Digital Truck Winter

Tech tips for fleets to nip Jack Frost

Dec. 24, 2019
Leveraging the tech found in the cab can better prepare drivers for winter weather and improve safety.

By Ryan Reading, VP of Engineering, Samsara

For fleets across the United States, winter isn’t coming—it’s already here. With increased snowfall, a higher volume of deliveries, and longer, darker days, winter can threaten your fleet’s safety.

According to the Department of Transportation, trucking companies and commercial vehicle operators lose an estimated 32.6 billion vehicle hours each year due to weather-related incidents like road closures, safety-related incidents, and traffic delays. Of the nearly six million reported vehicle collisions each year, almost a quarter of those collisions are weather-related. With harsh conditions and longer, darker days, drivers are certainly at a higher risk of getting into a safety-related incident on the road during the winter months.

Tips for winter preparedness often focus on the vehicle itself—things like making sure trucks stay clean and maintained or getting stocked up on winterized fuel. But what’s often overlooked is the importance of preparing drivers when it comes to surviving this time of year.

How can transportation companies do this? Luckily, there are a number of different ways. From increased driver communication to specialized training and coaching, here are four recommendations for how to make sure fleets can stay safe throughout the winter:

1)   Safety first, above all else. At the end of the day, drivers are the most important asset of any transportation company. It’s important they feel supported in making safe decisions when it comes to inclement weather. To do this, reiterate that harsher conditions will require them to follow the basics like slowing down and packing items like blankets or emergency kits. And, if the weather is particularly bad, immediately message them to get off the road. Even if there are costs associated with missed delivery deadlines, it’s likely nothing compared to the insurance costs associated with a safety-related incident or the cost of driver turnover.

2)    Be prepared with fleet management software. Winter presents a lot of unique challenges that fleets might not have been able to plan for as well 20+ years ago — things like insights into weather conditions across multiple regions or vehicle tracking. But now, fleet managers can invest in innovative technologies to combat these problems.

For example, they can view overlayed weather radar on live maps to increase visibility and route drivers around dangerous weather conditions. They can also receive real-time alerts to a management dashboard in the event of a safety-related incident. This kind of technology not only gives fleet managers more control during unpredictable conditions, it can also strengthen the relationship between drivers and managers by building trust through communication.

3)    Improve incident response with smart dash cams. Dash cams allow fleet managers to identify driving behavior trends and quickly pinpoint and respond to high-risk drivers. For example, one of Samsara’s customers, DF Carrier, had a driver lose control on an icy highway last winter before sliding into a ditch. While the driver wasn’t able to use their cell phone due to lack of reception, Samsara dash cams recognized the harsh event, automatically uploaded the footage to the cloud, and alerted the manager who pinpointed the truck’s location and sent help.

Distracted driving behaviors are what commonly cause these kinds of safety-related incidents. These can be better monitored and detected by using AI enabled dash cams, and fleet managers can review this footage without delay. In some cases, dash cams can also be used for in-cab coaching via driver alerts during periods of unsafe driving.

4) Coach and train drivers proactively. While it’s a good idea for fleets to implement robust safety and training programs year-round, it’s important to double down on them this time of year. Adjust your standard curriculum to include weather-related tips like the appropriate gear to stay warm and prevent slipping on ice during deliveries.

Be sure to also make your data actionable. One way to do this is by reviewing existing drivers’ safety reports, identifying those with a history of safety-related incidents during other seasons, and prioritizing them for additional training. Similarly, if you’re onboarding contract drivers to handle deliveries during the holiday rush, you can train them quickly and effectively by pulling Hyperlapse videos (perhaps of prior winter-related incidents) from dash cameras and use them to reiterate what could have been done differently.

Making sure your drivers are trained and prepared to handle winter’s difficult driving conditions will not only make your fleet safer, but it will have a positive impact on your business in the long run. Safety initiatives and incentivized programs for drivers will mitigate your risk and improve ROI for your organization. Remember, an effective fleet safety program saves lives, money, and time—no matter the season.

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