Telematics are a data gold mine

07 May 2018

Risk Management photo

Fleet managers have many responsibilities, from selecting and purchasing vehicles, designing and implementing maintenance schedules to record keeping and driver management. These responsibilities take time and effort. As with most jobs these days fleet managers are often stretched so any help they can get – technological or otherwise – is usually welcome.

This is partly why telematics can be so helpful for organisations. Telematics can assist fleet managers in many ways, including helping in planning for unforeseen events, be more productive and react to issues in real time.

According to Fleetcarma in the USA, the term telematics is a combination of the words “telecommunications” and “informatics,” and can be defined as technology that informs “people how well their machines are working” by using a “system that collects data to provide you with actionable information and guidance.”

Fleet telematics uses a combination of GPS and telecommunications systems to give companies real-time data about their fleet’s location, drivers’ behaviour, and vehicle diagnostic information. Using the internet, sensors, cameras, cellular radios, and complex algorithms to monitor things like driver performance, a truck’s mechanical status and other critical truck safety issues, telematics can be a fleet manager’s best friend. Some of the most common telematics systems are GPS devices, on-board diagnostic systems and cameras.

Telematics and CSA

When CSA was launched in the USA 2010, it gave companies subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) the ability to analyse violations captured in the safety measurement system (SMS) and target those behaviours to improve their safety profile. The SMS is a platform for companies to use to set benchmarks and focus on areas for improvement. Using SMS in this way, however, is still somewhat reactive because adjustments are being made after drivers have been found to be non-compliant, rather than before.

Bad driving is learned and executed over a long time. A driver could potentially drive recklessly hundreds of times before ever being caught. By using the data produced by telematics, fleet managers and companies are taking a proactive approach to improving their safety profile, as well as meeting federal regulations and capitalising on the ability to monitor behaviours that lead to violations and areas of non-compliance. Top violations for drivers in roadside inspections have the potential to be drastically reduced by telematics.

In 2017, 58 percent of traffic enforcement violations in the USA came from moving violations, with 16.14 percent of those violations stemming from speeding six to 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Telematics can easily track this data so fleet managers can see it in real time and ask their drivers to slow down. Likewise, if you are using a mobile platform via a cellular phone you have the ability to monitor phone usage, such as texting and talking on a handheld device, as opposed to being hands-free. Of course, on-board cameras can help with seat belt violations, which were 15.34 percent of violations last year. That number unnecessary and expensive.

Unsafe driving and HOS

Two of the FMCSA Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) where telematics could have an instant impact are unsafe driving and hours of service (HOS). Real time data lets you monitor HOS, allowing you to make sure your drivers are complying with the HOS regulation, and gives instant feedback on how safely or unsafely drivers are operating.

As a reminder, the HOS BASIC addresses the requirements in the FMCSR at 49 CFR Parts 392 and 395. This BASIC includes violations of the regulations pertaining to records of duty status (RODS) as they relate to HOS requirements and the management of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver fatigue. Some example roadside safety violations that may cause a motor carrier to rank poorly in this BASIC include a driver operating more hours than allowed under HOS regulations and falsification of RODS. By using telematics to track how far drivers are driving, and when, fleet managers can stay on top of exactly when a driver needs to rest.

Similarly, the unsafe driving BASIC addresses the requirements in the FMCSR, specifically 49 CFR Parts 392 and 397, and refers to the operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by drivers in a dangerous or careless manner. Some example roadside safety violations that may cause a motor carrier to rank poorly in this BASIC include speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, and inattention. Again, telematics can capture this data and fleet managers can make real-time decisions on how to address this behaviour.

Teletrac Navman, a provider of telematics and fleet management technology, believes that as federal compliance fluctuates, a telematics system that includes an HOS solution can make record-keeping efficient and more reliable for drivers. “No more getting dinged for non-compliance just because of a lost form,” wrote Teletrac Navman writer Sarah Barbod. “Two-way communication can take the guesswork out of handling unexpected situations on the road, such as bad weather or a major traffic jam.

Turn by turn directions help drivers detour around construction efficiently instead of wasting time caught in traffic. Safety analytics helps managers identify which drivers are practising safe driving habits, and which drivers need additional training – thus increasing the fuel efficiency and safety of the entire fleet for substantial cost savings.”

Leveraging data

According to Sam Madden at Cambridge Mobile Telematics in the USA, “telematics can also play a major role in helping truck owners leverage the real-time data to take operations to a new level.” A few of the most effective management practices he’s observed recently include:

  • Providing fleet drivers trip-by-trip feedback and insights on driving behaviour and performance, including at-risk speeding, phone distraction, and hard braking, to spark improvements.
  • “Gamifying” safe driving to motivate individual drivers and teams to compete for better scores, badges, prizes and bonuses.
  • Using advanced analytics and machine learning technology to capture and convert risky driving activities into actionable insights, scores and performance feedback.

Madden goes on to write that those practices can be combined with traditional management approaches like vehicle, driver and location-based tracking and history to give truck owners more transparency and control.

For more information on telematics systems and how to put them to work for you, or for questions regarding any of the seven BASICs, contact Joe Doerr or another NBIS risk management specialist today by telephone at +1 877 8607677.


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