John Mackey got in touch with me the other day about one my columns, the one detailing the tragic backing up accident wherein a 3-year old girl got killed by a medium-duty refuse vehicle.
John's flacking a system called the Macbox III, which, in short, offers a variety of stuff in one package -- GPS, video recording of vehicle/driver behavior, blind spot sensors, data capture, etc. Right now, his company is working with an insurance firm in New York to equip limo fleets with this technology, enabling them to get a 10% reduction on their insurance.
All the self-interest aside (and if you want to talk to John about his product some more, drop him a line at [email protected]), he made some good points that I think need to be examined.
First, since 2000, the kinds of technology needed to capture and record vehicle data in real time has been getting extremely cheap. Second, insurance premiums have gone way, way up since 9/11 in transportation and probably won't decline in our lifetimes. Third, the roads are getting more crowded and thus harder to safely navigate.
And, finally, drivers not only need their performance to be downloaded and analyzed every day for safety reasons, they need a 'silent witness' if you will to back up them up -- especially in the case of an accident.
"The issue today is that the risk exposure of road operations is large and getting larger -- and having no way to know what's going on with your vehicle while it's on the road is like owning a high rise that doesn't have a sprinkler system," John told me.
"What fleets need to do is control the exposure -- not necessarily the driver," he added. "You need to make decisions based on facts. If a driver is exceeding the speed limit or making several panic braking stops per day, you need to know that so you can go to the driver and look at several things: do they need more training? Or are they overloaded with work, so they end up racing from one delivery to the next?"
More importantly for drivers, this kind of technoloogy shouldn't necessarily be viewed as having 'Big Brother' in the cab.
"If a driver says he got cut off, which is why he crashed into another vehicle, the video will show that," John told me. "And, on the other hand, if it shows the fleet's driver was at fault, both the fleet and the insurer know now to seek settlement -- that prevents a case from dragging on for years."
If you can improve a driver's skills, give them the ability to view their 'blind spots' via video or sensors, and even work an insurance deduction into the works, all with one system, that's got to have some value over time for a fleet, I think.