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Connectivity and Telematics – Taking Safety Management to the Next Level

The term ‘connectivity’ may be one you have heard associated with automotive technology over the past decade. As of last year, there were approximately 237 million connected cars on the road globally with 84 million of those vehicles in the United States. However, the global number is projected to increase to 400 million by 2025.1 So, what does the concept of a ‘connected car’ really mean?

Types of Connectivity A connected car is a vehicle that is equipped with technology enabling it to access the internet or the IoT (Internet of Things) – sometimes referred to as the IoV (Internet of Vehicles) – to enable the exchange of data between cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles via the Internet. There are different types of connectivity including audio and video entertainment, navigation systems, V2X (vehicle to everything), V2N (vehicle to network), V2P (vehicle to person), V2I (vehicle to infrastructure) and telematics. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize the automotive industry.

Telematics

Telematics – the most relevant type of connectivity – refers to the rich data recorded and shared through an installed or embedded device. The telematics device acts as an Internet of Things (IoT) hub which sends vehicle data to a cloud service, where it can be processed and accessed by the vehicle owner or fleet manager. When put to use, telematics data can have a significant impact on almost every stage of the fleet management lifecycle from safety to maintenance, fuel, acquisition, utilization and remarketing. Safety management is one of the most important aspects of fleet management and telematics is making a big impact on how fleets are reducing risk through proactive monitoring.

The Statistics Show Why Safety is a Priority

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website cites poignant numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Millions of workers drive or ride in a vehicle as part of their jobs, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States. In 2019, 1,270 U.S. workers driving or riding in a motor vehicle on a public road died in a work-related crash (24% of all work-related deaths).” And, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, “In 2019, U.S. traffic crashes cost employers $72.2 billion – up from $47.4 billion in 2013 – in direct crash-related expenses which include medical care, liability, lost productivity and property damage.” More alarmingly, a recent post pandemic projection of 2021 traffic deaths by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration shows a 10.5% increase in fatalities – the highest since 2005. The U.S. Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, called the situation “a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together.” Given these stark figures, it is easy to see why making workers safe and reducing accident-related costs are priorities for fleet managers.

According to the organization, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)crash causation is largely caused by driver-related factors, such as driver error, fatigue, distraction, or impairment. These factors were present in approximately 90% of crashes observed in their study of driver crash risk factors. So, let’s explore how telematics can play an important role in monitoring and managing driver behavior.

How Telematics Works

Some of the safety related data points that a telematics device or system can record and transmit include location, speed, idling time, harsh acceleration, cornering and braking as well as seat belt usage. By recording these events and assigning a score to them, you can identify those drivers who are ‘at risk’ and coach them on safe driving habits. You can also recognize those lower risk drivers who are already exercising caution and care.

Cutting down on speed is important for helping to increase safety. We can group the recorded speeding events into categories such as 10 – 15 miles per hour over the limit, 16 – 20 and 21 plus. Then fleet managers can focus first and foremost on those with ‘21 plus’ infractions through coaching and taking disciplinary action right away. We also score the other high-risk behaviors including harsh braking, harsh cornering, harsh acceleration and seat belt usage. One way of managing driver scores is to notify drivers when and if their score changes giving them an opportunity to self-correct.

In Vehicle Cameras

Joe Bonadonna, Director of Telematics for Wheels Donlen, believes built in cameras are the future of safety and telematics. Cameras watch drivers’ eye movements and what drivers are doing in their vehicles. They recognize if a driver picks up his phone and texts and alerts the driver to stop. If the driver does not stop, the camera creates a video of the driver and pushes it to the fleet manager. The same goes for smoking, drinking, eating and nodding off. Cameras are bidirectional so they can see outside as well as in. For example, it can detect if a driver is doing rolling stops.

On the flip side, cameras can help exonerate drivers too. If another driver is intentionally trying to cause an accident for the insurance money and cuts in front of a driver on purpose, the camera recording can be used in court. Driver pushback can be an obstacle, but if implemented properly with open communication, transparency and incentives, they can significantly reduce distracted driving. According to Joe, “there is a lot coming in the future with video telematics and it is just going to be more and more robust as time goes on.”

Conclusion

In the end, we need to look at the statistics demonstrating the impact telematics has had on fleet safety. According to Teletrac Navman’s 3rd Annual Telematics Benchmark Report, “Telematics improves safety all around, with more than a quarter of [respondents] citing driver monitoring (32%), speed prevention (26%) and preventing driver fatigue/exhaustion (30%) as top telematics-related safety benefits.” We believe telematics is a game changer not only for safety management but for other parts of the fleet management life cycle.

Our next installment on telematics will cover integrating telematics with maintenance management data to improve compliance and save on maintenance costs.

1https://www.statista.com/topics/1918/connected-cars/#dossierKeyfigures