Aggressive driving, such as speeding, one of the driving behaviors fleets can monitor and correct with the aid of telematics. 
 -  Photo: iStock

Aggressive driving, such as speeding, one of the driving behaviors fleets can monitor and correct with the aid of telematics.

Photo: iStock

For today’s fleets, safety is a top-of-mind concern. And there’s little wonder why. Safety impacts almost every aspect of fleet operations from driver health and morale to uptime to liability exposure — all tied directly to the company’s bottom line.

Even with its prioritized status, many fleets still have accident rates that are in double digits — with the national average at 20% and some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, posting even higher percentages. 

The economic impact for these crashes can be quite high with the average cost of a fleet-related accident at $70,000 — twice the rate for any other type of on-the-job injury. In extreme cases, liability exposure could climb into the millions and include national (negative) publicity about the event, which could have long-term effects on the company’s ability to generate revenue.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution. Telematics technology can help fleets monitor, identify, and correct the underlying causes that lead to increased risk, crashes, and liability exposure — driver behavior. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 94% of all traffic collisions are a result of driver error, with many of those a result of distracted driving. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nine people are killed and 1,000 are injured every day due to distracted driving-related collisions

Having a Plan 

While telematics technology is crucial in helping fleets monitor and correct all of the factors that could lead to a crash, it is equally imperative that underlying the technology is a strong safety program and fleet policy. 

Policies related to personal use, cell-phone/smart-device use while driving, eating while driving, driving behavior, etc., should all be clearly outlined along with the consequences of not following the policy — from coaching to loss of driving privileges leading up to termination for serious offenses.

Some fleets include the possibility of cash or other rewards for safe driving behaviors, by turning safe driving into a friendly competition with driver scorecards.

As with telematics monitoring, a safety program is an ongoing process, and the message of safety — its benefits and the consequences of being unsafe — should be communicated on a regular basis through the company’s website, newsletters, public forums, and private meetings. To have a successful program the safety message should be reiterated often to all fleet stakeholders from drivers to company leadership.

Monitoring Risky Driving

GPS-based telematics has come a long way from just being a routing and location solution. Today, it can be used in concert with a fleet safety program to minimize risk associated with distracted and other poor driving behaviors.

Telematics can identify driving behaviors, such as aggressive driving, hard braking, hard cornering, sudden lane changes, and other activities that can help fleet managers identify drivers in need of coaching or other remedial driving help. Many of these behaviors are caused, at root, by distracted driving activities.

Because telematics monitoring is often in near real-time, fleet managers can address any driving-related issue almost immediately — helping to avoid an escalation of the poor driving activity, or, in other instances, determine that the driver’s actions were warranted in the context of driving conditions, e.g., the driver was reacting defensively to avoid a collision.

While driver behavior is at the root of the vast majority of collisions, there are other causes outside the driver’s control that could result in a crash, such as a blowout at high speeds. Telematics solutions offer comprehensive monitoring beyond the driver that can monitor vehicle health and status to help guarantee that the vehicle is safe and secure. 

For example, a GPS Insight solution can help fleets comprehensively track driver behavior, vehicle health, and vehicle status to:

  • Reduce accidents
  • Reduce tickets 
  • Improve vehicle preventive maintenance
  • Immediately send help to employees in emergency situations
  • Quickly recover stolen vehicles and assets

Putting it Together in the Real World

Using telematics can dramatically and quickly improve driver behavior — cutting risk and decreasing collisions.

For example, a large cable provider was able to improve driver behavior by more than 68% within six months of deploying a GPS Insight solution across its fleet. Among the ways it was able to improve driver behavior was by setting alerts if a driver exceeded a defined speed threshold. 

In addition to demonstrating its commitment to safety to its drivers and its customers, the cable provider was able to cut its insurance premiums because of the decrease in accidents.

Without telematics, it’s doubtful that the company would have been able to dramatically improve its drivers’ behavior and cut its accident rate. 

While having a strong safety policy is crucial in today’s operational world, it is critical to have a way to monitor driver behavior and vehicle status — and the only way to do so effectively is with a telematics solution.