An Eye in the Cab for Safety

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DS Waters

In this age of distracted driving and new federal rules, fleet operators face a heightened challenge: How can they know and control what is happening in the cabs of their trucks?

Ignorance could be expensive and dangerous. Commercial vehicle drivers and fleet operators who fail to comply with the recent federal ban on the use of handheld phones, issued in November by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, can be fined.

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a broader ban, applying to all drivers, on “nonemergency use of personal electronic devices,” other than those meant to support driving (see “Insurers, Suppliers as Partners,” p. 28).

Distracted drivers also present a safety hazard on the road.

Managers of some light- and medium-duty truck fleets that have been using driver monitoring systems in an effort to operate more safely said they are looking to the technology to help them comply with the ban on handheld phones.

Driver monitoring technology can help a manager identify unsafe driving practices that need correcting.

Hard braking, sudden acceleration and sharp turning are actions that driver monitoring technology is designed to detect and record. The information then can be used for remedial training, fleet managers and vendors of monitoring systems said. The goal is to reinforce safe driving practices and reduce the number of accidents and the costs associated with them.

DS Waters of America Inc., Atlanta, a water and beverage delivery company, runs a fleet that includes about 1,670 delivery trucks fitted with monitoring units by DriveCam, San Diego.

The fleet has been using the system for more than five years, and Michael Belcher, safety director for DS Waters, said that it helped reduce the fleet’s automotive liability costs by 40% over a 24-month period. DS Waters ranks No. 65 on the Light & Medium Truck 2011 Top 100 Commercial Fleets.

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