The Best Fleet Partners Convert Data into Intelligence

By Wayne Smolda, CEO and Founder

A few months ago, Automotive Fleet magazine ran a story with the heading “Too Much Information? The Dangers of Data Drowning.” It said that since the 1970s, fleet managers have seen data about their operations increase “from a trick to a torrent,” and asked how they can separate useful data from noise.

It’s true that fleet managers are drowning in data and that fleet services providers are responsible for generating more if it every day. But it’s important to acknowledge the strides that a number of providers have already made to resolve the problem, and that more efforts are in the works.

For example, at CEI we’ve made a significant investment to recreate ClaimsLink™, our core online accident management application. We’re also preparing to create the next generation DriverCare™, our fleet safety and risk management application. The current releases of each have helped turn fleet data into actionable information for years, but the new versions will mine that data in new ways, providing drivers and managers with more robust information. Both projects are the result of close cooperation with our customers, who communicate with us on issues like the ones raised in this article, as well as many others.

It’s to the mutual advantage of providers in this industry and their fleet customers to work closely together to identify what data is actionable, and how that data should be presented to get the maximum value out of it.

Rain: A Spring Driving Danger

By Wayne Smolda, CEO and Founder

Road fatalities are 40 percent higher during inclement weather.

Spring showers make more than flowers bloom. They also make roads more dangerous.

Studies show that, hour-for-hour, more accidents occur when it’s raining than when skies are clear. In fact, some studies say accident rates double in the rain, and that traffic fatalities are 40 percent higher than when roads are dry.

There are two reasons: rainwater mixes with oil that passing traffic sprinkles onto the road surface, creating a super-slippery coating; and puddles that cause tires to float just above the pavement. That rain-oil mix is most dangerous when it first starts to rain, because there hasn’t been enough rainfall to dilute and wash it away. It’s even more of a hazard after a long dry spell, because there’s more oil on the road. So, if you live in a dry climate, you need to be extra-cautious driving in the rain.

Make sure that when it rains, you follow these steps to keep yourself safe:

  • Slow down.
  • Put more distance between you and other vehicles.
  • Use your headlights so other drivers see you better.
  • Be less aggressive when passing, turning and braking.
  • Keep your windshield fog-free.

Reminder: Make sure your tires are properly inflated in the warm weather, as blowouts are more common in extreme heat and cold.

Headlights Are for Being Seen as Much as Seeing

By Wayne Smolda, CEO and Founder

Knowing when to use your headlights is as obvious as the difference between night and day, right. Not necessarily.

Headlights really have two purposes. One is to see where you’re going. The other is so every other person sharing the road – other vehicles and pedestrians – knows where you are. So other than at night, when you should you turn on your headlights?

The short answer is any time somebody might have trouble seeing your vehicle. To make the decision a non-issue, some manufacturers equip their vehicles with daytime running lights that are always on. But if that’s not the way your vehicle works, here are some guidelines to help you make your own decisions:

Twilight hours. The half-hour before dawn and after sundown are the most difficult times for drivers to see details and judge distances. Your headlights are a good antidote.

In the rain. Many states require you to turn your headlights on any time your windshield wipers are working. Whatever the law is where you live, it’s harder to see in the rain. Best to turn the headlights on when the skies darken enough without a drop falling.

In fog. Fog lights can really help, but if you don’t have them, use your headlight low beams. High beams will make your presence easier to detect, but make it harder for you to see the road ahead.

In traffic jams. Here the advantage is in protection from the rear. Headlights on means the tail lights are on, too, and that can help the driver behind you be alert to how close he or she is to you. And if you’re approaching a jam ahead, a great idea is to switch on your four-way flashers to signal that you’re slowing down a lot.

In the brightest sunshine. This may seem nonsensical, but here’s the reason: Bright sunlight can cause blinding reflections in drivers’ eyes, from other cars and reflections off their dashboards back onto their windshield glass. Headlights can help cut through that glare so that others can see you.

Training Alone Doesn’t Make a Safety Culture

We heard this story a few years back from a safety consultant:

A company that moved into new offices found that its maintenance people were having an unusual number of accidents changing light bulbs. Since they were falling off ladders, the company decided to give them all additional training in how to use ladders.

But after the training sessions, too many of their maintenance men were still falling off their ladders. After looking into the problem more closely they discovered the problem. In the new offices, the ceilings were higher and the ladders were too short. They bought taller ladders and the accident rate quickly went back to normal.

The safety consultant we heard this from said that training is the most frequently suggested solution to reducing accidents, but that many times is not the answer.

We know that driver safety training has its benefits. CEI has heard from more than one driver that one of our lessons taught them something that enabled them to avoid an accident. But we also know that a lack of knowledge isn’t the only reason people have accidents. The main reason is bad driving habits.

So the real way to reduce fleet accidents is to break those habits and change driver behavior. And it can be done. CEI’s DriverCare Risk Manager is a tool that many fleets have used to drive down their accident rates by as much 20 to 30 percent. Training is one component. But there are others, including maintaining current files on driver behavior (for example, their recent history of accidents and motor vehicle violations), scoring them on a scale of risk according to that behavior, and automatically delivering consequences when their score breaks pre-defined risk thresholds.

One of the consequences, by the way, is training – either online, behind the wheel, or both. But fleet and safety managers can also assign training pro-actively, to remind drivers both that safety matters and the right way to drive.

Companies that have low accident rates often have in place a strong “safety culture.” That’s a company-wide value system in which safety is a way of doing business. It starts with commitment from the top levels of management, and it’s reinforced by successive levels all the way down, in both face-to-face communications and every other communication mode. Safety training is a part of a safety culture, but adding training alone to a company with a weak safety culture is probably not enough to make a serious and sustained difference.

Fleet Executive of the Year – A Red Badge of Courage

By Wayne Smolda, CEO and Founder

Every Springtime we all head off to the annual NAFA Conference and name the new year’s Fleet Manager of the Year  and also the senior organizational leader who has helped the fleet management profession as the Fleet Executive of The Year. I am happy to announce the name of the winner and have CEI and DriverCare be the co-sponsor of this award with Fleet Financials magazine.

I personally do not choose the winner, but I am proud to announce the name at the opening breakfast meeting of the NAFA Conference. I will, however, take credit for promoting and formulating the nature and cause for this award. To me this recognizes the efforts of those not in fleet management who have served as a guiding mentor to fleet managers whose duty is to oversee the fleet transportation needs of their organizations. Fleet managers can’t arbitrarily decide the issues for fleet within their organizations. They need the counsel and input from senior leaders who shape fleet strategy as it pertains to the goals of the entity to be served.

Fleet executives provide representation as well to the very top of the organization so that the fleet management practices performed for the entity can be best appreciated to those at the top of the organization. Generally, the fleet executives who are vetted for this award are also responsible for other important areas of management, and this award is an expression of our appreciation for their efforts.

This will be our 11th year of presenting someone with the “Red Badge of Courage”. I look forward to making this award for many years to come. It truly is a duty that I and our teams at CEI and DriverCare are very proud to be a part of. Congrats to all who participate and especially to our named winners.