Stick is set against carrot in HGV fleet telematics

The number of road deaths caused by heavy trucks is of worldwide concern and many authorities have adopted fresh strategies to help tackle the issue. In the US for example, 130,000 people are injured each year in truck collisions, with 98% of semi-trailer accidents resulting in at least one fatality, according to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).

In December 2015 it was announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) were to introduce a new ruling for electronic logging devices(ELDs) in all commercial trucks and bus industries. This will allow for greater control over working hours and they hope to save around 25 lives each year.

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) have also announced that all of its trucks and heavy vehicles will now be fitted with mandatory data-collection devices after reporting 13 truck related deaths in 2015. This data stream will be channelled through a new centralised data management centre to monitor driver behaviour and truck violations, giving the RTA road patrols greater control over fleets and commercial vehicles.

Telematics and accidents

The role of telematics within fleets is an important one. After all, 90% of all truck accidents are caused by human error be that other drivers, driver fatigue or pedestrians and cyclists, say USDOT.

Employing a method to monitor the vehicle is an integral part of improving safety, as Richard Knubeen, senior advisor at LeaseEurope, explains: “Telematics services enable fleet operators and leasing companies to offer significantly more advanced preventive maintenance services, thereby reducing vehicle breakdown and consequently the amount of traffic incidents that may have otherwise been caused as a result of the breakdown. In general there is a strong link between road safety and the ability for fleet to be able to utilise well maintained modern trucks with the latest safety features.”

But how far should telematics go in monitoring driver behaviour? Take the UK, for example: “Telematics provides fleet managers with a ‘rich’ seam of ‘track and trace’ data that, as well as providing valuable location data to forecast arrival times, has been used more recently to monitor driver behaviour more closely in terms of compliance with speed limits and suitability of routes used,” explains RAC’s Telematics managing director Nick Walker. “Latterly, duty of care has become as important to large hauliers as fuel cost. For example, some systems such as RAC Telematics can be configured to provide alerts if a driver exceeds a speed limit, uses an unsuitable route or reaches their permitted maximum driving hours. The latter varies from the well-known tachograph technology in that it can give a warning prior to the driver’s hours being exceeded rather than it being discovered some time after the driver has completed his or her journey. Telematics is a very powerful technology that should definitely be used to help make driving – both professionally and privately – safer for all road users.”

The UK have an established road safety system and have been utilising connectivity within fleets for over 10 years now. The country has seen fatal accidents caused by HGV’s fall year-on-year, with 43% less accidents now than a decade ago, according to statistics released by the British government. In 2014, 240 fatal accidents were recorded, almost half the number of deaths recorded in 2005.

The key to this progress is that the UK uses telematics as an operational aid rather than an enforcement device, says James Firth, Freight Transport Association (FTA) head of road freight policy. ‘‘In any safety-critical system, you can’t wait until the computer says ‘no’ before taking action so, while the GB operator licensing system continues to require preventative interventions rather than reactive ones, the UK will continue to have one of the safest commercial vehicle fleets in the world.”

But what about cities with less established road safety systems, such as Dubai, for example? Telematics devices have their place in reducing road deaths but this is only part of the story, says Ronald de Haan, senior manager LeasePlan Corporation N.V. “Telematics devices in itself will not decrease the number of lethal accidents. It's the change in drivers’ behaviour that could be co-responsible for that. The new law in Dubai will only be effective if, for example, results from the reported driving style lead to concrete measures, e.g. when a driver drives too fast, changes gears at too high revs, makes a lot of sudden speed and lane changes, training should be part of the integral approach to make traffic safer.

“A study in the Netherlands showed that rewarding good driving behaviour leads to higher results than punishing bad drivers’ behaviour. This is something that could/should be taken into account,” he adds.

It’s clear from the countries that have adopted connected fleets, telematics do have a substantial impact on the number of people killed by heavy trucks every year. The active monitoring of drivers and trucks will continue to develop to ensure the safety of all road users but equally as important are training and strict regulation with all three going hand-in-hand.

Walker concluded: “While the use of telematics in trucks has no doubt made a contribution to reducing casualty rates, inevitably the reduction is down to a combination of measures rather than just one.”

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