Focusing on the Driver to Improve Safety

Fleet management programs, asset protection, automated compliance and reporting does more than bolster the bottom line—it helps organizations bring their workers home safely to their families.

Todd W. Follmer

It is an established, yet startling, fact that the most life-threatening job in this country is a truck driver. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), individuals involved in trucking suffered more fatalities than those in any other occupation. These fatalities account for 12 percent of all worker deaths. Truck drivers also received more non-fatal injuries than any other occupation.

While being on the road is dangerous, the impact of a crash involving a company vehicle goes beyond life and limb. With any crash, there are costs that follow that cause pain to individuals and companies as well. The direct costs include those associated with property damage and injuries, insurance premiums, litigation and settlements, worker’s compensation, lost time and productivity, administrations and lost revenues. Beyond the direct costs follow the indirect costs, which sometimes can be more damaging than simply dollar amounts. For instance, employee morale, negative publicity and new governmental restrictions or legislation can hinder a company for years to come following a driving incident.

Is Training and Tracking Enough?
Drivers in the waste management industry are generally highly skilled and trained; however, the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that drivers of large trucks, across all industries, are 10 times more likely to be the cause of a crash with other vehicles involved than any other factor such as weather, road conditions and vehicle performance. The study was commissioned by FMCSA to review the causes of, and contributing factors to, crashes involving commercial motor vehicles. This study was the first nationwide examination of all pre-crash factors. The conclusion of the administrator was: “This study makes it clear that we need to spend more time addressing driver behavior.”

This underscores the idea that all the safety equipment on a vehicle from stability control to antilock brakes are rendered moot if the driver is practicing unsafe behavior. The government imposes strict federal transportation regulations and companies impose even stricter corporate safety rules and regulations to raise the bar. Companies are finding themselves needing to better track and measure results in order to confirm compliance. With an increased focus on metrics, many companies are turning to technology to keep track of what driving characteristics can be monitored and measured. The goal is to help improve driver performance and to increase efficiency across the organization; however in improving driver behavior, it falls short.

Companies typically use either a passive or, more recently, an active fleet tracking system. Passive fleet tracking relies on GPS to know where a vehicle has been. These systems tend to be after-the-fact; the information is usually downloaded from the vehicle following a trek and analyzed at a later date. Other conventional fleet tracking technologies can be used to obtain a “driver profile,” which is used to determine either the best drivers or to “red-flag” and follow up with the drivers who need additional training (or reprimands as the case may be) in an effort to curb accidents and improve safety.

These passive methodologies are gilded with good intentions, but are simply not effective toward changing driver behavior. Passive systems do nothing to coach or mentor the driver—they tend to report what happened after an accident, rather than function in real-time to prevent an accident. Studies show that even if additional driver training is prescribed following a crash or other infraction, the training works for a time, but the driver slips back into old habits, essentially forgetting the new training.

New Approach to Safety

A real-time, in-cab mentoring approach, focused on improving driver safety, can have more far-reaching benefits than traditional fleet tracking. It can work to lower operating costs-per-mile, improve productivity, reduce fuel consumption and lower maintenance costs. These are important objectives to any organization, but a fortunate consequence is that they can all be a by-product of a focus on driver safety first.

Real-time alerts given to drivers warning them the instant they commit unsafe or dangerous maneuvers such as making an aggressive turn, speeding excessively or not buckling a seatbelt serve to instantly improve driver behavior at the moment of an infraction and over the long-term. Alerts prompt drivers to change their unsafe behavior on the spot.

This approach has been shown to have dramatic results. It transforms “B-level” drivers into “A-level” drivers overnight and brings down accident rates to unprecedented low levels. Focus on driver safety, not simply tracking, has been shown to reduce accident rates to a miniscule 0.22 per million miles driven.

A comprehensive system that combines immediate feedback to drivers with instant communication to fleet managers on items such as location, trends, compliance infractions and efficiency measures has been proven to quickly deliver unprecedented safety, accountability and ROI for users. Fleets can see such improvements1 as:

  • 73 percent increase in seatbelt usage

  • 86 percent reduction in speeding violations

  • 89 percent reduction in aggressive driving behaviors

  • 80 percent improvement in crash rates

  • 23 percent lower fuel consumption

Over hundreds of millions of miles driven, we have seen fleets that leverage technology that focuses on driver safety and incorporates fleet management programs, asset protection, automated compliance and reporting does more than bolster the bottom line—it helps organizations bring their workers home safely to their families.

Todd W. Follmer is CEO of inthinc Technology Solutions, Inc. (Salt Lake City, UT) inthinc™ Technology Solutions is a telematics company that has focused on innovative ideas and engineering expertise that lead the way in making safe-driving and fleet management technologies more beneficial and more accessible. Through sophisticated hardware, software, and industry insight, inthinc™ helps companies achieve significant savings through mentoring drivers to make fleet operations safer and far less costly. For more information, visit


  1. Data based on feedback from organizations using inthinc Technology Solutions real-time driver mentoring devices.