Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How GPS Fleet Tracking Can Improve Safety and Reduce Liability for Your Business

Companies that rely on vehicle fleets have unique costs associated with doing business. Mobile assets require significant capital investment. In addition, fuel and maintenance costs can take up a significant portion of a business's profit margin.

However, there are additional hidden costs that many fleet managers overlook in the course of doing business. Lack of proper safety measures for vehicle fleets can incur significant out-of-pocket expenses, increase liability and put lives in jeopardy.

Many companies find that installing GPS vehicle tracking on their fleet vehicles provides one sure way to improve safety. GPS tracking offers a wide variety of features and benefits that businesses with vehicle fleets can utilise to significantly improve their safety records and protect their business from undue costs.

The Focus on Safety

By improving the safety of drivers and vehicles, businesses can significantly reduce payouts for accidents and violations. Many business owners do not realise that the true cost of an accident is 2 to 10 times more than the direct cost of the accident.

  • The total cost of vehicle accidents include a variety of factors including:
  • Lost time by employees at the scene of the accident
  • Lost revenue because equipment is not producing income
  • Failure to fill orders or meet deadlines
  • Lost time by rescheduling missed jobs
  • Lost time on accident investigations and reports by management
  • Possible increased insurance premiums
  • Public relations damage

You may also be faced with the costs of replacing an injured driver. Costs include advertising the position, time spent in the application process, driver performance tests, drug screening, background checks, orientation, training and much more.

In addition, you will temporarily lose productivity as a new driver will not be as fast and efficient as a veteran driver. And even veteran drivers that do return to work after an accident injury will most likely not be at 100 percent right away.

Injured drivers can also lead to increased workers compensation claims and law suits. Losing claims can lead to significant settlement costs, as well as attorney fees and time spent defending the business.

Improving safety also limits your liability to claims from the public at large. Improper safety can obligate your business to pay damages to people injured in an accident and property damages. Settlement costs for hospitalisation, pain and suffering and other injuries can quickly spiral out of control and ruin your business.

By focusing on safety, your business can decrease insurance costs. An outstanding safety record can lower your risk to insurance providers which may result in lower premiums. In addition, many insurance companies offer rate reductions for additional safety equipment including GPS tracking devices.

A poor safety record may serve as a red flag to clients. Improper safety can result in interrupted service to clients and prompt them to search for other vendors. If your business has a great safety record it can help you keep client contracts and increase renewals.

Government Regulations

Government has long been a proponent of safety. In the UK, the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations lay out safety and maintenance requirements for work vehicles. And in Ireland, work vehicle safety is covered under the Safety, Health and Welfare Work Act 2005.

By law, every employer must make sure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

Unfortunately, accidents are simply an eventuality if you have a vehicle fleet. However, you can reduce your exposure to accidents and violation by utilising proven safety measures.

GPS vehicle tracking is a proven, cost-effective way for businesses with vehicle fleets to improve safety in the three areas that cost businesses the most: driver behaviour, vehicle maintenance and asset safety.

Improving Driver Behaviour and Reducing Speed

According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), 87.2 percent of all at-fault large truck crashes are driver related.

Even with the most aggressive driving policy, you cannot be out on the roadway with all your drivers ensuring proper safety compliance. GPS vehicle tracking has been found extremely useful in giving business owners the ability to monitor and improve driver behaviour.

Speeding is a factor in nearly 23 percent of all at-fault large truck crashes according to the LTCCS. By ensuring your drivers obey the posted speed limits, you can significantly decrease the chances of your vehicles being involved in a serious accident.

Many GPS tracking solutions track vehicle speed and offer extensive alerting features that notify you immediately when a driver has exceeded a speed threshold. These alerts can appear immediately on-screen, be sent via email or mobile phone, or can be flagged in management reports.

Speed alerts allow you to immediately take corrective actions toward the offending driver. In addition, you can access a database of speeding violations for drivers to find those that

continually break speeding policy. This allows you to take more long-term corrective actions to break continual bad driving habits.

Speeding was a major concern for Ian Stirling, owner of Ian Stirling Haulage. Based in Renfew, Ian Stirling Haulage has provided haulage services to its clients throughout Scotland for over 20 years.

