Insurance Carrier UBI and Telematics Vehicle Tracking Conference

TeleMaticsInsurers interested in promoting driver safety by telematics vehicle tracking, and UBI styled programs participated in a conference hosted by SafetyFirst Systems on November 6, 2014 in Morristown, NJ. Driver safety online courses and related topics were also addressed.

For more details — visit http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/11/prweb12321887.htm (will open in a new window/tab)

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x28730,000 road deaths from motor vehicle crashes annually is unacceptable. Insurers agree that preventing injuries and damages that result from commercial vehicle crashes is a priority.

Unfortunately, about 75% of all insured fleets operate without the benefits of telematics vehicle tracking, driver safety online course, hotline stickers or other critical fleet safety mechanisms. Of the fleets with telemtatics vehicle tracking systems, many struggle to find ways to translate mountains of data into urgently actionable follow ups with their affected drivers.

On Thursday, November 6, 2014, SafetyFirst hosted a conference in Morristown, NJ for representatives from fifteen insurers gathered from across the country. The group Quoteable quotediscussed barriers which prevent many commercial fleets from adopting telematics vehicle tracking, and what could be done to get a system installed in many more fleets to increase fuel efficiency, decrease carbon emissions, increase safety results and decrease the likelihood of injuries due to crashes.

Current estimates suggest that 75% of commercial fleet policyholders do not use telematics vehicle tracking in their safety program efforts, and are unable to monitor driver redlight cam picturebehaviors that lead to crashes such as driving excessively fast, tailgating and weaving through traffic. A greater adoption rate of this critical safety tool could save lives immediately. Insurers, as trusted advisers, have the ability to properly and professionally influence the adoption of this technology to reduce injury-producing crashes. SafetyFirst, as a supplier-partner to more than 75 insurance providers, offers a best-in-class solution that fits fleets of all types and sizes.

While not discussing any proprietary or sensitive strategies related to insurance carrier operations, the program facilitated discussion around ways to promote SafetyFirst’s telematics vehicle tracking to more commercial fleet operators in a reasonable and affordable fashion.

Comments from the audience included:

…received a clear definition of facts versus typical marketing hype about device capabilities and reporting options. The data set produced by the GO7 is very detailed if not a little overwhelming. With the help of SafetyFirst and Verisk Analytics, the underwriting team has begun to tackle the challenge of how to use the collected data within our organization… – VP Underwriting

A great crowd of expertise represented…provided good food for thought as our organization moves forward on strategy around telematics offerings” – Loss Control Manager

“Outstanding session!  Exactly what I was looking for today” – Chief Underwriting Officer

About SafetyFirst — Dedicated to reducing the likelihood of commercial vehicle crashes and the costs associated with them, we provide a complete range of driver safety services to the insurance industry for the benefit of their respective policyholders. Programs include training, hotline reporting, DOT compliance, automated MVR profiling, and more.

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Near Miss Reporting for Fleets

Featured Image -- 1451Every day drivers operate their vehicles amidst the chaos of growing congestion caused by stressed-out and distracted drivers.  Vehicles drift out of lanes as drivers distract themselves with gadgets or texting. Other drivers mindlessly tailgate with the mistaken belief that by driving close to the vehicle in front they’ll somehow arrive sooner.

When two (or more) vehicles almost collide, but don’t, many motorists might utter some exclamation, shake their head about how bad the other driver is and continue on their way.  Many safety professionals would label the incident as a “near miss”1,2 – as in “it was nearly a collision but we missed”.

dis-enf-10-ever-officials_lo_res-post-72-enCollecting data on near miss incidents in the workplace is an emerging part of many safety professional’s jobs:  they have the advantage of making direct observations of the workplace, soliciting feedback from employees and even building a culture of self reporting of near misses.

The driver safety specialist has a harder time obtaining near miss data since drivers are not likely to self report near misses as they happen, make detailed observations of all circumstances, or remember details from an early morning incident at the end of their day.

If there were convenient mechanisms enabling us to collect and analyze near miss data, it would help us:

  • Address flawed processes and procedures (i.e. scheduling, routing, dispatch, etc.)
  • Investigate enhancements to equipment (i.e. mirrors, steps, rails, etc.)
  • Adjust educational programs for content, length, periodicity, etc.
  • Cross reference this new data against historical information (i.e. crashes, violations)
  • Tailor our finite attention and resources where it can have strongest and most immediate impact.

Most importantly, it would give us an opportunity to hit the “pause button” on life and compassionately intervene with our operators – perhaps before a “real” collision actually happens, injuries are incurred or violations are issued.

Don’t we already accomplish this with historical data?

Near Miss Article sidebar 1Fleet safety professionals have tirelessly identified drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision by looking at historical data.  The phrase “historical data” is often interchangeably called “lagging data” since the information lags behind the actual incidents that we aim to avoid.

The difficulty with depending on lagging indicators of performance is that the driver must “suffer” the consequences in order to appear on the safety professional’s reporting matrix.

How would a driver “suffer” negative consequences?  Getting cited by a police officer would typically result in:

  • Policea fine paid out of pocket by the driver,
  • lost employment time if the driver must appear in court,
  • increased personal car insurance for the driver, his/her spouse and any other drivers (i.e. teens) in their household
  • decreased employability of the affected driver due to a littered MVR/Abstract which is reviewed by prospective employers as part of their hiring/screening process

Near Miss Article sidebar 2Further, for some drivers with extreme violations or a history of violations, it may mean:

  • possible loss of driving privileges, suspension or revocation of license
  • possible loss of employment

In short, lagging indicators provide very valuable insights, but come at a very real cost to the organization and the employee.  Leading indicators of performance, while harder to pinpoint, chart the way forward towards prevention and avoidance.

