Who is my fleet manager? And can I have a shot of espresso, please?

Imagine you’re at a fleet conference and looking for that morning cup of joe to tide you over until the lunch break. You head over to the LeasePlan coffee lounge only to see a line of people who must have left the last session early to get a good position. It's going to be a long wait for a cup of coffee.

But you're a fleet manager, and as a fleet manager, you get to skip the line and order that espresso from an iPhone? That’s right, at this year’s NAFA Institute and Expo in Louisville, KY, many attendees met our newest team member and driver virtual assistant, Elle, for the first time.

Elle is designed to support fleet drivers with client-specific policy and frequently asked questions. Having been a part of Elle’s early development, I can attest that we have always wanted her to do special things to make our clients’ lives easier. Never did I imagine that she’d be streamlining break times at NAFA by sending coffee orders direct to the barista station!

This goes to show just how flexible Elle can be. Her technology is designed for an easy user experience, helping drivers report an accident, or discover how to improve their driving behavior. With a little training, she can also answer client-specific policy information, like “who’s allowed to drive my company car?” Or “who is my fleet manager?”

Give her a little more direction, and this chatbot is whipping up white chocolate mochas, iced cappuccinos and double espressos with almond milk (my personal favorite). And if that doesn’t impress you much, then consider that Elle sent all the coffee order data direct to an interactive dashboard, where attendees could view real-time stats from the data she collected.

While the dashboard displayed the most popular coffee orders at NAFA, and what time of day was most popular, it's merely a glimpse into the innovative data visualization our clients can access at any time to find dips and spikes in fleet activity, as well as trends and anomalies in their vehicles’ operations. Imagine the kind of information you can glean from the transactional data when it’s presented to you in ways you can visualize. It’s simply amazing what the data visualization team is brewing up these days.

Fun facts: Elle took over 140 coffee orders and most of the orders were placed on Tuesday afternoon between 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm. The most popular beverage? You guessed it lattes.

While Elle’s coffee ordering was only for a limited time, she is bound to give an extra jolt to the fleet industry as more companies are introduced to her bold flavor! Such a creative and fun way to introduce an innovative, voice-activated virtual assistant to the market. Interested in a demo? Chat with us!


How many recalls are hiding in your fleet?

Elle and her flexible technology capabilities weren’t the only star of the show. Our new Recall Management solution also stirred up quite the buzz. When research tells us 25% of vehicles in the average fleet have open safety-related recalls, it is time for fleets to do something about it. Just imagine what kind of recalls could be lurking in yours?

Conversations during NAFA indicated fleet managers are looking for ways to proactively tackle this cumbersome process of identifying recalls, notifying drivers and overseeing repairs. It was great to hear from the fleet community how they would like us to help them close this loop with our technology. This new recall solution addresses the problem of hidden recalls with multi-tiered communications with drivers to ensure repairs are completed.

If you would like to learn your open recall rate, contact us today for an evaluation of your fleet.


Thought leadership at its finest

Last but certainly not least, the LeasePlan experience spilled well beyond the walls of the coffee lounge and into the educational sessions.

Matt Dyer made his first appearance on stage at NAFA as president and CEO of LeasePlan USA during the executive panel speaking to the hot topics close to the hearts of fleet managers. “The game has changed significantly,” Dyer said as he addressed the growing expectations from drivers as they begin to require more instantaneous service. He went on to discuss new technologies that are contributing to a higher service level, such as mobile apps, virtual assistants and other tech that is becoming part of the drivers’ day to day world. These tools are supporting drivers “so they’re making the right choices within their fleet policy,” Dyer said.

In another session, Becky Langmandel, LeasePlan’s vice president of analytics, consulting & transformation, also led a session entitled, "Employee Burn-Out: Why Too Much Work Costs Big $$$”. Here, she addressed the impact overwork can have on safety and productivity, providing tips to fleets on how they can help drivers reduce stress, increase roadway safety and reduce incident costs. Did you know? A fleet of 1,000 vehicles with a 20% incident rate could spend $500,000 to $4.8 million a year. Safety is a big topic on the minds of many fleets – and something to stay on top of to save costs, and more importantly, the lives of your employees.

Felipe Smolka, LeasePlan’s executive vice president of transformation, and John Ciarlone, director of product development, also shared their expertise in a session entitled "Eliminating Bigfoot: The Path to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint.” They presented solutions on how organizations can reduce their carbon footprint – from incorporating fuel cards, using the right vehicle for the job, leveraging pool driver management solutions for low-mileage drivers and stepping out of the “petroleum paradigm” to test electric vehicles for various job functions.

For those that have even more aggressive sustainable targets, Felipe introduced innovative ways to get your fleet carbon neutral now – through tree planting initiatives, such as our partnership with Land Life, where carbon offsetting is available by way of tree planting. It made me proud to learn that LeasePlan has already planted 45,000 trees as part of this initiative. It was clear from audience engagement during and after the session that sustainability is an increasingly visible topic in our sector and that the move to alternative fuels and electric vehicles is happening ever more rapidly. TO VIEW THE PRESENTATION, CLICK HERE.


And That’s a wrap

It’s crazy to think I have been to nearly all of the last 14 NAFA events. Over the years, I have seen LeasePlan’s presence and capabilities grow bigger and better than the time before. Going on my 15th year with the company, I can certainly say there is a renewed energy, along with a focus on innovation and developing new solutions with the customer in mind. And this was even more clear during this year's events.

Hope to see you next year!


