During IntelliShift’s ConnectedOps Virtual Event, solutions expert, Matt Aspinwall, discusses the current challenges to fleet vehicle maintenance, safety, and best practices for driver and maintenance groups. He steps through the process of using a connected operations solution, organizations to improve fleet safety and efficiency.
Below is the transcript of this session. You can also watch the session and view all sessions from ConnectedOps 2020.
Matt Aspinwall: So, thank you everyone for joining today. My name is Matt Aspinwall, Program Manager with IntelliShift, and today I plan to discuss best practices in fleet vehicle management, fleet maintenance, and safety, and how a connected operations solution can help assist in operating a safer and a more efficient fleet.
To get started with today, we’ll first go through some common current challenges in the fleet safety space, best practices for your driver and maintenance groups, how IntelliShift can support your driver and asset policies, and after some recap time, we’ll discuss some Q&A. Please use the chat box to ask any questions, and we’ll answer those towards the end of our call today.
Before we go into best practices, let’s first cover some of the common challenges in the fleet safety space today, starting with driver shortages. Driver shortages are fairly commonplace at the moment, with commercial drivers averaging around about 55 years of age, we’re experiencing more and more drivers retiring and not necessarily being replaced as readily by younger generations. Next along, DoT compliance can be a challenge, maintaining compliance with the ELD mandate and other state and federal guidelines can be a bit of a difficult topic for a lot of fleets, and distracted driving is also a big concern for fleet and asset safety when a driver’s attention is not necessarily on the road ahead of them, but potentially focusing on something else like a distraction within the vehicle or potentially looking to their daily workload.
Additionally, fatigue where longer-duration trips or out-of-hours work occurs can also contribute to driver and vehicle operator safety issues, as well as driving with undocumented issues or dealing with ongoing maintenance expenses. So, when dealing with older fleets, for example, they are more expensive to maintain, and more prone to breakdown. So, as we move through the presentation today, we’ll touch on some of these topics again and how a connected operations solution, such as IntelliShift, can help address some of these challenges.
So, first off, let’s discuss best practices for overcoming some of these. The below steps are applicable to both your driver and maintenance groups, and then after touching on some of these topics, we’ll talk about how IntelliShift can assist. So, first off, when working on your driver safety policy, you need to establish a written policy that can be shared throughout your organization which covers expected actions and standard actions for both drivers and mechanics. Secondly, after establishing your written policy, create a separate, or secondary, reactive exception-based reporting process to help determine how your organization can handle incidents and violations as they occur. Next, with those two policies down and drafted, introduce training and coaching opportunities to help improve your driver policy engagement, and then offer incentives tied directly to policy engagement. And, lastly, foster really a safety-first environment where the safe operation of company assets and vehicles comes first. Going through these items now, we’ll discuss them first from a driver’s perspective, and then from a mechanic policy perspective.
When establishing your company driver policy, you should clearly outline responsibilities and expectations like the observation of traffic laws; routine pre- and post-trip inspections to ensure that defects or issues are corrected and addressed in a timely manner; create a distinction between personal and company responsibilities, for example, who is responsible for fines accrued while driving, or for maintenance cycles completed out of schedule? And then, finally, when drafting this policy, you need to clearly outline unacceptable behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated or potentially texting while driving.
Establishing these policies isn’t really the end, however. So, once the driver policy is created, regular review of exceptions and incidents is vital to calibrate and update your driver policy throughout your company’s operation. With IntelliShift Inspect, drivers have access to quick, exception-based reporting solutions where you can create, for example, templates covering items like your standard pre- and post-trip inspections, exception-based collision reporting, job site violations if your drivers are frequently working on additional, external job sites, and even COVID-19 asset stations to ensure that your drivers are safe and healthy before operating company assets. These templates provide drivers an opportunity to report incidents as they occur with safety managers having control over the kinds of input that they can provide, including items like text, photos, signature capture, and potentially some other relevant content. Should pencil-whipping be a concern for some of these exceptions or standard DVIR reports, you can also use Inspect’s photo capture functionality to require live images be taken from the device, rather than using pre-existing photos from the phone or tablet gallery.
Once an exception is reported, you can act on it quickly using the Inspect dashboard to identify type and amount of inspections which have been reported and issues can even be shared with external parties for sign-off if needed. Once your exception has been handled, you can also ensure your company driver policy is updated if necessary, so as not to be caught unaware of similar issues in the future.