The comparison of leading vs. lagging indicators led one commentator to ask the provocative question; “Are your managers operating as company doctors or coroners?”7 Put another way, is the focus of your effort principally to increase wellness, or does it feel like you’re spending most of your time doing “post-mortem” examinations?

To be very clear, the MVR/Abstract review process and post-crash investigations, et.al. are vital safety tools and shouldn’t be abandoned; however, it is clear that it would benefit the driver and the employer to find ways to identify “at-risk” drivers before they receive violations or get into crashes.

The identification and inclusion of “leading indicators” (indicators of “at-risk” performance, habits or behaviors prior violations or crashes) would make a significant difference.  Near miss reporting would be one set of leading indicators that could help.

How might we get this data? 

There are a number of resources available that provide insight into “near miss” events – those events that would have been collisions – IF – conditions had been slightly different, or reports of habits/behaviors that if left unchecked will likely lead to collisions or violations.  I’d like to offer a short list of some examples:

  • Near Miss Article sidebar 3Commentary Drives and Supervisor “Ride-Alongs”
  • Driver Safety Hotlines (aka “How’s My Driving?”)
  • Tachographs, Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBR), “Telematics” devices

During commentary drives, near misses may occur which provide the opportunity for immediate “no-fault” training and coaching. This approach is highly proactive, but requires a tremendous amount of resource time to ride with 100% of drivers.  Some fleets use this method with all drivers on a periodic basis (once every X years) and others use it when drivers have been identified as needing help through lagging or other leading indicators. This second approach (selectively using commentary drives) reduces the number of drive events to effectively coach those drivers who may be at greatest risk.

Another efficient resource for near miss and behavioral data is the humble and sometimes misunderstood Driver Safety Hotline.  Sometimes called a “How’s My Driving?” program, it is designed to solicit feedback on behavior – praiseworthy or risky – from other motorists.  Safety Hotlines have been repeatedly studied by groups large and small to see what effect the program has on crash rates:  these studies provide compelling testimony that the data leads behavior and management intervention reduces crashes by 10-30% in most cases. These studies were conducted in a manner that is similar to studies validating most technology platforms, and in one case included three and a half years of data derived from 30,000 power units in varied industries from among 200 fleets.  This provides much richer statistical data than many technology studies that were limited to “test pilots” of 25 to 50 vehicles in one or two fleets for time periods of less than a year.

The secret of the success of this program has been:

  1. Using the reports as a springboard for “no-fault” refresher training instead of blame setting9
  2. Incorporating the reporting as a positive element of safety cultures and behavior safety programs10,11
  3. Managers who will discuss the report with the driver to set individual safety goals for modified behavior.12

On-Board recording devices generate specific data sets on vehicle performance and by extrapolation, driver behavior.  Data sets typically include vehicle location through the course of the day, speed, harsh acceleration, harsh braking, swaying and sudden shocks or bumps.  Most systems report this data to a central reporting hub and management can review the historical data for exceptional events.  Some systems provide immediate feedback to the driver as events occur:  either through a flashing light or some sort of sound making device.

The successes of most on-board devices has been clearly documented in fuel savings, idle-time reductions, man power resource tailoring from routing efficiency and other “operations” metrics.  These benefits are significant, but don’t directly impact the reduction of crashes by themselves.  The challenge to most managers is finding the best way to translate volumes of data into enhanced behaviors.

You see, telematics data may be generated in a very different manner than a How’s My Driving report or commentary drive, but the application of that data to affect driver change can be as poorly executed or as brilliantly managed in any of these programs.

Telematics data showing speeding events can be hotly denied by drivers who’ll come up with clever (and often accurate) responses – locations are often “estimated” by satellite triangulation, and sometimes speeds are misread based on locations at crossroads or underpasses, etc.  After managing the data from both telematics and safety hotline programs (our clients have begun sending their telematics data to SafetyFirst for enhanced reporting and better training options), we have found that drivers are actually more inclined to deny the telematics alerts than the how’s my driving reports!

Additionally, the amount of data from some telematics programs can become overwhelming.  I’ve heard safety managers say that “there’s probably a lot of really good information buried somewhere in the pile of reporting”, but they can’t manage it on a daily basis.  If you call it “information overload”, “background noise” or even “dial tone” then you’re likely to move on to other priorities or return to only working with lagging indicators.

Our own firm’s experience is that there are clever and easy ways to avoid information overload and get traction in translating the data into a well crafted coaching session.

By sorting the urgently actionable items from the background noise and then leveraging the coaching processes pioneered and perfecting in the safety hotline program, our hybrid approach managed to reduce excessive speeding by 600% in one year at a major fleet operation. (Click HERE)

Fortunately, in the case of commentary drives and driver safety hotlines, the amount of data is self-prioritizing.  The ride-along supervisor can prioritize in real time as the drive continues, and most fleets using hotlines only get reporting on about 2% to 3% of their drivers in any given month (focused on the most egregious behaviors seen on the highway – motorists are not motivated to report trivial issues).

