Fleet Auto News’ Caroline Falls caught up with Theo Popescu, chief technology officer at two-year-old SolBox, a specialist in fleet management technology, including digitising manual paper-based systems, process automation and telematics. SolBox is Sydney based and provides a nationwide service. Its clients include the Commonwealth Games, Tom Tom and Linfox.
What solutions does SolBox offer?
At SolBox there’s a whole range of different things for different industries, but we offer smart tablet booking scheduling automation, digitisation of paper-based manifests, pre-defined routes, bus routes; we are able to employ digital bus routing systems. We provided it for the Commonwealth Games where bus drivers from all over Australia never having seen a Gold Coast road and effectively first go they could navigate all the stops.
We’re interested in telematics helping battle congestion and increase efficiency. Can you talk about the big benefits of telematics?
Just like GPS with live traffic, it alerts you to traffic congestion and allows you to route around that. We provide truck mapping for heavy vehicles; it’s not going to route you to a low bridge or a roundabout. We can employ sensors to show when a tilt tray is down, or for temperature monitoring for food and cold storage that provide a sense of safety. With the route optimisation it leads to scheduling of work typically done manually. Now we can do intelligent routing for blood deliveries, say there are six vehicles and 100 deliveries: the system will tell you which is the best way to optimise those deliveries.
Do you have a sense of how many fleets have telematics? Or don’t have it?
I still think the majority don’t have it. There’s still around 50 percent that wouldn’t have telematics of some description.
If telematics offers so many benefits why isn’t everyone doing it?
From a telematic standpoint we are seeing the tipping point. I don’t think there are any customers that we are seeing that don’t have it that don’t want it. Their bigger hurdle is not understanding how to employ it properly and not understanding the cost of that. Our job is to really explain that. A lot of our development work comes from sitting with companies and understanding what they do and how they do it, in order for us to return and say look at the ROI you are going to get from a telematics standpoint.
I suppose small business must find it too time consuming to investigate telematics?
Exactly right. The owner of the business may be driving too and they don’t have the time, let alone knowing where to look or what they have to do. At SolBox we actually become an arm of that company, so we don’t expect them to do the heavy lifting; we try and take that heavy lifting from them and run through that process to deliver the outcome.
How many vehicles in a fleet to make it worthwhile?
It could be anything from even a handful, four trucks for instance. If they employ route optimisation allowing them to be more efficient, it’s really a cost saving. One truck could be $100,000, so to be able to run it more efficiently, using route optimisation, there will be an ROI for as little as a handful.