Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

While today’s fleet managers have the ability to be fairly proactive on safety and accident management, accidents are still occurring and fleet managers are mostly reacting to the situation.

“Without a doubt, data and the use of it through analytics will drive decisions on the type of vehicle for total cost of ownership depending on how a vehicle is used. Analytics helps shape government regulations on consecutive hours of driving, and new ways of raising road tolls for local government,” said Colin Sutherland, EVP, sales and marketing for Geotab. 

Predicting & Acting

Tomorrow’s fleet managers will be looking for even more predictive analytics to help prevent accidents. Some solutions are already available, including the emerging field of fleet accident predictive analytics models.

“We’re seeing growing interest in predictive analytics in the fleet industry,” said Brain Kinniry, senior director, strategic services for The CEI Group, Inc. “Our model expands the time frame and scope of standard fleet safety policy prescriptions for assessing risk, and we’ve found that it changes the assessment of many drivers from being among the lower-risk population to a higher risk level. This may well represent the next great leap forward in preventing fleet accidents, because it identifies previously unseen risks and puts fleets in a position to change driver behavior through proactive remedial attention.”

At A Glance

The future of analytics is coming, and subject-matter experts note that a few changes will have a huge impact:

  • Increased focus on preventive and proactive accident management programs.
  • Ability to respond to problems in real time.
  • More abundant data from more data points, providing a clearer picture of driver behavior.

But, there is still the opportunity for improvement.

“Analytics have gone from reactive to somewhat predictive, but there is still more opportunity for knitting data together to produce a more accurate depiction of driver risk,” said Doug Peters, advanced analytics product leader at Element Fleet Management.

New and improved technology by the automakers is also making an impact on the evolution of predictive analytics.

“We will also see more standardization across motor companies, making the data easier to consume, analyze, and report. We’re already seeing the effect of predictive analytics helping reduce corporate risks and bottom-line costs,” Peters said.

And, with the advances in proactive and predictive technology comes the ability to institute real-time improvements.

“With the emergence and evolution of connected vehicle technologies, and our increasing ability to seamlessly integrate remote systems, the ability to drive near real-time improvements in performance and reductions in operating costs will continue to improve at a rapid pace. Predictive analytics for maintenance and component-related failures will allow fleets to not only have global visibility over compliance and trends, but further support policy enforcement and oversight,” said Ron Katz, senior VP, North American Sales for Chevin Fleet Solutions. 

Wayne Smolda, CEO and founder of The CEI Group, concurred. “I expect the industry will strive to reach the point where ‘real-time’ accident predictive analytics will become available, so there’s no gap between when a driver is identified as high risk and the fleet intervenes to change his behavior and avoid another accident,” he said.

According to Peters, looking to the future, real-time analytics based on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure data will be used to predict and avoid accidents.

“For example, when anti-lock brakes in one vehicle are taking hold on an icy road, other drivers in the area will be alerted to the slick conditions through their vehicle,” he said.

Working Toward Prevention

Proactive and preventive measures only matter in the end if they help prevent accidents from occurring, which is the ultimate goal of safety and accident management analytics.

“In the not-too-distant future, analytics will help organizations prevent incidents from occurring, rather than just being a tool to rapidly react to incidents. By identifying patterns and correlations in large data sets, systems will be able to predict which drivers are more likely to be in a crash and proactively take action to improve the driver’s skills and behavior,” said Rich Radi, director, Driver Excellence for ARI.

But, one of the first hurdles to tackle in the ultimate goal of accident prevention is acquiring enough data to work into a predictive model.

“In the future, if an incident does occur, the timing and amount of information about the incident will be significantly improved as well. Vehicles will instantly self-report when a collision occurs and what is damaged on the vehicle. MVR data will be reported much more quickly than today and the data will be much more comprehensive. In short, fleet, safety, and risk managers will have significantly more powerful tools on hand to truly measure driving behavior, predict the likelihood of an incident, and ultimately prevent incidents before they occur,” Radi said.

The types — and volume — of fleet data and the variety of systems that deliver it to a fleet manager’s desktop continue to proliferate, according to Kinniry of The CEI Group.

“These include telematics, GPS, vehicle cameras, traffic camera violations, and continuous driver monitoring applications. The first challenge is how (and when) these applications will be fully deployed. The second challenge is how to integrate those data streams into a single safety platform that saves fleet managers time and delivers consequences that improve driver behavior and prevent accidents,” Kinniry said.

One advance in technology that will help to provide this additional data is innovation and improvement in sensor technology.

“The rapid innovation in sensor technology means that more data can be gathered from different touch points. For example, our ER-SV2 event recorders serve as a technology platform that can connect to the engine control module (ECM) and gather data on everything from fuel efficiency or turn signal usage to maintenance status. Integrating that data with other data points from GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and event-driven video can create a 360-degree view of the driver’s behavior in relation to the vehicle as well as the internal and external environments in which they’re operating,” said Del Lisk, VP of safety services for Lytx. “You’ll be able to holistically — and more precisely — diagnose and address risks and inefficiencies in your fleet with data-driven reporting that delivers an at-a-glance view of your fleet’s health.”

While this may start to sound a little bit in the realm of science fiction, there is hope to help avoid getting tangled in data overload and getting lost in the details.