Dealing with Data Organizationally

Dealing with raw data, whether we call it a near miss report, motorist observation report or telematics alert, presents opportunities and concerns:

  1. We ought to be respectful of drivers and their privacy – no one wants to see their personal data on the company bulletin board as an “example to others” (i.e. share the lesson to be learned, but don’t embarrass the operator). Near miss reporting programs can be most productive when conducted in an atmosphere of trust and proactive goal setting rather than couched in threats and blame.
  2. We need a system to hold and correlate the data – to provide meaningful management reporting that can distinguish patterns and trends that may signal a larger policy/procedure or system issue13
  3. We need access to urgently actionable data in a timely fashion – to coach drivers while the event is still fresh in their mind14 while suppressing “background noise” data15
  4. We need to have a data retention plan in place to either preserve data from spoliation or to properly dispose of old records when the data is no longer relevant to our near miss program16
  5. Coaching Tips TitleWe need to develop policies and procedures that create a uniform method to dealing with the data — that it needs to be used to educate and redirect behavior – not as a blame setting tool. Playing the “GOTCHA” game with drivers isn’t likely to improve results or encourage them to embrace the technology that is “getting them in trouble”.   Working with an individual driver to set personal and professional goals related to changing habits can be challenging, but also lifesaving (or injury/violation avoiding) at the same time.

Driver Attitudes vs. Manager Attitudes

When capturing near miss data, drivers and managers may argue about data quality or what should be done with the data that is acquired.

  • In the past, we’ve met professionals who used to argue about “crank calls” on hotlines as a reason to ignore the data; however, 98% of hotline reports are confirmed accurate by safety managers who actually investigate each report and talk with their drivers.  The 2% of reporting that is discarded or deleted comes mainly from transcription errors (i.e. transposed vehicle numbers, etc.) 
  • Even commentary drives are susceptible to data quality errors: no two driver supervisors will share the same biases or spot all the possible hazards given the same route, same vehicle and same day.
  • Telematics data, while “scientifically” obtained can also be erroneous and a source of contention for drivers if they feel threatened by its “alerts”.

CoachingMy point?  Any near miss or leading indicator program could become a source of arguments and negotiations, or become a proactive “game changer” in terms of safety results.  It’s really up to the management team to decide if they’re going to help drivers improve through a positive coaching and training program or merely spin the revolving door of driver turnover by using data merely for discipline.  Unfortunately, it’s often easier to play the “gotcha” game of confrontation over alerts than to actually make the time to have an eye-to-eye, “no-fault” coaching session about improving habits to be safer while behind the wheel.

The first step is training supervisors on how to use the data to get a positive change.

SafetyFirst, in close cooperation with its own clients, has produced a supervisory training program called “Coaching Drivers – Conversations That Make a Difference”.  This program helps managers to make coaching sessions a positive experience by keeping focused on the safety lessons to be learned without getting sidetracked into confrontations over blame and who was right or wrong.

Without a consistent coaching process in place, the most accurate leading indicator, or near miss data, will not be effective in getting drivers to change habits.

This isn’t just a good idea – it’s been studied. Researcher Sunil Lakhiani of the University of Wisconsin-Madison presented findings from a study on near-miss reporting systems to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at the 7th Global Congress on Process Safety in Chicago in March 2011. Lakhiani reported that a positive management culture towards safety made a significant difference in the employee’s participation in near miss programs.

ALERT CSARecently, one of our larger clients inadvertently proved the coaching point as well.  They had installed telematics devices in several thousand vehicles for dispatch, routing, and related reasons.  During the first full year using the system, they also accumulated 1700+ excessive speed alerts (above 80 mph for a minute or more), but had no mechanism to push the alerts out to the drivers for coaching.  We worked with their telematics provider to have the alerts sent to our safety hotline where we treated the alerts like a motorist’s call-in observation.  The net change was dramatic.  By sending training materials, requiring the location manager to coach the driver and return the completed report showing goals discussed, training completed and corrective actions taken, they dropped the number of alerts to under 200 in the subsequent year.  Coaching makes a difference regardless of the data source if it’s handled in an atmosphere of trust and prevention.

What about driver education as a leading indicator?

Some safety professionals have considered driver education (its frequency and aggregate duration) to be a possible leading indicator of performance.  Let’s briefly consider the case for and against this conclusion.

Driver education can be used to introduce new skills or remind drivers of practices and procedures that they should already know due to previous educational experience.  In the case of new skills, many safety professionals may argue that habits not a lack of driving skills are the predominate cause of (arguably) 90% of all motor vehicle crashes.17 Therefore, the use of education programs to:

  • Remind operators of key safety policies affecting their daily activities, and to
  • Increase situational awareness and the rapid recognition of hazards while driving

is an ideal practice to help reduce the likelihood of future collisions.  Additionally, the assumption that an increase in education events (frequency/periodicity) or the overall number of hours of training (duration/aggregate) can reduce collision rates seems highly reasonable.

While we’ve characterized commentary drives as a near miss reporting platform, they were initially introduced as a method of driver education.  In this regard, they may be part of a leading indicator measurement system, too.

Individual fleets may set driver education as a leading indicator to be verified in hindsight (did crashes go down during the year we increased our education efforts?)  Indeed, firms who introduce the varied near miss reporting systems already discussed will likely increase their education efforts as they conduct refresher sessions with drivers who participate in commentary drives, get telematics alerts or safety hotline observations.

Unfortunately, this author has not located many detailed studies published on the links between driver education and crash results other than the ATRI study conducted in 2008 titled; “A Technical Analysis of Driver Training Impacts on Safety18 In this study, 17,000+ driver records were studied to examine correlations between training and collisions/violations:

“The total “contact hours” or hours of interaction provided by training programs vary greatly from 88 hours to 272 hours. In addition to identifying the total contact hours a student is exposed to in a training program, participating training institutions provided details on the number of training hours that occurred within various training environments, such as the classroom, in-truck, behind-the-wheel and using a simulator. These environments vary between programs, with programs weighting and emphasizing classroom and in-truck training differently. Additional information was collected on the type of instruction that takes place within each training environment.”

