Driver data, fewer accidents

Telematics can give businesses feedback about drivers that encourages safer habits


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Motor vehicle accidents cost U.S. companies a staggering $47 billion annually, according to a 2015 study by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. While that number is eye-popping, what causes the majority of accidents in the U.S. is hardly a surprise. Distracted driving and speeding top the U.S. Department of Transportation’s list, not only for damage, but also for fatalities.

Working with drivers to foster safe habits is challenging. Every employer with drivers on the job grapples with the associated risks and the irony that the smartphones on which they rely can increase those risks. While one side of the technology equation may be a culprit, emerging technology such as crash avoidance, land-departure alarms, blind-spot sensors, rear cameras, and telematics give drivers feedback that encourages safer habits.

Telematics can also give organizations the ability to monitor and measure driving behaviors and be proactive in identifying drivers at high risk for an accident. Today’s fleet management technologies leverage telematics with cloud-based solutions to capture driver data and deliver it to managers’ desktops.

Driver “scorecards” give a snapshot of how many drivers in a fleet are at risk and allow managers to drill down into which drivers and what specific behaviors put them at risk. Predicting which drivers are most likely to have an accident allows managers to be proactive in addressing those risky behaviors before accidents occur.

Vehicle telematics can capture speed, hard accelerations, hard braking and even lack of seat belt usage. Drivers repeatedly exhibiting these behaviors pose a greater accident risk, but receiving concrete, specific feedback gives them a chance to change their ways.

When drivers are aware they are being observed through telematics and categorized with scoring, they are much more likely to be conscious of their actions behind the wheel.

The key is positive communication and a top-down safety-conscious culture that includes year-round programs that:

 • Consistently communicate safe driving tips and tricks

 • Include continuous driver trainings, typically one per quarter

 • Provide rewards and incentives that may include recognition at a company event, or safe-driving bonuses

Getting employee buy-in to a system that monitors their driving is something to consider early on when rolling out a new program. And, while most of us have come to terms with the reality of our social-media, camera-phone-footage-on-the-news society, engaging employees and communicating the benefits across the organization is essential for everyone involved. Quantifying the program’s success and sharing those statistics will go a long way toward that goal.

Lean on your fleet management consultant for support when developing content based on the data. Everyone wants to measure success in dollars and cents which involves quantifying money spent in many different line items. An accurate calculation includes monitoring the frequency and severity of accidents, time spent in litigation, lost productivity due to accident-related medical leave, and numerous other accident-related cost implications beyond money vehicle repairs.

A reduction in accident rates can also have the added cost benefit of reduced insurance rates. Having the data readily available means you are well armed for a re-negotiation with an insurance provider.

Cost management is important for every organization but preventing injury and even loss of life is what ultimately matters most. Aggressive driving accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities, according to the AAA Foundation. Monitoring and training drivers benefits more than just the bottom line. It can save lives.

Jennifer M. Gordon is a product specialist at Hooksett-based Merchants Fleet Management.

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