One of the biggest challenges in instituting your driver safety policy and identifying these exceptions, however, is maintaining driver engagement. So, how do you engage a driver with company policy so that that safety component is approached collaboratively and proactively rather than negatively and reactionary? So, one of the first steps would be establishing a driver score card system with a clear set of metrics and vitally ensure that your driver has a solid grasp on how their actions can impact their overall driver score. Next, approach performance issues as a training initiative rather than a personnel challenge. How did the incident occur, and what can you possibly do to minimize that kind of incident or the risk of that incident in the future? Gather feedback from your drivers so that you can calibrate your expectations.
For example, if a driver shows a high frequency of hard braking-style events, ask your driver about road conditions. What was happening on the road at that point in time that caused that increase in hard braking events? Was it possibly due to fatigue from long drive hours? Distractions in the cab? Stress from meeting other workloads? Or, just an inattentive drive not really giving full attention to the road in front of them? Importantly, if some of these distractions are caused by components that are accessible to the driver within their cab, potentially consider how you could maybe minimize this kind of activity by calibrating and adjusting your driver policy in the future. And then finally, with regards to coaching, remember that safety is a goal; it’s not a milestone, it’s a mindset, and when speaking with your drivers, you should reinforce this mindset and show them that your organization takes their safety – their personal safety and that of those around them – very seriously.
With your clear policy established and active coaching steps being taken, you also need to ensure adequate incentivization to maintain that policy and engagement. With driver shortages continuing, you want to ensure that you’re retaining your best drivers and improve your baseline policy adherence. Incentives to do this can vary from organization to organization, but some of the most effective types of incentives are company recognition, for example, whether this is on a bulletin board, through a group communication such as an email or a newsletter, or even a driver of the month award, championing your best performers helps set expectations for good and excellent performance, and sets an example within the organization of the kind of behavior you wish to see encouraged.
Next along, celebrate the major milestones of achievements of your drivers as well, whether these are birthdays, anniversaries, or going above and beyond on some additional workload, recognize these milestones and show your drivers that they’re valued members of your organization to help reinforce that company engagement. Next along, introduce some kind of bonus incentive, whether this is for meeting regular delivery or workload goals, or for ensuring adequate safety and reducing the number of safety violations. And then, finally, consider offering some tangible rewards as well, whether through some kind of a reward catalogue or in the form of company shirts, plaques, or trophies, offer something tangible that shows recognition of efforts that can serve as a constant physical reminder of the driver’s positive record both for themselves and for their peers as well.
And then, finally, once that policy is in place, you’ve had some active coaching and calibration of your policy, again, re-establish that message within your organization that safety comes first, always. Your drivers need to be always aware that their safety, and that of those on the road around them, has priority over other tasks. Should a choice come become risky driving maneuvers or a delayed order, ensure that the safe operation of your vehicle is clearly understood as coming first, and if a driver does spot a possible vehicle issue, leave no doubt that it should be reported and handled before operation of the vehicle or any other additional workload.
With driver policy wrapped up, we’ll now move into the same set of policy best practices, but covering them from a maintenance perspective instead. So, just recapping these again, first off, we have the establishment of a written policy covering expected actions from your mechanic group. Secondly, create a reactive, exception-based reporting process that you can use to cover what they should do when something unexpected happens within their day-to-day. Third along, introduce coaching and training opportunities to ensure that your mechanics are aware of expectations and how they can meet them. And then, offer incentives, ranging again, from company recognition to more tangible benefits, this could be, again, just some internal plaque or maybe even a company t-shirt, something that serves as a constant reminder of the kind of behavior you wish to see in your organization. And then lastly, again, foster that safety first environment, where that safe operation of company assets comes first in all things.
When working on establishing your vehicle maintenance policy, there’s several key items that should be clarified for your mechanics as well. So, when establishing this policy, first introduce a set of preventative maintenance schedules based on your manufacturer’s recommendations or any other OEM equipment that you might be working with. IntelliShift can also assist here by creating a service schedule board that will help prioritize your tasks according to urgency and their due dates by mileage, dates, or engine hour intervals to ensure that any of your asset maintenance is being scheduled in the most accurate and efficient manner.