The report’s conclusions included:

“…the analysis finds little variation among driver safety performance that can be explained by training program duration within the range of 88 to 272 hours.”

“…the lack of a safety improvement trend line towards the longer duration programs does not provide the researchers with a basis for this conclusion.” [that more training would necessarily result in greater safety results]

To be very clear, this author is not suggesting that driver education is any less valuable or critical to a firm’s safety program.  In fact, it is crucial.  It may be especially valuable when used to focus resources on those individuals deemed “at-risk” by the near miss system.  As a leading indicator, it may be more valuable when blended with near miss reporting or other elements of an existing driver safety program.

Setting a strategy for success

Hopefully you are feeling encouraged that driver safety programs can greatly benefit from incorporating near miss reports into their existing safety program.  Near miss reporting serves as a leading indicator to help balance your “scorecard” of valuable lagging indicators such as historical crash reports and MVR/Abstract profiling.

Each organization endeavoring to launch a near miss program should make a plan on how to incorporate this new data into their current safety program:

  • Outline where data will come from and how it may be used (i.e. will it be used for education only, or can it be used for discipline, if so, under what circumstances?)
  • Develop a process to deal with system faults or physical hazards (i.e. dispatch errors, maintenance items, equipment issues, loading processes, etc.)
  • Review historical crash and/or violation data (lagging indicators) and compare to near miss data for trends (i.e. prior to all preventable crashes, these types of near miss reports or leading indicators were present; therefore, if we see these near misses or leading indicators, we need to respond urgently to prevent a crash)
  • Have a clear process or procedure – who will be responsible to collect and distribute data?
  • Develop a coaching process to interact with affected drivers to affect a change in habits
  • Develop a process to track the success of the program (i.e. are collisions decreasing, are police citations/violations decreasing?)
  • Celebrate the progress with all affected employees – include them in the results as well as the coaching sessions

Summary

Near miss reporting is a valuable tool.  It requires a strong, consistent commitment from the management team at all levels to use the data to compassionately intervene with drivers in a trusting manner.  Building trust will take time, but it pays huge dividends in safety results for both drivers and management teams.  Coaching and education are two sides of the same coin, and each has it’s own supporting role to play.  If you want to get on the leading indicator side of the driver safety equation (while not abandoning lagging indicators), then near miss reporting may be the place to start.

Pyramid 2011 for blog

Feedback?

During my safety career, I’ve learned that despite all of the networking, conferences and research, I know I don’t have all the answers. I also know that together we can each contribute pieces of the puzzle to get to a better understanding of most any safety issue.  I’d love to learn about your experiences with near miss reporting in fleet operations, and hear about your concerns about leading indicators, too.  How do you currently identify drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision?  Do you incorporate leading indicators into your driver risk profile, or just lagging indicators?  Do you want to launch a leading indicator or “near miss” program, but aren’t sure where to start?

Many safety professionals are active on social networking sites like LinkedIn and share comments and questions through discussion groups.  Would you be willing to discuss this article online?  If that’s too “public” of an environment, I’d be very happy to talk with you directly, too (1-888-603-6987 toll free).

END NOTES:

1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_miss_(safety)

2http://www.toolboxtopics.com/Gen%20Industry/Near%20Miss%20-%20The%20One%20That%20Almost%20Happened.htm

3http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/One-Pager%20CMVE.pdf

4http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/ATRI_Crash_Predictor_One_Pg_Summary_Apr_2011.pdf

5http://www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov/Pages/default.aspx

6http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/basics.aspx

7http://www.bptrends.com/publicationfiles/TWO%2003-09-ART-Leading%20vs%20Lagging-Gotts-final.doc.pdf “Leading Indicators vs. Lagging Indicators” by Ian Gotts, March 2009, BP Trends

8http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_commentary_driving

9https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/recent-news-articles-on-safety-hotlines/

10http://my.safetyfirst.com/newsfart/ISA%20December%202009.pdf – “Changing Unsafe Behavior Using Activators and Consequences” by Andrew Salvadore, December 2009, Arborist News

11http://www.treecareindustry.org/pdfs/EXPO/ABCsOfHumanBehavior.pdf – “ABCs of Human Behavior” by Andrew Salvadore, TCIA Expo presentation

12http://vimeopro.com/safetyfirst/safetyfirst-coaching-tutorial/video/30495547 “Coaching Drivers – Conversations that make a difference” by SafetyFirst Systems, December 2011

13http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2000/HAR0001.pdf NTSB Highway Accident Report conclusion; “…policy of disregarding anonymous calls to 1-800-SAFEBUS prevents the company from identifying patterns of unsafe driving practices by particular drivers or on particular runs and diminishes the potential safety oversight benefits of this program. Including all complaints in driver personnel files would enable [company] to better detect an operator problem and act to eliminate it before an accident occurs.” [italics added for emphasis]

14http://www.virtualriskmanager.net/main/aboutus/niosh/t1-2_paul-farrell.ppt “Negligent Entrustment – When is a license check not enough?” by Paul Farrell, International Conference on Road Safety at Work, February 2009

15 – A technology vendor’s presentation states (about their own system) “There are many reasons why a device might trigger:  Pot holes; Unpaved roads; Railroad tracks; Turning hard in a large vehicle; Rocking an unloaded tractor-trailer; Waste truck throwing a trash bin into the vehicle hard; Jack-rabbit start; Vehicle Maintenance; Defensive Driving/Evasive Maneuver…” excerpted from http://mcsac.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/June2010/DriveCam%20presentation.pdf

