8 ways to keep productive this festive season

The festive season brings with it many obligations outside of work, and with a constant round of children’s nativities, Christmas shopping, and trips to see relatives, it can feel like team productivity is taking a backseat. This can feel especially tricky if you run a fleet which relies on holiday deliveries.

You don’t have to approach the question of productivity with all guns blazing. By following these eight tips you can maintain team productivity while still making your employees feel valued – and even have time to enjoy the Christmas season yourself.

  1. Throw an office party

If you manage lots of teams that don’t tend to have the opportunity to integrate during normal work this can be a chance for them to all be together and share holiday cheer.  If budgets or time constraints don’t allow for this, organise a lunch instead.  If possible, choose a venue outside of the office to keep it separate from the 9-5. Competitions such as ‘best newcomer’, ‘best achievement of the year’ helps keep things interesting and can act as a great ice-breaker.

  1. Change your work hours to be more flexible

A study from Vodafone in the UK showed over half (54%) of workers said that flexible working helps them increase productivity (1).  While fleet driving doesn’t always lend itself to flexible working hours, perhaps give drivers an opportunity to vary their shift patterns. If your employees need to get off early to see their child’s nativity or pick up Grandma from the station, they’ll thank you for the extra flexibility.

  1. Have time to discuss deliverables

Being organised is key in the Christmas period. Make sure you have some time aside every week to talk to your fleet about what absolutely has to be done that week. Nearly 4 out of ten 39% of HR managers rank Tuesday as the most productive day of the week (2) so this could be a good day to have these important meetings.

  1. Be organised with time off

Have a deadline of when people have to tell you if they want time off, especially when you know it’s likely to be a time which is very popular such as Christmas and the new year and make sure you email everyone to tell them of this date. Set the deadline to clear time off a good month to give you time to organise your schedule and keep holiday on a first come, first served basis so you can be as fair as possible. Be upfront from the beginning if you’re going to need people to work on key dates over the festive period.

  1. Consider taking on seasonal workers – but also be open to overtime

It’s a good idea to consider holiday staff and drivers as well, who you can call in when needed. Try not to demand overtime from your current employees as much as possible, but be open to offering it – you may find that your employees want the extra hours to help pay for Christmas.

  1. Don’t forget about January

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to let the first week of January slide away too. But, according to Forbes, you would be missing a trick (3). January can often be a great time to focus – not everyone will be back at work, and doing less strenuous tasks, such as forward plans and target setting, can ensure you start off the new year as you mean to go on.

  1. Let employees stop work early on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve

This could be a nice, easy gesture to put a smile on your employees’ faces – and will be the last thing they remember before they head off.

  1. Have fun!

Understand that productivity may take a dip. But it’s your Christmas season too – try to relax and take the opportunity to enjoy this time of the year. Knowing which of your tasks need to be prioritised is critical, and which can be considered non-critical and can be moved to the new year will help you maintain focus without being drowned in work.

 

 

Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell

Understanding the effects of fatigue on drivers and how to overcome it

Fatigue has been shown to contribute to road traffic accidents, and can, over the longer term, affect mental and physical health. We look at ways to ensure your drivers get the sleep they need for their own safety and wellbeing, as well as the safety of those around them.

According to the Department for Transport’s Think! campaign, almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related. Of those, 40% involve commercial vehicles, while sleep-related accidents are more likely than others to result in a fatality or serious injury.

It isn’t just a case of ensuring your drivers don’t fall asleep at the wheel, either – accidents can also occur when drivers are awake but suffering the effects of fatigue. Driving is a task that requires sustained concentration, but for a driver experiencing drowsiness or lack of alertness caused by lack of sleep this isn’t possible. Fatigue reduces our awareness of risk, and ability to think and reason clearly, and causes an increase in mistakes and/or errors. To make matters worse, the more fatigued you are, the less likely you are to recognise how impaired you are.

You also have a duty of care for your employees’ physical and mental health, both of which can be greatly affected by inadequate sleep and rest over a period of time. If someone is suffering from an altered psychological state due to tiredness they may be experiencing changes of mood and emotion, have reduced motivation and energy, and less desire to communicate and interact socially. When it comes to the body, fatigue can make us less inclined to exercise, affect what we choose to eat and drink (when we’re tired research shows we’re more likely to opt for sugary foods) and lower our immune functions.