“Continue to look at multiple sources of data, but focus on areas with the biggest impact. It is increasingly becoming the vendor’s role to assist in making the information impactful. Leverage your partners to help you focus on areas for improvement. With the knowledge base of various companies, they should be able to participate in the action plans and implement successful programs,” said Allison Lanzilotta, executive vice president for Fleet Response.

Making it Happen

The ability to further integrate all of this overabundance of data available to a fleet manager is one future analytical goal.

“From a safety perspective, I believe that clients are going to want to integrate data from multiple points to really gauge a driver’s risk rating. Some examples include incorporating MVR/risk rating with past collisions (preventable and non-preventable), ‘How’s my driving’ information, camera violations, as well as real-time telematics data that show a driver’s risk patterns. Working together with our clients’ management teams to assess the appropriate consequences and rewards will be critical to success,” said Dan Shive, vice president of risk management services at LeasePlan USA.

Looking to be a leader in risk management, fleet managers need to ensure they are not limiting themselves to only a few data points to identify a driver’s risk level.

“Instead, they need to be looking at ways to incorporate camera violations, telematics events, as well as maintenance and recall compliance. Robust risk tracking tools help bring this information together,” said Dan Belknap, senior product manager for Wheels Inc.

And, as always when thinking about the future, now is the time to start thinking about the abundance of data fleet personnel will be able to analyze in the not-to-distant future.

“We encourage fleets to begin recording comprehensive data. It takes more than a year of rich data to start making meaningful comparisons and trends for a business. Rich data means more than GPS, it includes details of where vehicles go, what time of day, how many stops, were the trips driven safely without claims (damage, accidents, workers compensation), and if the vehicles were maintained without unplanned maintenance or roadside assistance,” said Sutherland of Geotab.

And, hopefully, as the data becomes more abundant and vast, the ability to decipher it will become more meaningful.

“Going forward, we will continue to analyze all the current data collected, including data available from devices such as telematics, but we’ll begin to receive the data in more meaningful formats that will help to focus decisions and programs in fleet. I believe they will become a standard part of technology in fleet vehicles. This, along with added sensors, in-vehicle cameras, and backing cameras,” said Lanzilotta of Fleet Response.

And, with increased integration will come a clearer picture of driver behavior.

“The use of data to drive decisions gets more and more sophisticated as technology functionality improves. When systems that were previously independent become integrated we get a complete picture of driver behavior,” according to Belknap of Wheels Inc.

And, with increased quality, should come the ability to make more definitive decisions.

“Manufacturers have developed a form of ‘black box’ technology that is part of the standard equipment offered on most new vehicles. When paired with telematics device technology, we will have access to definitive data, including the time of day and road conditions. This data will allow for root cause analysis of why the accident occurred. This additional data will also allow for more definitive programs and safety programs to be developed, bringing additional awareness and educational resources to our fleets,” said Donahue of EMKAY.

The Bottom Tech Line

Looking at the whole picture will always be important, today and in the future.

“Fleets will continue to utilize offerings with a holistic view of driver performance. Beyond accident and violation data, this includes information from additional sources such as telematics, MVRs, fuel, and maintenance,” said Tom Sloan, manager, Telematics and Safety Products for Donlen.

And, while it may feel like there can’t be more that we can do with analytics, it truly is just the beginning.

“We’re just starting to fully embrace all of the possibilities provided by analytics and, while some questions around safety are being answered, confusion around liabilities, the law, and technology is going to increase,” said Peters of Element. “As the world we do business in evolves, remember to ask questions, share information, and collaborate with experts.”

Analytics will continue to evolve as new technologies become more widely accepted in the fleet industry.

“Within our client database, we are already analyzing the effectiveness of some of the new vehicle safety features such as collision avoidance systems and lane departure warnings. While there is conclusive evidence that these technologies are effective, our clients still rely on us to provide insights on these features especially when it comes to how the evidence translates to fleet management,” said Ted Lewin, senior manager, Risk Management Services for Wheels Inc.

Also noting evolution is Lisk of Lytx. “Evolution will occur in the ability to draw correlations between previously unrelated variables — the possibilities are endless. Another evolution is likely to occur in the workflow by leveraging insights derived from data to screen and hire drivers, to coach and train drivers, and most importantly, to recognize drivers for great performance,” he said.

Adaptation is important to evolution and overall positive growth.

“Safety and accident management analytics will be a rapidly evolving field in the months and years to come. The sooner organizations get going using the tools that are available today, the better equipped they will be to take advantage of the new innovations that are coming quickly,” said Radi of ARI.

There is also a significant opportunity to reduce spend by improving driver safety.

“Approximately 20% of all fleet drivers are in an accident each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated in the past that the average accident results in $16,500 in costs for the company. This includes body work, downtime, litigation, workers compensation, and additional factors. It’s simply too expensive not to take a firm stance on driver safety,” said Sloan of Donlen

Fleet managers, in the end, need to remember one very important fact:

“We are still dealing with a human element and everyone is trying to predict the mindset of individuals. Sometimes, just like in sports when every statistic indicates one team should outperform the other, they fail because they forgot to inject the human element, such as who wanted it more. Heart, instinct, and gut reaction play major roles in every pressurized decision we make today and as hard as everyone tries to modify behavior, some things are just not going to be controlled,” said Bob Martines, president and CEO of Corporate Claims Management (CCM).

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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