16http://www.atla.org/cps/rde/xchg/justice/hs.xsl/14259.htm “Danger On The Road – The mighty trucking case” by Jeanmarie Whalen, Trial Magazine (American Association for Justice), February 2011, Vol. 47, No. 02

17http://www.virtualriskmanager.net/main/aboutus/niosh/t2-3_lynn-berberich.ppt#18 “Crash Analysis and Benchmarking as Tools to Improve Fleet Safety – or – What Metrics Should I Use and How Should I use Them?” by Lynn Berberich, International Conference on Road Safety at Work, February 2009

18http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/driver_training_impacts_on_safety2.pdf “A Technical Analysis of Driver Training Impacts on Safety” by ATRI, May 2008

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Bridging the Gap for Stronger, Consistent Results

I’ve read a LOT of “Driver Safety” or “Fleet Safety” articles over the course of my 27 year career. They all look the same, they all cover the “basics” or “essentials” in the same way.

And many of them miss the mark in the same way.

You see, they’re not bad articles and the tips are meaningful, but instead fall short in one key area: managing the performance of your fleet drivers on a day to day basis.

The articles typically follow the same outline (highlighting import and valuable steps in the process):

  1. Discuss the need fortop management supportfor the fleet safety program 
  2. Stress the need to have a written, enforced policy statement or handbook  
  3. Plead with the reader about recruiting properly, qualifying prospective hires thoroughly and thoughtfully – following any/all applicable regulations, checking MVRs against a standard criteria
  4. Emphasize the need to “train-train-train” the drivers (before they drive, as they drive and after they crash). 

Then, alarmingly, these authors jump to the end of the story and tell you how:

  1. Incentives may influence drivers to pay more attention to their driving
  2. Drivers need to report crashes,
  3. Supervisors need to investigate the incidents with great attention to detail
  4. Management teams ought to calculate their incident rates and benchmark against peers to see if they’re trending up or down.

Looking at this visually, this is the picture I see in my mind:

Banner Typical safety programMy concern is filling or bridging that gap between thorough qualification and orientation/training processes and calculating results or offering incentives.

There’s a huge gap between the initial approach and the off ramp in that visualization.
In between initial hire and final exit interview should be many years of productive activity; therefore, finding ways to actively manage a group relationship with the cadre of drivers during their tenure as a productive employees becomes critical to leveraging consistent results.

The question may be “so how do I do that?” It can be a huge challenge, especially when we recognize that the drivers are largely away from the office for most of their working day. Further, many technological monitoring tools are both expensive (when you multiply the per vehicle per month cost across a larger fleet of vehicles) and burdensome (separating the “urgently actionable” conclusions from the “background noise” of excessive data).

What’s available in the toolbox to monitor and manage driver relationships, combat safety complacency, and promote proper vigilance or awareness on a daily basis?

  1. Driver Communications Plans: Two-Way communication with drivers through posters, postcards, payroll stuffers, tailgate talks, surveys, polls, small group discussions, newsletters, tailored reminder training, targeted refresher training, etc. (see also – “Driver Communication Plans Part One“, “Driver Communication Plans Part Two“, “Motivating Drivers to Make Safer Choices“; “Holding onto the Best Drivers“; “Driver Incentives“)
  2. Driver observations: ride alongs; commentary drives, drive-behinds, how’s my driving alerts (run stop signs, run red lights, improper weaving/passing, etc.), camera-in-cab recordings (hitting things).
  3. Technology: EOBR, GPS, TeleMatics, ELDs for reporting on vehicle activity such as harsh braking, hard acceleration, swerving, speeding. See also “The Vulnerability of Telematics as a Stand Alone Safety Solution
  4. Periodic or targeted MVR monitoring: more states are providing dynamic (through the course of the year) updates to previously purchased MVRs enabling near-real-time updates of driver scores and status. Other systems enable your team to prioritize select drivers for annual, semi-annual, quarterly, or monthly updates based on risk score. See also “Why Order MVRs“; “Deciphering MVR Profiling“; “Digging into the MVR – For Stronger Results“; “MVRs and Risk Scores“; “Do you know if your drivers are properly licensed“; “Identifying Drivers Who May Be “At-Risk” of Becoming Involved in a Collision: MVR Analysis” (Page 8)

Some fleets pick one of these monitoring/managing practices and run with it. This is certainly better than running bare and hoping for the best, but I’d submit that relying on only one strategy presents a pretty wobbly bridge that sways and flexes a lot. Adding layers builds strength and predictability in the program by covering up gaps that any one program may lack.

For instance,

  • if I were to rely on GPS alone, I wouldn’t know about red light running unless the drivers were stopped and ticketed by the police. GPS systems are not equipped to detect red light running.
  • if I were to rely on camera-in-cabin videos alone, I’d only find out about actual collisions in most cases (most systems rely on a triggering event to save the short loop of video and most drivers realize that by hitting curbs during the “break in period” the management team will adjust the sensitivity to the point where the system becomes a post-incident-event-recorder). This does not invalidate the program nor am I trying to dissuade its use, but as a “stand alone” system it may have a vulnerability.
  • if I were to rely only on driver education without other systems to alert me to actual driver habits, I’d be asking drivers to give up productive drive time to train on topics that may not be a fit to each driver’s own habits.

By combining data inputs from how’s my driving, telematics, cameras, etc. I can tailor the coaching and education to accomplish more in less time: train the right drivers on the right topics at the right time (when they really need it).

Here’s how I see the fleet that prioritizes building layers to give a solid foundation to their fleet safety program:

Banner gap filled program

The other very real advantage to drivers is that by being a benevolent “big brother” the management team has the ability to help them modify habits before incurring violations (which are typically paid out of pocket, influence personal/family insurance costs, and negatively affect future employment prospects).