Secondly, create a routine vehicle inspection, which should be handled throughout your driver policy as a part of the DVIR, their pre-trips and post-trip inspections; however, outside of these routine daily inspections, you should consider establishing a regular preventative maintenance schedule on some set interval as well to ensure that your daily inspections are not missing some deeper issues that could be maybe not visible on the surface. Next along, document your vehicle service activity so that you can ensure all of your items are being handled on schedule and minor issues are not being overlooked throughout the vehicle service process. Keeping track of a detailed trail of activities in a centralized repository, like IntelliShift for example, can also help you significantly speed up your investigation and claims processes whenever incidences do arrive with your vehicles. And, finally, for your vehicle maintenance policy, you need to establish a vehicle replacement plan.
As vehicles age and wear increases, so too do the maintenance costs you’re experiencing, and with IntelliShift’s set of vehicle service reporting tools, you can pretty easily make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles to identify which are becoming too costly to maintain, and which are maybe a little bit less expensive to maintain due to their age or the manner in which they’re being operated. Within your vehicle replacement policy, document the appropriate moment for replacing and modernizing your vehicles to ensure you’re running a safe and efficient fleet, whether this is based off of a number of defects that are being reported, or simply the age or the odometer of your vehicles; plan for a sunset point.
When introducing your vehicle maintenance policy, you should also ensure that you’re establishing a set of reporting tools here to accurately monitor preventative and reactionary maintenance. With IntelliShift Operations IQ for example, you can even create custom dashboards, allowing you to compare seemingly unrelated data points to help you form additional conclusions, like miles or hours driven, maybe compared to the number of completed service tasks or even failed inspections to help you identify trends in your predictive maintenance planning.
Collisions and maintenance issues will inevitably occur; however, tying back to our driver policy exception reporting earlier, you could utilize the IntelliShift Inspect platform to enable immediate reporting of these incidents as they occur so a mechanic can review the description, images, and potentially even diagnostic trouble codes from the vehicle before the vehicle even physically arrives onsite. Should this incident then require an external party as well, an issue ticket can be sent via email, allowing outside mechanics limited visibility into that specific issue, as well as mechanisms to either report resolutions or update your ticket with additional context. Once resolved, that detailed trail of activities that was taken to handle that incident can also be taken out to help review your policy to ensure that you’re handling in your tasks in compliance with policy and document any exceptions for your exception reporting process later down the line.
So, with regards to mechanic training, the automotive space sees constant evolution as new features and components are being introduced over time, and keeping your skillset relevant as a mechanic takes some additional effort. Ensure that your mechanics also have access to additional materials and offer support in developing new skills. This can, again, vary, depending on the kinds of materials and the equipment that you’re working with, but some good starting points here would be encouraging technical training, whether this is through formal programs or online classes, supporting relevant industry certifications such as ASE, providing industry magazines and newsletters, and housing vehicle manuals and technology references in some central location easily accessible to your mechanics. Outside of keeping up with your education initiatives, mechanic incentives should also be offered. Incentivizing on-time maintenance cycles and incident reporting is pretty vital for ensuring ongoing fleet safety. Our suggestions from earlier for driver policies still ring true here, by offering company recognition, mechanics that handle maybe less recurring incidents or have better on-time occurring maintenance schedules should be identified and raised throughout your organization as an example of the kinds of behavior you’d like to see; celebrating major milestones and achievements, such as completing up-fitting and rebranding of a new batch of company vehicles, would also be very helpful; introducing bonuses tied to on-time PM completion and lower incident report rates would be a good step, and finally, consider offering appropriate rewards, such as plaques, certificates, or company swag for mechanics that have better on-time PM completion and lower incident report rates.
And again, the final best practice for ensuring preventative and reactive maintenance results in safety improvements is to foster that safety-first mentality. Re-establish and echo the constant need for the consideration of safety within your group of mechanics and drivers to ensure that your assets are being operated efficiently and that issues are not arising that would be otherwise unexpected.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the best practices, we’re going to start looking specifically into some of the tools that IntelliShift provides to help ensure compliance and engagement with your vehicle policies. These will be a driver scorecard report, some of our SD camera functionality, the Inspect platform, and our vehicle service module.
So, safety needs differ across organizations. IntelliShift offers a driver scorecard system in this case, which enables you to create driver scorecards that could be company-wide or specific to a certain region or category of driver. This system allows balancing of several factors that are based on your organizations unique needs, including items like excessive engine idle; traveling over a predetermined maximum speed; traveling over the posted speed limit; rapid acceleration; and hard braking. Each scorecard set up here allows fine-tuning of parameters to ensure that we’re really only aggregating the kinds of events that would be in breach of your policies and weigh them according to your policy severity. For example, if speeding is more significant than idling in your policy, have that impact your driver policy score more than idle events.
