We recently spoke to Brian Beattie of McCulla about their business, the challenges they face and how they’ve used the CameraMatics fleet telematics system to deliver tangible improvements and savings to their bottom line. They have squeezed these savings from unusual places, so it’s well worth the read, as you could enjoy similar savings.
About McCulla Refrigerated Transport
After just a few minutes of speaking with Brian, I realised I had grossly underestimated the scale of McCulla’s operation. On the surface they are a specialised transport and haulage company, with a large fleet of vehicles and temperature-controlled trailers. That would make the operation impressive enough until you then factor in their other services that make them a leading end-to-end provider of Ambient, Chilled and Frozen logistics solutions throughout Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe.
McCulla own outright 90,000 square feet of chilled and frozen storage split across Dublin and Lisburn, as well as a recently installed ambient store and that allows them to offer Temperature Controlled Storage, Order Assembly, Cross Docking, Blast Freezing & Tempering and even Fourth Party Logistics, all in addition to their foundational Refrigerated Haulage.
Having all these capabilities also allowed the team to setup a specialised pharma logistics division under a new brand called Certa in 2014.
Clearly, this is a company that knows its stuff when it comes to logistics and transport, and it’s no wonder as they celebrate their half-century in business in 2019. What the original founder, David McCulla, would think about the small single-truck refrigerated transport business they started in 1969 and how it has developed into the world-class operation it is today.
Brian was eager to explain a very unique aspect of their business, as as to their knowledge they are the only 100% green-energy cold store in the UK and Ireland. Following a £3M investment in the building of an anaerobic digester plant, they generate all the power required to run both facilities, allowing them to deliver state-of-the-art cold storage services, while being completely off the grid.
An Impressive Fleet
An operation of this size requires a fleet to match. So McCulla have 100 vehicles, consisting of 93 Tractor Units, 6 Rigids and a Sprinter Van. Complementing that are 152 trailers split across 6 types, from Twin Evaporator trailers to Urban Fridges, UK-Spec Twin Deck and Irish-Spec Twin Deck, Roller-Bed trailers and finally Meat Trailers. This gives McCulla total flexibility in delivering these specialised services.
The Challenges Faced By McCulla
We then discussed the challenges that McCulla have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Brian emphasised three key challenges that they deal with:
1. Rising Insurance Costs:
It’s now a major element of McCulla’s business to find ways to manage insurance and work closely with their insurers. They have worked very closely with their insurers to show how the CameraMatics system, alongside their traditional Bluetree telematics system, can help to not only better defend claims, but more importantly can be used as a full Fleet & Risk Management solution to improve driving behaviour and reduce claims.
The insurers were so impressed by their proposal that they agreed to part-fund the CameraMatics implementation, both in terms of hardware and the monthly fees for the cloud platform. I asked Brian why the insurers wanted to do this? He explained that, “insurance is a major, major cost to hauliers of our size, so insurers now, when they sit down, they realise that they need to better profile the fleet on its own merits rather than the traditional pooled risk, and they need to facilitate fleets to do the right things, which ultimately reduce the risk they have to underwrite.”
2. Upskilling And Training:
Brian went on to explain how they now make use of the cameras to review driver behaviour and courtesy too. Are drivers driving safely and following best-practice? Are there things they could improve? McCullas use a combination of checks against their telematics data and the corresponding footage, plus regular general checks of footage and use the clips as a review and training aid for the drivers to improve future behaviour.
What has facilitated this? Brian adds “We have had the cameras for a couple of years, but what has really revolutionised how we make use of the footage is the live remote cloud connected system. Being able to have the information at your fingertips and download footage immediately has made our compliance manager’s life so much easier and allows us to deliver very immediate and visual feedback to drivers.”
3. Social Responsibility:
This was an interesting phrase, so I asked Brian to elaborate. He said “We take road safety very, very seriously. So if an incident does happen, we have something to play back and show exactly what the cause was. The reality is that our drivers love the cameras…”
‘Hold on’ I said, ‘your drivers love the cameras? Tell me more.’
“Well, to them, it provides an element of protection because the footage shows that they were not at fault. They can refer to the footage in their reports, which is like their digital witness.”
Brian explained the increasing impact that fraud has had on their fleet and that thanks to their vehicle cameras they can counter this threat. I questioned the frequency and location of these incidents. Surely it can’t happen that often?
“You must be joking? We experience fraud attempts more regularly than you’d ever think and at some times of the year it’s an almost daily occurrence.”
Brian went on to explain that they experience fraud attempts pretty much evenly across all the countries and regions they operate in.
What Drove McCulla To Install CameraMatics Vehicle Cameras?
There are always one or two key reasons that drive (pardon the pun) fleet operators to install vehicle camera solutions, so I wanted to know what those reasons were for McCulla.
Brian outlined that they wanted to find a better way to deal with claims and the cameras took the process of reporting on incidents from “sketches on the back of an accident report form” to full-motion video that shows exactly what happened. It significantly decreased the time and overheads involved with accident and incident reporting and that means major savings on administrative costs and of course claims costs.
Having mentioned the training element of using the footage, I wanted to know when that came into play and if it was a goal from the beginning.
