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July 3, 2015

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Telematics vs driverless cars: why we should train drivers before automating fleets

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By Steve Towe

Driving is one of the most dangerous professions that anyone can undertake in the UK, putting employees and other road users at risk every day. Driverless cars are a future technology hailed as the answer to improving road safety, but there are many tools and technologies that already exist to help educate drivers on safe driving practises through the intelligent application of telematics. Telematics has broader social benefits that it can offer to protect drivers, not just in terms of notifying businesses about a stolen vehicle, but in preventative and proactive action to improve driver behaviour.

While driverless cars may seem like the answer for increasing safety and efficiency, Masternaut research of 2,000 business drivers found that one in four of them fear being replaced by driverless cars in their working lifetime. People have raised concerns about whether driverless cars can be infiltrated by hackers – a safety concern that goes far beyond harsh driving events.

Through continued education and training, companies can ensure fleet drivers are safe by reducing behaviours such as harsh braking, acceleration and idling. Many companies offer training programs and courses that focus on improving driver behaviour to ensure staff are safe and maintaining efficiency while driving for work.

While safety is the priority, businesses can also reap the knock-on benefits of reduced costs that come from improving instances of harsh driver behaviour, including lower fuel costs and reduced insurance premiums.

So, if we have the technology now to fix the human error currently impacting driver safety, why not use it?

Privacy concerns and a ‘Big Brother’-type image have in the past been barriers to entry for implementing telematics, and while we’re seeing a shift to more positive attitudes at the moment thanks to larger uptake of the technology, HR departments still need to be open about what a telematics system will do for their business to keep employees’ peace of mind.

Change management can help to bring employees on board and demonstrate that it isn’t a spying exercise, but a programme that can help both them and the business. Communication is essential in helping companies get their drivers to understand how telematics can benefit everyone and keep them safe. Put it another way, what drivers wouldn’t prefer to work for a company with a better safety record?

Methods of communication will vary depending on the business and its employees, but there are many options for guidance and advice that HR departments can produce to clearly educate staff on telematics. This allows HR departments to have an open conversation with any employees concerned about privacy, or those who may not understand how the data is used and how it can benefit them or the business.

Proven results

Arriva Transport Solutions, a specialist health and transport services provider, is using telematics to improve its service for the 4,000 patients it transports each day in its 3,000-strong fleet. With telematics data, the company tracks harsh driving events, such as sudden braking or cornering to address and fix any poor driver behaviour that may impact patient experience.

Since implementation, Arriva Transport Solutions has seen a 92 per cent reduction in negative driving events, creating an even smoother and safer patient experience on Arriva Transport Solutions’ services.

The benefits of telematics are not limited to large fleets either. Price and Fretwell, a Derbyshire-based catering butcher and fine quality meat provider, improved driver behaviour across its 10 vehicle fleet. In three months, harsh driving events decreased by 60 per cent and speeding has been cut by 73 per cent.

Driver training programmes should be one of the critical tools for fleets to ensure that their drivers feel safe when driving and most importantly, avoid causing unnecessary risks to other road users. While innovation will continue and driverless cars look likely to enter the mainstream, maintaining a safe, aware workforce is vital.

Steve Towe, chief commercial officer and UK managing director at Masternaut

Louise Hosking and Jimmy Quinn on IOSH Presidency

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, IOSH President, Louise Hosking, and Immediate Past President, Jimmy Quinn, discuss overcoming the challenges of the last 12 months and look ahead to what’s in store for 2022. The conversation points include, equality, diversity and inclusion, mental health and support for veterans and the armed forces.

Click here to listen to this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast.

Louise Hosking IOSH president

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