Improve contractors’ driving behavior

Jan. 7, 2015
By implementing safe driver programs, many companies get a great return on their investment, such as: Nationwide Insurance’s preventable crashes decreased by 53 percent; its total motor vehicle loss costs decreased by 40 percent.   Pike Industries, an asphalt paving company, with a fleet of 280, saw workers’ compensation claims for vehicle incidents fall from 73 percent of total losses to 2 percent in just 2 years. 

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to safe driver programs for your plumbing and HVAC contractors. There are plenty of online resources that you can draw from to create your own driver safety program tailored to your specific needs.   

Photo: Thinkstock.

Then, once a safe driver program is in place, drivers can be monitored and assisted in modifying their driving behavior with the help of an advanced fleet telematics solution that delivers real-time alerts on driving behavior to both drivers in their vehicles and fleet managers on their computer dashboards.

Many well-known and some less well-known companies with large fleets have already paved the way with safe driving programs for their employees and they are sharing their insights and their successful strategies and tactics online on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) website.

By implementing safe driver programs, these companies got a great return on their investment.

Nationwide Insurance’s preventable crashes decreased by 53 percent and its total motor vehicle loss costs decreased by 40 percent. For details, visit:

There are many more online resources that owners and managers of plumbing and HVAC fleets can consult, including “Impact of Behavior-Based Safety Techniques on Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers.” This research is sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. For details visit:

An assist from technology

Once you’ve formulated your safe driver program, an advanced fleet telematics system can provide plumbing and HVAC fleet owners and managers with powerful tools to track, monitor and analyze fleet driver behavior, and ultimately help management direct drivers to modify that behavior to improve safety.

Even better, if your fleet manager and drivers can collectively set goals for safe driving behavior that help promote immediate driver buy-in to the safety program, then it will not be seen as a top down directive forced upon drivers.

Advanced telematics solutions also put empowering tools directly into the hands of the plumbers and HVAC technicians who drive fleet vehicles to help them in real time achieve best practices that improve their on-the-road safety.    

Typically, fleet driver behavior can be broken down into these parameters: 

  • Driving style, including idling time, engine revving, driving speed, steering and braking habits, lane changing habits, etc.
  • Driving practices, including distracted driving due to texting, eating, reading maps, mobile phone usage, route selection, etc.
  • Observance of working hours rules, regulations and legislation.

Fleet owners may want to look for an advanced fleet telematics system that can collect data on all or most of these parameters and relay that information, as appropriate, in real time to your fleet driver’s personal navigation device or in-cab terminal, and your fleet managers’ online dashboards.  

Having real time feedback on these parameters helps drivers accept greater responsibility for improving their driving style in real time. And, when your drivers know that fleet managers see this type of information on their telematics dashboard, it gives drivers added incentive to adopt safer driving practices.   

Fleet owners may want to consider an advanced telematics system that offers the driver a hands-off, voice-activated, dashboard-mounted personal navigation device, so drivers can keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel for safety.    

Such personal navigation devices may include advanced lane guidance to help with navigating tricky junctions; text-to-speech software for spoken job dispatch instructions and messages; and voice recognition for inputting addresses. There’s no need for your drivers to fumble with mobile phones – creating an unsafe driving situation. A personal navigation device facilitates two-way communication with your drivers in the field, in an efficient and safe way for job dispatch.

When drivers get all the dispatch information they need easily, while on the go, they can relax and focus on their driving.  

Another feature of an advanced telematics solution that relieves pressure on drivers so they can focus on safe driving is real time traffic updates that help drivers avoid long delays or being late for appointments. Not only does driver productivity increase, but drivers will likely be less tempted to speed to ‘catch up’ in order to stay on schedule for deliveries.  

Furthermore, celebrating safe driver success with incentive prizes can motivate drivers and dramatically improve driving behavior. With a driver feedback loop in place, drivers self-correct and reach for those incentives. The incentives can be relatively small, and can pay-off in lower fuel bills, lower maintenance costs and maybe even lower accident rates.

Work time legislation

Accidents can happen when drivers are tired or working beyond regulated hours.  An advanced fleet telematics system includes a tracking device, with digital in- and outputs, that supports your vehicles’ fleet management system interface and works in synchronization with an hours of service device or measurement tool. This can further fleet driver safety by making sure they follow driving time rules and regulations dictated by legislation.

Cost savings

Some companies’ fleets are self-insured, and so they must shoulder costs directly when accidents occur. Those companies that don’t self-insure can see their insurance premiums rise right along with their vehicular accident rates. So, it may be an opportunity to save on insurance costs, when plumbing and HVAC fleet owners develop a safe driver program and effectively monitor driver behavior with an advanced telematics solution to help fleet drivers improve their safety on the road.

Joe Castelli worked for 30 years at Ford Motor Company and Nissan North America with the last 11 years in fleet and commercial operations.  He currently oversees the On-Road and Off-Road vehicle and equipment telematics solutions for LoJack Corporation.

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