About the author

Alison Kirkland is the marketing director at LeasePlan USA. She is responsible for strategic planning and leading the team’s execution of marketing efforts. From product messaging and campaigns to events, digital marketing and PR. Ali is passionate about her work, and after 14 years with the company, she is excited about the transformation to the new LeasePlan. As a fleet driver herself, she enjoys working within her own organization to improve the client experience. You may even see her blog now and then about her life as a fleet driver. Please comment, like and share!

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One of my favorite stories is of how my parents first met. And since Valentine's Day is this week, I thought this was the perfect time to talk about it.

They are high school sweethearts, coming up on 47 years of marriage this year. I would be remiss if I didn’t first point out that they are two of the coolest people I know. I have always admired their love for each other and wanted to take a minute to tell you how their young romance began. It’s relevant to fleet, you’ll see

It happened in a suburb west of Chicago. Spanish class at Downers Grove North to be precise. Apparently, Dad was struggling with his "palabras," so the teacher asked my Mom to tutor him.

Not long after, the pickup line came. "My what beautiful blue eyes you have," he told her, something akin to the Big Bad Wolf – haha – I made that last part up. But I thought to myself, she doesn't have blue eyes. Turns out she wore fake contacts to get the look. Love that lady.

Now by this time, Mom was preparing to get her driver's license. She took a driver's ed class and braved the exam without hardly any practice behind the wheel. One time out with my Grampa and the simulator from class was all the experience she had.

Well, she failed. As she was recalling the details of this day, she said she thinks she blew it when she hopped the curb during the parallel parking portion of the exam. Seems she has never let this one go, as I have personally seen this lady drive around for miles to avoid parallel parking to this day.

To gain some brownie points, my dad took it upon himself to teach her how to drive. He had a 3-speed with a bench seat that allowed them to sit close, his arm wrapped around her shoulder. He started first by having her shift so he didn't have to move his arm. I mean really, how adorable, right?

But from there, the driving lessons continued, and eventually he gave her the coaching needed to pass her test the next go-round.

So, as it turns out, my Mom was my Dad's Spanish tutor. Dad taught Mom how to drive. And the running joke to this day is that he can’t speak Spanish and she can’t drive. Makes me laugh every time.

Now, I have witnessed my father in Mexico, and I can confirm the first part of the joke is true. The latter, however is not. My Mom is a very good driver, and a safe one to boot. She (almost) always drives the speed limit, unless she's running late which is hardly ever.

And while my Dad impressed on me his knowledge of how to drive a stick shift without burning out the clutch, Mom gave me many valuable driving lessons. I remember her brave soul riding shotgun once I got my learner’s permit and faced the roads for the first time.

She taught me things like why I should never cross a double yellow line. She helped me understand how to lift my vision, scan the road ahead and watch for moving objects. She also taught me how to take curves, stop for school buses, and keep my hands at 10 and 2. On a funnier note, I believe the year I had my learner's permit is also where I may have learned there was a thing called the “Oh S#it” handle. See, isn't she great?

Mom also signed me up for a driver’s ed class. While I thought at the time this was just to keep insurance costs down, it no doubt helped me be a safer driver in the long run.

Now my class was at least a decade ago – OK maybe two (wink, wink). But I still remember the foundations of what it takes to be a good driver. But does everyone? And do I really?

It has become clear to me that many drivers believe they are the "good drivers." It's everyone else that you can't trust.

We recently teamed up with eDriving to create a crash-free culture among employees who drive for work, including our own LeasePlan drivers, like me. I'm using their Mentor smartphone app, and now I get a weekly performance report to see how I'm doing. Did I improve from last week? Did I move ahead of my peers? Am I in the top 10 percent of my company's fleet drivers? I can even see details of my behavior, from acceleration and cornering to braking, distraction and speed.

And I can view the performance of each trip right from my phone. So, instead of assuming I'm one of the good drivers, I have to face the reality that I could do better.

The app is, luckily, smart enough to know where I could use some help. And like a good mentor, it delivers quick and interactive 2 to 4-minute videos that give me tips and tricks for improving. It's like a cross between a mini-driver's ed refresher course and video game, delivered straight to my phone.

To sum it all up, it's more important than ever to be safe on the road. Having seen first-hand the effects of roadway incidents, I'm glad I have a tool to tell me how to improve so I can do my part in making the roads a safer place. Here at LeasePlan, we also see the cost of incidents, and it's high. Fortunately, most of these incidents are preventable – NHTSA studies suggesting as many as 94 percent – because they are caused by human behavior.

And, while classic behind-the-wheel driving instructors live on for young drivers like Mom, continuing education can carry on for your employees, too – right from their phone. It's like learning on demand, anytime, anywhere. How convenient, and effective!

So, you may be asking yourself – when was the last time my fleet went through driver's ed? Or, have I required them to take a training course recently to improve their skills? How do I know who is at the highest risk? Read more about how to manage your risk in our data-driven safety eBook.

Whether a mobile or online experience is right for your fleet, we can help. Contact us to find out more about how to create a culture of safety!


About the author

Alison Kirkland is the marketing director at LeasePlan USA. She is responsible for strategic planning and leading the team’s execution of marketing efforts. From product messaging and campaigns to events, digital marketing and PR. Ali is passionate about her work, and after 14 years with the company, she is excited about the transformation to the new LeasePlan. As a fleet driver herself, she enjoys working within her own organization to improve the client experience. You may even see her blog now and then about her life as a fleet driver. Please comment, like and share!

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