Ultimately, the only cure for fatigue is sleep. You can’t overcome it by washing your face, winding down the window, listening to the radio, chewing gum, stretching your arms and legs, or through willpower. These are all myths and any tiredness relief you think they’ve provided will only be very short lived.

You also can’t bank sleep – it takes at least two good sleeps to pay back or begin to pay back sleep debt. It’s therefore essential you ensure your drivers are getting adequate sleep – most adults need seven to nine hours per 24-hour period – and that you and your drivers respect the industry’s mandatory rest breaks and rest periods.

But as well as enough sleep, you also need to stress the importance of quality of sleep. Someone who struggles to sleep deeply, or regularly experiences interrupted sleep or restlessness, should be encouraged to take steps to improve their sleep. These include relaxing before going to bed, keeping hands and feet warm, avoiding looking at TV, phone and computer screens before bed, limiting caffeine and nicotine before bed and not going to bed too hungry or too full.

Alcohol also affects quality of sleep. Although a few glasses of beer or wine can help you to fall asleep, you sleep less deeply after drinking alcohol, so you’ll be tired the next day even if you sleep for eight hours.

Admittedly, even when we do all the right things, sometimes, for whatever reason, we have days, or certain times of the day, where energy levels are low.

If so, follow these self-help tips – in which food, drink and exercise play a key role – to perk you up:

Eat often
A good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours, rather than a large meal less often.

Exercise
You might feel too tired to exercise, but regular exercise will make you feel less tired in the long run, and you’ll have more energy. Even a 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.

Drink more water
Sometimes you feel tired simply because you’re mildly dehydrated. Our body is approximately 60% water and your organs need water to function properly. A loss of just 1 – 2% of body weight as water is enough to cause vital systems to slow down, causing you to feel sluggish, tired and irritable. The official advice from the NHS recommends 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) – this can come from fruit and vegetables as well as water – on an average day. But this figure should be increased on a hot day or if you’ve been exercising.

By ensuring your drivers take the necessary measures to get enough quality sleep and restore flagging energy levels, they’ll be able to carry out their work in safety and, ultimately, enjoy a better quality of life.
Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell

The future of mobility: what’s next for tomorrow’s mobility ecosystem

In a world where technology is advancing at a staggering pace, fleet managers need to move faster than ever to keep up with the latest developments.

While the details of the future of mobility are still being argued over, there is a fundamental shift away from personally owned, driver-driven vehicles towards one centred around driverless vehicles and shared mobility.

In fact, the very job title ‘fleet manager’ may one day be redundant as today’s fleet managers are set to become tomorrow’s mobility managers.

Mobility managers will not only manage a fleet of vehicles and drivers, but also handle the needs of employees travelling by other alternative means.

This new role will manage intermodal transportation, connecting autonomous vehicles and other modes of transit to the end consumer. Mobility mangers will take into consideration customer preference, traffic data, and other circumstances to arrive at the most convenient and cost-effective mobility plan—whether that is a shared car, a train, a bike, or all of them.

Much of the future of mobility’s focus in centred on easing congestion in increasingly gridlocked urban areas. Employing a more flexible approach will help solve urban density problems.

Leading the way in the evolution of mobility is Helsinki where the introduction of a new app aims to make it unnecessary for any city resident to own a private car by 2025.

Since 2016, Helsinki residents have been able to use Whim that allows people to plan and pay for all modes of public and private transportation within the city – be it by train, taxi, bus, carshare, or bikeshare.

The scheme provides an alternative way to move more people and goods in a way that is faster, cleaner and less expensive than current options.

When applied to fleet, this approach could ultimately mean that company car drivers will have a mobility budget instead of a car allowance.

The mobility budget will be an incentive for staff to travel in a more sustainable way and would be used to pay for all travel costs by whatever means, including public transport.

Changing attitudes

UK businesses running company cars are not willing to give them up for another form of transport just yet, according to new research.

Only 11% of firms recently surveyed by Arval[1] said they would “certainly” or “probably” be ready to withdraw cars – opting instead for alternatives including ridesharing, carsharing, or a mobility budget or card.

But this attitude looks set to change in an age where ride-hailing apps such as Uber and car clubs are becoming the norm among people who grew up in the internet age.

Autonomous vehicles

Self-driving cars, vans and trucks are the next big thing. Trials are underway all over the world, and though it’s at least a few years off, they have the potential to dramatically change the automotive landscape.

Not only are driverless cars expected to be up to 80% safer, they will reduce fuel costs because they will be driven more efficiently on the best routes. They will also free up time for employees to get on with other tasks during the journey.

