Information overload: managing telematics data
Increased use of telematics is generating more data on drivers than ever before, but companies must be prepared to analyse and act upon the data – or face legal consequences. Julian Kirk reports.
The exponential rise in the adoption of telematics by companies is raising vital questions that every fleet manager should have answers to.
With the devices generating reams of data, there is a growing onus on those controlling fleet operations to ensure that they are acting on this information and not ignoring ticking timebombs which could land them, and their business, in court.
With telematics technology moving ahead rapidly (take-up has almost doubled in less than a year, with 65% of businesses now using the devices, according to the RAC Telematics Report 2016), there is more data about drivers and their habits being created than ever before. But the challenge for fleet managers is to interpret and use this data to ensure they, their drivers and their companies comply with the law.
Doug Jenkins, in his role as manager, risk control – motor, at insurance firm AXA, has noted a trend of fleets not acting upon the data provided. He said: “It is like any information companies have on a driver; if they are aware that the driver is driving for business and is, for instance, consistently exceeding speed limits, then this information must be acted on. The same applies if they carry out a driver risk assessment and it comes back as a high risk – they must act on it.
“My advice would be to turn the table on these issues and ensure they have a process, policy and resource to deal with the output before they embark on any actions.
“If a driver has an accident that attracts the police, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or any other agency, they can seize any information or data that is available for that driver. This can be written files, such as assessment results or a licence check, and data from a camera or telematics.
“You can imagine the scenario where a driver is involved in a serious accident and is charged with dangerous or reckless driving and the employer has data that shows they have been driving badly for a long time and the employer has done nothing with it – both would be facing serious consequences. So if they have any form of information about a driver, they must make sure that they do something with it and action it.”
ACFO chairman John Pryor agrees, saying there is an ‘obligation’ for companies to act on telematics data. He added: “Telematics produces reams of data – if there is an accident and the driver is shown to be speeding before, then the company may have to answer more questions.
“Telematics is great but you must have processes in place to deal with the data generated and be prepared to act on that data.
“If you have a speeding driver, what do you do with the information? If you’re not going to do something, then why have telematics in the first place? Are you then culpable as well? There are also insurance issues as well as corporate manslaughter legislation – ‘you did nothing with the data… why not?’.”
RAC Telematics managing director Nick Walker recognises that there is a potential issue with fleet managers becoming overwhelmed with data. He said: “The devices do generate a lot of data, which is something we are very conscious of because a fleet manager or business vehicle owner does not want to be overwhelmed with data, as it becomes meaningless if it’s not serving their purpose.
“It’s important for fleet managers to work with their supplier to understand exactly what data streams are going to be most beneficial for them and their type of business. That’s why it’s important to understand customer need when it comes to managing the data generated, and how they want that presented, i.e. as an app for individual drivers or on a dashboard as part of a management system, or both.
“As an employer you also have a duty of care towards your staff when dealing with the information being generated. For example, if a driver breaks the speed limit or is involved in an accident, the information will immediately be sent to the fleet manager, or whoever is set up to receive the data.
“As part of their duty of care, an employer is obliged to advise a staff member of their legal responsibilities as a driver of one of their vehicles, and also to prevent that employee from putting themselves at risk of injury or accident by making them aware of their speeding incidents, if they occur.
“It is an area where HR departments and business owners need to be up to speed with the latest regulations, and to ensure there is a clear policy in place, because essentially the telematics unit now gives the employer much more visibility and awareness of employee activity behind the wheel once they’re off site.”
Corporate manslaughter fines revised upwards
New sentencing guidelines came into effect earlier this year, with fines of up to £20 million for companies convicted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
The potential fines on conviction are broken down into four sections, based on a company’s turnover, and range from £180,000 for a ‘micro organisation’ with a turnover of up to £2 million, up to £20 million for a large organisation turning over more than £50 million.
Within these guidelines, the courts will be asked to view ‘aggravating factors’, such as ‘deliberate concealment of illegal nature of activity’, obstruction of justice and a poor health and safety record. Factors which can be used in mitigation include ‘a high level of co-operation with the investigation’, effective health and safety procedures, and evidence of steps taken to remedy the problem.
While a £20 million fine will be a rarity, the guidelines state menacingly: “the fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to management and shareholders the need to achieve a safe environment for workers and members of the public affected by their activities.”
Courts may also choose to add further punishments, including publicity orders and compensation payments to victims.
TELEMATICS… and the law
The BVRLA’s legal guru, director of policy and membership Jay Parmar, sets out where companies stand from a legal perspective…
Where do fleet managers stand when it comes to the data they are given from telematics? Are they obliged to act on the findings if it reveals poor driving or more serious offences? And what are the legal implications of ignoring frequent offenders?
There is no specific legal obligation on fleet managers to act on data collected from telematics devices, though best practice is to use this data as part of employee training. However, if a company car driver had an accident while driving on business, which resulted in injury or death, and it became apparent that a telematics device had shown poor driving (e.g. regular speeding) which had been ignored by the fleet manager, the employer could be guilty of an offence under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act.
What information are fleet managers obliged to reveal to the police or HSE and what do they not have to reveal? When can this data be accessed by police, and how much can they access?
Fleet managers do not have to voluntarily declare any data from telematics devices, but the police can request any data via a court order in relation to the prevention or detection of crime. If a rental or leasing company is approached by the police, who have a court order for data which is stored on a tachograph, tracker or telematics device, they can release the data if available without informing the customer or obtaining their consent.
CASE STUDY Inside2Outside
Canopy company Inside2Outside (I2O) has succeeded in changing driver behaviour in regards to speeding after installing telematics devices across its fleet.
The firm estimates staff speeding has reduced by around 20% since installing Crystal Ball’s FleetTracker system and the Driver ID bolt-on which enables I2O to highlight driver performance, including any speeding events or any other motoring offences, allowing any fines or penalties to be allocated correctly.
General manager Vanessa Reed said: “I2O can now ensure a safer workforce on Britain’s roads, helping to maintain clean driving licences, prevent speeding penalties and reduce vehicle wear and tear.
“As a result, our use of Crystal Ball has also resulted in improved fuel consumption. Scheduled reports allow me to address speeding instances with the driver to prevent future incidents and this has definitely had a positive impact on driver behaviour.”
TELEMATICS… in numbers
51% of fleet managers say their organisation uses telematics.
67% of fleet managers say their business would benefit from advice on how to use their telematics data.
59% of fleet managers are likely to increase their spending on telematics in the next few years.
27% of fleet managers use telematics to provide evidence for disciplining drivers.
29% use it to reward drivers.
Source: BT Fleet/AA Operational Fleet Insight 2016 Report