Lightfoot

Featuring Chris Hicks | 18th April, 2018

PKF Francis Clark client Lightfoot, designs, manufactures and installs driver improvement technology that has already been a big success with commercial vehicles and is soon to launch to the private motorist. The technology was developed in Exeter and makes vehicles greener, safer and cheaper by rewarding careful drivers and helping them to maximise engine efficiency.

Lightfoot’s Marketing Director Tony Harbron explained:

“Our background is in high tech automotive engineering so we know the way a vehicle is driven has as much if not more impact on its efficiency as the engine technology itself. Lightfoot’s mission from day one has been to find a highly effective and sustainable system to improve driving behaviour that doesn’t require huge amounts of effort or management input – it’s just easy and it works using a combination of technology, psychology and motivation.

“The Lightfoot device listens to the engine and the way it is being driven. That’s the technology aspect. Then comes the psychology – the behaviour change. When you start driving inefficiently and out of the engine’s ‘sweet spot’, Lightfoot gives you a real time visual and verbal nudge so you adjust your behaviour immediately. Finally, we make drivers want to do well by celebrating and rewarding their better driving – that’s the motivation. Traditionally, bad driving habits are recognised as being extremely hard to change but Lightfoot can demonstrate significant improvements after just a few hours and they’re sustained as long as Lightfoot remains in the vehicle. Fleet managers can see an uplift in performance and measure the sustainable difference it is making.”

This ground-breaking technology has also had some very positive unanticipated consequences that are now opening new opportunities for Lightfoot.

Tony went on to say,

“What we hadn’t realised at the time was that not only does the product cut fuel costs and therefore emissions, it also reduces risks and accidents significantly. This was discovered by our customers’ insurance companies who identified significant reductions in accidents and noticeable reductions in the value of claims they were paying out.

“Allianz, for instance, has seen a 40% reduction in claims frequency and a 60% reduction in claims value.”

As a result, all the main fleet insurers are supporting Lightfoot and encouraging fleet operators to try it. This has led to rapid expansion to keep up with demand. The business currently employs around 42 people at its current Exeter operation but is expecting to more than double the workforce by the end of the year in a new bespoke-fitted premises on the A38 Expressway near Haldon Hill.

The company senses a step change as its profile rises and as more businesses begin to appreciate its added value. One substantial insurance company is prepared to give a 20% discount to fleet drivers using Lightfoot on their private vehicle whether it is fitted with the device or not on the premise that they will have become better and safer drivers.

After developing the technology and changing driver behaviour, the third element in sustaining Lightfoot’s operation is rewarding drivers for doing the right thing and seeing drivers as the solution rather than the problem. All Lightfoot drivers are eligible to win prizes, enter competitions and feature in league tables, as well as receiving discounts at a wide selection of retailers, restaurants and other outlets.

This has led to the development of Lightfoot for private motorists which has been trialled in the Exeter area and is expected to launch regionally later in 2018. Private Lightfoot drivers will save on insurance, pick up rewards and get special deals such as VIP opportunities.

The Lightfoot system represents a win-win situation for many interested parties. Cities and towns benefit through a reduction in pollution, insurance companies benefit through reduced risk, commercial fleets gain from reduced fuel wastage and lower maintenance costs (Lightfoot can diagnose engine faults) and drivers win through reduced insurance costs and other incentives.

The development of Lightfoot is very timely coming when urban areas are looking to reduce pollution and the automotive industry is investing heavily in cleaner technology and new breeds of vehicle. At the same time, there is distinct culture change in people’s attitude to driving which has perfect synergy with Lightfoot’s aims and objectives.

Tony added:

“Old styles of driving are increasingly seen as unacceptable. More people are willing to drive sensibly, cutting speed, fuel costs and emissions while at the same time getting real benefits of cheaper insurance and other prizes, and we are seeing real driver buy-in to our ideas.”

Lightfoot is successful and profitable and will be reinvesting more in further research and development along with other investment opportunities, including the Business Growth Fund where the business is being supported by PKF Francis Clark.

Lightfoot is used across South West Water’s van fleet and recent business wins are also impressive and include Virgin Media, Boots and Alliance Healthcare with expansion into some European markets anticipated. In addition to commercial van fleets, potential new markets include certain company cars, grey fleets and pool cars.

PKF Francis Clark partner Chris Hicks said:

“Lightfoot is an innovative business combining technological development with behaviour change. It was originally part of a larger organisation and we were called in to advise on the separation of the business from a commercial, legal and tax point of view to make Lightfoot a standalone company. This was completed in early 2016.

“Since then, we have helped them with back end accounting and cloud accounting as well as tax and PAYE implications for their new Elite Driver reward scheme.  We also provided VAT advice on the acquisition of their new premises and most recently we have been appointed as auditors. We have also advised on the tax efficiency of EIS Enterprise investment scheme funding.

Lightfoot’s Finance Director, Jeremy Ellison, said:

“As we rapidly grow, take on new challenges and open new markets we can do so with the confidence that Chris Hicks and his team at PKF Francis Clark have the knowledge, expertise and strength in depth to support us across all our financial and business requirements.”

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