How does telematics improve driver safety?

Truck driving on an empty road with 'Safety First' written along the side

Telematics systems and in-vehicle technology is helping to deliver significant improvements for business across a range of industries – from driver fatigue through to and vehicle maintenance, as well as fuel efficiency and planning. Driver safety has fast become another area where telematics has made a positive difference.

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Telematics helps to enhance driver safety by providing finely-detailed insights into how both drivers and vehicles perform on the road, alerting fleet managers to risky driver behaviour so that these can be addressed either through training or, where necessary, disciplinary action. This data is being used by many fleets to develop detailed safety policies and outline the responsibilities of both drivers and fleet operators to ensure that high standards are upheld and a culture of safety created.

Q: How does telematics highlight risky driver behaviour?

A: Telematics data provides fleet managers with previously unobtainable levels of insight into how drivers conduct themselves when behind the wheel and the conditions of the vehicles in the fleet. Where a persistent pattern of undesirable driver behaviour – this might include rough cornering, harsh braking, excessive speeding or tailgating, to give just a few examples – emerges, fleet managers can then take whatever action they think is appropriate. What’s more, fleet operators can use this telematics data to demonstrate to drivers where they’ve done; this allows them to offer evidence-based coaching to help improve behaviour. Fleet operators have a duty of care to ensure that high standards of driver safety are met, so this is absolutely in the interest of drivers as well.

Q: How do these kinds of insight feed into driver behaviour to help improve safety?

A: Fleet managers can use the data provided by fleet management software and telematics to develop varying responses to any driver safety issues that emerge. For example, where individual drivers consistently engage in risky conduct on the road, their managers can develop a training programme tailored to the needs of that individual, addressing any particular areas of concern. Furthermore, the data also allows them to look at driver conduct in the aggregate, across the entire driving workforce. If a number of drivers display the same kinds of dangerous behaviour while driving, this is probably an indicator of broader shortcomings when it comes to driver training. Fleet operators can then revisit their training arrangements in light of this information and adjust them accordingly.

Q: What effect do telematics systems have on driver behaviour? Don’t drivers resent their use?

A: It stands to reason that where drivers know their performance is being monitored through the use of hard data, they will be less likely to take unnecessary risks when behind the wheel. The awareness of being observed undeniably has a positive effect in this regard. Fleet telematics technology has been very widely adopted throughout the sector in recent years and is now commonplace, so drivers are generally well used to it. However, when introducing telematics systems for the first time, it is wise to consult drivers and keep them in the loop. This should ensure that drivers come to terms with the idea without any problems.

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Q: Can competition between drivers be used to improve driver safety?

A: Yes it can – and telematics can help in this regard as well. A scoreboarding type of system can work well where you benchmark drivers against each other in a friendly manner. The data collected by telematics systems can be used to devise driver league tables, with rewards for those drivers who perform best and also for those who demonstrate significant improvements in their safety standards. Incentives such as these should give drivers a great deal of encouragement to prioritise road safety. It is of course essential to ensure that the competition remains good-natured! Thinking about incentive to perform better helps towards that - it can be as simple as a monetary bonus, extra day off, movie ticket vouchers, or even the pick of which vehicle in the fleet they'd like to drive.

Q: What should fleets consider when incorporating telematics insights into written safety policies?

A: Written safety policies are important – they make it clear just what’s expected of drivers, so that everybody knows where they stand. We’ve already outlined the kind of data gathered by telematics units, and this can be used to highlight particular areas of concern that need to be addressed by a driver safety policy. But drivers need to have a clear idea of how and when this data will be used – as well as what the consequences are in the event of safety breaches. Transparency and clarity are both utterly essential. With clearly-defined and transparent criteria, you should have no problems in winning acceptance from drivers for these written safety policies.

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