After this, the introduction of a driver scorecard event allows measurement of policy adherence over a broad group of drivers and operators. By expanding on scorecard components, you can provide specific context to each incident as it occurs, helping drivers calibrate their own performance. In the case of our middle-of-the-road driver here, Vinny, he shows a score of 64, there’s definitely some room for improvement here, but from his report, we see 14 unique hard braking and 22 rapid acceleration events. This indicates to us that he has a bit of a lead foot, accelerates with far too much force, and routinely has to hard brake, which could be either from his excessive acceleration or riding too close to other vehicles. Knowing in these cases the timing and location of these events helps provide context to help avoid such issues in the future, but importantly, we can also see from this report that Vinny doesn’t have any excessive idle time or speeding of any kind, so there’s factors to improve on, but Vinny himself is not necessarily in breach of company policy in every component here.
With our Fleet IQ dashboard, the same scorecard data can be viewed holistically rather than driver-specifically. So, from here, we can provide aggregated data showing, in this case, data spanning a pretty broad range of time, three months here, and this trending data allows us to identify that our overall scores is 76.7, which has been fairly steady since August with a bit of a dip in September, and using this system here, we can also identify what’s causing this dip. So, an overall increase of violations, specifically hard braking and acceleration, have had over 2,000 unique events each, indicating that these are really prime candidates for policy revision and calibration.
Outside of this real-time and post-dated dashboard information, our real-time alerting system also allows the dispatch of alerts by text or email, should certain pre-conditions be met like speeding, hard driving, or even diagnostic trouble codes. Should you identify an area for improvement, like excessive idle time, for example, you can even set up alerts to your drivers with separate triggers, potentially warning them of these events on a different interval from your driver policy. So, for example, if a driver policy has a ten-minute idle limit in place, you could set up a five-minute idle alert to your drivers, and dispatch those alerts directly to the driver. This real-time delivery mechanism not only allows for quicker resolution of issues, but also self-correction when it’s automated and is delivered to your driver directly. When setting up these alerts, we have the ability to dispatch them out to either email addresses or to a driver’s phone number through their carrier and phone entry.
Outside of this, should a reportable incident occur, our integrated camera solution can also create a video snapshot and deliver it over the air within minutes for review. So, when we’re coaching drivers for specific improvements, videos can actually be exported and delivered by email, or by removing the lock-secure SD card from the camera. This helps provide valuable context to drivers’ scorecard reports by allowing drivers to calibrate their performance to the prior video event, enabling a better understanding of the acceptable force and acceleration, deceleration, and turning. And, importantly, you’ll notice here, if an event type occurs without the requisite G-forces, you’ll have the ability to create an on-demand video request requesting any video event from the camera, noting that about 1-2 weeks’ worth of video data is typically stored.
Outside of this, should damages occur regardless of the driver’s best efforts, so if there is an event that needs to be followed up on, and there’s some kind of collision or damages, our Inspect solution allows quick digital reporting of events through a highly customizable template system. With this, you’ll have the ability to create your own DVIR or incident reports with customizable checklists, photo, or signature capture requirements so that when an issue is reported, you can view that pretty quickly as well as monitor the real-time status and even share that real-time information with mechanics through our information dispatch feature. As you’ll note here on the right-hand side as well, we’ll keep a full trail and a full audit log for any future reference points.
Outside of this, so once our issues are reported and your exception policy has identified some challenges, our dedicated vehicle service solution allows the monitoring of preventative maintenance schedules and the tracking of these exceptional items all in the one schedule view. With this, we’ll prioritize items according to severity and their due dates, whether they’re due by engine hours, a specific date, or a mileage requirement. So, all of your exceptional and routine tasks can be tracked here, and your mechanics will have the ability to update work orders with valuable insights, like labor hours, labor costs, parts, and even some additional notes there, and if necessary, once that task is created, your mechanics will also have the option to create a repetition rate for recreating that task again down the line, either for further review, or just for continual processing for items like oil changes.
And then finally, within our vehicle service platform, should a trouble code occur, IntelliShift tracks and alerts on all trouble code activity, including a detailed description of the possible issues that are occurring, whether they’re based on OBD or J1939 libraries.
With that, I think we’ll hand over to Q&A if there are any questions. So, I will close out, and thank you all very much for your time.
Watch the video of this session, “Best Practices in Safety and Fleet Maintenance.”
View all sessions from ConnectedOps 2020.