If you’ve ever been behind any type of commercial vehicle on the road — whether a car or a truck — you’ve probably seen stickers advising motorists to call the company with any comments or concerns about the driver’s behavior on the road. In many cases, though, companies only learn about dangerous driving when it’s extreme; rarely are other drivers willing to call the 800-number to answer the question “How am I driving?” Typically, it’s only when there is a major incident that business owners and managers learn how their employees are really driving.
That is all changing, though, with the introduction of telematics and driver monitoring systems. Given that more than 20 percent of fleet vehicles are involved in accidents every year, costing billions of dollars in losses, it’s in a company’s best interests to pay close attention to driver behaviors and take steps to mitigate those that could negatively affect the business. Although any company that allows employees to drive company vehicles or requires employees to spend a significant portion of time on the road in their own vehicles is likely to have safe driving policies and expectations in place, it’s difficult to consistently ensure compliance with those rules. Not to mention, it’s challenging to effect change in employees’ deeply entrenched behaviors behind the wheel.
For that reason, a growing number of businesses are installing telematics systems in their vehicles, in an attempt to curb these behaviors and create a stronger culture of safety within the organization.
What Telematics Can Do
To begin the discussion as to why driver monitoring systems are important, it’s useful to explain what they do.
Telematics, in the simplest sense, is technology that’s used to collect information from vehicles, including GPS coordinates, engine diagnostics and sensors, and send it to a centralized server where it is then analyzed and managed using fleet management software. This way, business leaders can see everything happening with the company vehicles. For example, it’s widely used with delivery companies like UPS, which collects data about its trucks not only to determine maintenance schedules but also to monitor how long it takes drivers to make deliveries, how well the drivers navigate traffic and the driver’s skills, all of which can be used to improve service and identify areas where retraining or discipline are needed.
Although telematics is mostly limited to commercial vehicles at this point, it is slowly expanding into the consumer market. Some insurance providers, for instance, are issuing telematics devices to customers to get a better sense of their driving habits and quote rates more accurately. Some vehicle manufacturers are also including the technology for improved diagnostics, but for now, the majority of users are businesses.
How Companies Benefit
Companies benefit from the data they capture from this technology in a number of ways, most of which improve safety, cost savings or both. By monitoring the fleet of vehicles, companies can:
- Identify potential problems with vehicles before they start, saving time and expenses for repairs
- Identify potentially problematic driver behaviors, including aggressive driving, erratic acceleration and handling, excessive or harsh braking and speeding. Not only are drivers more likely to drive safely when they know they are being monitored, but the information collected allows companies to train or sanction employees who aren’t driving safely, ultimately saving costs and reducing the likelihood of accidents.
- Capture information about how vehicles are being used; for example, if an employee is making unauthorized trips or not driving where they should, the GPS data will alert managers to investigate.
- Collect information about various aspects of the vehicle, such as the temperature of trailers or when and how long doors are opened. Not only does this ensure that vehicles are as efficient as possible, but also adds a layer of security, and makes investigating problems easier.
Companies that have implemented this technology report significant improvement in driver behaviors. Many report a reduction in traffic tickets, less wear and tear on vehicles and more efficient operations. That’s not to say that there aren’t critics, however. Some employees and privacy experts note that using such technology has the potential to lead to privacy concerns if used inappropriately. Organizations like the Society for Humans Resource Management note that the technology is within the boundaries of employment law, but it’s vital that employers develop clear policies in regard to how the technology and the information it collects will be used, with special attention paid to the consequences of not adhering to company policies.
For any business that operates a fleet of vehicles, using this Internet of Things technology to collect information allows for safer and more efficient operations — while also allowing all drivers to feel safer on the road.
About the author: Jackie Roberson is a content coordinator and contributor that creates articles for topics like technology, home life, and education. She studied business management and is continually building positive relationships with other publishers and the internet community.
Edited by Ken Briodagh