Mr. Stirling installed a GPS system on his fleet that includes speeding alerts to notify him if a vehicle exceeds a set speed threshold. The alerts can be set to notify him immediately of an infraction and are also flagged throughout the system's management reports.

As a result of installing GPS tracking, Ian Stirling Haulage has drastically improved safety for its drivers.

"Drivers can sometimes get distracted out on the road," said Mr. Stirling. "GPS tracking helps them keep their speed down and has even changed their driving style."

Driver Confusion and Unauthorised Usage

According to the LTCCS, driver unfamiliarity with the roadway is a factor in 21.6 percent of all at-fault large truck crashes. GPS vehicle tracking solutions that include exceptional mapping functionality can help reduce driver confusion in unfamiliar areas.

GPS tracking systems that use concise mapping, like Google Maps API Premier, can help dispatchers provide proper routing instructions to drivers and get them safely to the next job site. In addition, good GPS tracking includes up-to-the-minute traffic information that can help drivers avoid accidents and other hazards on the roads.

Unauthorised vehicle use by employees opens your business up to a wide range of liability issues. Many businesses allow drivers to take their vehicles home and many even allow drivers to use their vehicles for limited personal use.

Unfortunately, some employees abuse this privilege and use their vehicles for extended unauthorised journeys. If a driver gets into an accident during one of these journeys, your business may be liable for significant financial obligations.

Some GPS tracking solutions feature alerts that notify you when a vehicle starts up or moves during unauthorised hours. In addition, some systems can show you historic route information, so you can see exactly where your vehicles travelled during any time. You will know exactly when an employee used the vehicle, how long they drove the vehicle and where they went.

The historic journey function can even show you if drivers take their vehicles to unauthorised areas during the regularly scheduled work day.

For example, Best Electrical, an electrical contractor based in London, uses GPS vehicle tracking to monitor excessive vehicle mileage and unauthorised vehicle usage on off-days.

According to Robert Ranson, Director of Operations, Best Electrical mainly services maintenance and emergency calls. Technicians are available 24/7, which requires that his engineers take the company vehicles home.

Unfortunately, that meant Mr. Ranson had no idea if the vehicles were being used for unauthorised journeys or if employees were arriving to their first job site on time.

With GPS vehicle tracking, Mr. Ranson can use live tracking to monitor the location and status of all eight vehicles in his fleet. In addition, activity alerts let Mr. Ranson know if an engineer shows up to their first job on time or if they left their house on time in the morning.

"We have significantly reduced personal use of our vehicles since the drivers know I monitor usage," said Mr. Ranson. "And for my own sanity, I now know that my engineers are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there."

Proof Against Fault

In addition to improving driver behaviour, GPS fleet tracking can be used as proof against fault in accidents and other claims.

Plote Construction Inc., a family-owned construction company based in the United States, used data gathered by its GPS tracking system to avoid serious financial liability resulting from an accident.

According to Eric Villa, Dispatcher at Plote Construction, one of Plote's trucks was involved in a serious accident two years ago. According to Plote's driver, a car was weaving in and out of traffic. The vehicle pulled in front of the truck and slammed on the breaks. The truck swerved to avoid hitting the car and the Plote driver lost control of the truck, rolling the semi over.

The driver of the car had a different story, claiming that the Plote driver was tailgating her and speeding over 110 km/h. Luckily, Mr. Villa had access to GPS tracking reports and could pull up the exact speed and location of their truck before the accident.

The report showed that Plote's driver never exceeded 110 km/h and was not driving aggressively. With this evidence submitted, Plote's driver was found innocent and the company avoided significant legal liabilities.

"Without the GPS tracking, we could have lost that case," said Mr. Villa. "It really worked out great for us."

In addition, Plote Construction often gets calls from customers complaining about cracks in their windshields caused by rocks that have fallen off the company's trucks. Mr. Villa is able to pull up the GPS route replay to see if a truck was in the area at the time and verify the complaint.

"Many of these types of complaints are blatantly false," said Mr. Villa. "When I tell the person that the GPS says no one was on that road at the time, they just hang up."

Proper Vehicle Maintenance

According to the LTCCS, just over 10 percent of all at-fault large truck crashes can be attributed specifically to vehicle factors. Improper vehicle maintenance can lead to accidents in several areas including breaks, tires, engine breakdowns and more.

