By Jeremy Collins, Azuga
Every vehicle fleet operator wants to increase safety and decrease costs, but these can sometimes seem like competing priorities. Thanks to a mix of modern technology and smart strategy, they can do both—generating immediate gains as well as a continuous stream of longer-term results not only for fleets but also for the insurers that protect them.
This win-win scenario starts with a combination of on-board telemetry and dual-facing cameras. Think about accident prevention and response, for starters. It is a major category in terms of safety and costs.
Accidents are expensive on multiple fronts. They cause insurance claims and premiums to rise. They also lead to lawsuits. Telematics essentially provide an “automated witness” when accidents do occur, and the video footage and other data leading up to and during an accident can help fleet operators effectively defend against litigation.
More importantly, these same tools help move the needle toward the ideal scenario for fleets and insurers alike: Preventing accidents from occurring in the first place. Telematics produce rich, actionable information that helps fleet managers identify potential problem areas. This data can even alert drivers in real-time to risky or costly behavior.
Driving speed is one critical metric here: Excessive speed is an inherently risky behavior on the road and at the root of many accidents. But it’s not the only data point that fleet managers can track and act upon. Hard braking, for example, is another clear indicator of potentially unsafe driving—especially when there is a pattern of it.
The onboard telemetry and cameras can also help proactively prevent accidents by encouraging other safe driving habits, too.
Take smartphone use while behind the wheel: It is one of the most common causes of distracted driving today. Telematics can help. When the cabin-facing camera detects a driver looking at their phone, or other scenarios where their attention does not appear to be focused on the road, the system can alert them of the potentially unsafe activity. This is a boon to driver safety. Even with the best of intentions, everyone is capable of a slip-up, and these automated reminders can reinforce safe driving practices.
The benefits of this technology are not limited to safety. Fleet managers will also see results in another huge spending category: fuel. In fact, while many of the safety benefits—and their associated cost savings—accrue over time, this is one of quicker returns on investment. Real-time data can also include metrics like excessive idling, which is a sure-fire way to waste fuel.
The same goes for preventative maintenance. Telematics delivers fast, accurate diagnostic data that can lead to better planning and decision-making in terms of both routine maintenance as well as safety issues.
There are two key components of this modern approach to fleet management. The first pillar is technology, and that’s easy in terms of getting started. Installing the telemetry and cameras is a quick, straightforward process.
The second pillar is just as important: What’s the plan between management and drivers? This crucial success factor cannot be overlooked. Fleet managers need buy-in from their drivers for the program to achieve its intended goals.
This is what I meant at the outset by smart strategy. Transparency is critical. If a driver team feels that this is a “gotcha” program, or that this is being force-fed to them, then the company won’t get the results it wants. Communicate early and often about when, how, and why you’re doing this. Look for a solution that rewards drivers for doing good—not just a system that punishes people for mistakes.
Gamification can play a pivotal role. When drivers have a way of keeping track of their performance, especially in relation to meaningful incentives such as a financial bonus or other rewards, it creates a healthy competitive environment that rewards good driving more so than penalizing bad behavior.
The technology doesn’t just lay the foundation for improved safety and reduced costs for fleet operators. It can also help automate and streamline a lot of the manual, labor-intensive work that insurance companies and their employees must do to write policies for their customers, handle claims, and more. Telematics can even make it possible to underwrite a previously uninsurable fleet, opening new customer streams.
Instead of, in some cases, riding along with a customer’s drivers to appropriately assess risk, underwriters, and adjusters can use the same rich data that their customers increasingly rely on to protect their fleets and keep costs under control. Policy issuance and renewals can happen without time-consuming, face-to-face processes. Decisions can be made in a data-driven manner that boosts the bottom line while still putting the customer’s interests first, not unlike how a fleet manager can control their costs while simultaneously ensuring safety is their top priority.
This creates better relationships between insurance companies and their fleet customers, and between those customers and their drivers. The whole industry can take a more efficient, data-driven operational approach that benefits all stakeholders.
It’s still early days. We’re talking millions and millions of miles on the road, and billions of data points that fleet operators and their insurance providers are handling manually. The untapped opportunity is enormous for the entire industry.
About The Author
Jeremy Collins is a Vice President at Azuga.