Meanwhile, truck platooning could have an impact on road haulage. Linking several lorries equipped with advanced technology in a convoy, or ‘road train’, platooning can also offer a wide range of benefits in the areas of safety, traffic flow, efficiency, economy and CO2 emissions.

Sky’s the limit

It may sound fanciful, but fleet managers in the logistics sector of the future may also be able to utilise drones to deliver packages.

In 2016 Amazon completed its first aerial UK drone delivery in Cambridgeshire, while Domino’s delivered the world’s first ever pizza by drone in New Zealand.

In the same year, Just Eat, Europe’s biggest online delivery food company, delivered its first takeaway using an R2-D2 sized robot in London.

The benefits are obvious – companies can avoid traffic congestion and traffic lights, and safely reduce the delivery time and distance by travelling directly to customers’ homes.

The speed mobility will change at is still up for debate, but we do know when the future arrives, it will be integrated, flexible and cost-effective.
Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell

Driverless technologies: what to expect

Heralded as the “mobility gold rush”, driverless cars (also known as autonomous vehicles or AVs) are no longer a thing of the future.

Major car manufacturers, including Mercedes Benz and BMW, and tech goliaths Apple and Google are racing to be at the forefront.

While they seem impossibly futuristic, autonomous vehicles employ many familiar technologies. And as the research and development continue at speed, we look at how these technologies will translate into the transport of the future.

What drives the self-driving car?

At this stage in development, autonomous is a bit of a misdemeanour – the first roll out of vehicles will be assisted rather than entirely self-driving.

As current legislation demands self-driving cars have a manual override button, the specially built vehicles in development still look like a regular car, with a conventional wheel, gearbox and pedals. The difference is they are filled will computers and software that process the information they receive from numerous sensors on front, roof-top and rear-mounted cameras.

These sensors identify any potential hazards, keeping cars at safe speeds and reasonable distances from other vehicles. An Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system will apply the brakes if a problem is detected.

Some of these technologies are similar to those in modern cars. The driverless BMW 5-Series, for example, comes with a radar sensor in the front bumper which is the same one that currently enables active cruise control. The car’s camera system is also similar to the lane departure cameras already in use (though the software allows it to recognise speed limit signs as well as lanes).

A signal on the back of the car also reads the precise geo-location of the car with GPS signals, which continuously updates the vehicle’s internal map. The software has also been programmed to interpret common road behaviour and signs. Predetermined shape and motion descriptors help the car make intelligent decisions.

AVs will also feature lidar (light detection and ranging). This involves using pulses of laser light flashed from a rotating mirror on the car roof to scan the surroundings for potential obstacles. Unlike video cameras, it cannot be dazzled by bright light or blinded by darkness, and is far more accurate than radar at measuring distance and speed of objects. It can also provide an image in three dimensions.

Are AVs road ready?

The UK is one of the top five countries leading the way in autonomous car development. At the moment, driverless car testing is concentrated in small urban areas and city centres.

In June 2015, Shell was involved in the first UK trial of an autonomous delivery vehicle where self-driving CargoPods made around 100 Ocado shopping deliveries to houses in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Driverless pod vehicles at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 have been in use since 2011.

The UK government has committed more than £109 million towards autonomous driving projects – saying it wants Britain to “lead the way in developing” the technology.

Driven, a consortium of British companies, has unveiled a plan to test driverless cars on UK roads and motorways in 2019. They also set out plans to try out a fleet of autonomous vehicles between London and Oxford.

Experts suggest we will see cars that will be able to drive themselves on our roads in around a decade. This will include driving on motorways and in city environments that feature traffic lights, junctions and roundabouts. Cars will be connected wirelessly to each other and communicate with the road infrastructure, although it’s likely the steering wheel will remain.

In the even more distance future, autonomous vehicles may not look like what we know as cars and we’ll able set our destination and sit back.

But while the road to an autonomous future is underway, there are still challenges and hurdles to be overcome – from the infrastructure to insurance concerns.

The hurdles facing AV cars

AV costs and regulations still need to be finalised. One sticking point is insurance. In February 2017, the UK government drew up the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill that made insurers primarily responsible for paying out damages for autonomous cars involved in accidents. But there’s a lot of new ground to cover as the bill also seeks to provide exclusions to insurers’ liability such as when vehicle software updates haven’t been properly executed by the owner.

