There are many ways telematics can improve how you manage your equipment fleet. Risk management and monitoring driver behavior are two ways telematics can help you improve your bottom line.
For example, telematics can lead to safer driver behavior and lower insurance rates. Insurance companies tend to look favorably on construction companies that incorporate telematics into their operations, says Andy Peterson, Risk Engineering Commercial Auto Segment director for Zurich North America.
“Telematics is a great coaching tool to help change driver behavior,” he says. “It’s not just having the telematics installed that’s important, it’s how effectively you use the tool that matters.”
The price for telematics technology is coming down, making it more cost effective for contractors to install systems and reap the benefits of all the data that is available. While most contractors are aware of the operational benefits of telematics – equipment location, hours of service, idling times, etc. – Peterson says there’s a lot more information that contractors can use to decrease risks and modify driver behavior during trucking operations.
Some items that can be monitored by a telematics system include:
Headway monitoring and warning allows companies to know how closely their drivers are following vehicles in front of them. Many drivers overestimate how much headway they have to the car in front of them, resulting in insufficient time to react if the car ahead unexpectedly stops or slows down.
Hard braking is a good indication of driver behavior. Hard braking is a measure of driver events where there has been rapid deceleration. It can also be an indicator of following too closely, aggressive, inattentive or unsafe driving.
Speed measurement can relay how fast a driver is going. Management may set parameters, and if they are broken, an alert is generated, such as an email.
“These are just a few examples of how you can monitor driver behavior,” says Peterson. “As a telematics user, you may be overloaded by the information from these systems. Given limited resources, it’s best to focus on one or two items, such as hard braking. You can’t chase every speeding event that comes your way, but if you have a driver who is consistently hard braking, you can take steps to modify that behavior.”
There are myriad telematics systems available on the market today. Some are hard-dash installed into the vehicle, some are “plug-and-play,” and others are simply app-based solutions on smart phones.
Event camera systems can be considered one of the most advanced systems available. These systems can view traffic ahead and activity in the cab of the vehicle. It can also be programmed so that when triggered, it will record several seconds before and after the event.
For example, following a hard-braking incident, company management reviews the video and determines the driver had plenty of following distance but failed to note stopped traffic ahead early enough. The subsequent coaching session can focus on the actual deficiency rather than just the fact that they had a hard brake.
Each telematics system has its advantages and disadvantages and you have to pick one that fits your business. “It doesn’t take a complex system to monitor hard braking,” says Peterson. “In certain limited circumstances an app-based solution might work best for you, and it’s cheaper than an event camera system. But a smart phone app has challenges with mixed signals and false positives, so you have to weigh what’s going to work best for your company.”
According to statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), even though the number of fatal crashes has been declining in recent years, the overall crash count in the country, including property crashes, is increasing.
“There’s a lot of distractions for drivers today,” says Peterson. “In addition to more traffic, drivers are dealing with texts, emails, phone calls – even conversation can be distracting.”
Peterson says management can campaign for less distractions for drivers by building it into the corporate culture.
“There needs to be a cultural shift when it comes to sending and receiving calls and texts,” he says. “We all know that texting while driving is bad, but there seems to be a disconnect between what we know and what we do.”
Peterson says this decree needs to come from the top down. “Ask drivers to place their phones on ‘do not disturb’ to eliminate texts and stop or restrict phone calls while driving,” he says. “Drivers can be instructed to only answer or make a phone call when safely parked.”
Telematics data can help you improve risk management and monitor driver behavior, which can help you increase your bottom line, but more importantly, it can create a safer environment for everyone sharing the road.
And while zero incidents is a great goal, Peterson says the focus should always be on improving the numbers day by day.
“Don’t let the idea of getting to zero stop you from getting better,” he says.