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Fleet Telematics: Risks Associated with Improper Use


Technology has changed our world in many ways, but the unintended consequences of improperly using technology present a significant risk for companies, employees, and the general public.

The transportation industry has seen a significant increase in the use of technology in the last decade or so. GPS tracking was developed first and helps companies manage their fleet by improving logistics, reducing fuel costs, and monitoring compliance with speed limits. Miniaturization and development of digital cameras help document and determine the cause of motor vehicle accidents and vehicular near misses. Today’s advanced telematics systems can monitor vehicle location, speed, idling time, harsh acceleration or braking, fuel consumption, vehicle faults, and more.

Companies make investments in today’s fleet telematics systems believing it will make them better. Properly managing the information these systems generate is key to a successful and effective fleet safety program. In addition to the data companies use to manage the timeliness of deliveries and fuel efficiency, telematics systems provide important information regarding the driver’s behaviors. Companies with successful fleet safety programs actively manage this data, while others ignore the behavioral data generated.

Companies that fail to use this behavioral data, or activate the full capabilities of their telematics systems, significantly increase their potential liability. This data could identify a driver with a pattern of risky driving behaviors, including speeding, hard braking, and hard turns. Attorneys representing the family of someone killed in a motor vehicle crash will subpoena and discover data generated by a company’s telematics system. They will also discover if the company used the data, or the system’s capability to produce the data, to manage its drivers.

If the data identifies a driver with a history of unsafe behaviors, and the company failed to act upon the information generated, the company may face much greater liability if that driver is involved in an at-fault motor vehicle crash. An attorney would have a field day capitalizing on how the company had the ability to identify and correct the behaviors of an unsafe driver but failed to do so, which resulted in the deaths of others. The failure to use data that could have prevented a serious motor vehicle accident would be spun as willfully negligent.

Companies with large fleets should take advantage of the accident prevention capabilities of telematics systems by using the data it generates. Many telematics system vendors support their products by offering suggestions on how the data can be used to educate and hold drivers accountable for unsafe behaviors detected by the system. In addition to using the data to hold drivers accountable, companies can also use the information to reward safe drivers who consistently demonstrate safe behaviors detected through telematics data. Safety programs that include a combined approach of recognition for safe behaviors, along with accountability for unsafe behaviors, will reap the best results.

Vehicle telematics systems and cameras are powerful tools to help companies manage their fleet of vehicles and drivers, but ignoring important safety-related data generated exposes companies to much greater risk. As the cost of auto insurance and umbrella policies continue to skyrocket in this hard-market insurance cycle, installing and using data generated by telematics and camera systems is one of the best ways companies can manage risk and reduce costs.

Horton’s professional safety consulting services help our clients manage many aspects of risk associated with fleets. Please contact us if your company is interested in learning how to manage risk and reduce cost.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.