by Sebastien Ruffino, VP sales B2B products, TomTom
Convergence may sound like something technical that only applies to IT or economics boffins. Although it is technology teams that deliver it, convergence is having a very real effect on the quest to make fleet drivers safer out on the road.
On the whole, we’re still faced with the same old threats to driver safety: road conditions, in-cab distractions (e.g. mobile phones) and even sleep quality. Add difficulties monitoring and correcting driver habits and you’re faced with a familiar minefield. Except we’re still trying to get through it.
Every risk is real in its own right, but when they’re in combination with one another, and you don’t even know it, the danger ramps up. To combat this cumulative effect, drivers and fleet operators need all the answers to be in one place. And that’s why convergence is the key to driver safety.
But what needs ‘converging’?
Most fleets do route management, using navigation and workflow tools to optimise the process – a good early example of convergence. But what about the routes themselves? Will the mapping systems know about specific – especially temporary – roadworks? Will drivers be warned in ample time of lane closures? Companies such as AllOnMobile are pioneering in this area to add this information to planning tools.
Real-time route scheduling updates allow drivers to prepare for previously unexpected obstacles. Over the course of the journey, the time and energy saved gets drivers to their destination or scheduled stop more easily.
Driver aids can be crucial, but they need to be simplified. Anything that creates complicated instructions, or requires multiple devices risks causing distraction from the road. IVECO, for instance, implemented simple ‘green zones’ which show drivers that they’re adhering to safe driving practices. Feedback is instant and simple, and doesn’t distract them from the road.
Looking after drivers extends beyond only when they’re driving. Sleep quality is essential for safe driving, which is why companies such as Truck Parking Europe are making it easier for drivers to identify suitable stops. They can then safely bake those preferred stops into their schedule. Truck stops with restrictions on size of vehicle, poor safety records or simply lack of amenities can be identified/avoided. Drivers get better rest.
Distractions in the cab can come from devices intended to help the drivers, but more often from their own devices. Communication is important, but it has to re-enforce safety, not compromise it. And adding yet another device into the cab doesn’t help.
Companies like Frogne have taken great strides in converged communications centres – sending all messages and operational updates through one device. Where it can do text-to-speech conversions too, drivers can stay up to date, hands free.
Drivers’ own phones still create a difficult challenge, although a company called CellControl is solving it. Its software puts restrictions on a phone’s access to apps while the vehicle is moving. Drivers can still fully use their phone when they’re stopped, and they shouldn’t need it when moving… so it’s largely non-invasive.
Bringing it all together
A driver unexpectedly held up by roadworks may not make it to his scheduled stop before his hours run out and needs to call someone to create an alternative plan. There are plenty of red flags in this short example.
As we strive to improve driver safety, all threats – and there are many – need to be seen as part of the same problem. The simplest way to solve one problem, is with one solution. Convergence into a single driver terminal is needed to address the mounting pressure on fleet managers.