175187539 | Thanee Hengpattanapong | Dreamstime
175187539 Thanee Hengpattanapong Dreamstime

Harnessing the power of fleet data to improve driver safety

Dec. 1, 2022
Telematics technologies can help pinpoint and analyze the data points of emphasis fleets need to focus on and understand in order to better protect their assets.

The world of fleet management has changed dramatically in the last few decades, and the industry continues to transform and improve through the proliferation of readily available data. Everything you could ever want to know about your fleet, from fuel management to driver behavior, can be discovered with the help of data-capturing technology and telematics. Unfortunately, many fleet owners simply don’t understand the breadth and depth of information available to them—or if they do, they aren’t actively mining their data for actionable insights into their most pressing problems.

Throughout my 27 years in the industry, driver safety has continually been a top priority for virtually every fleet owner. It’s also an area of opportunity for owners to leverage the wealth of driver and vehicle data they have at their disposal. Here are a few key data points that every fleet manager should tap into to prevent accidents and improve driver safety.

Vehicle health and maintenance

Staying on top of preventive maintenance is essential to controlling costs, minimizing company and employee downtime, and protecting the longevity of your company’s vehicles. The overall condition of your fleet can also play a huge role in driver safety. After all, an unexpected breakdown or system failure can put your drivers and your company at risk of a serious accident.

You should continually monitor key data points—like total mileage, fuel efficiency, idle time, and engine hours—to plan an accurate maintenance schedule that keeps your vehicles operating at optimal levels and alerts you when vehicles need to be replaced. A vehicle that receives timely oil changes, tire rotations, brake checks, and engine tune-ups will be less likely to break down unexpectedly, making it safer for your drivers.

While scheduled maintenance tends to focus on major systems like engines, transmissions, and brakes, vehicle tune-ups also provide the perfect opportunity to check safety-related peripherals. Something as basic as replacing windshield wiper blades or installing new headlight bulbs could be the key to avoiding a major collision.

Driving behavior and distracted driving

When it comes to accident prevention, identifying risky driving behaviors is critical. Like most companies, you probably have safety policies in place that require drivers to adhere to local speed limits, maintain safe following distances, and properly respond to traffic signals, among other directives. But how can you really know that your drivers are following your safety policies while they’re on the job?

Implementing telematics technology makes it easy to monitor unsafe driving behaviors like excessive speed, harsh braking or cornering, and aggressive acceleration that can lead to accidents and serious injuries. This data can be used to create “safety scores” for each driver to help identify drivers in need of ongoing coaching and safety training.

You can even flip the script and use this data to encourage safe driving by rewarding employees who are attentive and focused behind the wheel.

There’s also the matter of distracted driving. It’s one thing to look at a vehicle’s telematics and see that a driver is speeding or braking too harshly. But what else are your employees doing in the driver’s seat? Distracted driving is a major threat to drivers and pedestrians alike; According to NHTSA, over 3,100 people in the U.S. were killed as a result of distracted driving in 2020.

In-cabin driver cameras can help resolve this problem. Even though they might be a controversial issue for some companies, in-cabin cameras provide an accurate account of what your drivers are doing behind the wheel. Maybe they aren’t speeding or misusing their turn signals—but they could be texting, eating, using their entertainment or navigation systems while the car is in drive, or showing signs of fatigue that could impact their response time. Spotting and correcting these behaviors is essential to preventing catastrophic accidents that could harm your employees and put your company at serious risk. Additionally, your insurance provider may give your company a discount for utilizing in-cabin cameras in your fleet.

Accident data

Some accidents are simply unavoidable. But analyzing the ones that could have been avoided will offer insights into the behaviors and circumstances that may contribute to a collision. Are your drivers getting into more accidents on crowded highways or on remote, dimly-lit roads? Are poor weather conditions—like rain or fog—or construction zones a contributing factor? Are collisions more common early in the morning or after sunset?

Parsing this data may seem like a time-consuming task, but it often uncovers the root of the problem. If most of your fleet’s accidents are taking place at a certain time, place, or road condition, you might be able to make key changes to your drivers’ schedules or routes that can help them avoid future collisions or crashes.

With all the data that is now at your disposal, prioritizing driver safety is easier than ever—if you know what to look for.