The first questions you must ask before investing in telematics are: what do you need to know and why?’ Or expressed otherwise, what is the problem you need to solve? If anyone tells you that ‘this device can tell you anything you want it to’, don’t believe them.
Some emergency services journey data systems can identify at any given point, which gear is in use on that vehicle, at what speed the vehicle was travelling, whether the blue lights, sirens or indicators were in use and for how long. That may be appropriate in a relatively high-risk environment such as an emergency response journey with high speeds and more risky manoeuvres but with a fleet of 1,000 vehicles it’s clear that a huge mountain of data will be accumulated very quickly if all parameters are recorded. This leads to concerns about how and where it is stored and who pays for the storage facility. So the next questions to ask might be: what are you planning to do with the information you accumulate and how easy is it for you to interpret the information?
The effectiveness of any electronic driver monitoring system depends on identifying any action beyond what you consider as permitted or accepted. What must you do to identify transgressors? If it is necessary to trawl through a wealth of information to find out what you want to know, do you actually have the resources to carry out that search, and how often? Or is the display simple and obvious to all who may use it?
When you are driving, do you exceed speed limits? Do you brake harshly? We all do, very infrequently, and all humans lose attention. It’s more important and relevant to deal with a driver who is regularly, repeatedly going beyond the acceptable, which increases the risks of collisions and accelerates vehicle wear patterns and fuel use. If you are seeking to pick out regular patterns of excess speed and sharp braking because that is a problem with your drivers, this may be easily possible. Find out how a system will do that before investing.
However, if you have identified a problem with unacceptable levels of reversing collisions, let’s consider the driver error that leads to such collisions. Is it excessive speed, or harsh braking? Unlikely; almost all reversing impacts follow observation failures – not looking, not looking properly, or not looking at the right time. No electronic system yet in use can identify and validate driver observation skills. Telematics therefore will not identify the failures and stimulate compliance.
How might the driver become aware of his transgressions? Some systems have a visual or audible warning, with the benefit of immediate awareness of the unacceptable. That might be seen by some as distracting, although I think it is equally beneficial to gain compliance more promptly. It has to be better than an interview with a line manager some weeks or months later. Sometimes it will require a professional trainer’s assistance to help the driver to recognise his faults – his level of ‘unconscious incompetence’ or faulty auto-pilot – before remedial work can start, and this must also be planned in.
Telematics devices on their own do not work. They are simply tools; part of a jigsaw to help the wise operator to know what is happening in order to identify problems quickly and take some sort of remedial actions. Identified transgression and consequence are essential to make it work. Without consequences, a telematics system is no more effective than a burned-out speed camera.
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