Fleet management programs offer employers and drivers many options to help them stay safe on the road.

Companies around the world are using fleet tracking systems to improve their financial performance. Many of them, however, may be missing opportunities to make work safer for employees by using features and data available through the same fleet management technology.

“In the gas, oil and mining industries, fleet management should start with safety,” says Ryan Wilkinson, chief technology officer for Vehicle Tracking Solutions in Commack, New York, which has offered its Silent Passenger fleet management service since 2002. “Companies always want to find ways to increase the bottom line, be more efficient and be more productive. Fleet management will certainly do that for you.”

It can also help companies monitor things that increase the risk of vehicle accidents and personal injuries. One of the objections in the past to using fleet management systems for monitoring drivers is the “Big Brother” aspect of it. Wilkinson understands that reaction, saying it should not be used as a punitive measure or as a watchdog. “You have to look at this as a way to improve upon best practices, managing and optimizing your operations when it comes to safety,” he says. “Driver safety has become a core piece that every company is responsible for today.”

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Silent Passenger includes a speed management component, but Wilkinson says fleet management can do a lot more to help companies, and drivers, increase safety. “With our software you can monitor vehicle speeds against the posted speed limit, you can see the posted speed limit and average driving speed. The system records idle time (for fuel management), but can also monitor seatbelt usage and hard breaking and acceleration, which could be a sign of driver issues.”

The software also allows companies to record incident reports immediately in the field, do hazard assessments of work sites, track employee safety and training history, conduct safety meetings and track driver’s licenses. “Those are things that make fleet management software work more effectively,” he says.

The key, stresses Wilkinson, is to use the information to reward good behavior rather than reprimanding bad behavior. He says his firm has helped companies use the data to create driver scorecards to provide a broad measure of safety and encourage safe driving. “It can be used as an incentive for drivers,” he says. “If your driver scorecard is more than 90 for the month, maybe you get a day off or a gift.

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“We are trying to find ways to make it more company-focused, where there is a benefit for drivers and they can be part of the solution instead of looking at them as part of the problem.”

Besides reducing accidents and the associated costs such as lost employee time, vehicle repairs and increased insurance costs, improved driving habits also add to the bottom line by improving vehicle and dispatch efficiency. “We’re stressing more and more every day, and try to get very involved in reminding our customers, how critical safety is as part of the business they run every day.”

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