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Telematics can play crucial role in fleet safety

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Telematics can be utilized to improve fleet safety, but employers need to make sure that they pay attention only to telematics data that can help improve their employees’ driving, experts say.

Telematics provides constant real-time data on driving processes and failures. GPS satellites obtain information from connected vehicles and telematics service providers gather information and store it for use.

The technology can be used to track driver performance, including speed, hard braking, swerving and seat belt usage.

Telematics has been critical to fleet operations for Bismarck, North Dakota-based MDU Construction Services Group Inc, which has a fleet of about 7,700 vehicles and offices in 31 states. The technology has improved the company’s fleet risk management and safety, said Frank Richard, MDU’s vice president of human resources and risk control.

“Many of our drivers basically police themselves, just knowing that it’s there,” said Mr. Richards, adding that telematics have driven down MDU’s crash rate.

Mr. Richards’ comments were made during a presentation Monday at the International Risk Management Institute Inc.'s annual construction conference in Orlando, Florida.

Peter R. VanDyne, Milwaukee-based technical director of risk control services with Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., said fleet programs can use telematics to establish job performance expectations, monitor a driver’s performance against their employer’s expectations and can identify systemic barriers that are negatively impacting driver performance.

However, Mr. VanDyne cautioned against having a telematics program that is data rich, but information poor.

He described working with a company that purchased a telematics system that sent an email every time an event occurred. This lead to a mass amount of emails that would go ignored, and therefore the system did not benefit the company.

“The amount of data and information you get can be overwhelming,” Mr. VanDyne said.

Companies need to decide what they’re trying to accomplish for their fleets when they choose a telematics service provider, said Mr. VanDyne, who added that companies should be allowed to test telematics services before buying.

“You want to look at those sample reports,” he said. “How is this data going to come back to me? How is easy is their website to work? What kind of reports can be set up to be emailed to you once a week? Can you break it up by type of vehicle … because some events are going to tell something about one type of vehicle that is pointless to another.”