Understanding How Tech Can Improve Driver Safety

Since the automotive industry was formed the rate at which technology has developed has been incredible. This has impacted all road users in more ways than most probably realise. One area which has continually been prioritised, and rightly so, is safety. Ensuring drivers, pedestrians and other road users are as safe as possible is a constant challenge.

In both the business and private sectors of the automotive industry, there are vast amounts of services and solutions devoted to keeping us safe. In this article, we are going to look at how technology is keeping commercial drivers safe. These drivers make up a vital part of global and local supply chains in countries around the world. Keeping commercial drivers safe at work is a key responsibility for fleet managers working for businesses in a variety of industries. 

Feedback systems 

The idea of solutions being able to communicate directly with a vehicle’s driver would have seemed farfetched in the early years of the automotive industry. However, there are now multiple ways this happens. One such example is in-cab coaching systems, which provide drivers with instant feedback based on their driving behaviour. This can be in the form of audio or visual alerts which are triggered by specific actions. For improved driver safety, this can be particularly useful. The systems can alert drivers to actions which may be dangerous to them or other people on the road. Examples of this include speeding, harsh acceleration and breaking. 

When drivers operating a commercial vehicle accelerate or brake harshly, the risk of an accident increases. This is particularly important when we consider that some commercial vehicles are large and very heavy. If a small family car was to get into an accident with a vehicle such as an articulated lorry, the outcome could be disastrous. By alerting drivers to actions such as harsh acceleration and braking, a study showed that these actions reduced when compared to drivers who didn’t receive any feedback. 

Speeding is still the number one cause of accidents on roads, and alerting drivers immediately when they are speeding is really important as it could save lives. This is another action which in-cab coaching systems highlight to drivers. 

From a fleet manager’s point of view, having access to the data showing the number of times dangerous actions happen each day, by each driver, can be extremely useful. By analysing the data and identifying which drivers are responsible for the highest number of these actions, fleet managers can then take action. This can be as simple as communicating this point to them to make them further aware of their actions or implementing training programs to improve their driving and therefore, their safety. 

Tracking 

Using vehicle tracking systems have become a staple for many fleet managers around the world. There are numerous areas where being able to use vehicle tracking technology can positively impact the business and its customers. Vehicle tracking can often be overlooked when it comes to safety; however, it plays a key role and is a vital piece of technology which has improved driver safety. 

There are two key ways that fleet tracking can improve driver safety. Firstly, by tracking the routes which drivers take, fleet managers can identify unnecessarily long routes. This reduces the amount of time vehicles are on the road, which therefore reduces the risk of having an accident. During winter months, when daylight hours are reduced, being able to help vehicles complete their daily tasks as quickly as possible to avoid driving later in the day when the visibility is reduced is really beneficial. 

Secondly, by analysing historical route data, it is possible to identify road sections which may be common for delays caused by accidents. Routes can then be planned which avoid these sections of road. This is beneficial for two reasons. It allows vehicles to avoid traffic congestion and get to their destination quicker while also avoiding roads where accidents are common and may be more likely to occur.  

Anticipating vehicle maintenance

Just as with any private car, ensuring a commercial vehicle is correctly maintained is vital to keeping its driver and other road users as safe as possible. As mentioned earlier, should a commercial vehicle be involved in an accident, due to the size of some of them, the result could be disastrous. 

There are many essential systems already installed on commercial vehicles which need to be maintained to function properly. What may be forgotten is the importance of maintaining the obvious elements of commercial vehicles, such as tyres, brakes and oil. In the past, it would be left to individual mechanics to check the condition of these elements regularly, and while this should still happen, technology can help by digitising checks before and after each journey. Vehicles now have a variety of internal computers which monitor areas such as tyre pressure and the oil level. Drivers are alerted when there is an issue with these areas, but fleet management technology can also help prevent issues from occurring. 

By installing additional fleet management systems into commercial vehicles, fleet managers are alerted in real time to any issues with their fleet. Furthermore, precisely tracking the mileage of a commercial vehicle allows fleet managers to anticipate when a vehicle may need maintenance based on models created using data collected from the vehicle. This allows them to schedule maintenance for a vehicle before there is an issue. Not only does this improve driver safety, but it can positively impact the productivity of the company. By scheduling maintenance for a vehicle, companies can plan around a vehicle’s absence. When comparing this to if a vehicle suddenly had to stop out on the road, because of an issue such as brake problem the differences are clear. Not only may a vehicle cause an accident, but an unscheduled stop can also impact how many customers would be reached that day. While it is impossible to avoid all breakdowns, by ensuring vehicles are as well maintained fleet managers can reduce the risk of it happening. 

What is evident when looking at the automotive industry is that technology has made a significant difference in improving driver safety. Furthermore, with the development of autonomous vehicles and the improvements to safety this could also bring, it is clear that driver safety is still a key concern for those in the automotive industry and something they’re committed to continuing to improve. 

Author bio:

Elodie Mescam is Digital Strategy Manager at Masternaut.

Header image: Unsplash

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