"Actually no. That came about somewhat by accident. We had a new driver who we noticed was driving a little more erratically than our other drivers, with more harsh braking events than others. This was shown on our telematics system, so we logged onto your CameraMatics software and took a look at the corresponding videos. Well we found that he was essentially on his phone a lot and otherwise distracted. So, we reviewed the footage with him and explained the issues around this and his driving not only instantly improved but stayed at the safe levels that we need."
How Long Did The Decision Take?
I was interested in how McCulla went about making the decision and how long it took. Brian explained that once they’d made the decision to install cameras, it was a 4-month process. They trailed three different providers offering three very different systems.
A little like Goldilocks’s porridge, they quickly discarded the single-camera solution as being ineffective for their needs, as they wanted to be able to see all around the vehicle. They also decided that the system that reviewed all their footage through a remote team and forwarded only the footage for specific incidents was too controlling and limiting. They wanted to be able to look at whatever footage they wanted whenever they wanted as they were already starting to see the potential of the system at that early stage.
That left the CameraMatics system. It provided the multi-channel aspect they needed, upgradeability in the future and most importantly, the direct control to review all footage whenever they needed to, even when the vehicle was out on the roads thank to the remote cloud access.
But Brian outlined that beyond being the best solution, CameraMatics also engaged in the most professional and competent manner. From the beginning, CameraMatics took the time to demo the product, and explain the many options. CameraMatics also offered the best support and ongoing maintenance, which was an important factor for McCulla.
2 Years On…
McCulla have lived with the solution for the last 2 years and I wanted to understand how they make use of it today and what difference it has made to their daily operations.
Brian shared how “different teams in our business make use of the CameraMatics system for their own needs. For instance our Insurance and Fleet Manager would use it to review footage of accidents and incidents, whereas our Training and Driver Manager uses it for driver training. Our Pharmaceutical division would use it to monitor security and to confirm to clients that the vehicles haven’t been tampered with and we can show the exact location of the vehicle with footage to match.
Then there is an extra way that we hadn’t initially contemplated, but thanks to the delayed switch-off feature we were able to see an incident of fuel theft even a while after the vehicle had been parked.”
Brian went on to explain that the benefits to the business began to happen almost immediately, but it was after the first year that it became apparent just how impactful the technology had been in improving safety and reducing costs.
The year-on-year comparison was impressive. That’s both in terms of improved driver behaviour and the savings we’ve enjoyed. I also have to say that the saved fraud attempts alone would have paid for this system for us, so everything else is a bonus. But I guess, from an insurance point of view, and possibly the reason that our insurers agreed to co-fund the system has been the improvement in our drivers’ scores, making them safer drivers, which obviously reduces our fleet risk. And that’s purely because we can now have video evidence to back up any telematics data, both positive or negative.”
Brian also highlighted a situation that really brought home for McCulla why installing the remote connected system was the best decision they’d made…
It was a Saturday morning and I received a call from one of our drivers who was in Northern France. Another driver had come across two lanes of traffic and crashed into the rear of our truck. Unfortunately, that driver was killed on impact and there were no witnesses to the incident, so the French police were looking to arrest our driver until the circumstances could be clarified.
The CameraMatics system really saved us that day for two reasons. Firstly, we had rear-facing cameras and so the system captured the whole incident. Secondly, thanks to remote access to the footage on the vehicle, we were able to access the video, download it and forward to the French authorities within the hour. The footage totally exonerated our driver and although shaken, he was able to make his way home rather than spending a day or more in a French cell.
Obviously we were concerned for our driver and wanted to make sure he was looked after, but in doing that, it also meant that we avoided significant delays as our vehicle was also released rather than being impounded.”
All the benefits mentioned are obviously very important, but what about pounds, shillings and pence? Brian had some interesting news on that front.
Firstly, it has helped control rising insurance costs and allowed McCulla to get the insurers to part-fund the CameraMatics system.
Secondly, it has halved the work for their staff involved in dealing with our claims and legal work. Which in pure salary terms is significant. It basically means they get two staff for the price of one!
Thirdly, their driver training has seen a 4.8% improvement in their driver scorecard and that has translated to a tangential 3% improvement in fleet MPG.
WAIT WHAT? Back up there for a second…so a vehicle camera system has helped this major fleet operator improve their MPG by 3%, above and beyond savings already achieved using their telematics system! I was wondering what that translated to in money terms? The answer was a staggering £70K to £80K annually!
Brian then went on to say that McCulla estimate that when you add all the factors together, it would equate to around £200K per year in savings.
So, how does that translate to Return On Investment? Well we simply need to do the maths on that one. Given the original outlay on the system, we can calculate that it paid for itself in around 7 to 8 months. That’s on a system with a planned lifespan of 7 years!
The Final Word
As Brian put it,
“This system really is a no-brainer.”
When you consider the savings and the incredibly short ROI and combine that with the overall benefits to the efficiency and capabilities to McCulla’s business, one can’t help but agree with that summary!
Ultimately the team wanted better information at their fingertips and the camera system delivered that. Being a tech-savvy company, they quickly identified additional ways that CameraMatics, on its own and in concert with their Bluetree system, could help them achieve improved safety and more savings, and they certainly squeezed every penny out of it.
Brian’s parting comment was, “We always want to be at the leading edge with technology and we were one of the first to make full use of Telematics to manage risk. So, adding the CameraMatics system was a very natural next step for us and it has proven itself to be a really good investment and CameraMatics has proven to be a brilliant partner.