In many cases, just knowing they are being tracked and receiving text message and email alerts themselves can have a significant positive impact on drivers

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Improve Driver Safety with GPS Fleet Tracking

Ensuring workplace safety is a challenge all managers face. When your employees operate vehicles in the field all day instead of sitting at a desk, however, maintaining a safe working environment can feel like an insurmountable challenge. But what if you could keep an eye on every vehicle in your fleet and be confident that your drivers are always safe?

GPS tracking devices make it easy for fleet managers to monitor their fleets' driving habits and ensure their safety in real time, even when they're not in the office. With valuable insights into driver safety and tools such as driver safety report cards, route replay, and instant alerts for unsafe behaviors, fleet managers gain assurance that their drivers and other motorists on the road are safe.

Preventing Aggressive Driving
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 56 percent of traffic fatalities involve aggressive driving.1 Aggressive driving is a hazard for all motorists, but when you operate large or heavy vehicles such as vans or trucks, driving aggressively becomes significantly more dangerous.

Risky driving tendencies such as speeding, harsh braking, and rapid acceleration often signal dangerous driving behaviors—including "lead foot syndrome" or tailgating. These risky behaviors are especially problematic in adverse weather conditions such as rain, poor lighting, and snow or when they are committed by drivers operating large, heavy vehicles. Large vehicles operate differently than small passenger cars. Drivers and fleet managers alike must take these differences into account before they hit the road.

Based on the most recent data available, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 12 percent of all fatal crashes in 2013 involved large trucks, with the majority of these fatalities occurring among passengers who were occupying smaller vehicles.2 With longer stopping distances and larger blind spots, it's important for drivers of large vehicles to be aware of their driving habits and adjust their behavior according to their vehicle and their individual driving conditions.

Speeding Is the Most Common Offense
Speeding, the most common risky driving behavior, was a contributing factor in 29 percent of all fatal crashes in 2013.3 A reduction in speed as minimal as 3 mph on a road with an average speed of 30 mph can reduce the likelihood of injury and fatality by 27 percent and 49 percent, respectively,4 yet a 2007 national study discovered that nearly half of all drivers speed on limited access highways, while 60 percent of drivers speed on major and minor arterial roads.5 Monitoring how fast vehicles travel using text and email alerts allows both drivers and fleet managers to identify unsafe drivers or other problematic driving patterns. In many cases, just knowing they are being tracked and receiving text message and email alerts themselves can have a significant positive impact on drivers’ safety.

Speeders also report taking other risky actions more often than non-speeders or infrequent speeders.6 Whether a driver is speeding because he or she is distracted, doesn't believe that the speed is unsafe, or is simply in a rush, speeding often indicates an increased likelihood for engaging in other unsafe behaviors such as harsh braking or rapid acceleration.

Harsh braking, one of the most common indicators of tailgating behavior, is another strong signal for future accidents. With a GPS tracking system, fleet managers can monitor their drivers for these behaviors and other unsafe habits (such as rapid acceleration) and take steps to eliminate dangerous or hazardous driving habits.

It’s been statistically proven that drivers' dangerous habits improve when they know that their driving is being monitored. With deeper awareness into how employees drive when they're out of the office, it's possible for you to significantly reduce these behaviors.

GPS tracking devices collect information on how drivers behave in the field and transmit this data to a computer or mobile device, ready to be accessed at any time and from any location. In seconds, you can gain powerful insight into how your drivers behave in the field using a number of intuitive tools.

Reviewing Safety Report Cards
Using safety report cards and driver ratings, fleet managers can view daily safety scores or safety trends over time for individual drivers or their entire fleet. At a glance, fleet managers can see which unsafe driving behaviors their drivers are committing, as well as when and where these dangerous behaviors occur. Many systems create stack rankings that allow a manager to determine the best- and worst-performing drivers.

GPS fleet tracking helps fleet managers understand their employees' driving patterns and determine specific areas of improvement for individual drivers or for their entire fleet. Knowing which drivers commit unsafe behaviors the most or least allows a manager to reward and reinforce safe driving habits, provide additional training on safe driving, and coach drivers to safer driving habits.

Replaying Routes
Another valuable feature of GPS fleet management systems is interactive route replay. With this tool, fleet managers can view a visual history of a driver's activity on a map along with indicators for unsafe activity or other key driving behaviors. Route replay allows fleet managers to view and play back each vehicle’s driving history using animated route replay and break each day down into detailed trip segments; they even can view street-level details for deeper insights.

By identifying trends in unsafe driving habits—such as who frequently commits dangerous driving behaviors, what time of day these occur, or whether they most frequently occur at specific locations—a fleet manager can determine practical ways to increase a fleet's safety. For example, if most speeding alerts occur in a specific area where the speed limit changes, fleet managers can take the opportunity to advise their drivers to slow down in advance of the speed change.

Real-Time Alerts
Fleet managers also can configure their GPS tracking system to send real-time alerts to themselves and the driver in question whenever an unsafe driving behavior occurs. These alerts do more than inform your drivers when they commit an unsafe action. In addition to training your drivers to operate their vehicles safely, alerts can help fleet managers identify trends and take steps to prevent unsafe behavior as it happens. Turn these insights into action and work with your drivers to improve both individual and fleet-wide driver behavior.

Safer Driving with GPS Fleet Tracking
Speeding, harsh braking, and rapid acceleration are common signs of unsafe driving habits such as tailgating, but unless fleet managers know which drivers speed or commit other unsafe driving behaviors, improving driver and fleet safety can feel like an impossible task.

GPS technology is continuously evolving. As fleet tracking devices develop and expand their robust set of tools and features, drivers and business managers can anticipate gaining an even deeper understanding of their driving patterns. Today, powerful tools such as driver and fleet safety report cards, route replay, and real-time alerts provide insights into how drivers behave in the field, empowering fleet managers to maintain and improve driver safety from wherever they are.

1. Goodwin, A., Thomas, L., Kirley, B., O’Brien, N., & Hill, K. (2015, November). Countermeasures that work: A highway safety countermeasure guide for State highway safety offices, Eighth edition. (Report No. DOT 812 202). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
2. Safety In Numbers. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
4. Goodwin, A., et al.
5. ibid.
6. ibid.

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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