High-quality GPS tracking solutions include maintenance scheduling that alerts you when vehicles are due for maintenance. Many times, alerts can be set by calendar time, engine on-time or mileage depending on the type of service needed.

With a proactive vehicle maintenance program, you can reduce the chance of your vehicles malfunctioning on the roadways and causing serious accidents. In addition, properly maintained vehicles help save your assets by keeping vehicles on the road to do more business and costing less money in repairs over time.

Protecting Your Mobile Assets

A much-often neglected aspect of safety is the protection of your own assets. Safeguarding your vehicles against theft is essential to prevent serious harm to your business. Stolen vehicles cost more than just the loss of the vehicle itself.

Most stolen vehicles also carry expensive and specialised equipment that must be replaced. In addition, a stolen vehicle means lowered productivity which may ultimately result in losing customers. GPS vehicle tracking provides clear benefits for asset safety.

Engine start-up alerts can be triggered to immediately notify you when vehicles are started during non-working hours. With up-to-the-minute tracking by high-quality GPS providers, you will know exactly where any stolen vehicle is located. Just by looking at the screen you can tell officers on the case where to look for your vehicle.

In addition, many high-quality tracking solutions have a route replay feature which can help you track down stolen equipment. In many cases, equipment from a stolen vehicle is unloaded before the vehicle is recovered.

With route replay, you can see where the vehicle stopped on its journey after being stolen and have police search those areas for the stolen equipment.

Signature Car Hire in Middlesex, UK offers a wide variety of prestigious vehicles for hire and utilizes its GPS tracking system to protect its assets. When your vehicle fleet includes brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Rolls Royce, security becomes a top priority.

Deepak Bhatia, Managing Director of Signature Car Hire, knows the exact location of every vehicle in his fleet using GPS tracking. This is especially useful considering that their vehicles are very expensive and highly desirable to would-be thieves.

"We highly value the peace of mind we get from knowing where all our cars are at any given time," said Mr. Bhatia. "We get an enhanced feeling of security from GPS because the system offers many functions which are beneficial to our business."

The GPS system used by Signature Car Hire notifies the company if a vehicle goes outside areas specified for client use. For example, if a client says they are in Cardiff but the GPS tracking shows the vehicle located in Scotland, Mr. Bhatia can closely monitor the client and contact them for clarification.

In addition, should a vehicle move to a port - a sure sign of possible theft in progress - Mr. Bhatia would know immediately and be able to contact authorities for quick action.

Finding the Right GPS Tracking for Safety

Businesses all over the world are now using GPS vehicle tracking to improve the safety of their vehicle fleets. With new regulatory enforcement on the horizon and the prospect of losing your business to safety violations, it's more important than ever for businesses to take a long hard look at how GPS tracking can further improve their safety record.

There is no doubt that GPS tracking can help your company improve the safety of your vehicle fleet. However, there are a few things you should look for when choosing a GPS tracking system for safety reasons:

  • Live Vehicle Tracking: Some GPS systems refresh vehicle locations at intervals up to 5 minutes. That allows too much time to elapse for a thief to be accurately tracked. The best systems refresh every minute to provide you with accurate, current tracking data.
  • Tracking Speed: The GPS solution you choose should have the capability to track vehicle speed. In addition, the system should alert you when drivers exceed speed thresholds you set.
  • Management Reports: A comprehensive reporting suite is essential for any great GPS tracking solution. The reports should highlight any improper driver behavior, including unauthorised usage and speeding. In addition, reports can provide you with accurate, location-based information that can stand up in the court of law should you ever need to defend your business.
  • Alerts: Make sure the GPS system you install has robust alerting features. Alerts should be customisable with various delivery options including email, mobile and within the reporting functions of the system. You should be able to set alerts for when a vehicle is started or shut down and when a vehicle enters a specific point of interest.
  • Route Replay: A good GPS tracking system will include the ability to track any historic journey taken by any vehicle. This allows you to see where any stolen vehicle has travelled in order to recover any stolen equipment dropped by the thieves.
  • Maintenance Scheduling: Choose a GPS solution that includes a complete maintenance program. You should be able to set vehicle maintenance based on calendar time, engine on time or mileage as needed.

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