Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Accident Management Technology Races Ahead

Technology touches every aspect of fleet management, but especially impacts drivers, fleet data, and vehicles.

September 2012, by Lauren Fletcher - Also by this author

Current trends in technology related to accident management can be broken out into three common themes: the driver, the data, and the vehicle. Fleet industry experts shared with Fleet Financials what they see as technology trends across these categories.

The Driver
Clearly communicating information and instructions to drivers is an everyday necessity for all fleet managers. According to Jeffrey Fender, VP of sales and marketing for Fleet Response, communicating with drivers has become completely reliant on the company intranet and e-mail.

“Technology that enables drivers to receive and share information to participate in the fleet processes for car ordering, MVR authorizations, complete online training, and maintenance directives, all rely on enhanced technology,” Fender said.

Red-light cameras are also playing increasingly important roles for fleet, risk, and safety managers.

“Too many drivers ignore red lights, whether proceeding forward or making a right on a light,” said Bob Martines, president and CEO for Corporate Claims Management (CCM). “Most drivers today do not stop at a red light when making a right turn. They get careless or relaxed,” Martines noted. “Sometimes they are preoccupied, and, thus they cause an accident in many instances. Red-light cameras are only part of the solution; however, they are helping.”

The CEI Group’s experience shows that accident prevention programs focusing on changing driver behavior are most effective when drivers have access to their own driving performance and history, including accidents and traffic violations, among others.

“The challenge to creating systems that enable drivers to do that is technology that doesn’t allow drivers and unauthorized personnel to see other drivers’ data,” said Brian Kinniry, CEI’s manager of risk and safety services. “Significant investments in data security and encryption technologies, including going beyond just encrypting data in transfer and actually encrypting it while at rest in the database, has enabled organizations to make the accident and driver safety experience more personal by bringing data directly to the driver.”

According to Kinniry, advances such as these have enabled and accelerated behavioral change resulting in improved results for both the drivers and their company.

One way that fleets have been encouraging good driving habits is by incentivizing positive behavior.

“A common thread among today’s strong safety programs is the monitoring and evaluation of driver behavior,” according to Monica Wyly, director, market intelligence for QUALCOMM, who sees fleets increasingly rewarding positive driver behaviors.

“Friendly competition is being stirred up among drivers as fleets are leveraging driver scorecards to encourage safe driving behaviors,” Wyly said. “The rising popularity of scorecards is fueled by available technologies that feed these reports to drivers and the driver manager, equipping them with immediate feedback to adopt best safety practices to stay on par with their peers on the road. Many fleets find that posting the scorecards in a break room drives competition between drivers and further improves safety results.”

The Data
Fleet managers often hear about and participate in discussions on implementing telematics, cell-phone disablers, hands-free devices, or other technology into fleet vehicles. There are so many options for fleet managers to install in vehicles that the question becomes: If we have more data, how do we efficiently and correctly use it?

According to Bob Glose, CEI’s manager of client services, digital technology has made it possible to transfer electronically, not only data entered by keystrokes, but photography and images of written documents. “The fax machine made it possible to transfer photos and documents, such as driver and police accident reports electronically, but at the receiving end they were still paper based,” Glose said. “The widespread use of digitized imagery documents has revolutionized the accident management industry, and opened the door for innovative accident management providers to create applications that enable fleet managers to make easier and faster use of the data they contain.” 

Fender of Fleet Response also sees a trend toward trying to combine information from all of the emerging technologies to analyze, benchmark, and make good management decisions.

“Today, fleet managers have a variety of information and data available from fuel cards, telematics, MVRs, risk systems, leasing companies, accident management companies, and internally from HR, risk management, etc.,” according to Fender.

There is a growing need to assist in merging other data into accident management data so that costs, programs, and processes can be analyzed to find areas for improvement and cost savings.

“As the need to go ‘paperless’ and do more work with less staff continues throughout the fleet industry, automating processes and creating management-level summary reports has become a primary function of the accident management provider,” Fender said. “While these aren’t new technologies, the trend we are experiencing is developing useful day-to-day ways to better utilize information from existing technology.”

Related to reports, Martines of CCM believes that real-time reporting of MVRs, which is beginning to gain momentum in many states, will be a big factor in the near future.

“As soon as this service is available nationwide, a fleet, risk, or safety manager will have up-to-the-minute availability of very important information that will lead them to make faster decisions about which drivers are in compliance with state laws as well as company policies,” Martines said. “Typically a fleet, safety or risk manager runs MVRs once or twice a year; however, with real-time reporting, high-risk drivers can be identified and attended to immediately versus waiting to react to a report two, three or six months after an incident occurs.”

CEI also sees the challenge of making sense of the increasing flood of data. 

“In the field of accident management, this is being addressed by the development of online dashboards that gather and display key metrics at a glance. Examples of these metrics include total accidents, accident types, repair costs, and loss recoveries over various periods of time, fleet-wide or by organizational unit,” said Glose of CEI. “This enables fleet and safety administrators to identify trends as they emerge and offers them the opportunity to take targeted, proactive measures to deal with those trends.”

The Vehicles
Companies will continue to embrace any proven safety product that will allow the company to maintain a profitable business, yet protect their drivers and the investments in the vehicles, noted Martines of CCM.

“GPS is widely accepted in many large, mid-size, and small truck fleets; however, it is not yet common in automobiles. As the product and technology becomes more affordable, we will see an increase in the product in vehicles,” Martines said. “GPS, by itself, will not reduce the percentage of accidents; however, if a driver is aware that his or her speed or travel locations are being monitored, a conscientious effort will be made to be more compliant with speed limits and/or company policy about where a company vehicle can be driven.”

Wyly of QUALCOMM believes the ability to impact driver behavior is key to improving overall fleet safety. “There are many technologies available that enable managers to monitor driver behavior and provide timely coaching to help drivers stay safe while on the road. For example, new sensors alert drivers and managers of driving behaviors such as following distance, lane departure warning, roll stability, and hard braking, by providing real-time updates,” she said.

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