How’s my driving? It’s a question we’ve seen posted on the back of commercial vehicles for decades. While not entirely scientific, it provides companies with a way to receive feedback on driving behaviors that may put the employee, the vehicle and the general public at risk. The problem with this method, however, is that it relates only to one moment in time. It doesn’t provide a way to view a driver’s behavior over time.

As vehicles become more connected through the use of wireless technologies and location-based software solutions for fleet management and routing/navigation, companies now have tools in place that allow them to monitor driver behaviors and trend them over time to give an accurate representation of a driver’s performance. These systems also help create routes that provide the least amount of risk, and help locate crews and identify situations in which an employee may need assistance. In this column we’ll look at ways these location intelligence technologies help improve safety, and what that can mean to your bottom line.

Trending Driver Behavior

Monitoring data on driver behaviors such as hard braking and acceleration, excessive speeding, speeding over the posted speed limit, and safety belt use (when available) can help companies put programs in place to improve driving behavior. Whether in real time (alerts) or over time (scorecards and leaderboards), driver behavior data gives you actionable information to work into driver coaching and safety management programs. Fleets that have used this data in this way have shown immediate and substantial reductions in alerts pertaining to key safety factors, as well as reductions in accidents, driving violations and complaints from the public.

Smart Navigation = Safer Vehicles

Navigation isn’t just about the quickest and most efficient way of getting from point A to point B. By incorporating information on factors such as roads with dangerous u-turns and low bridge clearances, smart navigation systems can help to avoid potentially dangerous situations. These systems can teach you the most efficient route that features the fewest left-hand turns (which are more prone to accidents). You can also input information for the drivers on the safest and most efficient ways of approaching destinations, such as avoiding certain intersections, or information on a yard or site that may not appear on the public map.

Where Are Our People?

Many of our customers work in remote locations where cell service can be inconsistent. Having the ability to always know where a vehicle and its crew is helps alert fleet managers to potentially dangerous situations. Maybe a crew was expected at another site but has not shown up yet, or a major storm is moving in and you want to be able to locate your crews and ensure they are out of the path of danger. These technologies help you always know where your crews are and can identify situations that may require assistance.

A Safe Vehicle is an Efficient Vehicle

As more companies begin to implement these technologies as a safety tool, it’s important to recognize the cost savings benefits that correlate to safety. Operating a vehicle in a safe manner will ultimately give you more miles-per-gallon than if you speed or are regularly experiencing harsh acceleration and deceleration. It also minimizes wear and tear and can lead a longer life for the vehicle. Driving safe also reduces accidents, thus reducing vehicle repair and replacements costs, and keeping insurance premiums lower. It’s important to note that many commercial vehicle insurers are incorporating telematics-based information into their programs and offering discounts and incentives related to driver safety.

As you look at the value of implementing fleet management and route/navigation technologies, safety should be one of the top considerations. Safety initiatives will help you keep your employees safe, ensure the safety of your vehicles, and can help you lower operating costs in the process.