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New research from Trakm8 highlights toll of lockdown on vehicle health

New research by Trakm8 has unveiled the impact changing driver habits, triggered by lockdown, has had on our vehicles.

The report found a 33% increase in the likelihood of battery failures year-on-year (pre-lockdown February 2020 and full-lockdown February 2021), with an associated 46% rise in batteries needing a recharge. The research, which investigated the overall health of more than 5,000 vehicles, also reveals a 4% decline in fault codes, corresponding with a significant reduction in mileage triggered by the pandemic.

Indeed, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – and subsequent measures to safeguard against it – have had a significant bearing on our driving habits. The impact has been felt particularly keenly in the fleet sector, as Peter Mansfield, Group Sales and Marketing Director at Trakm8, confirms: “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected so much of how we live and work, not least how we use our vehicles. According to a report by Verizon Connect, the first lockdown in Spring 2020, saw the number of hours on the road by commercial drivers drop by 55% – part of a wider trend which, when factoring in all motorists, saw Brits driving an average of 550 million fewer miles per week, in comparison with pre-lockdown numbers.

“This sea-change in our driving habits has led to a significant increase in vehicle health issues, as our new research indicates. Unsurprisingly, it’s batteries where this impact is most apparent. With drivers spending far less time on the road than before the pandemic, the frequency of vehicle usage is also down, leading to extended periods of inactivity – a perfect storm, in other words, for spikes in battery failures.

“Flat or inadequately charged batteries can be a frustrating and time-consuming hassle for drivers. For fleets, it can also prove to be a costly irritation, with flat batteries among the leading causes of unexpected downtime for commercial vehicles.”

By Miles, the UK’s leading pay-by-mile car insurance provider, has seen similar shifts among their members. Oliver Baxter, Head of Product at By Miles explains: “Our pay-by-mile policies were popular with lower mileage drivers all over the UK before the unfortunate events of the last year took place, and with lockdowns forcing drivers to stay at home more than they would usually – there are now even fewer cars on the roads, so we have more low mileage drivers than ever making use of flexible pay-as-you-drive policies. The average mileage driven by our members dropped by 51% in this year’s January lockdown, compared to the same month last year.

“With their cars sitting parked outside, the last thing drivers need right now is a car that won’t start, so we’ve worked with Trakm8 to launch a new one-of-a-kind feature will empower drivers on our pay-by-mile car insurance policies by warning them if their battery is running low on charge, so they know exactly how road-ready their vehicles are. This will save them both the cost and inconvenience of a callout and possibly the cost of a new battery. This service comes at no extra cost or hassle to our members.”       

Data scientist Professor David Corne (Heriot Watt University) is an acclaimed global expert in combinatorial problem solving and predictive analytics and has worked with Trakm8 on a number of innovative solutions. He says: “Working with Trakm8 scientists to develop machine learning and optimisation algorithms such as battery health analysis is very fulfilling. It enables us to transfer the latest research into useful applications with positive impact on people’s lives.”

One such platform is Trakm8’s Connectedcare solution, which can provide valuable, real-time insights into battery health.

The Connectedcare solution sees advanced battery algorithms run a series of checks every time a vehicle engine is cranked. This provides up-to-the-minute feedback as to the health of the battery, sending notifications to fleet managers if it is suffering a fault or requires replacing. This insight into battery health is as powerful a tool in protecting against unexpected downtime as the communication of diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) relating to potential vehicle faults.

Peter continues: “Our latest findings certainly illustrate the ways in which lockdown and shifting driving habits can perpetuate avoidable vehicle health problems, but operators and fleet managers should rest assured that help is at hand. Software such as Connectedcare are vital tools in the armoury of the modern fleet manager, providing vital, accurate and timely insights into a whole range of vehicle health points, helping them eliminate avoidable downtime and ultimately, keep their fleets moving.”

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