Data is everywhere, and fleet operations are benefiting from that data in terms of efficiency. But there is an additional upside to data, and it means mitigating liability and risk for fleets.
Technology such as dash cams, electronic logging devices (ELD), telematics and even diagnostics systems are helping fleets better manage their drivers and assets. Visibility into asset location is allowing for improved asset utilization. Knowing a driver’s available hours of service before assigning a load ensures loads are picked up and delivered on time. More accurate estimated time of arrival is a customer benefit.
ELD and telematics data provide useful information that can be used to help improve drivers’ lives on the road and drive efficiencies throughout the organization. For instance, optimizing routes can reduce fuel usage, as can monitoring idle time. Are drivers spending too much time in traffic or at a shipper’s location? The data can be used to address these issues, either through altering schedules to avoid peak traffic times, or finding alternative times for pickups or deliveries.
Dash cams are another treasure trove of data, and many fleets are using them to protect themselves and their drivers in the case of an accident. Millions of dollars in potential claims have been denied as a result of a dash cam that exonerated a driver.
But dash cams also open the door to reducing risk by revealing areas for proactive coaching — to head off unsafe behaviors before they cause an accident.
Mining the benefits of big data
In a 2018 survey of businesses, NewVantage Partners found that 97.2 percent were investing in big data initiatives. That same year, big data vendor AtScale surveyed businesses and found that while 78 percent believed they were at a “medium” or “high” level of maturity with their data, only 12 percent met the criteria for that level of maturity. Most, it said, struggle to understand how to use the data, and that is leaving a lot of data unused.
This is when the use of a third-party partner who specializes in regulatory and safety compliance can be beneficial. The reality is that, oftentimes, with the amount of data available to a fleet to analyze being extensive, fleets don’t have resources dedicated to the data or with expertise in knowing exactly what to look for and how to act on it.
“The prime example is probably GPS data,” explained Brandon Wiseman, a partner in the transportation law firm Scopoelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, PC. “Depending on how you have it set up, it may be pinging every hour, every minute or even more often. Just for one driver, you may have thousands of data points in just one day.”
Fleets should not fear this data, but they should be prepared to use the data that is important.
Putting data in context
The problem for many fleets is that by itself, one piece of data doesn’t tell the full story. Sometimes context is needed, and that is where a partner with expertise in analyzing data and the resources to do so can help. Is that hard-braking event a one-time episode or a pattern of poor driving behavior? A fleet can capitalize on this important data and avoid risk of a future incident by altering the driver’s future behavior.
J.J. Keller & Associates editor Mark Schedler notes that “there is incredible opportunity to provide drivers with training and coaching based on episodes of risky behavior. Drivers often respond immediately to video evidence; simply sit down with them, with their own driver footage, and look at what can be improved. It’s highly effective in changing behaviors.”
In other words, the key is what you do with data. Having it isn’t enough.
Wiseman agrees that not using the data creates some risk, “if you are collecting all the data and are not doing anything with it, or worse, you are looking at it but ignoring it.”
J.J. Keller advises fleets start by understanding what data is being acquired and how it can be used. Prioritize it to identify areas of concern and see trends. Remember to see the big picture that data provides, not just a narrow focus. The hard-braking event is important but look at it within the context of the overall driver’s behavior.
Develop an action plan
Almost all telematics systems, and many ELDs and other devices, provide alerts either in real time or a minimum of once a day. Use these reports to review behaviors, address issues that continue to come up and follow up with drivers.
This is all part of having a documented plan of action.
J.J. Keller advises creating a checklist for corrective action:
a. Identify all data being generated that could indicate risky driving behavior. This includes data from the engine and integrated vehicle safety systems, the ELD, and a dashcam if installed.
b. Prioritize risky behavior events and trends for timely coaching and training.
c. Define when and how (hands-on, class, online, etc.) to train and retrain people, and on which skills.
d. Outline disciplinary procedures so repeat offenders of safety standards have a clearplan to correct the behavior.
e. Establish a document retention policy that is approved by legal counsel and human resources department consistent with the progressive discipline policy.
f. Document and train office employees and drivers on performance management and corrective action policies and procedures.
Everyone wants access to data, but to what end if it’s not used?
“If you have cameras, or with telematics as a whole, you have data and you need to be doing something with it proactively to fully realize your investment,” Schedler said.
It’s no longer about what you know about data, it’s about what you do with it.