Furthermore, although AVs do mimic some real life driver behaviour, there is a fear of over-trusting in prototypes before they’re ready.

But, while truly autonomous future is a still a way off, it’s worth putting AVs on your radar – they’ll be here sooner than you think.
Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell

5 ways to future-proof your fleet

The role of a fleet manager has never been more challenging. Staying on top of the latest developments is a full-time job in itself, encompassing everything from team management to technology and safety to legislation.

Successful fleet management is not just about keeping up and reacting to changes, it requires forward thinking. Here are five ways to help you future-proof your fleet.

1) Look for alternatives

One of the most pressing concerns for any fleet manager is the drive towards alternative fuels. Never has it been more important to plan for the future and have a diverse energy policy. The automotive future points largely towards electric, though hydrogen fuel cells – which charge up electric batteries on the move – may well be the best option for trucks and larger vans.

One of e-mobility’s biggest hurdles has been range, but that is increasingly less of a concern. Shell is increasingly offering reliable charging solutions for electric vehicle customers – whether they are at home, at work or on the road. They recently agreed to buy Dutch-based NewMotion, the owner of one of Europe’s largest electric vehicle charging networks.

NewMotion manages over 30,000 charging points for electric vehicles in Western Europe and offers access to thousands more. Customers are also starting to see more fast charging points at its forecourts, following the launch of Shell Recharge in the UK and Netherlands. Shell has also signed an agreement with high powered charging network operator IONITY to offer 500 charge posts across 10 European countries starting with 80 of its biggest highway stations.

One thing is for sure, with the UK and French governments’ pledge to ban sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040, and more city centres becoming low-emission zones, there is increased incentive for fleet managers to opt for electric vehicles or ones that run on alternative fuels.

In the meantime, it’s becoming more important to provide a range of sustainable options for employees and products to get from A to B. As diesel declines, more efficient petrol engines, plus hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles will fill the gap, while other lower-emission fuel alternatives such as cleaner-burning gases, like Shell GTL fuel or liquefied natural gas (LNG), will also have to be considered. LNG, a cool natural gas, is increasingly playing a bigger role in the energy portfolio with Shell continuing to find ways to make it more available where it is needed around the world.

2) Know your competition

It’s vital for every business to keep an eye on what its rivals are up to. Competitor analysis can be done on a formal basis, perhaps by employing a specialist company to carry out a study.

However, there are also informal opportunities such as Fleet Management Live and Fleet Show – events which provide senior fleet decision-makers with the perfect opportunity to network with industry colleagues evaluate new fleet service providers and attend seminars. And in the case of the former, see and drive the latest cars and vans.

And when it comes to the fuels that will be driving the fleets of future, Shell’s Make the Future Live is a great opportunity to see some of the most exciting and cutting-edge innovations and ideas.

It’s only by knowing what’s happening in your industry that you can plan for the future.

3) Plan for economic challenges

As if business isn’t challenging enough, the economic challenges mean businesses must plan ahead to manage the change and to take the necessary steps to achieve success in the future.

Fleet managers should forecast possible scenarios to avoid any prospective cliff edges. Import/export tariffs, which could affect the prices of vehicles, parts and fuel, plus restrictions on migration, compliance and border controls are among the additional possible challenges that fleets could face in the future.

4) Embrace new technology

Technological advances in the automotive industry are advancing at a bewildering pace and it’s essential that fleet managers keep up with the latest developments.

For instance, telematics makes it possible to run a fleet more efficiently and to help cut fuel fraud, pulling in data on everything from fuel usage and miles driven to driver behaviour.

There’s also a fundamental shift away from personally owned, driver-driven vehicles towards a world centred around driverless vehicles, delivery drones and shared mobility, which could mean that fleet managers of the future will also have to handle the needs of employees travelling by alternative means of transport.

5) Read the small print

Just as the April 2017 overhaul of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bands and company car tax caught some by surprise, it’s always possible for other changes in taxes and legislation to come along in these uncertain times, so it’s essential to keep across the latest talking points and government consultations.

Uncertainty over the economy and possible city centre charges to encourage drivers into ultra-low emission vehicles can be planned for, while other legislative changes are already in the pipeline.

For instance, in May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will build on existing data protection legislation with a particular focus on digitalisation and technology, which means that fleets will need to be clear about how they use data and to keep their employees in the loop. While data-based decision-making can drive efficiencies, it must be balanced against people having a right to privacy.

 

 

Source: Fluid Thinking – Shell