ZOOMING IN ON DRIVERS
The most recent annual road accident report, released by the South African Department of Transport, revealed that the rate of serious accidents on South African roads is costing the economy around R307 billion per year. More than theft and hijacking, unsa
The remote monitoring of driver behaviour in the commercial transport industry is not a new phenomenon. Vehicle tracking services have offered not only a means of recovering stolen property, but also to identify trends within one’s own fleet. In this field there are a number of service providers that offer tracking solutions and the number of applications have grown exponentially. Sid Beeton, divisional manager for transport at ONE Insurance, tells RISKSA more about the tracking solutions that form part of the company’s services. “We have a joint venture with Autotrak, and our clients’ cover includes the cost of unit tracking and recovery. It is a web- based system and you can track your vehicles, looking at parameters like speed, number of stops or the like. We also use a company called Guardcor in KwaZulu- Natal, and they offer bureau services, giving on- thespot reports when they see speeding,” he says. “The trend is very much to monitor your vehicles more closely and satellite tracking has, to a large extent, closed the gap that fleet managers used to have in terms of maintaining communication with their drivers. Most companies have also started taking advantage of the increased visibility of their vehicles to analyse things like fuel usage and speeding,” he continues. The question that comes to mind, however, is whether there may be such a thing as watching too closely. Beeton states that another of the services that ONE has started recommending to their clients, is the DriveCam system, which has not only proven itself as a useful tool in improving driver safety, but also takes the scrutiny of driver behaviour to a whole new level.
Getting into the cab
Service provider for the DriveCam system in South Africa, Drive Report, describes its services as utilising data from video and caller reports to create a focused risk profile of a driver, enabling fleet operators to establish an accountable and structured solution to driver management. Louis Swart, managing director of Drive Report, explains that the around 83 per cent of vehicle incidents have been proven to be caused by driver error. A statistic which is just as applicable within South Africa as it is on the international stage. “There are of course so many telematics companies that track the vehicle and what is being done to the vehicle, but we can’t always see the real dictator of risk ( the driver) at work. We are, on the other hand, focused exclusively on the driver area, and I believe that the industry’s shift to behaviour management has
assisted us greatly in generating new business,” Swart says. “And the fact that we have proven our product to actually be able to affect real behaviour change, has definitely helped the acceptance of DriveCam in the insurance industry. We have seen insurers change from underwriting losses to underwriting profits within a period of 12 months,” he continues.
To break it down, Swart explains that the company installs a video event recorder in the vehicle behind the rear view mirror. The recorder includes two lenses facing the front as well as the interior of the vehicle. In the event of an accident, the camera retains the visual information from a few seconds before and a few seconds after the incident, and sends this information to the DriveCam review center for analysis. Swart explains that the video feeds from the truck cabs can be accessed online by the fleet manager at any time to see how their drivers
are doing and monitor driver behaviour. “It is a mammoth task to analyse almost all the footage from every camera that we have on the road but we are connected to an international team of reviewers who analyse the video data for us. Our people then look for signs of fatigue, whether the driver has taken on any unauthorised passengers, or whether it
is even the authorised driver who is operating the vehicle. We have actually caught some drivers giving driving lessons to unlicensed operators. If there is a problem we can let the fleet manager know immediately. From the data that we gather, we can identify training points that we can later use to educate the fleet,” Swart says. With incidents, sudden stops and other erratic driving now being monitored, Swart adds that another key component of driving behaviour change, is to also let the driver know that they are being monitored. “The driver has the ability to activate the red flag system on the camera himself if he needs to alert a fleet manager. When the unit records and sends information, it also indicates to the driver that this is happening. The driver can then activate the cam to give his version of events, if that is necessary,” he continues.
Behaviour change witnessed
According to Swart, improvements in fleet behaviour take place relatively quickly. “We issue regular reports to our clients and we immediately address trends we notice arising within a fleet. The fact that drivers are alerted when we record data has also helped them to see when they are making mistakes. I need to add at this point that our network allows for recognition of good driving behaviour when we register sudden stops or incidents, and it becomes clear that the driver was actually able to successfully avoid serious accidents. In some of our clients, we have seen the first positive changes within 60 to 90 days,” he says. “Safer driving is one thing, but there is the fact that overall fuel efficiency tends to improve as well. We can’t do much for the client in preventing problems like fuel theft, but efficient driving does make a marked difference,” he adds. “What we can do is provide both fleet managers and underwriters with a driver safety rating that each driver earns for positive behaviour. It can go a long way towards driving down a fleet owner’s insurance premium when he uses certain drivers for specific jobs,” Swart concludes. There is, however, one point that Beeton raises. He states that there has to be buyin from the driver’s side for the system to produce results. “One has to keep in mind that the cab of the truck is, for all intents and purposes, the driver’s office, and a lot of negative sentiment can evolve from the feeling of being constantly watched while at work,” Beeton concludes. The results are undeniable, according to Beeton and it seems to be very much the direction in which this industry will grow.
“We can’t do much for the client in preventing problems like fuel theft, but efficient driving does make a marked difference.”