When I was asked by Fleet Financials to write a piece in connection with this issue’s cover story about Ingersoll Rand’s Ingrid Joris winning the Fleet Executive of the Year award, one of the first things that came to mind was January’s cover story in this magazine’s sister publication, Automotive Fleet, written by Editor Mike Antich. That story was based on the magazine’s annual survey of fleet managers entitled, “Analysis of CY-2014 Commercial Fleet Trends.”
The survey’s main finding was that cost-containment remains the No. 1 challenge facing fleet owners today. What made me think of Ingrid were comments by some of the fleet managers interviewed for the story, who said most of their opportunities for cost-savings had been exhausted, and that, after years of harvesting the greatest opportunities, “there is no low-hanging fruit left.”
For some fleets, that may be true, but I know from experience there are many fleet operations, as well-managed as they are, that can still do more. That’s why Ingrid’s leadership, which includes finding savings of some $16 million over the past three years, deserves the recognition the Fleet Executive of Year Award bestows.
From my perspective, the most beneficial opportunity to cut fleet expenses and improve operating vehicles at work is to prevent accidents. As we all know, auto manufacturers are coming out with an increasing number of on-board technologies to help drivers avoid accidents. Ironically, this equipment is driving up the cost of both vehicle acquisition and collision repairs. And, the true test of these systems is whether they save more than they cost and improve employee and driver welfare.
Managing Driver Behavior
Beyond onboard accident avoidance technologies, fleet owners are increasingly becoming aware of the power of online fleet risk management applications to change the driver behaviors that cause accidents — a trend Antich’s January article also documented. I’m proud to say that Ingersoll Rand is an adopter of our DriverCare fleet risk system, which has had a role in helping the company reduce its fleet accident rate over the past several years.
The best of these applications combine a number of data points — such as accidents, motor vehicle records, and traffic camera violations — to calculate a “behind-the-wheel” score for each driver and give them feedback on how well they are complying with the fleet safety policy of their employer.
Combined with the remedial safety training these risk applications assign, and a rigorous and consistent program of driving advice and trends, these fleet safety applications have produced some dramatic results in the reduction of fleet accident rates.
There’s another critical benefit these risk management applications provide — an increase in the level of a fleet’s protection from accident liability. This comes about in three steps: identifying your highest-risk drivers, automatically intervening with them to improve their behavior, and documenting those interventions.
It’s not unusual for fleet sponsors to be charged with multi-million dollar liability judgments or settlements. The documentary trail that the best risk management applications provide can be the single most important factor in deflecting “punitive” liability costs when fatal or serious injury crashes occur.
Handling Traffic Camera Fines
The increasing number of traffic camera citations has caused a special problem for fleet owners. The reason is that those citations are issued to the tag holder and not the driver. As a result, in most states, offending drivers remain anonymous and their employers potentially wind up absorbing the cost of paying those fines as well as processing costs.
But, through some fleet vendors, there’s new technology available that can quickly identify the driver and transfer the responsibility for any fine. Just as important, this technology has the added advantage of providing a more complete picture of a driver’s behavior behind the wheel, providing another opportunity to work on methods for changing this behavior in positive ways.
Utilizing Telematics & Risk Management
As telematics continues to evolve both at a rationalized cost and as an accepted “in-vehicle” application, opportunities exist for the data received from “live” driving experiences to positively impact driving behaviors before an adverse action (crash or motor vehicle violation) actually occurs. As this “live” driving experience (data) is merged into risk and fleet safety applications, employees behind the wheel can be coached to become better drivers and encouraged to both participate in “saving the environment and their community” with behavioral changes they can be proud of, and for which their fleet owner employer can benefit in better managing the “behind-the-wheel” workplace.
Ingrid and her fleet management team are already planning to take full advantage of these opportunities, and are a shining example of what it means to run a best-in-class fleet operation in conducting business. At CEI, we’re proud to be associated with Ingrid and Ingersoll Rand.
Wayne Smolda founded CEI, the largest independent accident management company, serving more than 400 clients with more than 450,000 vehicles. Smolda is President and CEO of the company.