Fleet managers everywhere struggle with the problem of training drivers without taking their vehicles off the road. Until now, viable solutions to the disruption have been thin on the ground, but this may change if a new training product from Galway-based start-up Aptarus takes off.
Aptarus has designed a training platform for mobile workers that means companies will not have to take their fleets off the road for training purposes. The system works on any mobile device, including phones and tablets, and facilitates training at a time and place that suits individual employees. What gives the system its cutting edge is that the training is bespoke for each driver as it is based on the telematics information drawn from their vehicle.
"All training is based on individual performance metrics extracted from the telematics data, so each employee gets personalised training based on their individual requirements," says Karl Lusted, who co-founded Aptarus in 2015 with Martin Farrell. "Our mission is to make training and certification accessible to the mobile workforce and specifically to provide online training and certification solutions to transport and logistics companies."
Lusted comes from an electronic engineering background and is no stranger to the start-up world. He previously co-founded and subsequently sold telematics company Blue Tree Systems to Nasdaq-quoted Orbcomm in 2017. Farrell is an IT graduate with experience in the logistics industry who worked with Lusted in Blue Tree Systems in software development and project management roles. Aptarus currently employs five people and plans to double its workforce over next 18 months.
“While developing telematics solutions for trucking companies we noticed that many of them were overwhelmed with data but didn’t have the time to analyse it from a driver performance point of view,” Lusted says.
“Aptarus uses this real-world data to assess and assign training that corrects individual driver behaviour and allows each driver to fulfil their potential for improvement. Existing solutions that involve taking drivers off the road are uneconomic and don’t scale for entire fleets. With our platform training is available any place at any time, so a driver can use it while waiting to pick up a load, for example.”
The company's potential customers are trucking fleets in Ireland, the UK and the United States and its first training course, fuel-efficient driving in HGVs, was launched in Ireland in 2017 and is now being rolled out in the UK. Its food safety for drivers programme was launched in the US at the end of 2017 and a European version of the course is currently being introduced to the market in Ireland. Ultimately, Lusted sees his company's training system being applied to all sectors with mobile workforces. The company charges for its service on a monthly subscription basis and subscriptions are based on the number of drivers using the platform.
The learning platform and initial course content have taken two years and about €200,000 to develop and this has been funded from personal resources and income from training and certification work undertaken for customers such as Thermo King. From his previous life with Blue Tree, Lusted has good contacts in the telematics industry and they have proved invaluable in opening doors for Aptarus.
“Rather than hide away for two years while we developed our product, we went to customers very early on and listened to their feedback,” Lusted says. “We hope to launch another three or four courses this year and will be very much customer-driven in terms of subject matter.”
Lusted says the start-up landscape has changed dramatically in the time since he cofounded Blue Tree from college some 20 years ago. “People thought we were crazy, there was very little support for entrepreneurs and no incubation space. This time around the infrastructure is there, people ‘get’ start-ups and we can enjoy the benefits of being located somewhere like the Galway Technology Centre,” he says.