Telematics offers hope in the nuclear (verdict) era

Lethal accidents are a tragic event for all concerned. The transport sector, including providers of telematics services, should make the prevention of such tragedies its top priority. Thanks to telematics, the latest video technology and networked vehicles, many of these accidents can be prevented through consistent – and proactive – vehicle maintenance and continuous driver monitoring, guidance and evidence-based reporting, saving countless dollars and, most importantly, many lives across the industry.

For better or worse, the proliferation of civil cases with jury verdicts worth over $10 million, known as nuclear verdicts, has dramatically changed the affairs of fleet management. For example, insurance premiums double every two years, while overall inflation is much lower, according to the Wall Street Journal. When an atomic judgement is pronounced in favour of an average transport company, it often has a knock-on effect on the whole sector. If a company threatened by a court order can go bankrupt, others, who have nothing to do with it, can also expect an increase in their insurance premiums.

This economic slowdown is linked to the financial needs of insurance companies, which have to build up cash reserves for massive payments because of the court rulings. The more statements about nuclear energy in the industry, the more money is needed. With every judgment, every customer in the fleet is considered to be a riskier and riskier company – even if nothing has changed within a particular fleet. In order to raise so much money, the insurance companies are steadily increasing insurance premiums and these rising costs have greatly reduced the profits of the fleet managers. The only way to reverse this is to invest heavily in security, especially in telematics solutions. Fewer accidents lead to fewer civil lawsuits and ultimately to a rebalancing of the risk equation in terms of actuarial valuation to the benefit of all.

The protection potential for drivers and pedestrians should not be underestimated. Telematics solutions, when applied with training in safety, responsibility and discipline for reckless drivers, will be more effective in preventing tragic deaths than the most severe nuclear sanctions because they are based on proactive and forward-looking analysis rather than reactive civil litigation that only begins after the tragedy has occurred.

Right now the jury has made huge payments, and a lot has been done to make them worthwhile. Some legislators have advocated limiting nuclear sanctions in order to stabilise the economy in this sector, while others have advocated a heavier burden of proof. But if you are in favour of a reform of liability law, or if you find the system simply unfair, we have to recognise that statements in the transport sector serve a very important purpose: they lead to higher standards of liability in the event of accidents, given the weight and potential dangers associated with the size of their vehicles.

This does not mean that the current system is perfect. Typically high payments and their impact on the sector as a whole will inevitably lead to unpredictable consequences and may harm those who have done everything right. But even those who reject the practice of reparations are motivated only by moral considerations to reduce the number of deaths.

Defuse Telematics

One of the best ways to reduce fleet accidents and the weight of nuclear assessments is to use telematics. According to the Swiss Federal Office for Transport Security, vehicles equipped with telematics software have been associated with safer driving behaviour, better fuel consumption and lower emissions.

Through the development of sensor technology, data processing and the Internet of Things (IoT), vehicles are connected to a point where fleet managers and controllers can see dangerous situations in the driver’s cab, from the windscreen or by means of a virtual unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) overhead, in real time. Other functions of modern telematics platforms make it possible to calculate the tire pressure, balance, speed, height and total wear and tear of the car. All these functions are essential for preventing accidents.

Collecting data is a simple part. It is important to analyse all this carefully and take action before something bad happens. Since the amount of data that can be obtained from an advanced telematics platform is almost infinite, the best way to understand all this is to apply an equally impressive AI-based filter.

Dashboard cameras, whose focus and motion are based on automatic learning algorithms, can detect threats on the road at speeds much higher than what a driver or traffic cop can handle. Inside the vehicle, AI cameras can capture driver fatigue, which can be a warning sign for an accident. If this is starting to sound like a Tom Cruise movie, then you should know that there will probably be a happy ending at the end of every trip when our heroes get home safely.

Safety analysis is also essential for pro-active fleet maintenance to prevent parts from malfunctioning during vehicle operation. Even if the driver works as carefully as possible on a fully optimised analysis platform, there is always a risk that the vehicle may have problems that could lead to an accident. Often these mechanical failures can be repaired well in advance, preventing serious injury or loss of life. There is too much at stake to ignore these measures now that technology is widely available.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) informs fleet managers and drivers – and possibly customers – about the location of a vehicle on the road and compares its progress with other relevant datasets, such as traffic patterns and hazards in the vicinity. This information is not only useful for managing supplier relationships and fleet performance, but also helps drivers to avoid hazardous areas or accidents. Any measure, no matter how small, to prevent a tragedy is worthwhile, given the tragic and costly nature of an accident.

However, the maximum precaution is not a computer, a data analyst or even a jury in case of negligence. It’s the drivers themselves. They are responsible for the safety of the vehicle during use. Telematics and continuous video surveillance are just tools to help drivers reach their full potential. To do this, fleet managers can use telematics and video to train drivers, encourage them and maintain dashboards showing their progress and/or specific areas for improvement.

In addition, strict discipline must be applied to those responsible for the fleet and safety in their offices to ensure that they are regularly informed and trained to ensure that drivers systematically apply and follow best practices.

With the right investment in software, the fleet can correct bad driving habits and prevent many accidents. Widespread adoption of these technologies will only make roads safer and reduce the likelihood of justified or unjustified nuclear judgements. The solution to our safety problem is not only legitimate. The freight industry must develop, innovate and flourish, with or without nuclear judgement. Accidents can happen – some with tragic consequences – but most can be completely avoided if you drive, manage your time and keep your car in good condition.

Thanks to the latest technologies in telematics and video surveillance, we can ensure more safety behind the wheel than ever before. Whether the decision to use this technology to invest in the protection of your fleet – and society in general – is moral, economic or both, it’s always the right decision.

Photo rental : Razvan Ionat Dragomirescu / Shutterstock

Marco Encinas, Senior Product Manager for Teletrac Navman, plans to publish a global product strategy and roadmap for all Teletrac Navman software platforms. It receives input from customers, integration partners and R&D to improve the current functions and tools of the Teletrac Navman product and develop new product requirements. Before joining the Teletrac Navman team, Marco planned a product strategy and roadmap for the commercial and consumer product lines, developed sales training tools and a product training programme for Magellan GPS and Mitsubishi.

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