Driver distraction and driver fatigue are the elephants in the room for the fleet industry.
Mobile phone use at the wheel is reaching epidemic proportions and greater demand for next day internet deliveries is pushing overstretched fleets to unsafe levels.
UK internet deliveries are now at 1.35 billion a year, up 28% on five years ago, and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) say we have a shortage of around 50,000 HGV drivers.
There’s also a chronic shortage of van drivers for the last mile distribution which is key to internet deliveries.
The big boys of internet retailing are outsourcing to badly equipped operators with poor safety records in order to keep up with demand.
This is a fool’s paradise and if they don’t do something now they will soon have a PR nightmare on their hands when a tired delivery driver is involved in a fatal accident.
All retailers and fleet managers have a basic duty of care to their drivers and customers that they operate safely.
With fierce competition online it’s important for retailers to hit next day deliveries, and that pressure it piled on to fleets to deliver 24/7.
So what’s the solution? The driver shortage crisis isn’t go to be solved in the short term so you need to protect and support the ones that you’ve got.
Driver fatigue alerts and a driver distraction monitoring can be done cheaply and without intruding on driver’s privacy.
Many professional driver’s resent fleet’s putting a camera in the cab, seeing it as a digital spy in their workplace.
But supporting devices can be used that utilise artificial intelligence and computer learning to analyse facial characteristics and monitor when the driver’s eyes have strayed from the road.
They will spot everything from mobile phone use, fatigue, and any other form of distraction that take the eyes away from the road for three seconds or more.
When this happens an audio alert is sounded in the cab to bring the driver’s attention back to the job in hand.
When used with a connected system, this will also alert the fleet manager that the driver is suffering from fatigue or has taken his eye off the road.
It’s an early warning system of a potentially fatal problem, provides driver education for the long term and shows that your company holds the highest standards duty of care for all road users.
By Paul Singh, founder and CEO of SmartWitness