29 Sep, 2017 |

Putting telematics at the core of an organisation’s fleet management policy

We’ve written about telematics before but, given its increasingly important role in fleet management, we make no apology for covering this topic again now. With telematics technology constantly developing and costs decreasing, more and more companies are taking the decision to fit their vehicles with telematics devices.

However, there are still plenty of businesses operating fleets who are choosing not to adopt telematics, and of those that already have, many are not seeing their collision and claim rates decrease.

Here we look at the key factors to consider when deciding whether to invest in telematics technology for the first time or to update a legacy system.

What to do with the data

Many legacy telematics systems have relatively crude measurements of some driver behaviours, such as acceleration, braking and threshold speed, while the more modern ones add cornering, speed against the posted speed limit, and fatigue, to the useful data generated.

However, when they implement telematics, organisations are often not ready for the data generated, even when this is via agreed exception reporting such as driving above the posted speed limit. Those that are ready for the increased data are not always clear on how to use this information.

The importance of acting on telematics data

Let’s look at a common scenario. An organisation implements a driver behaviour telematics solution that includes a ‘speed vs speed zone’ measurement. It is implemented on day one and when the data is analysed the next day, a high proportion of drivers have generated ‘speeding exceptions’.

Management are obliged to do something about this data – doing nothing would not be a great defence if faced with a health and safety, or worse, a corporate manslaughter charge.

However, at this point many organisations start to face challenges. What is their policy on speeding (if there is one)? Does any driving-at-work policy link to the wider health and safety policy, and is it linked to the employee’s contract of employment? Without these fundamental fleet risk management policies and procedures in place, how do you start to manage these observed behaviours? Before investing in a system, it’s important to have a clear policy and set of procedures in place for how the information generated will be used within the business.

Many organisations assume that this is a training issue, but often the root cause of the behaviour is at a management or organisational level. Does the employee have to speed to meet a real or perceived business objective, for example? If that’s the case then no amount of training will help.

The importance of an on-road safety culture

Even organisations with good management systems in place, and the right safety-operational balance, will find it is not straightforward to change driver behaviours, as most people tend to overestimate their driving abilities.

To achieve sustainable change, there needs to be a well-developed on-road safety culture, where employees are receptive to change and training.

Need for engagement

The last piece of the jigsaw is to ensure all line managers are fully engaged in the risk management programme, giving positive feedback to drivers while investigating exceptions and negative trends.

Managers need to look at the telematics data/exception reports (along with all other aspects relating to the employee’s safe driving performance), in order to understand the root causes of driver behaviour.

Line managers should also look at what the organisation could do differently to help prevent a reoccurrence of these behaviours.

Management systems focused on driver safety must align with operating practices and procedures, and the latter may need changing, to create an environment in which employees can drive safely.

The on-road safety culture should be developed through an on-going communication strategy, and strong leadership that demonstrates safe driving is a key priority of the organisation.

Telematics not a cure-all

Driver behaviour is a relatively sophisticated risk management tool, but it is not the be all and end all.

There may be other good operational reasons to implement telematics, but if you are looking to manage and improve driver behaviours, you should make sure all the fundamental building blocks are in place, the on-road safety culture is addressed and your line managers have the skills, tools and appetite to engage with the individuals responsible for driving company vehicles to help make them safer on the road.