Telematics and meeting duty of care obligations

The headline-grabbing applications for telematics are generally for cost reductions and improved efficiencies, but other applications are beginning to emerge. 

In recent years fleet managers, and those selling the benefits of telematics services to them, have started to look at the benefits it can have in helping employers meeting their duty of care obligations to their staff. 

Duty of care is a requirement under European Law through a number of different pieces of legislation such as The Working Time Directive, which covers the amount of hours that drivers can work daily and weekly. 

At a national level in the UK, the Management and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to ensure that they manage health and safety effectively, including carrying out assessments of the working area; that includes the vehicle. There are similar laws such as the Labor Risk Prevention Law in Spain, Holland, Germany and many other EU states. 

Keeping track of duty of care obligations such as risk reporting, what aspects of their role that staff members need training on, and who is in breach of health and safety policies, used to be time consuming, but telematics is helping to reduce that cost. 

“If you have a large amount of your workforce who are using company vehicles, it's a nightmare to keep on top of the maintenance of the vehicles,” says Richard Brooks, director of marketing for Europe and Australia at Fleetmatics. “The old way of doing things with paperwork and people writing things in diaries was really inefficient. People make mistakes and things don't necessarily get checked at the right time.”

The Fleetmatics telematics platform will automate vehicle checks and diagnostics, meaning that fleets are serviced within parameters defined by the company. For example, this means that a company could say they want their vehicle checked every three months, every 5,000 miles, or whichever comes first. 

Remote tracking of vehicles and employees is another way the service provider is helping customers to meet their obligations.  Remote workers are at a higher risk of physical attacks than any other working group. If a company has an engineer working in a remote location, or other workers who are travelling to areas with a high risk of crime, the company has a legal requirement to ensure they are protected and can get help to them if required. 

“There are instances with housing associations where we have installed panic buttons in the vehicle.  They have staff members who are in high-risk areas fixing housing projects,” adds Brooks. “The panic button will flash up on the system as an alert and let people know they are in trouble. The vehicle's GPS can then be used to locate where that worker is and get help to them.”

The Floow provides low-cost telematics systems to smaller-sized fleets and claims that for small-to-mid sized fleets, telemetry is helping them get to grips with duty of care. David James, The Floow’s chief operating officer, says that the reporting functions and data provided by telematics, offer fleet managers more insight into their workforce. 

“Telematics is going to become more important (in duty of care). Everything that we see around regulation, and tightening up of the obligations of the employer, means that they need to have tools available that understand how their fleets are performing everyday,” said James. 

The Floow's product measures hard braking, accelerations, harsh cornering and other metrics, and deliver reports to fleet managers on their staff on a daily basis. This, in turn, helps them with their duty of care policies. 

James says, “A lot of small businesses have real problems managing regulation, so the types of systems we're dealing with gives the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) the opportunity to monitor drivers, make sure they are safe and retain their obligations towards their employee.”

“The fleet manager can see it all at a journey level or an overall score for each driver.  That way they can see that someone may have the odd bad journey but is still a good driver.  If there are regular issues they can pull the driver aside, talk to them, and offer training based on what is needed.”

Zurich Global Corporate UK says that while a driver behavior telematics platform can help fleets with duty of care obligations, it is way down the list of priorities when installing a telematics system. Furthermore, while telematics can undoubtedly help, it is nothing more than the last link in the risk management chain. Company executives say it is far more important for companies to have proper policies in place governing these areas. Telematics is not the silver bullet. 

“People have a perception that telematics is a miracle cure for fleets– it's not,” asserts Nick List, customer manager – GI risk engineering, for Zurich. “It's like building a house, you must get the foundations right first, like policies, proceures and culture before trying to embrace telematics.”

“If, after installing telematics a customer discovers that drivers are speeding and we then ask what speeding policy is in place and no one knows, that's an issue. You have to get the basics in place or you can't do anything. If you want to improve driver behavior, you need to have the building blocks in place. It can also get away from the big brother issue because drivers are already on the safe driving journey, they are more likely to embrace telematics to improve their skills and protect themselves.”

Zurich regional practice leader for motor fleet, Andrew Price, believes that the main role of telematics is through what he terms a dynamic risk assessment – using the data from the car to see how it is being driven 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This can provide more insight but the only customers likely to see a real benefit are those who already have proven fleet risk management and procedures in place. 

“It may help those businesses that have plateaued,” says Price.  “They've got as far as they can get in collision reduction and they're not seeing any more year-on-year improvements. Telemetry could be the step change that they need to get down to the next level.

“It is probably the icing on the cake, because from a collision reduction perspective, there is so much more an organization has to have in place to have success.  Some are able to manage the whole fleet risk management strategy without telemetry.  It depends on the culture of the business.” 

In the unfortunate cases where an accident does happen, telematics could be the “elephant in the room”. For instance, if it is shown in court that a company had data showing an issue which could lead to an accident and they hadn't done anything about it, they could be in trouble. 

“If the customer implements telematics and they haven't done anything with the data, and there was a fatality or serious accident, they could effectively leave themselves out to dry,” explains Zurich’s List.  “If they identify a driver who habitually speeds and they haven't done anything to manage this issue and there is an accident where speed is a factor, that doesn't make for a good defense in court.” 

The upside to effective telematics implementation is that for companies who are managing their fleet correctly and using all that data to properly manage their obligations, they have a useful source of proof that they have met their obligations. 

 “Telemetry takes out a large amount of the guesswork and hearsay. When it comes to the authorities, somebody’s word won't necessarily carry it.  But, if you have documented proof and recorded evidence, clearly you'll be in far stronger position,” concludes Brooks, the Fleetmatics executive. 

For the latest on telematics for fleet management take a look at Connected Fleets Europe Conference & Exhibition 2015. 

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