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Digital disruption distracting drivers in the commercial cockpit

Technology of all kinds integrating its way into the cockpits of commercial fleet trucks and the impact is now being felt among fleets and drivers across the logistics landscape. From ELDs to engine monitoring, the integration of cloud-based, wireless networked digital technologies and sensing devices is bringing “Industry 4.0” principals to trucking; the “digital disruption” that everybody in the commercial economy is talking about.

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Preserving CapEx and cutting OpEx

Complying with regulators, ensuring operating safety and efficiency, as well as extending the range, reliability and capabilities of over-the-road assets has always been an imperative of both fleet managers and drivers. Technology in the cockpit has always been about preserving capital and reducing operating expenses and over the modern era, it has driven tremendous investment in technical innovation.

Over the last 30 years or so, advanced technologies related to safety have been successfully integrated into trucks. The list is growing, but started with back-up alarms and now includes, anti-lock brakes, airbags, collision avoidance sensing and controls and more.

Similar if not parallel advances in telematics and monitoring tech to introduce a penetrating view of operations and asset performance in real time, has also taken center stage in trucking’s ascension to Industry 4.0 and it’s data-driven disruption of operations as usual.

The fact is, accessing the advanced sensing and control tech to create commercially viable safety technologies for trucks has never been more affordable, or necessary, considering the rising “noise” regulating and monitoring drivers via ELD and HoS which is doing its bit to distract drivers these days. Less we forget, civilian drivers have become even more distracted with their cell phones and other antics behind the wheel and that is increasing everybody’s risk out there.

Among the higher operating costs associated with truck-based long-haul and short-haul drayage of commercial freight comes from indemnifying the risk and liabilities associated with operations on the road. This is a true operating cost (can’t operate without it), and because of its prominence on the balance sheet, always, always, an expense target to be managed as closely possible.

Commercial auto insurers traditionally say it’s the responsibility of their clients to do all they can to avoid and/or mitigate claims. If commercial transportation companies implement effective technology solutions into critical aspects of operations, and as a result demonstrate better loss ratios and reduced losses over time, then rate relief and lower overall operating costs should be expected to follow.

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Proof, now with a money-back guarantee

Investing every possible dollar into vehicle safety technology and being disciplined about who is behind the wheel is a proven strategy and a champion at reducing insurance premiums. The second part of the equation is to invest in the informatics and data analytics in the back office to crunch and make actionable use of all the data. With reports and records (now brought to you digitally!) to prove operating excellence and safety record, insurers have the actuarial transparency they need to indemnify and underwrite risk as accurately as possible.

Underwriters are scrutinizing companies and their drivers intensively, so it’s incumbent upon organizations to adopt invest in accident avoidance and effective risk management practices as thoroughly and comprehensively as possible.

Fundamentally, telematics enables fleet operators and truck owners to monitor their assets and achieve operational transparency by using by using GPS and onboard diagnostics and sensing to record engine and other operating data which can reveal driving habits, location and distance over time, and other “events” including collisions and mechanical failures.

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Foregone conclusion: Telematics are here to stay

Telematics are a foregone conclusion in commercial transportation industry. There’s no question that in every commercial vehicle piloted by a human being there is going to be telematics technology monitoring what’s going on inside and outside of the vehicle. It’s particularly relevant in the claims space because the devices give insurers the ability to settle claims quickly because either the liability is clear or there is enough evidence to brush-back and dismiss unsubstantiated claims.

About the driver …

Certainly that is all great and good, but there is some growing feedback and fleet operators are “sensing” there’s growing resistance from drivers against the wide-scale adoption of telematics, especially when it comes to in-cab video surveillance. Commercial fleet managers are hyper-aware of driver demands, especially in the face of mounting pressure to attract and retain drivers.

Drivers don’t like the idea of Big Brother watching them. Drivers naturally, as most professionals doing their jobs conscientiously, are opposed to inward-facing cameras. Consequently, that could chill the implementation of telematics because it could generate negative morale and repel potential applicants. They just can’t risk losing any drivers during times of such a scarce and valuable resource.

Adapting to the technological realities and the demographics of drivers

In reality, the perceptions, reactions and expectations of drivers regarding safety and monitoring tech into the cockpit can be managed. Educations is a good start, and anybody on-boarding drivers – new or otherwise can do quite a lot to help drivers “get with the program.” Similarly, as new generations of drivers begin to take the wheel, it’s likely there will be even less resistance to the whole idea and likely more apt to appreciate all efforts to make them safer and more secure on the road.

For now it takes training and communication. For example, rather letting drivers assume their professional lives are being digitally captured during every second of HoS and beyond, train them to understand it is an event monitor. Typically these devices function in response to dramatic changes in truck operating dynamics like hard braking or roll-over. The cameras are there to record the action, usually 10 seconds prior to and 20 seconds after the event.

Telematics technology is effective, proven affordable and as more people accept the technology the industry will see the significant increases in safety and the reduction of loss-associated costs over time.