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Enhancing Your Fleet’s Safety with Technology

REAL-TIME ANALYTICS AND VIDEO CAPABILITIES LEAD TO IMPROVED
DRIVING BEHAVIOR

BY SHERYL S. JACKSON

A 92 percent reduction in employee-involved rear-end collisions, a 5 percent reduction in insurance premiums and at least a 5 percent savings in fuel costs are the most significant results that Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing, a member of multiple AGC chapters, saw in the first one and one-half years of a new driver safety program.

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There are reasons for the improved performance with the new, video-based technology, says Justin Lambert, safety director for the company. “Our previous system provided information about triggering events, such as hard braking, but there was not enough data available to determine the cause of the event,” he says. “It put our company in a difficult position, especially if we also received reports of bad driving from our 1-800-How’s My Driving program.”

Today, the alert about the event is supplemented by video technology that allows the company to see the root cause of the hard braking or even an accident. “We’ve been exonerated from six claims in the past 18 months because we have evidence that our driver was not the cause of the incident,” says Lambert. “This is one reason our drivers readily accept the technology — they got to see the video exonerating our driver and hear us commend him for the actions he took.”

Chamberlin’s adoption of robust technology to monitor driver and vehicle performance to improve safety is a growing trend throughout the construction industry, says Jason Palmer, COO, SmartDrive Systems, an AGC of South Dakota member. “For the past 50 years, there was little change in how companies provided driver safety training and support, but in the past five years, we’ve seen a huge increase in vehicle technology that allows companies to assess driving behavior and vehicles.”

Companies are paying more attention to use of technology to improve safety for a variety of reasons, says Dain Giesie, assistant vice president of business development for Enterprise Fleet Management, a member of multiple chapters and participant of AGC of America’s Membership Discount Program. “Today’s drivers have more distractions than ever before and even small claims can be very expensive,” he points out. Because of that, companies understand that even a small investment in cutting-edge technology can create a safer environment for their employees, which is beneficial for everyone, he says. “Additionally, they recognize that the cost of doing nothing is difficult to quantify, and it puts their business at risk.”

Just adopting technology for the sake of technology is not effective. It is important to evaluate needs and identify what type of data is needed and how it will be used. Telematics — a combination of software and hardware that combine GPS and internal diagnostic devices — provides actionable data that a company can use to enhance its safety program, points out Mathew Long, product success, North America at Verizon Connect. “When you add smart video devices, such as dashcams, and integrate the video with other telematic information you have evidence of the entire event.” For example, dashcam video can show if the car in front of the fleet vehicle stopped abruptly or turned in front of the truck with no signal and can show if the construction company driver was distracted prior to the event or watching the road in front of the truck.

“We’ve been exonerated from six claims in the past 18 months because we have evidence that our driver was not the cause of the incident,”

Justin Lambert, safety director, Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing

Although prevention of vehicle accidents or evidence of fault or no-fault is important to employee safety as well as the company’s bottom line, a strong fleet safety program that is supported by technology goes beyond identifying the cause of an accident.

“We’ve incorporated our video and smart technology into our safety education and coaching process,” says Lambert. “There was concern when the video cameras were first installed, but I told everyone that we aren’t safety cops, we’re safety coaches who use video to recognize drivers who drive safely and offer suggestions on how other drivers can improve their driving behavior,” he says. “Video is very objective, so I often ask drivers who have generated some hard braking or other triggering events to watch with me and tell me what they see.”

One of the more common responses Lambert hears is “I had no idea I did that while I was driving.” This opens the door for a conversation about best practices and steps the driver can take to improve. “This is a far more effective way to encourage safe driving behavior than repeatedly offering companywide classes because 80 percent of our drivers have no problems,” he says. “The combination of the smart technology and the video allows us to focus our coaching efforts on the 20 percent of drivers who do have behaviors that increase the risk of injury or collision.”

Even though employees may be concerned about video technology in the vehicle at first, the increased awareness has a positive effect on driving behavior, says Palmer. “Drivers are very conscious of the system for the first two to three weeks, then we typically notice an increase in risky behaviors — as much as 30 percent to 40 percent — based on our SmartDrive Safety scoring system as drivers become comfortable with the presence of technology.” At that point, drivers are shown the ways they can improve and the number of risky behaviors decreases, he says. Data from the system can be used to identify trends or situations that can be incorporated into quarterly safety meetings or ongoing safety courses, which keeps the safety score of the company on an upward trend, he adds.

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In addition to monitoring driver behavior, technology can also help monitor vehicle maintenance needs to ensure vehicles are proactively serviced, which decreases downtime and improves safety, says Giesie. “Mobile apps are also providing companies and their drivers with vehicle data at their fingertips, making it more convenient for them to monitor and manage their fleet on the go.”

Fleet safety technology is a significant commitment in resources, so it is important to evaluate and test systems to determine if they will provide the data needed to produce results, suggests Long. “Some of our customers conduct a micro-assessment of the technology by installing it in a few vehicles at first.”

At Chamberlin, Lambert served as one of the “pilot” tests for the SmartDrive system they purchased. “I used the system for several weeks in my vehicle, and then let some of my drivers critique my behavior,” he says. “I discovered that I was not the most attentive driver, and I’ve changed my own driving behavior.”

Although safety improvement to protect employees and reduce the number of claims from collisions was a primary goal for fleet safety technology, there were a couple of additional benefits, says Lambert. “Employees are constantly aware of safety — even telling me if I’m at their site that I might see something on the video or receive an alert,” he says. “I like that they are conscious of their driving behaviors, even when there is no incident.” The other benefit? “We have saved 5 percent in fuel costs because people are driving more carefully, are not taking unnecessary trips to make extra stops, and are not letting vehicles idle for long periods of time,” he says. “We did not anticipate this, but it is a nice benefit in addition to the overall safety benefits of the technology.”