By Bradley Kelly, Senior Vice President/CIO, Mercury Associates, Inc.
Driver qualifications (DQ) and monitoring road behavior are cornerstones of a driver management programs and when properly implemented can significantly increase safety, enhance operational efficiency, and reduce costs.
For those readers unfamiliar with DQ, it is the perpetual documentation and screening of driver credentials, motor vehicle records, and physical health to ensure they are “qualified” to get behind the wheel and drive. As an example, commercial motor carriers (CMC), under 49 CFR part 391 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, are required to maintain records that reflect current information on their drivers, including licensing and permits held, completed certified road tests, drug and alcohol test results, health exams and medical waivers, and motor vehicle records (MVR). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) audits these records to ensure that CMCs are playing an active role in screening drivers and prohibiting those not qualified from operating equipment. CMCs that fail to comply with these regulations can be hit with penalties ranging from fines to probation, and even termination of their motor carrier license. Although not required by law, the DQ standards established within 49 CFR part 391 can be adopted by any organization and provide several tangible benefits – here are just a few.
Many businesses have driver policies that require employees to self-report incidents, like accidents or traffic tickets. However, relying solely on policies as a mechanism to facilitate reporting of incidents is not an effective driver management strategy. In fact, many drivers often only disclose incidents that occur in “company vehicles” or those they believe will be discovered. MVRs, however, are official driver records from states’ department of motor vehicles (DMV) that contain moving violations, accidents, and changes to a driver’s licensing occurring within the previous 12-24 months. MVRs provide a more complete and objective record of a driver’s behavior and can aid in the enforcement of internal policies. For example, MVRs can be used to identify personnel that are either disqualified legally or due to internal policies are prohibited from operating equipment.
There are several third-party vendors that aggregate driver records from all 50-states and can produce a single, nationwide motor vehicle record for each driver. Most of these vendors have application programming interfaces (API) or other data exchange methods that can be used to automate the processing of these records and enable micro services that can trigger alerts and additional business logic. For example, an MVR that contains serious disqualifying information could trigger a micro service that suspends the individual’s commercial fuel card and notifies driver as well as his or her supervisor; thereby mitigating safety risks, legal exposure, and even negative publicity.
Another DQ components that can be leveraged are driver licenses, which contain information like the weight classes of vehicles an individual is legally authorized to operate; endorsements that permit the transportation of hazardous materials or operating specialize vehicle configurations (LVC); and restrictions that can limit the time of day a person can drive, require vehicle modifications, or mandate supervision due to age. This licensing information, if stored digitally, can be integrated with project planning, fleet management, scheduling, and routing systems and used to efficiently filter and align driver qualifications with fleet assets – only allowing drivers qualified to operate specific assets as selectable options to assign. Using DQ records in this manner can significantly enhance logistics functions of a businesses, while simultaneously increasing safety, enforcing governance, and reduce risk.
Telematics can also be used to support driver policy enforcement by monitoring driver behavior. Most telematics hardware available today contain accelerometers, which can detect aggressive cornering, hard acceleration and braking, and impacts by measuring g-force. Telematics are also capable of detecting speeding, both in excess of the posted speed limit and above a maximum speed configured in the telematics solution (i.e., excessive speeding). These driver behavior metrics captured by telematics cannot only be used to trigger real-time alerts and notifications but can also be integrated with DQ records to produce driver report cards, driver risk profiles, and development of targeted driver and safety training programs.
In-cab cameras are another tool that has emerged in recent years for managing driver behavior. In-cab cameras can detect distracted drivers, perhaps looking at a mobile phone, which has been statistically proven to be as dangerous as driving under the influence. Many camera solutions can also identify a driver using facial recognition technology, which can be integrated with DQ records to trigger alerts to dispatchers, project managers, and supervisors of an unqualified driver behind the wheel of vehicle. Camera-based driver identification can also be leveraged to update dispatch systems and journey management applications to accurately depict work in progress.
Some companies are also piloting connected wearable devices, like Fitbit, to monitor employee vital signs while driving and performing other work duties. Elevated blood pressure and heart rates are health metrics that can be used to trigger notifications that an employee is experiencing distress or a serious medical event. The use of this type of health data for driver management purpose is certainly in its infancy, but several businesses have already adopted wearables to reduce health insurance premiums. Much like telematics are used to monitor health of fleet assets, you can expect wearables for real-time health monitoring to become mainstream tools in driver management.
These are just a few ways in which companies can benefit from adopting driver qualifications and behavior monitoring to augment their current policies and driver management programs. It’s important to note that these solutions and data sets should be used in a cohesive and integrated manner to create layers of checks and balances. Many of these integrations require expertise that may not be found internally due to the subject matter or technical know-how which may require engaging current solution providers or third-party professionals. When deployed and configured correctly, however, these solutions can significantly reduce the risk of accidents, traffic violations, and severe penalties; mitigate costs of driver-related mechanical wear on fleet assets; improve vehicle fuel economy; and enhance operational logistics.