By Chris Cuffe, who shares his independent views on how the field of IT for tachograph analysis has developed over the last 15 years and his advice for getting a step closer to that panacea.
I can’t believe that I have worked in the tachograph field for 15 years already. My working life since 1983 has always been related to IT in both senior technical and sales roles; I guess this gives me a good vantage point for how the industry has developed. From the days of IBM dominance and countless fruits and vegetables (Apricot, Tulip, Acorn, Tangerine and Apple of course) to the massive growth of PC-based applications and now mobile apps. All these developments have impacted our lives tremendously and predominantly in a positive way.
The field of compliance is therefore no exception with two landmark dates that really thrust the market forward; 2006 with the introduction of the digital tachograph and 2010 with the introduction of remote tachograph download. With all data now digital and the potential to automate the process of data collection, there was very little to slow down the uptake of analysis software. You are now unlikely to find a substantial fleet that does not use analysis software. I have worked with all the key software providers supplying download equipment and automation solutions, and I have seen first-hand the great contribution these companies have made to the availability of data and analysis resulting ultimately, in safer roads.
So, what else have I noticed since 2008? Well with a thirst for data well and truly whet, companies have naturally been demanding more. Historically; compliance, maintenance, planning, and purchasing have all worked independently with separate software systems but companies are realising that this has a high cost and risk in security, maintenance, duplication, and loss of efficiency. The panacea is a single system with a single login that can handle all of these tasks.
So, is a single system possible? The answer is not straightforward as all of the required elements are different and have their own complexities. Think of trying to replicate established and complex systems such as Netsuite, Sage, or Quickbooks into your logistics system, this is years of development for a large team so makes no commercial sense. For software companies it’s not always about reinventing the wheel it’s about the selective integration of value-added services and integrating with other leading software products where appropriate. The drive to a single software solution is however likely to apply pressure on software products that could now be considered too niche, particularly if they have become outmoded.
Taking Aquarius as an example; when I first worked with the team as a supplier in 2009 the offering was focussed on its core roots of compliance but gradually functionality expanded in line with its in-house compliance and technical expertise, to include Walkaround Checks, Document Management, POD, Time and Attendance, Asset Maintenance and eSign which allows drivers to qualify and sign for their infringements on a phone or tablet. What Aquarius has successfully done is to feed from its well-established customer base to gradually add required functionality at a pace that has allowed the business to adapt. Each new service has new demands and potentially a new audience, so it’s important to put in place the right expertise so as not to alienate existing customers.
Fresh approaches, particularly with Asset Maintenance, stand to shake up the sector.
All of this has major advantages for customers as they can start with a single service and gradually add services as they grow in confidence and size. For larger corporates, this approach helps IT departments to create a clear project plan for changeover. Aquarius has also developed integrations with third parties to provide data for their applications, which vary from key telematics providers to accounting systems.
Over the years I have noted software companies outside the tachograph analysis field trying to include tachograph analysis within their offering. Compliance is technically difficult to programme and maintain and therefore requires substantial knowledge and investment. I think that collaboration between software providers is preferable in compliance, as total accuracy is essential when it comes to infringement reporting in particular. Some analysis providers such as Aquarius already include the ability to collect data using APIs for use in other applications.
My takeaway for customers is to consider how you could benefit from the increasing convergence of software. How much could you reduce subscription charges and maintenance? Think of the benefits of a single repository for all assets and their management. Consider the competitive advantage that could be derived. Unless your needs are minimal and will remain so, I would always suggest looking at software providers with a strong offering across multiple disciplines as it gets you a step closer to that panacea.
About Chris Cuffe
Aquarius has known and worked with Chris for more than 15 years; since his early days at Tachosys when he was the Sales and Marketing Director. Today, using his vast experience of tachographs and software, he works as a freelance consultant alongside the management team at Aquarius.
For further advice on how to get the most out of our services, please contact us via https://www.aquariusit.com/contact/