Trucks at Work

The safety data bucket issue

So I spent some time with some of the good folks from United Parcel Service and Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems this week out at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH, participating in several truck safety system demonstrations.

[You can watch some of those tests in action below or by clicking here.]

In the course of things, I got to talk to T.J. Thomas – recently named director of corporate marketing at Bendix – about an ongoing issue when it comes to managing safety, one that he referred to as the “two bucket” situation.

On the one hand, all the new safety systems now available in trucking generate what Thomas (seen at right in the white shirt talking to veterna UPS Freight driver Paul Savill) describes as “event data” – that’s the first and most important “bucket” of data when it comes to such technologies.

“Every fleet wants event data because that’s what’s going to tell you what really happened if a crash occurs – especially if that data can help exonerate both driver and fleet,” he told me.

Now, a lot of motor carriers and drivers also rightly worry about such “event data” solidly affixing the blame for truck-car collisions on their shoulders, but in actuality, the fault for such crashes lies solidly with car drivers.

Indeed, a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that car drivers are the ones at fault for triggering truck-car crashes about 75% of the time.

Thus, in two-thirds of such cases, event data is going to prove truck drivers and their fleets aren’t responsible for such collisions – a powerful ally to have in your corner in light of our ever more litigious society.

Yet Bendix’s Thomas stressed to me that it’s the second safety data “bucket” that fleets really need to stay on top of: the one labeled “continuous data.”

“All of these systems will record a continuous stream of incidents: hard braking, violent maneuvering, speeding, etc., during normal operations,” he explained. “The critical point is that fleets can’t just ignore that data: they need to act upon it, to intervene in some documented fashion to correct the driving behaviors that lead to such incidents.”

The reason why is no surprise, as it again relates back to litigation.

“If a lawyer sees that safety technology recorded a driver’s hard braking incidents over a period of time before they became involved in a crash, they’ll look back over that data and point out that you were not taking corrective action,” Thomas said.

Yet he emphasized that such “continuous data” really should not be feared – rather, it needs to be constructively acted upon.

“It’s about fleets understanding that they need to put processes in place for managing that continuous stream of safety data – they can’t just forget about it,” Thomas noted. “It also can significantly help boost the safety profile of their operations and their drivers as well if it is used properly.”

Advice well worth keeping in mind as more and more safety technology gets deployed into the trucking arena.

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