Most critically, when these layers appropriately target drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision, there is a greater opportunity for a “compassionate intervention” by management that could prevent a collision with it’s potential for injuries or death.

The authors who’ve published the “high level overview” of fleet safety programs are brilliant professionals with many years of experience — I don’t doubt their knowledge, ability, experience or caring; however, I wonder why we keep seeing so many of the “same” articles that go on for pages about pre-qualification and on-boarding.

If the average tenure of a driver was under a month or two, it would make sense to constantly be replacing and training drivers as your primary day-to-day safety activity, but we know that’s not reality (or shouldn’t be).

Sure there’s turnover, but what are safety managers doing in between that initial driver training class and the next accident investigation?

It seems to me that if a realistic “driver management” program were in place (as suggested by ANSI Z15 and illustrated by the multi-layer program, above), then the safety manager would spend much of his/her time working that program to PREVENT collisions, injuries and moving violations.

Summary

Drivers are bright, caring people doing a difficult job in most circumstances. Likewise, safety managers genuinely care about helping drivers be safe.  We need to be vigilant in all areas of our driver safety programs to be effective.

The missing bridge between effective driver qualification and minimized crash events is an effective driver management program!  Layering multiple data inputs and washing them through a database to deliver “tip of the iceberg” conclusions helps managers focus their time and energy on those drivers who need the most urgent attention on specific topics. As you re-evaluate your current program, look for gaps in developing key data that would be useful in helping zero-in on select drivers for meaningful coaching interventions.

Similarly, ensure that your front line supervisors are versed in conducting positive coaching sessions designed to illustrate the cooperative nature of safety teamwork — drivers and managers working together to be safe instead of playing the “blame game”.

Coaching

The Increasing Urgency of Driver Safety

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Despite crash rates falling to record lows during the recent economic recession, crashes continue to exact a toll on families and businesses.  Consider these factors:

  • The largest spike in fatal crashes ever recorded by NHTSA happened during the first six months of 2012 (click HERE for summary)
  • While crashes lessened for the remainder of 2012, the year end summary showed an increase over prior years (click HERE)
  • During 2013, early indicators showed millions of injuries from Motor Vehicle Crashes resulting in nearly 32,500 deaths.
  • According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the most costly, lost-time worker’s compensation claims (by cause of injury) are from MVCs at an average of $65,875 per claim. (Click HERE for summary)
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a press release that the current minimum insurance requirements for the trucking industry are inadequate based on several factors including average medical treatment costs which have grown at a rate far above the standard consumer price index (Click HERE for additional insights).
  • The FMCSA’s “CSA model” is used to rate each fleet’s regulatory compliance ranking.  FMCSA’s use of the model has resulted in: company shutdowns; enforcement actions/interventions; and an increased sense of urgency among fleet operators to increase their compliance status. Unfortunately, skepticism remains high that this model is failing to have a direct, positive affect on crashes (click HERE)

Considering these factors, many fleet operators (in non-trucking business segments, especially) have been investing in driver safety tools, processes and procedures.  The most frequently asked question raised by professionals concerned about safety has been; “What else can I do to avoid crashes?

Most MVCs are due to a driver’s choices, attitude, and risk taking (click HERE) as determined by a study of about 500,000 driver records. MVCs are not due to a lack of qualification, skill or knowledge about how to drive.  Most drivers are appropriately qualified to at least minimum standards and “know” how to safely operate their equipment. Unfortunately, some become complacent in their safety vigilance, while others may be distracted while driving or suffer some form of impairment (i.e. drugs, drinks, fatigue, illness, etc.).

The real safety challenge presented to managers is monitoring drivers for:

  • compliance with company safety policies
  • compliance with local traffic safety laws
  • compliance with pertinent regulations (i.e. State or Federal)
  • proper driving techniques that minimize risk of becoming involved in a crash (not otherwise governed by policies, laws or regulations)

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The real challenge facing safety professionals is getting and understanding “information” about driver compliance so appropriate action can be taken to “coach” drivers back into compliance before their “behavior” leads to a crash.

In a recent American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study (click HERE), an insightful conclusion was summed up like this:

“By becoming aware of problem behaviors, carriers and enforcement agencies are able to address those issues prior to them leading to serious consequences. The converse is also true, however, as lower priority behaviors, if ignored, may begin to play an increasing role in crash involvement.” 

In other words, if you take the time to look for behavioral issues and do something about them, you can directly influence your crash rates.  Similarly, if you ignore behaviors deemed to be a “low priority” such as failing to use turn signals, they can develop into habits increasing the chances of being involved in a crash.

Safety Management Systems for Driver Monitoring

SafetyFirst’s approach to help our clients is to teach supervisors how to intervene with “at-risk” drivers in a compassionate way (Click HERE for a full article).  We help them develop data inputs, understand algorithms to interpret data, and provide turn-key solutions to put safety first in the attitudes of their drivers.

