Fleets for years have used performance data in driver scorecards to help identify and address problems. Now, with the help of companies that specialize in collecting and analyzing data, fleets are trying to go beyond identifying problems. They aim to head them off before they happen.
This story is the first of three remaining installments that examine three data management systems and three fleets that use them, with varying degrees of predictive analytics, to improve retention, safety or both.
In its six years of working with FleetRisk Advisors, Averitt Express has made big safety improvements, says David Broyles, operations manager. The Cookeville, Tenn.-based company is using FleetRisk Advisors for the 1,300 to 1,400 trucks in its truckload division and the 700 in its dedicated division.
Largely due to the FleetRisk program, the fleet has seen a 41 percent drop in preventable accidents over the last three years in its truckload division, Broyles says.
FleetRisk, a unit of Omnitracs, offers modules for safety, workers comp and retention. Averitt is using only safety, but has found retention to be a “byproduct” of that effort, Broyles says. With the advent of Qualcomm years ago, Averitt, like many fleets, “quit using the telephone like we used to,” he says. “You lose that relationship-building with drivers.”
Now, when the data identifies at-risk drivers in need of remediation, “We’re forcing the fleet manager to get back in the business of talking to drivers on the phone.”
Like many FleetRisk customers, Averitt started with identifying the 10 percent of drivers most likely to be facing an accident in the near future. As the accident rate dropped for that group, managers began addressing the top 30 percent.
Annually, Averitt and FleetRisk examine the accuracy of predicting factors and change them if necessary. Some typical predictors at Averitt have been financial stress, accidents in the past 90 days, and the frequency of working midnight to 5 a.m. in the past two weeks.
Broyles says some “curious” predictors also have emerged. Even though the company pays for empty miles, drivers with the most empty miles have been the most accident-prone.
One big operational change has been getting proactive with fatigue. By measuring the frequency of overnight driving, each driver gets an ongoing fatigue rating. “If the fatigue number goes up, we change their dispatch,” he says.
Another has been the response to a first accident. Previously, Averitt simply would send a terse Qualcomm message saying the accident has been reviewed and stating the number of lost points. The driver often would be nervous about the effect on his pay and job stability, and often had higher rates of a repeat accident. Now a manager will phone to discuss the accident, how to get safety points back and how to avoid further problems.
“Just by changing our methodology,” Broyles says, the risk of a second accident for those drivers is almost as low as the risk for all other drivers.
When a fleet’s data lists at-risk drivers, managers typically hold a 15- to 20-minute remediation talk with each one, says FleetRisk’s Jain. “Not to address the issue necessarily, but to assure them the fleet is there to support him through his challenges.”
It’s common to find certain behaviors point to a driver stressed for a personal reason – a pregnant wife, a sick child or a pending divorce. The solution is to decrease the stress, Jain says, by helping the driver “manage that situation” – whether through counseling or other means – and not to punish him.
A fleet customer talked with a driver who appeared to be at risk and discovered that his wife of 30 or 40 years had died. He kept driving “just to keep his mind off things,” but had not come to terms with the death, Jain says. The fleet gave him a week or two of paid leave.
Every one of FleetRisk’s customers has seen retention increase. When fleets remediate with the 10 percent of drivers most at risk for an accident, those drivers have post-remediation accident rates that are 85 percent lower than what the remaining 90 percent of drivers experience, Jain says.