Even on days when the road is clear and the sun is shining, being a truck driver comes with plenty of challenges. Those challenges are compounded during the fall and winter driving seasons with the arrival of rain, sleet, snow, ice and any other nasty weather that Mother Nature can conjure.
It’s a fitting time for motor carriers to review the fundamentals of driving in inclement weather during safety meetings – things like slowing down, not following too closely, etc. It’s also a great time for carriers to harness the power of telematics and fleet management technology to support fleet safety and efficiency throughout the winter months.
Keep reading to learn how telematics can help you and your drivers get through the winter driving season safely and successfully.
Track and Schedule Maintenance
A roadside breakdown is never good. It’s even worse when it occurs amid winter driving conditions. The dangers posed by brake failures, blown tires and mechanical issues only increase when they occur on slick or icy roads.
And roadside failures tend to rise during winter, according to Heavy Duty Trucking, which also reports that the cost of roadside repairs has steadily increased in recent years. The most common roadside repairs include tires, brakes, lighting, power plants and exhaust systems.
That’s why it’s important for carriers to be proactive with tracking and scheduling maintenance. Using software that tracks your fleet’s service history and sends automated maintenance alerts, such as EROAD’s fleet maintenance solution, can help reduce roadside breakdowns and costly unplanned repairs.
In addition to a proactive maintenance program, pre-trip inspections are crucial to ensuring that a truck is ready to hit the wintry roads. EROAD Inspect is a paperless driver vehicle inspection report that streamlines the process for drivers and allows you easily to track vehicle defects and repairs.
Advanced trailer telematics can also support fleet safety by supplying real-time data about key trailer components, such as tire pressure and temperature and brake health.
Get Insights into Driver Behavior
Speeding, following too closely and harsh cornering, are always dangerous. When you add inclement weather and poor road conditions to the mix the potential for calamity increases.
In Oregon, for instance, an average of 100 truck-involved accidents that result in injury or death occur in snowy or icy conditions each year, according to the state department of transportation. That’s not to say that the truck driver is at fault for all those serious accidents – statistically they are not – but the point is clear: Winter driving conditions require extra caution.
Even the best drivers can lapse into bad habits. The more quickly you can identify and address instances of unsafe driving the better. A fleet management system that reports on safety-critical events gives you the actionable data you need for effective driver coaching.
EROAD’s Leaderboard, for example, enables you to measure driver performance within your organization and against industry benchmarks. This allows you to correct problem behaviors, as well as incentivize safe driving and foster healthy competition among your drivers to see who can claim the title of safest driver.
“By using the EROAD Leaderboard to monitor key driving behaviors, identify top drivers and reward them for performance, we’ve seen a drop in the number of unsafe driving events from about 65 to a low of 13 per 100 miles,” says Larry Needham, Safety Manager at Oregon-based Gene Whitaker Inc. “The EROAD Leaderboard is our most productive safety tool because it helps us create a safer work environment and an incentive for drivers to operate more safely.”
See What Happens on the Road
Research shows that passenger vehicle drivers are at fault for serious truck-car accidents far more often than truck drivers. At the same time, the size and frequency of verdicts against motor carriers are increasing, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.
Statistics like those (along with the threat of staged-accident fraud) are prompting more motor carriers to add in-cab cameras to their fleets. Footage from a dashcam can quickly show who is at fault in an accident, often exonerating the truck driver.
Video evidence becomes increasingly important when trucks are operating in difficult winter driving conditions. While professional drivers may be taking proper safety measures, such as driving below the speed limit, passenger car drivers may not.
A study from the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies found that “precipitation events” increase the likelihood of a fatal car crash by about 34%. Dashcam footage will show if an accident is caused by a motorist driving in an unsafe manner for the conditions.
Dashcam footage also adds context to other telematics data on driver behavior for more effective – and fair – coaching. A harsh braking incident, for example, may be the fault of a passenger car driver that cut off a commercial truck.
An additional benefit of in-cab cameras is being able to see road conditions from the back office.
“We’ve got trucks traveling largely the same roadways and sometimes there’s traffic delays, weather or rockslides,” says Chris Freeman of California-based Bettendorf Trucking, which uses EROAD’s Clarity Connected Dashcam. “If we want to see what the condition was when the last truck went through, we just go pop the video up.”
Learn more: How to Create a Dash Cam Policy
Know Vehicle Location
Visibility is crucial to effective fleet management. Telematics and dashcams let you know where your trucks are at any given moment, allowing you to make better dispatch decisions and provide accurate ETAs for customers. This visibility is especially important when trucks are operating in winter conditions, during which unforeseen delays may be more common.
Non-Regulated Fleets Can Also Benefit
Heavy truck fleets operating under the ELD mandate aren’t the only ones that can benefit from telematics and video. Fleets comprising light- and medium-duty vehicles, delivery vans, construction vehicles and non-regulated heavy trucks can also use technology to boost safety and efficiency during the winter driving season (and all year long). EROAD’s Clarity Solo is a solution that combines video, GPS tracking and driver behavior data in a single device.