No matter how technologically advanced a vehicle might be, fleet safety begins with the driver. Beginning with the hiring process and ongoing throughout a driver’s employment, fleet managers have been challenged not only to make certain drivers are safe, but to assess driver performance, and, ultimately, manage risk.
Driver records have almost always been part of the hiring process; candidates signed off on the company’s authority to acquire an MVR, which was reviewed as part of an overall background check. Going forward, MVRs were reviewed on some regular schedule for all drivers (at least every six months, sometimes quarterly). Any violations present were handled via fleet policy.
The MVR process began with paper; reports were obtained from each state “manually.” The challenge here is that each state has its own format, fee, and point system. Paper reports were ultimately replaced by digital versions; fleet management companies began to take these and create a “universal” format, their own, which helped fleet managers immensely in assessing driver risk.
Is there some newer technology in the works? Perhaps; technology has made the MVR review process much easier, but it isn’t likely that the review of driver records, both in the hiring process as well as ongoing, will be replaced.
Accessing and reviewing MVRs does reveal, to a limited extent, how drivers behave behind the wheel - to the extent that they’ve been caught in a violation. No speeding tickets on a driver record does not mean that your driver doesn’t speed; only that he or she hasn’t been caught speeding. A fleet manager might well see a clean record in the January MVR run, then in the next one, a DUI, speeding, or other serious violation. In that interim, such drivers were most definitely a risk to themselves and others, and placed the company at serious liability and negligent entrustment risk.
This is where the magic of telematics has revolutionized driver risk management. Telematics hasn’t replaced MVRs, (at least not yet) as a risk management tool, but it has dramatically improved overall driver risk assessment. On a real time basis, driver behavior is transmitted to the fleet manager, including critical risk items:
- Harsh acceleration
- Harsh braking
- Harsh cornering
- Seat belt use
Fleet managers can literally see risk factors occurring in real time, and take appropriate action, action that can prevent violations and reduce risk that MVRs can only show long after the fact.
It can be reasonably said that telematics technology and MVRs work hand in hand; the former in managing driver risk in real time, from a preventive stand point, the latter in reporting violations which are actionable vis-a-vis a company fleet safety program or overall policy, violations not captured via the new technology. The combination is a powerful risk management and enforcement tool.