The benefits of telematics and driver coaching
By Dick Mahany
Gone are the days of fleets being out of communication with drivers until they return from a trip. As technology has advanced and become more affordable, fleet managers have discovered more ways than ever to improve the performance of their drivers and track the movement of their motorcoaches or school buses. One type of technology that is becoming increasingly popular among public transportation fleets is telematics.
Telematics integrates vehicle monitoring systems, three-axis accelerometers, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and cellular technology in a device that is smaller than a deck of cards. The device serves as an operator’s eyes and ears on the road, providing valuable data to help improve customer service, driver safety and operations management. Some systems even include video capture with both interior and exterior views. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded that event-based on-board video systems, along with a driver feedback program, can provide significant safety benefits.
Vehicle tracking determines if drivers are on schedule and making stops as planned, and helps fleets predict arrival times. With this data, companies can alert customers if a vehicle is going to be late. Additionally, vehicle diagnostics, tracked by the telematics device, can provide a picture of how comfortable the travel experience was for customers. For example, if a vehicle breaks down during a trip and requires maintenance, the instance can be logged by the device. Companies can then follow up with customers after the trip to apologize for the delay and explain that it was due to maintenance issues.
Data on driver behavior is especially useful for making safety training effective and reducing accidents and injuries. Telematics monitoring tracks drivers’ actions during training and in real-time on the job to verify that they are putting into practice safe behaviors and techniques. Telematics data reports highlight trends in unsafe behaviors or improper procedures, helping to focus remedial training in the most needed areas. If a specific driver is not performing safely, operators can provide one-on-one feedback and monitor the driver closely to make sure the behavior is changed.
Industry research shows that 5 – 10 percent of drivers in a fleet consistently drive faster than posted speed limits, drive fastest on highways, and have more “hard stops” and “hard turns” than the other 90 – 95 percent of the workforce. The research also shows that drivers who have these speeding events aren’t necessarily driving longer distances than other drivers. These “high event count” drivers typically don’t speed to do their work; they speed because they don’t really understand the risks they are taking.
“The cost of implementing and managing a robust safety program that includes telematics and formal driver coaching is much less than the cost of the losses themselves,” says Todd Carrier of Protective Insurance Company. “Our internal studies have shown that a driver behavior modification process based on relevant and timely telematics data can result in a 20 – 30 percent reduction in losses.”
From a fleet management standpoint, telematics can increase operational efficiency. Vehicle diagnostics provided by the device show if vehicles are performing correctly or if maintenance is needed. The device can report developing problems detected by engine and drive-train sensors so timely maintenance can be planned that minimizes service interruptions and repairs. By regularly monitoring diagnostics reports, you can anticipate maintenance issues and fix them before any problems arise, thus reducing breakdowns and maintenance costs. Operators can also use the data to measure fuel use and incentivize drivers to reduce fuel costs by limiting idling, speeding and aggressive driving.
Telematics improves customer service, promotes driver safety and helps protect the bottom line. As the amount of telematics data available continues to grow, risk management practices within both the insurance and public transportation industries will continue to grow in sophistication and effectiveness.
Dick Mahany serves as director of insurance technology for Protective Insurance Company, Carmel, IN. To learn more about telematics best practices and loss prevention safety services, please visit www.protectiveinsurance.com/loss-prevention or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.