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Empowering Driver Management

Technology Insight – Telematics

For any essential fleet, managing drivers is a complex challenge in terms of safety, compliance, productivity and efficiency, which requires a comprehensive approach that incorporates robust processes and leverages advanced technology solutions. As such, telematics is playing a crucial role in driver management by providing valuable data and insights that enable better decision-making, while facilitating better communication and collaboration between the fleet manager and drivers.

Driver Data and Insight

While fleet technology has become a key component of effective driver management, it also represents a potential headache in terms of the amount of data it provides, often from multiple systems and hardware. For overstretched fleet management teams, there is often a lack of time and resource to use the available data and turn it into the required actionable insight.

The latest telematics innovation, increasingly using AI-powered tools and processes, has the potential to transform how critical data is analysed, providing much needed support to fleet managers. “AI-powered analysis will enable the telematics system to understand where issues exist and take the appropriate steps to resolve these exceptions,” believes Steve Thomas, Managing Director, Inseego UK Ltd.

“It can increasingly be used to interrogate a wide range of data and video sources – behaviour, incidents, near misses, fuel usage, speed limits, location, weather conditions – to create a holistic view of driver performance.”

By combining multiple data sets, that would be impossible to analyse manually, a fleet manager can use a telematics system to create a true picture of fleet risk and pinpoint driver behaviour that requires attention. “Someone speeding, in the rain, outside a school is clearly a higher risk than someone marginally over the speed limit in dry conditions on a motorway, but most current systems would not differentiate, making it harder to prioritise intervention,” explains Thomas.

Vernon Bonser, UK Sales Director Queclink Wireless Solutions, agrees that AI will undoubtedly enable fleets to analyse huge amounts of data quickly and effortlessly, to gain operational insight and trends that were previously impossible to compile: “The challenge for fleet and video telematics has always been how to best compile, review and then act on visible trends, which is where the risk reduction and return on investment sits.”

Vehicle cameras, for example, typically upload video clips based on g-force events, but often these are triggered by false positive events such as harsh driving, potholes and speed humps. For a fleet of 50 vehicles, if each generates four clips per day, the fleet manager would have 1,000 videos to watch a week, which is simply not workable. This is not just about having the time to view footage, but also being able to react quickly to situations that need immediate attention, both from a Duty of Care and insurance perspective.

“The time needed to simply examine daily driver behaviour events for a medium or large sized fleet is significant and would be impossible for single person or even a small department to achieve efficiently. When you add video into the equation, imagine how much more resource is required to review the gathered vehicle and driver footage,” adds Bonser.

With post event machine vision, telematics software can view the video clips and flag up those that need attention. This means a fleet manager can quickly focus on actual collisions or an incident where a vulnerable road user (pedestrian, motorcyclist or cyclist) was involved. AI technology of this kind has already been shown to reduce the number of videos needing review by as much as 99% leaving just a handful that can be checked in a matter of minutes.

The major problem facing organisations now is certainly information overload says Justin White, European Managing Director of SureCam. “With so many additional alerts available to a vehicle operator, there is a risk that actionable data is received but not acted on, which could be a huge liability in the event of an incident. Camera technology and AI models are all much the same, so fleets need to identify a video telematics partner that ensures the data load is manageable; uses AI to create alerts but also to formulate a tailored and automated response; and provides the tools to really drive out risk.”

Automated Communication and Engagement

Fleet telematics is rapidly evolving to enhance driver communication and management with ever greater levels of automation and engagement. This is already happening to a certain extent, according to Inseego’s Thomas, but moving forward the system will possess the ability to communicate with the drivers directly, which will massively reduce the burden on the fleet manager.

“We will start seeing telematics handle many aspects of fleet management including training, compliance, vehicle usage, and working hours to take on much of the hard work. Many driver, vehicle and fleet processes will soon move from human intervention to automatic system management, leaving the fleet manager to deal with the 2-3% that truly requires their attention. For the rest, they will be able to oversee using reporting dashboards that intelligently measure ongoing performance,” he suggests.

There is automation occurring around driver behaviour monitoring and education, with some exciting developments in targeted training that provides engagement and coaching, triggered by specific recurring behaviour. “Fleets need to have a system in place to provide drivers with useful feedback, based on their performance,” comments Nigel Lawrence, Director of Applied Driving. “The ability to share automated safety messages, performance reports and training modules – using both real-time and historical data – is helping address individual issues, change driver attitudes, and instil a responsible driving culture.”

There is a growing number of intelligent dashcams that can not only capture footage but also engage directly with drivers regarding distraction and fatigue; detect nearby vulnerable road users; and understand fleet risk like never before. According to SureCam’s White: “The advent of AI technology has meant that organisations can now identify risk-generating events behind the wheel and automatically prompt the driver to change their behaviour with real-time voice instructions. Event alerts with video are then sent back to base to ensure coaching and training is focused and relevant to their drivers.”

Queclink’s Bonser suggests that the continued advancements in edge-based computing, and AI algorithms will lead to enhanced decision-making capabilities and the provision of highly accurate real-time insight. “With improved object detection, better understanding of driving scenarios, and sophisticated behaviour analysis, driver communication and management is going to take a massive step forward. This could even include a way of predicting a person’s actions – based on age, direction, speed and distraction – which will enable far quicker and more accurate risk alerts than existing technology.”

 

Making Telematics Part of Driver Management

By: Nigel Lawrence, Director of Applied Driving

When fleets introduce telematics, the focus often centres around the asset – where it is, what it is doing, how is it performing, is it safe? It is, however, important not to overlook the significance of additional data relating to behaviour, and organisations increasingly want to use this information to reduce driver-related risk. With this in mind, it is crucial to gain the buy-in from drivers by ensuring they understand the reasons behind telematics and how it also supports them.

A major benefit of telematics is having the ability to implement a consistent response to riskier driving behaviours. All too often driver management can be influenced by bias at a local level, relying on the strength of personal relationships with managers to decide on what intervention is taken. It is vital that any approach taken by the business is fair, non-punitive and based on fact, so using real-time and historical driving data from fleet and video telematics can help achieve this.

However, one of the biggest challenges of effective driver management is becoming complacent about safety, compliance and risk reduction, allowing programmes to become too ‘business as usual’. Simply installing telematics will never be enough. Instead, it needs to form part of an ongoing, evolving and proactive programme that is kept fresh and stimulating. Having an ongoing effective communication path is crucial to keep drivers engaged, with incentives and gamification offering useful tools to target continuous improvement.


Thanks to:

Steve Thomas, Managing Director, Inseego UK Ltd

Justin White, European Managing Director of SureCam

Vernon Bonser, UK Sales Director Queclink Wireless Solutions

Nigel Lawrence, Director, Applied Driving


Essential Fleet Manager Magazine issue 2(2024)

As featured in Essential Fleet Manager Magazine – Issue 2(2024)

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