What is it like to come in from the world of risk to fleet?
It has been fantastic. We work with a lot of fleet managers all over the world. It’s been great getting a chance to meet many of them and discuss the latest initiatives to help them save insurance costs, minimize liability exposure, and most importantly, get all those drivers home each night. Meeting them face to face has been very worthwhile for us.
Tell us about your new behavior-based telematics offering.
Safety is a difficult area. It is a very important area on the cost side with insurance and liability exposure, especially here in the U.S. One of the things we have been doing is looking at how we can enhance our ability to target the most ‘at risk’ drivers. Traditionally, we are integrating collision data, incident data, license check or MVR data into one system to help us identify the most at-risk drivers. We then look at targeting interventions to reduce the risk.
The development of behavior-based telematics takes that to the next level, both in terms of accuracy in identifying the most at-risk drivers, but also looking at what that data tells us about the most appropriate interventions. So, if you are integrating alongside license check and incident history, behavior data, hard acceleration, hard steering, hard breaking, MPG, idling, reversing, you can be much more sophisticated in trying to apply interventions to reduce the risk.
Very importantly from a privacy and transparency perspective, we also get the opportunity to feed the driver’s performance data directly back to the driver. The driver then has a big input in seeing where their performance is trending: static, declining or improving. Hopefully, all of the driver’s trending is improving!
The fleet manager’s role is ever expanding. It is a very tough position. Overseas, historically, there has been a focus on cost, maintenance and vehicle selection issues. The whole safety arena is coming to a head and has received more focus since 2008, mostly because of the cost implications – insurance cost, collision cost and liability exposure.
I think that telematics, which has been around three to five years now, is really starting to move into that space, both at the productivity level as well as the risk management opportunities to further reduce collisions.
Collisions equal cost that is going to affect your insurance and out of pocket expenses, so telematics is really that next dimension in taking your safety risk management program to that next level.
Working with a company like yours, how do fleet managers balance the privacy issues with their drivers?
Privacy, as you move around the world, has different legislation and expectations in each country from employees as well as their employers. At the highest level, companies obviously want to enjoy a ‘circle of trust’ with their employees, so the whole idea of monitoring where you are and what you are doing is a difficult sell from the company to the employee. Obviously, from a behavior based telematics point of view, GPS tracking in terms of being able to identify where a collision might take place or opportunities to improve fuel efficiency is quite an important part. There is a balance that needs to be had between the relationship of employer to employee and the circle of trust and taking advantage of the latest technology.
We have some clients who in particular want to take advantage of behavior-based telematics who would really prefer the GPS element turned off. Some of the new technology coming along actually enables a privacy button to be triggered when they are outside of work hours – after they have returned home or before they go to work. A lot of our clients allow family members to drive their vehicles who are not particularly enamored at the whole idea of the employer tracking their whereabouts 24/7.
Privacy is generally a ‘trade-off.” There are legislative issues to consider as you move around the world, but really that employer/employee circle of trust needs to look at how you can take advantage of both while not destroying the circle.
Do you have an example of that?
What is interesting is that a lot of people leap to technology-based solutions so we can remove the ‘nut’ from behind the wheel, which is very difficult to do! We are human beings and with human beings come a varying degree of baggage that we all have to deal with on a daily basis. Depending on your job function, you may or may not be recruited as a professional driver. Sales people, for example, typically are not recruited to be professional drivers and psychometrically they have challenges behind the wheel because one of their key strengths is to be able to talk and communicate, which can lead to being easily distracted and therefore spending hours behind the wheel is difficult. Most drivers do an incredible job driving 30-40-50 thousand miles a year collision free!
There is one problem that all of our clients share that again is very difficult to tackle. All of our clients’ drivers can drive! All of our clients’ drivers are licensed to drive in the country, state or jurisdiction in which they drive. The common theme, and the challenge that we focus most of our energy on, is management leadership. The difference between a dangerous driver, per se, and a safe driver might be luck or it might be where they live, but at the end of the day the big ingredient mix we see is about that management involvement. If the employee believes that their manager and that the manager’s manager and the board of the organization care about getting them home every night to their loved ones, we will see dramatic changes in people’s driving. If the perception is they don’t care, human frailties take over and accidents, as they say, will happen! So, management leadership, albeit complex, is extremely effective if the clients can find the right mix to keep reminding their people that getting home every night is a strategic imperative.
Are you are finding market-by-market commonalities?
Yes, actually there are some great common things. Everyone looks at the culture of the driving. Now culturally, the driving and the expectation can be very different country by country, but with the large multinational client base that we have, there is a common theme. Everyone is interested in cost management, liability reduction and at the end of the day, making sure everyone gets home. What we are seeing is that steady growth towards finding that mechanism for getting the management involvement. And again, depending on where you live and what part of the world you come from, the managers behave differently as well. So, the need for ongoing skills-based training, what we see across the world, is declining. What we are seeing is the acceptance that we have got to make sure that safety and getting home becomes a ‘strategic imperative’ and built into that client DNA. That way the world is becoming one big country.
But there are unique issues, security issues in some countries, skilled-based issues in others. There are still some countries in the world where you don’t need to have a driver’s license to drive and we have a lot of fun in those countries! Learning to drive is quite straightforward. Learning to drive safely on a consistent basis is the ongoing challenge. We are all busy people and we just need to find interesting innovative ways to keep reminding ourselves to be safe at all times.
Ed Dubens is the founder and CEO of Interactive Driving Systems®. Interactive Driving Systems is an award winning research-led provider of global fleet risk management solutions. For 20 years, the IDS team has been supporting client and partner organizations around the globe. To date, well over 1 million drivers and their managers have been engaged in road safety programs in over 70 countries and 45 languages through Virtual Risk Manager.