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Technology’s role in fleet safety management

Data analytics and AI are helping fleet owners overcome challenges like fuel theft and driver behaviour, so they can improve their overall fleet performance.

Johannesburg, 26 Nov 2019
Read time 4min 20sec
Mark Taylor, CEO, Nashua
Mark Taylor, CEO, Nashua

The many challenges faced by fleet owners include fuel theft (there was a recent episode on M-Net's programme, Carte Blanche, about this very topic), fleet and vehicle productivity, and driver behaviour. Technology, data analytics and Artificial Intelligence are playing a role in helping fleet owners overcome these challenges and make the most of their fleet.

“Several components constitute a fleet management system,” says Mark Taylor, CEO of Nashua. “The basic essentials are a live tracking system and onboard cameras, which generate data that can be analysed and used to generate various reports.

“A vehicle monitoring system allows the fleet owner to keep an eye on things like fuel tampering, after-hours driving, reckless driving, collisions, fatigued driving, speeding and battery tampering. 

By linking the cameras to the tracking data, you can view the cameras while tracking your fleet. Live tracking shows where your vehicles are, while the camera view shows what’s happening in the truck itself,” says Taylor.

A tracking unit can issue notifications for events such as fuel tampering, collisions, battery tampering, driver licence expiry, driver violations and high-priority events. It offers GPS live tracking, trip playback, driver violation tracking, recovery in case of theft, as well as data that can be used to collate reports.

This is particularly useful for viewing driver behaviour such as talking on a mobile phone, showing signs of fatigue, smoking and even obstruction of the camera. Should any of these events occur, an alert will be sent to the driver and a notification will be sent to the fleet owner, together with a live feed of what’s taking place inside the truck. Remote playback allows the fleet owner to view events after the fact, while an evidence centre stores footage of alarmed events.

Parameters can be set up on the cameras to issue alarms for predefined events, as well as saving those events for later viewing, so that the fleet owner doesn’t have to view hours of footage – only alarmed events will reflect.

A digital video recorder (DVR) records the footage of alarmed events such as loss of video feed, the camera being obscured or covered, illegal shutdown of the DVR unit, the driver making cellphone calls, fatigue-related behaviour or even speeding. The DVR also records audio, allowing the fleet owner to listen to the content of phone calls or other discussions in the vehicle.

“The really handy thing about having cameras on and inside your vehicles is that you can view live events. So, if an alarm is triggered around fuel tampering, for example, you can view the cameras live and see who is doing what. An audio feed allows you to hear what’s being said, too.”

It’s also possible to create a geofence that all of the vehicles in the fleet must remain within. Vehicles that leave or re-enter that area will set off alarms, again with camera footage as proof of the transgression.

A solenoid lock on the back of the truck means that when the driver arrives at the drop-off point, he (or she) must phone the control room so that they can unlock the mechanism. An alternative is that the licensed truck driver has a tag, as does the person at the drop-off point, and only when used in combination will they unlock the trailer.

Another handy piece of technology is a so-called trailer cop, which alerts the fleet owner when the horse and trailer are uncoupled. It also allows the fleet owner to track the trailer should it be stolen. It also makes it possible to identify which truck is paired with which trailer.

An impact sensor creates an alert if the truck or trailer is bumped by another vehicle, whether it’s stationary or on the move.

All of the above technologies generate data for analysis to allow the fleet owner to establish the productivity of each of the vehicles in the fleet as well as assess the various drivers’ behaviour, together with evidence of that behaviour. Fleet reports allow you to send the closest vehicle to an unscheduled pick-up.

Fleet reports can include activities such as route violations, geofence entry and exit, fuel tampering, speed reports, distance reports, battery reports, drive times and trip reports.

Having access to statistics, such as which vehicles drive the longest distances in a day; the total distances for the entire fleet; and which drivers have the most or least violations, can help the fleet owner to improve overall performance of the fleet as well as identify training opportunities for employees to improve their individual performance.

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