Fleet World - March 2005

New Force in Fleet

A new force in fleet

Ross Durkin talks to Jason Francis, managing director of Jaama, about the company's plans for growth within the areas of fleet management software and fleet risk management.

While the fleet industry is far from resistant to change, it is in many respects highly conservative in nature. The industry is to a large extent governed by external forces such as Government policy. EU regulations and available technology, with many new services coming about as a result of changes in legislation, rather than from a genuine desire to improve. The recent boom in the range of services offered to organisations seeking to stay on the right side of the law as far as "Duty of Care" legislation is concerned is a prime example. It is an area that is closely linked with the fleet management software sector as the amount of data required to be held by fleets increasingly supports the purchase of specialist fleet software, in preference to a reliance on homemade systems.

With these thoughts in mind, Jaama has launched a range of services onto the market covering both risk management and fleet management. The company is headed by Jason Francis, who has a strong track record in the industry and who is supported by a team of individuals drawn from the fleet industry.

Fleet Assistant is Jaama's new software package and Mr Francis claims that it represents a significant step forward for his company in a sector that has suffered from chronic under investment for the last 10 years. He said: 'The rate of progress in fleet technology has been painfully slow. I was talking five-years-ago about the need for fleet systems to adopt modern technology, to provide customers with greater integration and automation.

At that point the sector was already five years behind, which means it's now a decade adrift of most other industries. When you compare it to banking and retail it's a long way behind. That means companies operating in what is a highly competitive arena cannot do so efficiently and effectively. There's little doubt they'd embrace new technology, but how can they when so much of it has yet to be developed?' he added.

And Mr Francis said the need for fleet managers to add health and safety to their list of responsibilities made technology even more important, with its ability to integrate traditional fleet management functions with new ones like occupational road safety. For this reason. Fleet Assistant is marketed with a strong emphasis on enabling fleet operators to meet their Health & Safety obligations while managing fleet costs.

Mr Francis cut his teeth on software systems for car fleet operators, but he also has extensive knowledge of LCVs and recognises the potential for expanding into the commercial vehicle market. He said' Fleet management systems for 1,000-car fleets are bread and buffer stuff nowadays. This has already been done, though there's still the opportunity to do it better. And with so many outsourced services such as fuel, leasing, maintenance, short-term hire and accident management, there's still a need to develop the glue that holds all the parts together and then links them internally to HR and finance departments.

"But in the commercial vehicle market there is plenty of scope for developing new technology," continued Mr Francis. 'It's a far more complex area. When you order a car it generally arrives as a finished product, whereas a commercial vehicle might have the chassis from one supplier, body building by another, refrigeration unit, tail lift, crane... the list goes on. Add in the need for regular inspections and the task becomes more complicated still."

Fleet Assistant is a web-based package using Microsoft Smart Client technology, which covers a wide range of operations, including:

• fleet risk management
• automated event management, tracking, reminders & planning
• detailed driver management
• driver training, planning & history
• licence inspection & endorsement monitoring for drivers & partners
• accident management
• detailed expense management
• complete vehicle management for both company & privately owned vehicles
• service, maintenance & repair tracking
• driver & vehicle allocation history
• supplier inventory
• management information
• operational controls

Jaama is also offering its expertise to companies that need more hands-on guidance on risk management through a series of seminars priced at around £375 a head, including sample policy documents.