The Vulnerability of Telematics as a “Stand Alone” Driver Safety Solution

Telematics, specifically, the use of automatic vehicle location services (commonly referred to as AVLS or GPS systems) offers incredibly helpful data to fleet managers.

The combination of onboard recorders and telemetry (communication of the data back to a central web site as it happens) can provide timely identification of vehicles with exceptional attributes: excessive idle time; significant deviations from planned route; stationary for unusual periods of time; traveling at excessive velocities; swerving and swaying through traffic lanes; etc.

The principal benefit of this information is to enhance fleet efficiency by providing the operations team with tools to dispatch effectively, reduce fuel waste, and hold drivers accountable for productivity metrics.

A secondary benefit has been promoted by telematic program supporters – improving driver safety.

There’s no question that telematic programs can provide information about speed, hard braking, heavy acceleration and even sway/swerve. Unfortunately, the best data in the world will be ineffectual unless:

  1. it is conveyed to the driver in a meaningful way so that the driver actually changes their own behavior while they are “behind-the-wheel” of their vehicle, and
  2. behaviors are affected proactively enough to actually prevent collisions from happening.

Fortunately, SafetyFirst provides the “integration” of information management, supervisory coaching and driver training resources your team needs to translate raw data into results. Let me give you the “big picture”.

One of our clients has used our SafetyFirst behavioral program for many years. They later added telematics for the “operations team” and found great success in improving dispatch and fuel savings. However, driver safety was not the primary goal of implementing the system. During the first year, they amassed 1700 excessive speed reports. The telematics program delivered the data efficiently, but (based on our understanding) provided no mechanism to follow up with individual drivers at various locations. It became clear that behaviors were not being addressed and the trend suggested that the behavior would continue.

Our client asked SafetyFirst to receive all subsequent excessive speed alerts and treat the alerts as though they were a concerned motorist making an observation report. This accomplished several important steps:

  1. Our database could match the truck to the location and send the report to the supervisor of the affected driver promptly.
  2. In addition to sending the report, our system automatically attached pertinent training materials to use with the affected driver (the report and training materials were merged into the same email).
  3. The supervisors have been trained to use our behavioral coaching process to help assure that the affected driver understands why his/her behaviors on the road place them “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision. This includes training tied to the issues reported in each type of incident.
  4. The report must be closed out in our database showing the results of the supervisory investigation and coaching process. This includes signatures of the supervisor and affected driver.
  5. The driver’s behavior is logged for future reference and comparison to MVR data and other profile factors (we can supply MVR data in real time and profile it based on the client’s own matrix).
  6. Drivers with repeated instances of aggressive driving reports can be targeted for more intensive training and coaching per client’s own specifications.
  7. Monthly, topical training packages are sent to help ALL drivers stay on the right road.
  8. Managers get streamlined summary reporting on a monthly basis to note trends/patterns in supervisory responses and driver responses.

In the first year of having us manage their telematics data for safety issues, the client dropped the excessive speed alerts by 600% (went from 1700 to less than 200 alerts).

What really changed?   The telematics system worked perfectly – it supplied data.  Our system worked perfectly – it got supervisors to talk to drivers about the data in a way that modified behavior.

Think about it….Behavioral safety programs depend on performance feedback, delivered in a timely manner, about specific habits and actions.  Reinforcing the right/desired behaviors or outcomes and illustrating why the inappropriate behaviors present a risk to the operator in such a way that the operator would value “getting it right” tomorrow.  Driver Safety Hotlines follow this process (person to person communication).  Telematics providers, generally, do not (so much data that it becomes difficult to distinguish the “urgently actionable” from the “background noise”).

Is this a recommendation of one type of program over the other? Not at all – it’s making the case that they work better together! Safety results don’t come from an “either this or that, but not both” mindset – it comes from leveraging the individual strengths of multiple programs. Just as MVR screening, driver training, driver safety hotlines, post-crash investigation, and other safety elements must work together to get optimized results, telematics isn’t an effective “one-man-band” that can replace these other elements.

There’s no question that telematics have a role to play in the future of most commercial fleets, but telematics isn’t a silver bullet solution by itself. SafetyFirst provides the “integration” of information management, supervisory coaching and driver training resources your team needs to translate data into results.

3 thoughts on “The Vulnerability of Telematics as a “Stand Alone” Driver Safety Solution

  1. Pingback: How IS my driving? | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  2. Pingback: Bridging the Gap for Stronger, Consistent Results | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  3. Pingback: Near Miss Reporting for Fleets | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

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