify those best practices into algorithms and data workflows.
We figured out years ago that using the software was dead simple; the hard part was the fuzziness of change management by implementing company-wide change into organisations with respect to how they access and use cars.
The single biggest trend we are seeing now is the centralisation of departmental and fragmented fleets into large general pools to smooth out the pockets of under-utilisation.
FAN: Who are some of your clients and what do you do for them?
LINGOHR: We work with fleets from only a few cars right up to a thousand, across health, education, government and humanitarian with customers in 13 countries. Today we are closing in on 15,000 vehicles under management.
Our home base is Victoria and we provide services to many councils and most of the Victorian health care networks spanning Gippsland to the Wimmera.
Our second home is Queensland with GITC and QAssure accreditation. We work very closely with Griffith University who have implemented the suite of PoolCar, telematics and keyless entry to lock and unlock cars with smartphones.
Earlier this year we were selected by QFleet for a car-sharing trial in the Queensland Government which has gone extremely well. Our relationships with resellers and partners are also very important to us and we have together implemented combined solutions across grey fleet, telematics and driver behavior in some very large organisations, which I am not at liberty to name. But they’re household names doing great work in the community here, in the US and New Zealand in the utilities, government and charity sectors.
FAN: What is your background? How did you come to form PoolCar?
LINGOHR: My background is very nerdy. As a kid I used to tinker with electronics and started writing code when I was 13. I have always been fascinated with business, even as a teenager and over the years constantly looked for opportunities where technology could give a business edge.
I was a freelance programmer and then the GFC came along. I sought shelter from the GFC in what I thought were recession proof industries – health and education. One day I was in at Melbourne Health demonstrating some work I had done on a non-emergency patient transport system. They expressed a need for a car booking system and I quickly prototyped something up. Then I went and showed another hospital this prototype and they said it was on the right track but needed some tweaks.
I quickly learned that I knew nothing about running a fleet so I pivoted the model to constantly seek feedback and input from real world fleet operators. I called it gripes, grizzles, ideas and suggestions! They would suggest a new feature and I would think, hey that’s neat, then code it up.
We’ve grown at a crazy rate since where we now have staff, an office and factory where we code, provide support and assemble the key cabinets. We release a new version of the software every month and to date we have included over 1,350 new functions, features and fixes directly as a result of talking with customers to find their pain points.
FAN: Where is PoolCar incorporated? What do you see in the company’s future? Is it a company that may one day be listed on the stock exchange, or acquired by a bigger player?
LINGOHR: We’re privately owned and proudly Australian based. In the near future we have plans to open a US office with staff on the ground there to play a more active role in the North American fleet market, which is huge. We have a large booth at the NAFA conference next year in Anaheim, California, where our three product lines and Aussie R&D will be on display – PoolCar, KeyMaster and Rolln.
We’re pushing further into New Zealand, APAC, Africa and the Middle East and hope to have some exciting news to report here soon.
Sure we’ve had half dozen or so nibbles from bigger players both here and in the US but at this stage we’re more interested to see where the growth curve takes us. Over the years we’ve invested millions in our R&D, processes and infrastructure to be ready for scaling, which we are now seeing with the red-hot mobility and the sharing economy space. One day we expect to spin out our three product lines into standalone businesses, decoupled from PoolCar as OEM or white-label products. Stock exchange, ha! Not sure if I would want that headache.
FAN: As you are working in different world zones, are you able to comment on how sophisticated the Australian fleet manager is compared with counterparts elsewhere?
LINGOHR: It’s funny how car sharing and mobility is the common thread but each industry approaches it from an entirely different angle. Health is tightly woven into community service delivery, such as aged care and mental health. What’s important to them is availability of a vehicle. Councils tend to have part-private use cars and value ease of sharing among staff whilst the car is onsite. Universities find it important to charge usage back to research and project codes. Not for profits are often under-staffed and looking for efficiencies in administration and cost reduction through better utilisation.
In our humble opinion Australia and New Zealand are right up there leading the charge when it comes to technology and fleets. Maybe it’s our large distances and the role telematics can play; or tax liabilities such as FBT. We’re most certainly holding our own on the world stage.