When it comes to fleet safety, technology giveth and it taketh away. The good news for fleet managers trying to improve safety is that with fleet telematics becoming more available and less expensive, capturing all manner of fleet operations data is becoming vastly easier. But as technology makes life easier in one dimension, it creates new challenges as managers assemble teams to improve fleet safety.A well though-out overall fleet safety program must be created with buy-in from all stakeholders. Typically, these interested parties include management, HR, legal, fleet, as well, of course, as the operators and mechanics. As in so many other industries, new seats at the table must be made available to the data crunchers—those people who know how to leverage telematics to improve safety. Yet more seats must be placed at the table for staff from other departments, who can help in the vital task of “selling” the benefits of safety to fleet employees.
Current software and hardware technology can provide real-time data on harsh braking, acceleration, and cornering. Dashboard cameras can display and record the actual moment-by-moment, mile-by-mile movement and location of every truck in an entire fleet. Embedded telematics can monitor engine performance and the functionality of everything from brakes to lighting to object-detection systems.
In highly connected fleets, gigabytes of data stream into corporate servers every second of the day. With so much information, the challenge becomes how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and use the resulting insights and information to improve fleet safety.
Thanks to technology, safety teams now have access to the hard facts about the specific kinds of behavior that leads to accidents. Without the addition of skilled programmers and data analytics experts, the vital processes of telematics data collection and interpretation cannot be optimized. With the right team in place, fleet managers can learn not only what causes accidents in the fleet, but how to educate operators, mechanics, and other staff to prevent them.
Using telematics, safety teams can monitor the most common kinds of incidents, and then offer training on those specific problems—whether that training involves how to operate a vehicle in a safe manner, how to ensure that the fleet is mechanically sound, or how to provide the safest loading and routing. Often, this training can be done online using platforms provided by third-party providers. (The beauty of online training is that data from the training itself can be captured and used to incentivize operators and mechanics alike.)
Successful safety programs depend on buy-in from all members. For many members, that buy-in is improved with a well-conceived “safety marketing” program. Much like its analog cousin, company softball tournaments, telematics that can compare driver-to-driver and office-to-office performance data opens up a world of ways to spur friendly competition among staff. Who was the safest operator today? Which mechanic had the best-running trucks this month? With the help of skilled members from marketing, management, HR, etc., safety teams can make it a top priority to recognize—and reward—employees who have gone above and beyond to make the fleet safer. This recognition can happen at end of the day, week, month, or year. It can involve a wide range of rewards, from peer-to-peer recognition to “points” to actual cash.
The bedrock of any fleet’s safety program is a well-rounded, diverse, and engaged safety team. No safety program will be perfect. Improvements is safety don’t happen overnight. To be effective, fleet safety program teams must have the collective skills to capture and interpret safety related data, engage employees’ help in developing safety policies, apply those policies fairly and consistently, and reward all parties involved when safety progress is made.