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5 Ways GPS Tools Can Improve Fleet Safety

Vehicle crashes can be costly to fleet operations and their drivers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatalities in the workplace, accounting for 40 percent of all incidents.1 That means drivers aren’t exercising as much caution behind the wheel as needed. Those behaviors put the drivers and other motorists on the road in danger.

Accidents can also be expensive. OSHA reports vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion annually in medical cases, legal expenses, property damage and lost productivity.2 

Vehicle crashes can also harm an operation’s reputation. If a vehicle is branded with the company’s logo and is seen as part of a crash, every motorist that passes the accident scene could associate the brand with the crash.

One way to help fleet operations try to curb vehicle crashes is to integrate GPS tools into each vehicle. GPS tools can have many benefits, including: detecting unsafe driving behaviors, identifying driver training opportunities, monitoring vehicle performance, keeping drivers on routes, and providing vehicle surveillance.

DETECT UNSAFE DRIVING BEHAVIORS

All drivers – including fleet drivers – can fall into bad driving habits. But when a driver is behind the wheel of a large vehicle, carrying cargo, or representing a company’s brand, bad driving behaviors become riskier. 

GPS devices can help curb unsafe driving behaviors like distracted and aggressive driving.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

Distracted driving is a problem amongst all motorists – including fleet drivers.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2016, 3,450 people were killed due to distracted driving.3 

One of the biggest contributors is the high volume of drivers who are operating vehicles while using cell phones. According to the NHTSA, about 481,000 drivers use cell phones while driving during daylight hours.4 

While fleet operations can’t control the behaviors of other motorists, they can monitor their drivers.

GPS tools allow fleet operations to monitor their drivers for distracted driving. Tools can determine if drivers are on their phones or texting while operating vehicles. By identifying these behaviors, operations can confront drivers and correct the issues.

AGGRESSIVE DRIVING

Aggressive driving can cover a broad range of dangerous driving behaviors. These can include speeding, sudden braking, aggressive accelerating, and not keeping a safe distance between vehicles. 

All of these behaviors can result in negative consequences for fleet operations – including increased fuel usage and the potential for citations and corresponding insurance rate increases. These also pose risks for drivers and other motorists on the road. According to the GHSA, in 2016 there were 9,717 fatalities in speeding-related crashes.5

 Fleet operations can use GPS trackers to monitor their drivers’ behaviors. GPS technology allows operations to know if and when a driver is speeding, quickly accelerating or suddenly braking. Alerts can be sent to managers to immediately notify them of these behaviors. This allows managers to address the issues with drivers as they occur. Knowing their behaviors are being tracked can also work as a deterrent for drivers’ behaviors. 

​​PROVIDE DRIVER GUIDANCE

Using GPS tools to monitor drivers’ behaviors and performances allows fleet operations to identify specific areas where drivers need to improve. By tracking instances of distracted driving, speeding, and aggressive accelerating or braking, fleet managers have data to present to drivers. 

This information can allow operations to address issues and determine how to proceed. If additional training is needed, drivers know what areas they need to improve on so the educational sessions can be focused and effective. 

If performance plans need to be put in place, drivers will know what areas fleet managers are monitoring and where they need to demonstrate improvements. 

Some fleet operations might opt to share scores and performance-based issues with drivers on a regular basis, or give drivers access to their own scorecards. This will allow drivers to track their own driving behaviors.

By being able to provide more insight into driving behaviors and methods, GPS tools can help drivers get additional training. When drivers improve their skills and enhance their safety awareness, the driver, fleet and others on the roadways win.

​​MONITOR VEHICLE PERFORMANCE

In addition to tracking driver behaviors, GPS tools also monitor the status of vehicles. GPS tracking devices combine GPS data and vehicle diagnostics to alert drivers and technicians to any issues with the vehicle. These alerts can help prevent unexpected breakdowns, which could leave drivers sidelined in dangerous conditions.

