Technology to cut plant and vehicle costs

New systems cut vehicle and plant accidents, cut collision costs and improve safety.

The revolution in digital technology and telematics has created products that can monitor drivers and equipment operators, score them on how well they’re doing and help you coach them to become better and safer drivers.

Caterpillar has a similar system for use with operators in trucks and off-road equipment.

Driver monitoring and performance systems start with a pair of digital video cameras, one facing the driver, the other facing out the windshield, and a variety of accelerometers. The cameras always record, but only save video when an event or anomaly occurs. This may be an event such as hard braking or a sudden swerve, or excess speed. Once that happens the camera will save the video a few seconds before and a few seconds after the incident.

After an event occurs the video is offloaded from the vehicle to the service provider’s review center. At the review center, experts note specific observations related to the video content. These are scored for risk and sent back to the customer for use in coaching the driver or operator. When you buy one of these systems you get a turnkey solution: the hardware that goes on the truck as well as the scoring and review service, which is typically sold as a subscription from the same company.

“In some cases if a car swerved in front of the truck and the driver had no recourse but to slam on the brakes, that kind of information may not be passed along to the customer,” says Greg Lund, director corporate communications at Lytx.  “In some cases however clients want to see the near-misses, to reward the driver for avoiding a collision. So we do pass along near-misses too. But if the truck driver were following too close, or he was not paying attention to the light, or he was somehow distracted in the cab, that information will be noted and filed.”

Independent, actuarial studies have shown that of all the accidents involving commercial trucks 81 percent were not the fault of the truck driver.

The review centers track as many 100 behaviors and use predictive analytics to put two or three behaviors together like speeding or following too close or not looking far enough down the road and anticipating changes, says Lund. When those behaviors are run through algorithms you get feedback or advice on how likely it is that a driver will be involved in a future collision. With that information you can then coach that driver and reduce the likelihood of future collisions.

“Ultimately the client gets the video clips that we feel would benefit the driver in coaching,” Lund says. “Each driver complies a score and with predictive analytics you can determine which drivers are doing good, and which need coaching on certain behaviors.”

At the provider’s review center incidents are reviewed by experts, scored and passed along to the customer if they can be useful in improving the performance of the driver or if they’re needed for accident investigations.

An operator’s best friend
At first glance a lot of people might think systems that record what the driver is doing are like Big Brother watching over everybody’s shoulder. But it’s not hard to dispel that objection.

“This is not designed as retribution,” says Mike Baker, vice-president worldwide sales, SmartDrive, “but to help them become a safer and more professional driver. In some cases this could be used as an incentive for the driver, to increase wages, or be recognized as one of the safest drivers, but most of all get home safely every day or after every trip.”

Communication is the key to getting drivers and/or operators to embrace the technology, Baker says. “We’re very diligent about helping each and every customer in their communication plan before we ship a unit. This is so their drivers clearly understand what the solution is for, how it can help them, how it can exonerate them and how it can protect the name brand of the company they work for.”

By emphasizing the fact that driver scoring can be used to teach drivers how to improve their skills and by linking improved driver scores with bonuses or recognition you will go a long way in dispelling the Big Brother perception, Baker says.

The reality, Baker says, is cameras are everywhere and many owner-operators are installing their own dash cams to exonerate themselves in no-fault situations. Independent, actuarial studies have shown that of all the accidents involving commercial trucks 81 percent were not the fault of the truck driver, Baker says.

Truck drivers have distractions, but what Caterpillar is honing in on these days is not just distraction but driver and operator fatigue. The Fatigue Risk Management System the company recently launched shares many of the same elements as the driver monitoring and performance systems mentioned above and adds an additional twist-wearable devices.

The wearable device is called the Smartband. This wristwatch-like device is worn by the operator or driver and keeps track of his or her work schedule, waking and sleeping periods. The data it creates is incorporated into a fatigue-avoidance scheduling tool that can help managers schedule workers for increased safety and performance.

Additional elements in the system include full-face or eye-only video recording any time there is an anomaly; configurable speeding, hard braking and swerve detection, and customizable alerts and configurations.

Like the distracted driver systems, Cat pushes all this data into a 24-hour monitoring and event classification system. Reporting and analysis can be custom tailored to your company’s needs and used for training, operator coaching, education and site-level recommendations. The company’s consultation and training services include things like sleep disorder screening, leadership coaching and cultural elements.

The FRMS program emerged as part of the alliance between Caterpillar and British company Seeing Machines announced in May, 2013.

Meritor Wabco

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