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July 12, 2019 1:30 PM, EDT

Perspective: ELD Data Can Help Fleets Improve Safety

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The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will hold its annual Operation Safe Driver Week July 14-20, and this year’s theme is speeding. The annual safety campaign is marked by an increased focus on risky driving behaviors, but fleet managers and law enforcement understand that identifying and correcting unsafe driving practices is a priority not just during Operation Safe Driver Week, but throughout the year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017 speeding was a contributing factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities. Furthermore, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute said speeding has been a factor in more than a quarter of crash deaths since 2008. While some fleets may not realize it, a tool to help mitigate these risks is, quite literally, at drivers’ fingertips.

Electronic logging devices are traditionally viewed as something fleets implement to comply with hours-of-service regulations, but they also hold the potential to improve driver safety. That’s because most ELDs feature safety dashboards that can measure driver performance on a group basis and assign scores for behaviors such as hard acceleration and deceleration, and also for speeding. With this data, managers can drill down on results with individual drivers and compare them to their peers. Fleets also can use these scores to help develop remedial training programs for drivers, create incentive programs for drivers who demonstrate improved behavior and improve their organizations’ overall safety policies. Some fleets even develop safety competitions which leverage gamification apps in their fleet management programs to encourage safe driving.

Adam Bruttell, vice president of sales & marketing, MiX Telematics

Bruttell

On a more ongoing basis, in-cab coaching through an ELD can instantly alert drivers to unsafe behaviors. Also, in-cab video can collect valuable incident data that can be used for driver training and to protect a fleet from insurance claims. This can include forward- and cab-facing cameras that record video and sound, capturing crucial evidence at the time of an event. Most systems capture video clips several seconds in length that show what was happening outside and inside the cab when a driving event was triggered and can determine if speeding or other reckless behaviors were contributing factors.

Through correlation of data from driver safety dashboards and video programs, managers can build a broad picture of their fleets’ safety performances that can, long term, help them create safer route plans that avoid high-risk, unsafe lanes.

If a trucking fleet can reduce accident rates and improve driver safety and performance, it also can reduce liability risks and costs that can put a huge strain on a business. In fact, some insurance companies will provide discounts to carriers that use fleet management solutions, as the systems give carriers — and insurers — telematics data that can help them determine fault in crashes and hone in on whether certain drivers are routinely exhibiting risky behavior.

Vehicle maintenance is another avenue of data ELDs can track to ensure the safety of trucks on the road. Key areas to measure can include occurrences of high engine temperature, low oil level, low oil pressure and low coolant events. Events are defined in the back-end of the ELD system with accompanying thresholds.

This ELD data can show which vehicles urgently require preventative maintenance to avoid catastrophic component failures and allows fleets to keep safer, better performing vehicles on the road.

In order to keep track of average speeds, fleets also can use ELDs to set up geofences of important locations in the platform. These can be used to see how fleets’ vehicles interact with those locations, such as how often they visit, when they arrive and leave, and how long they spend at those locations.

Operation Safe Driver Week offers a great reason for all of us to focus on safety, but ensuring that drivers are staying safe on the road is a year-round commitment. ELDs and fleet management solutions are a good way for managers to arm themselves with real-time and historical data to get drivers on the right track with safety and take very proactive steps toward preventing accidents.

Adam Bruttell is vice president of sales and marketing at MiX Telematics, a global provider of fleet and mobile asset management solutions. He brings 25 years of enterprise, SMB and channel sales experience to his role where he leads the sales and marketing team in expanding its footprint with fleets in North America.