GPS trackers can help prevent vehicle breakdowns and improve diagnostic time. If a tracker senses an issue with a vehicle, an alert can be sent to the fleet operation and the driver to notify them of the issue. Technicians can then determine if the vehicle needs immediate maintenance or if the issue is minor enough to wait until the vehicle is back in the shop. 

Preventing vehicle malfunctions can benefit both the driver and other motorists on the road. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 10 percent of at-fault truck crashes can be attributed specifically to vehicle issues.6

Detecting vehicle issues as early as possible can improve the safety of the fleet driver and other motorists on the road.

KEEP DRIVERS ON ROUTES

Perhaps the most common use for GPS tools is to determine vehicle location. While GPS devices allow fleet operations to track their vehicles, they also allow drivers to use the technology to stay on their route. 

NAVIGATE DRIVERS THROUGH ROUTES

GPS devices help keep drivers on their desired path. If a driver veers off course through a wrong turn or missed exit, the GPS tool and fleet dispatchers can help guide the driver back to the route. This keeps the driver out of danger and helps prevent him or her from feeling the need to make up time by speeding or driving aggressively to compensate for getting lost.

GUIDE THROUGH VOCALIZED COMMANDS

GPS tools also help eliminate distracted driving by vocalizing directions and commands. This helps reduce the amount of time a driver spends looking at a device to get instructions or see a route. The more time a driver spends looking at a device, the less time he or she is looking at the road. Instead, GPS devices can provide step-by-step instructions for drivers.

PROVIDE VEHICLE SURVEILLANCE

Locating a vehicle via GPS technology is useful beyond tracking routes. Being able to see a vehicle’s whereabouts can help in instances of breakdowns and theft. It’s also useful for school buses and drivers who are tasked with transporting students to and from school.

BREAKDOWNS AND THEFT

Knowing a vehicle’s location has more benefits than knowing where the vehicle is on its assigned route. Being able to locate a vehicle through a GPS device can also help in instances of a breakdown where a driver might be stranded roadside. If a vehicle is stolen, knowing its location will also help authorities find it.

Pulling up a vehicle’s location quickly allows rescue vehicles, emergency responders and tow trucks to arrive at the vehicle and at the driver’s location. In dangerous situations, this tool can increase a driver’s safety.

SCHOOL BUSES

GPS devices can also be used to track school buses and students. Technology can be used to track school buses to see where they are on their route. This is helpful in cases of delays or inclement weather when buses might be running late. 

GPS tools can also be used to track students on the bus.

With Zonar Z Pass™, students  scan a passive RFID card when they enter and exit the bus. This action logs the time, date and location of each scan which are securely transmitted via Zonar’s V4 telematics control unit.

 A student’s whereabouts can then be tracked through Zonar’s Ground Traffic Control® and the Zonar Z Pass+™ parent portal. 

This system helped locate a Spokane, Wash., student8 last spring. When an 8-year-old student got on the wrong bus, the school district was able to log into the Zonar application and help locate the child.

CONCLUSION

GPS devices can improve the safety of a fleet operation. Tools can help curb distracted and aggressive driving through technology that monitors drivers’ behaviors. This information can be used to give drivers specific training and address unsafe behaviors. 

GPS devices can also help monitor the status of vehicles to help prevent malfunctions that can put fleet drivers and other motorists at-risk. 

Technology can be used to locate vehicles and to help navigate drivers along their routes. These advances can help locate vehicles and drivers quickly in emergency situations, and can help drivers keep their focus on the road as devices provide vocalized directions. 

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RESOURCES

1https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

2https://www.osha.gov/Publications/motor_vehicle_guide.html

3https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving

4https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/driver_electronic_device_use_in_2015_0.pdf

5https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/speeding

6 https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief

7 https://www.zonarsystems.com/industries/pupil-transportation/z-pass-demo-request/?gclid=CjwKCAjwo_HdBRBjEiwAiPPXpOBpNulaGisDP_Oh0SWV7C3KgEk5DxNdIFdmKzmuNy2V_dnS7XaG8BoCZSMQAvD_BwE

8 http://www.khq.com/story/35324588/spokane-police-say-missing-8-year-old-safely-reunited-with-parents