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Maximizing benefits of onboard technology

By Daniel Brown, Risk Control Technical Manager
Previously published in Transport Topics, July 13, 2015

Hardly a week goes by without news of self-driving vehicles one day transforming highway safety. While that’s certainly a fascinating prospect, it may be many years before this technology is incorporated into most fleets.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently issued a recommendation that heavy-truck and bus-fleet operators deploy video system recorder technology to help monitor their drivers. Onboard monitoring systems — including video recording and telematics systems — are widely available and make it possible for fleets to significantly improve safety and operational efficiencies. For example, telematics systems are helping managers track and route vehicles more effectively, improve fuel economy, streamline billing and ensure their vehicles are operated safely.

Yet many fleets do not use onboard monitoring systems of any kind, despite the clear safety and efficiency benefits. Cost may be one reason. Others likely include uncertainty about the future effects of the electronic logging device requirements or just wariness of new technology.

For fleets that do employ these systems, the information often is not used effectively because of a lack of time, expertise or interest. Some companies with telematics systems react only when a driver has too many speeding or hard-stopping alerts, but this approach addresses only a portion of drivers.

Companies should consider what kind of telematics program may motivate all of their drivers to drive safely and efficiently, not just the few who are high-risk. This approach can help maximize a telematics system’s potential safety benefits.

Companies successfully using onboard monitoring systems affirm that establishing an effective program requires effort. If you want to start a telematics program that can help improve safety, consider these important points:

  • Select your device carefully. Easy-to-interpret driver performance information is essential. Your system should help you identify where drivers are performing well and where they can improve. It also should help you evaluate individual and fleet progress over time.
  • Get buy-in and support. Because a telematics program can be costly and affect many groups in your company, it’s important to get the support you need to be successful.
  • Establish benchmarks and standards. Because there are no industry performance benchmarks, use your own data to evaluate the performance of drivers and the fleet.
  • Provide regular feedback. Ongoing coaching can help drivers become aware of their performance and opportunities to be safer and more efficient.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities. Monitoring data and providing meaningful recommendations take time. Managers need to understand their roles and responsibilities in this process.
  • Avoid the “Big Brother” trap. If drivers sense that the sole purpose of your program is to spy on them, they likely won’t support it. You can help alleviate these concerns by showing them how the system can benefit them and by using it as a source of praise and reward for good performance.

Recent studies are beginning to reveal some dramatic statistics about the advantages of onboard monitoring systems. Take the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2014 study, which monitored driver performance and fuel efficiency for a fleet of 46 trucks for one year.

To influence driver performance, in-cab messages, manager feedback and safety incentives were used. Results of the study showed that the frequency of unsafe events decreased by almost 50% and fuel efficiency improved by up to 9%.

A Travelers Insurance case study also supports this telematics-based driver-coaching model. It showed that the greatest effect on fleet losses is achieved when managers use telematics data to provide all drivers ongoing performance advice. Companies experienced little or no reduction in losses without feedback, even though their vehicles were equipped with the latest telematics systems available.

Monitoring performance and coaching employees to work more safely isn’t a new idea. Other industries have employed a behavior-based approach to safety for decades with good results, and now onboard monitoring systems have made it possible for the transportation industry to benefit as well.

Though we can all dream of the day when vehicles might guide themselves safely through traffic with limited driver oversight, an effective telematics program is one way fleets can help improve safety today.

To learn more about how to use a telematics system to improve fleet safety, visit our IntelliDrive® website.

Watch our telematics Success Story

After working with Travelers to adopt a fleet telematics system, a New York manufacturer saw a decrease in accidents, claim costs and lost time – and their executives can rest easy knowing they're helping keep their drivers safe. Watch the video »


Webinar: Can Technology Make Your Fleet Safer?

Are you a business owner, supervisor, safety manager or driver? Then be sure to join us for our 30-minute Driver Quick Tips Webinar on Dec. 3, Can Technology Make Your Fleet Safer? To register, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal at the top of the page, click on Education Center and then Webinar Schedule.

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