  1. Insights into a driver’s compliance with safety policies, rules & laws and vigilant, safe driving are developed through:
    1. Safety Hotline Reporting 
    2. MVR Scoring
    3. GPS/TeleMatics Exceptions
    4. Other “agnostic” or “third-party” mechanisms or data inputs (i.e. FMCSA data, video event recorders, etc.)
  2. These insights are funneled into our “E-DriverFile” platform in order to generate:
    1. Another example of a blended scoreA “blended” or “aggregated” risk score calculated from various data points — this highlights a driver’s need for management intervention
    2. A comparison of current versus historical data (i.e. Lagging Indicators”) such as past crashes (i.e. preventable vs. non-preventable, type, root causes, contributing factors, etc.)
    3. Tailored coaching and training modules to match a driver’s Behavioral Modification need (each module is less than ten minutes long, but covers specific risk-taking behaviors and their potential consequences)
    4. A safety history for each operator — noting corrective actions taken in response to concerns raised (closing the loop through quizzes, coaching notes, certificate of completion, etc.)
  3. Assist clients with their efforts at coaching/training/education/intervention
    1. Supervisor’s training program on “how to conduct effective (positive) coaching sessions”
    2. Online, interactive learning management system (tailored topics, each 5-7 minutes, asking for a personal commitment from each driver to modify their own habits).
    3. Monthly Ten-Minute Training Topics to benefit all drivers in a given fleet — keeping safety awareness at heightened levels throughout the year.

Do Results Count?

Many insurance carriers and private fleets have validated the impact of our programs through studies that show a 10-30+% reduction in claims (results vary but are tied to client participation — those who work the program more vigorously tend to get better results).

Supervisor testimonials also indicate that the SafetyFirst programs are easy to implement, maintain, and manage.  Our utilization, completion and reporting rates are among the highest in the Motorist Observation industry and Online Training community.

Comments from clients:

  • In first year, 25% reduction in claim costs, 24% reduction in claims/100 vehicles…It may seem basic but it’s what we know and how we hold our employees accountable (National Arborist)
  • As a national utility construction and maintenance contractor we have over 1,500 vehicles operating on the roads every day. The Safety First program provides us with the ability to cost effectively monitor and measure our fleet and driver performance in virtually real time. The Safety First program is an essential element in our approach to improving our fleet safety performance. The program has played a key role in our achieving a 54% reduction in incidents and accidents over the past three years. The Safety First programs reports and information assists us in recognizing our safe drivers and identifies those areas of our fleet safety program that need improvements. This allows us to focus our time and resources on the areas that will best improve our fleet safety and corporate image.
  • Those clients enrolled in SafetyFirst “…achieved a 9.2% better loss ratio than the total NP [Non Profit] book…the costs per claim would be $1055.00 representing a 73% reduction in cost per claim” (Insurance Carrier)
  • …not long into the program we started seeing measurable results. There is a definite sense of heightened safety awareness. The sticker on the back of the vehicle has the same effect on the operator as seeing the police car in the rear view mirror. (Arborist)
  • Working with SafetyFirst has been a breath of fresh air. The quality of service and value of the program are far superior to our previous driver safety vendor. All of the account transitions were completed seamlessly, resulting in positive feedback from policyholders.  (Insurance Carrier)
  • Since partnering with SafetyFirst, we have observed an increased interest and excitement in the program by our Field Staff. The tools and resources provided have proven to be valuable to both policyholders and Risk Control staff. (Insurance Carrier)
  • Our employee’s safety is paramount to us, and the return on investment is significant whereby the SafetyFirst program is an integral tool assisting us to reduce our losses related to motor vehicle accidents. (Electrical Services and Construction Firm)
  • The strength of the SafetyFirst Driver-Monitoring Program is that it gets people thinking and talking about their driving behavior PRIOR TO AN ACCIDENT. (Arborist)
  • I have to confess that I had some initial concerns about the program; the reduced accident numbers being projected seemed overly optimistic, and I was worried that my field management staff would fail to support the program and maintain it properly. Now that we have worked together for several months, I want to report that my concerns were overcome by your team’s effective communication with our field managers.  To summarize our results within our 400 unit fleet:  our accidents are down 15-20%; the field has bought into the program (measured by closeout of reports and coaching of drivers); we are rewarding drivers for proper performance. (Bulk Gases Distributor)

 Come learn how we can tailor a package that will reduce your claims, increase your insights, and help streamline the recordkeeping process.  We even blend your current vendor partners with our systems. (www.safetyfirst.com)NEw logo

Dynamic Duo: Healthy Pay & Respect

moneyAmong the most common search terms used to find this blog site are “incentives”; “bonus” and “rewards”.  There is, evidently, a lot of interest among fleets to tie safety performance (and tenure) to incentive or reward programs.

While we’ve offered articles on those topics in the past (“Driver Recruitment and Retention: A Winning Combination” for example, or just use our search function at this site if you’re curious about other articles), we figured it was time for another update.

Recently, Heavy Duty Trucking published an article titled “Finding and Keeping Driver With The One-Two Punch: Pay & Respect” (Click HERE to see the entire article). While their article was more concerned about recruiting and retention than safety, some of the themes and advice could apply to safety issues as well.

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A couple of interesting quotes from the article include:

  • Large truckload carriers have seen their turnover rate hold above 90% for eight quarters in a row, according to the latest figures from the American Trucking Associations.
  • Generally drivers cite two main broad reasons for jumping from one company to another: pay and respect. And the same factors that can keep drivers with your company can also help attract new drivers to your company – especially when you consider the importance of word-of-mouth and referrals.
  • More companies are avoiding across-the-board mileage pay increases in favor of various incentive packages, bonuses and incentives that reward the best performers.
  • Fuel economy is a major driver of these types of programs. But perhaps just as important is safety and compliance.
  • “Driver retention comes down to having quality relationships with your drivers,” says Andrew Winkler, director of operations at Nebraska-based Grand Island Express, which had a driver turnover rate in 2013 of 36%.  “Happy drivers don’t leave good carriers. Treat them with the respect they deserve…and that starts at the top. Our president insists on meeting face to face with each new driver or orientation class.”

