How acting on telematics data can reduce fleet incidents

Will you see a reduction in incidents if your fleet adopts telematics? That’s the key question fleets need to answer before they make a potentially expensive investment. And the figures from operators and suppliers suggest that yes, you definitely can.

Rory Morgan, head of logistics support for Iron Mountain Western Europe, adopted telematics in late 2013 – and he has concrete evidence that it has improved safety and reduced accidents.

His fleet, which is based across Europe, has seen a drop in incidents of approximately 80%, as Morgan told delegates at the recent Brake Fleet Safety Conference.

It wasn’t only the number of incidents which reduced, but the seriousness of them. Iron Mountain records all events that require repairs, no matter how small.

“We’re still getting those frustrating reversing into gateposts, clipping wing mirrors, and we’re still inevitably going to get those rear ends and things like that – but they are at reduced speed – so we’re reducing risk,” Morgan says.

Graham Telfer, fleet manager at Gateshead Council, and Nick Kennedy, strategic fleet manager at the Environment Agency, spoke to Commercial Fleet about their use of telematics. Telfer has been using telematics on his fleet for  around four years, and has seen a marked decline in  incidents.

“We’ve seen a drop of at least 30% in driver incidents,”  he says. “We record all our incidents, from a broken mirror to an RTA .”

And much like Iron Mountain’s fleet, the severity of incidents is also decreasing.

However, while telematics provides the data, that in itself it will not result in a long-term reduction in incidents. Telfer says it’s about what you do with the information and he uses it to determine which drivers require training and the type of training they need.

For Kennedy, it’s still early days. The Environment Agency has fitted telematics to its badged fleet of light commercials, following a successful trial at the end of 2013, with a new trial on its cars due to begin at the end of this summer.

The long-term plan is to roll out telematics across the entire fleet of vans and cars.

It is too early for Kennedy to pin exact numbers on  incident reduction. “We’re still working out how good we are,” he says.

To this end, the collection of data has been carried out anonymously to provide the agency with a benchmark from which it can measure improvements once the system goes live. Telematics suppliers claim their customers are enjoying major successes due to the implementation of their systems.

Mark Roberts, managing director of Ashwoods Lightfoot, claims a number of fleets using its telematics have seen massive reductions: some have cut their number of  accidents by as much as 50%, with one seeing a reduction of 60%.

Meanwhile, Giles Margerison, UK and Ireland director of TomTom Telematics, says: “We have worked with a number of companies who have identified risk as an issue for concern within their fleet.”

One company was Ferns Surfacing, which used telematics as a key part of its driver improvement programme.

“As a result, they reduced the number of incidences of speeding by 95% and the amount of speeding time by 96%,” Margerison says.

It’s easy to think of telematics purely as technology that monitors how those behind the wheel are behaving; however, there are other safety benefits.

Gateshead Council underwent a programme to optimise the routes for its largest vehicles and used the telematics technology to work out the safest, most efficient journeys.

“We’ve got what are perhaps our biggest vehicles operating in built up, busy areas,” explains Telfer.

“By comparing the data it collects, it can pick out the best routes. By optimising the routes we are able to reduce the amount of time they are in those routes.”

Using telematics technology, Gateshead Council has now calculated safer routes for its refuse collection vehicles.

The ability of fleet operators to be able to know the location of their vehicles has obvious benefits. While Kennedy stresses that a very small amount of Environment Agency employees work alone, sometimes lone working will be inevitable.

“Let’s say they should be back in the yard by 5pm and they’re not back at 5.30pm. Telematics will allow us to see where they are,” he says.

Telfer also recognises the benefits of tracking lone workers. Some of its fleet users need to be out at irregular hours, sometimes to visit vulnerable people.

“If the car has been parked for a period in a place where it is not scheduled to be, we can send out an attendant to check on them,” he says.

“We also have a call-back system. If the car has been stationary for a long time we can check to see if it’s been involved in an accident, or if there’s some sort of problem with the driver.”

In addition to keeping watch on lone workers, telematics can add an extra layer of safety to those working in hazardous environments, according to Kennedy.

In its own regard, telematics can improve safety simply through the ‘big brother’ element, whereby drivers know their actions are being monitored and recorded. However, one of the biggest issues for fleets is how do you deal with all the data once it’s been collected?

To record this data is pointless if you can’t process it or don’t act on it, say experts.

Fleets agree. The sheer volume of data which fleet managers need to process is ‘the Achilles heel’ of telematics, according to Telfer.

“We don’t have a dedicated team to process the data. We’re very selective in the data we use,” he says.

Some suppliers believe they have the answer. Lightfoot uses an in-cab traffic light style warning system, which constantly gives feedback to drivers about how they are performing. It only sends the negative feedback to the fleet manager if the driver does not heed warnings, using a three-strike rule.

Gateshead Council uses Lightfoot in some of its vehicles. “A colour is a colour,” says Telfer, who feels it’s a straightforward system for drivers to use and understand.

But once the data has been collected with more conventional telematics, what do you do with it?

Margerison stresses the need for fleets to use “targeted training” in areas where telematics identifies driver behaviour to be lacking.

Letting them know how they are performing is important. Telematics provider Trimble has its systems installed in Indesit’s fleet of light commercial vehicles.

“Once drivers were informed of their most needed improvement areas and trained on how to achieve them, Indesit realised a development in overall fleet performance,” says John Cameron, general manager of Trimble Field Service Management.

“Vehicle idling reduced, RPM rates dropped and an increase in more efficient driving across the fleet, indicated by improved driver safety scores, was realised.”

While telematics is nothing new – truck fleet operators have been using systems for years – rolling out the technology across a fleet of vans and cars is still a fledgling concept. It’s inevitable, perhaps, that there will be some resistance from drivers.

“We’re being sympathetic to change while driving the programme forwards,” says Kennedy.

While Telfer says that people were “cautious” in the beginning, he found drivers relatively easy to win round to telematics: “It’s embedded in transport now.”

The Environment Agency softened driver attitudes to telematics in a simple way: making sure drivers knew how they themselves would benefit.

Kennedy says: “Part of the business case for introducing telematics was asking how we could make people safer.”

Many Environment Agency drivers are driving their families around at weekends; consequently, not only would they be safer at work, they’d be safer away from work, too.

Kennedy adds that drivers could also benefit from a  financial standpoint: “Drivers who don’t speed can’t get speeding fines.”

When asked if telematics had changed the attitudes of their drivers, both Kennedy and Telfer replied with an unequivocal “yes”.

“It’s changed drivers’ attitudes very positively,” says Kennedy.

He acknowledges that nobody is perfect, and he himself has driven a car with telematics installed. “It makes you more conscious as a driver. I think it’s a good thing.”

Telfer has also noticed a positive change in driver attitude. “Attitudes have changed. It’s been verified in our number of accidents,” he says.

“Drivers are ambassadors for the council. Whatever their behaviour on the road, it’s observed by the general public. Anything we can do to improve their attitude, and our image, is a good thing.”

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  • george - 21/08/2015 13:19

    While vehicle telematics, without a doubt can significantly reduce accidents, "technology alone is not a panacea for road safety; safe driver behaviour and risk management policies and procedures are essential within fleets”. Learn more about our fleet management services.":

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