Fleet Safety Conference 2016 Takeaways

Exciting times in the telematics and fleet industry as evident by recently attending the Fleet Safety Conference July 18 – 20 in Chicago, Illinois. Fleet Safety is considered one of the top priorities of fleet safety and risk managers these days. Gone are the days of simple GPS tracking solutions informing office staff where a driver is by placing a vehicle icon on a map! Today’s advanced telematics solutions are measuring driver behavior and providing insight into the driving habits of mobile employees. The Fleet Safety Conference provided an opportunity to connect with risk, safety, human resources and EHS professionals alike to exchange best practices with others who are passionate about fleet safety.

The keynote address “Combining Behavioral Safety Theory and Telematics” was by far the most promising technology breakthrough of the entire conference. Led by Dane Bremer, Director of Employee Safety for Liberty Mutual Insurance, he outlined Liberty Mutual’s Managing Vital Driver Performance (MVDP) risk control program, a winner of the 2016 Business Insurance Innovation Award. MVDP introduces a Root Cause Analysis based method for analyzing telematics data to identify management policies, practices and operational elements that are influencing aggressive driving. Mr. Bremer mentioned that while coaching and educating drivers is helpful, there are additional factors influencing unsafe driving behaviors. In essence, Liberty Mutual is delivering on the “Big Data” promise by identifying true root causes and developing appropriate action plans to improve their fleet safety results.

While “Big Data” and “IoT” seemed to dominate the conversations and the concurrent sessions, I found little evidence to support the telematics industry’s initiatives to deliver on said technologies. But, that’s not to say they’re not starting to investigate and truly develop big data strategies to provide more in-depth reporting and awareness to fleet managers and HR departments. But, two consistent issues that plague the fleet industry is how fragmented the industry is and the copycat delivery of telematics data. There are many companies delivering great products and services to the fleet industry but no single company has connected all aspects of managing a fleet efficiently. In today’s technological advances, I found this of paramount concern. Why haven’t companies joined together for the true betterment of the fleet safety industry? My guess is that each company is too focused on promoting their solution to the masses versus working together to create an all-encompassing solution that delivers on what fleet professionals are searching for today.

Looking back over my career in the GPS/Telematics industry, I feel that not much has changed. While prices for hardware and connectivity has dropped, companies have merged and will continue to be acquired but the vehicle icon on a map along with “daily activity” reports remains a constant. While visiting many of the vendor booths at the Fleet Safety Conference, my feelings didn’t change and the overall elevator pitch was the same …”we assist companies to know where their drivers are, reduce idling and provide IFTA/HOS reporting!” I was polite in saying “awesome” and continued on my way scratching my head and asking myself what separates all these companies from the pack?

However, there were a couple companies who showed high promise on delivering predictive and prescriptive models to the fleet industry. Though Driver Behavior and the use of an accelerometer in the black boxes is still in its infancy, I believe these companies, like WorkWave, are at the forefront of developing the next generation of telematics by providing true driver behavior reporting and scoring of drivers. It’s these companies that will disrupt the market if they’re persistent and truly deliver on Big Data analytics. Time will tell. But, as fleets look for the next generation telematics solution, the industry will have to deliver. And, deliver sooner than later to survive. Time is of the essence for telematics companies to deliver on predictive analytics!

That reminds me… I need to get back to working with our developers on the continued build out of our predictive analytics model! Check back soon for my next blog on Driver Safety and the upcoming School season! Do your driver’s understand the laws with regards to school buses? Is it time for a refresher course? Stay tuned :)

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