SafetyFirst

Incremental Gains Add Up Over Time

The Tortoise and the Hare is one of Aesop’s Fables.

The story concerns a Hare who ridicules a slow-moving Tortoise and is challenged by the tortoise to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, takes a nap midway through the course. When the Hare awakes however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him. (Summary from Wikipedia)

“Slow and steady wins the race” is how I’ve heard the moral of the story expressed.  It’s a simple concept for leaders to embrace.   Incremental gains in effectiveness and efficiency may not seem all that important (or glamorous), but as long as you keep improving in small but very steady ways, you’ll soon leave the competition in the dust.

Consider this article titled; “What Would Happen If You improved Everything by 1%: The Science of Marginal Gains” (Click HERE).  The author, James Clear, paints the picture vividly by recalling the efforts of the British cycling team to win the Tour DeFrance:

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do.

His approach was simple.

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as the “1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.

He was wrong. They won it in three years.

So in business, and in our personal life, small but deterministic changes can lead to bigger and better results.  I think this can be true in safety areas, too.

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287From the driver’s perspective, habits (productive or risky) develop over time from small choices made and small risks taken which are reinforced as acceptable (i.e. speeding daily without having a crash, using a hand held cell phone repeatedly without a crash, etc.)

These choices (good or bad) either take us to better performance (eating more healthy each day, getting more rest from a consistent sleep schedule, etc.) or lead us towards a bad outcome (crashes due to unchecked risk-taking.)  Driver coaching feedback should get drivers to incrementally change to conform to existing policy.  We’re not suggesting letting them break rules, but consistent monitoring and reinforcement of following the rules may work better than trying to get them to change overnight by means of hours of re-training, etc.

Driver Communication Plans foster two-way discussion about goals and outcomes (results) that can be a valuable tool in getting strong performance (https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/driver-management-communication-plans-part-1/)

smc 1Similarly, from a management standpoint, arriving at a poor BASIC score isn’t (typically) done overnight with one bad event, but over time with holes in the enforcement of policies designed to keep drivers safe, cargo secured, etc.

The discovery that a driver has become a chronic risk taker, or that a management team has developed inappropriate BASIC scores isn’t something that can be changed immediately.  Just as it took time to get to this point, it will take discipline and patience to get everything back on track.

marginal gains

Leveraging your current investment in safety programming (fine tuning for improved performance) is a great place to start.  Details like policy enforcement, training utilization, maximizing vendor relationships, fine tuning management reporting to identify key performance metrics may be mundane, but can yield significant dividends.

You might also consider setting highly tailored, short term objectives related to recent trends in loss (Crash/Injury) activity, and pushing for verified achievement before tackling additional areas of improvement (no one can easily win a wrestling match against an eight-armed octopus — focus and step-wise implementation are important).

TeleMaticsI recently attended a GPS conference where a very large delivery fleet (thousands of trucks ranging from class 3 thru class 8) talked about their success in rolling out telematics.

While they recognized that telematics could help them in hundreds of ways, they focused on one metric to start with and mastered that one thing, then moved on to another until it was mastered also.  Did they “leave money on the table” by not setting multiple goals in multiple areas?  They felt that if they had tried to tackle too many details all at once they might have failed in all areas.  By staying focused and working the incremental gain, they mastered their system and are getting amazing results (with plenty of ROI waiting in the wings, too.)

Communicating each “small win” to the team helps keep them motivated, too.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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Updates on Autonomous Vehicles

While we’ve covered AV’s in the past at the blog site:

We felt that it might be time for a quick update by posting some links to recent articles of interest (and some that are older, but still hold a relevant place in our discussion about safety, risk and insurance).

  1. Connected CarsOne of the most recent articles asks “WIll you ever be able to afford a self-driving car?” (Click HERE) and offers some interesting stats on the real cost to up-fit a vehicle with the needed gear to make it driver-less.  Of course, with mass production, these costs will come down (just like any tech related gear from phones to computers and flat screen televisions), but it’s interesting to consider the economic factors that may push widespread adoption further into the future simply because of cost.
  2. The Military sees the benefit of AV’s to reduce the liklihood of casualties on the battlefield from Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) — http://rt.com/usa/driverless-autonomous-vehicles-pentagon-498/
  3. One of the biggest questions on people’s minds seems to be “would widespread use of AV really improve road safety?”  An article from the New York Daily News offers thoughts on this issue – http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/cars-safer-drivers-self-driving-vehicles-eliminate-traffic-accidents-article-1.1595616
  4. Daimler’s CEO feels that AVs could be rolling off the production line by 2025, at least as outlined in this article – http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140113/AUTO04/301130112
  5. Naturally, we’d all like to know how much we’re going to save on car insurance if we “leave the driving to the vehicle” – http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13746_7-57422681-48/how-much-will-it-cost-to-insure-an-autonomous-car/  AND  http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/05/30/will-driverless-cars-cut-your-insurance80-percent

AV trucksLast, but not least, we recognize that AV technology isn’t limited to personal cars and light duty delivery vehicles — some of the most demanding and immediate applications for AV tech falls among the largest vehicles in quarries, mines and off-road trucking.  So what happens when USA’s “truckers” are replaced by radar and laser sighting equipment?  Will there be 80,000 pound, articulated, tractor-trailer rigs running cars off of the highway, or will truck safety results also improve (regardless of who might cause or contribute to crash occurrence)?  Check out this article for a preliminary discussion of these issues —http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/autonomous-vehicles-how-safe-are-trucks-without-human-drivers-9047546.html

road train automated

AV tech is on it’s way — it’s no longer reserved for Saturday morning cartoons like the Jetson’s flying car, etc.

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