Crowdsourcing Fleet Safety

With regards to fleet safety, having all the modern day sensing technology in a truck is great but there is one sensing device that is being overlooked. That is the eyes and ears of the general public. In Canada every day there are millions of eyes observing what is happening on our roads and highways, which brings us to the concept of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is a means to outsource specific tasks to a broad group of external people. The idea behind crowdsourcing is to obtain feedback and input from a wide audience with varied skills to achieve a specific goal.

Kraft for example promotes crowdsourcing as a way to obtain ideas for new food products, processes, ingredients, packaging, flavors, or recipes. A technological application of crowdsourcing is the Waze mobile app. Waze allows a community of users to report real time traffic tie ups and receive alternate directions for better routes to take.

Crowdsourcing can be used as a means to improve upon fleet safety. Historically the trucking industry has already been using a version of crowdsourcing before crowdsourcing was deemed a real word, but the industry now seems to be moving away from it. Presently, there are new technological solutions, such as Windshieldink that give industry a reason to pause and reconsider that trend.

Windshieldink Fleeter allows the public to send messages directly to company safety personnel. The Windshieldink mobile app uses the vehicle license plate as the company contact address and hence is also suitable for unmarked trucks. With smartphone functionality, users can also include a GPS location in their message to the company, allowing the company to verify an incident location against their ELD records.

The transportation industry is rapidly evolving as it adopts today’s new technologies. In the past, the requirement to adopt new technology was optional; however technological advancement is inescapable as more regulatory requirements come into effect. Governments are gradually mandating the use of Electronic Logging Devices (“ELDs”) and the industry itself is bringing on new intelligent systems and eventually driverless trucks.

Recent technological advancements are generally focused on automated systems, whether installed inside the truck, at toll booths, weigh scales, or loading docks. Data is collected automatically based on what the data sensors are programmed to read. This is data that companies will collect, store and analyze to optimize their business operations or improve upon safety performance. If a company is going to pay a significant cost to collect the data, hopefully they can maximize the value from it.

The ELD system collects real time data that can be used for three purposes;

  1. meet regulatory compliance requirements,
  2. provide fleet productivity information to fleet managers,
  3. provide information on driver performance for safety purposes.

Companies will have their preferences about how they want to use the ELD data. Some companies may choose do nothing with it since they may feel inundated, overwhelmed, and hence may just store the data for future use. How the data gets used ultimately depends on what goals are most important.

If monitoring driver safety performance is one of the key goals, limitations in the ELD data may become apparent. ELD’s provide information on truck location, acceleration, and travel speeds which form only part of the picture on driver safety. ELD data does not provide information on how well the driver is driving, if the driver is driving courteously, how many near misses the driver has had, or whether the driver is parking their truck in a place that creates unsafe situations for pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.

The public (“the crowd”) experience firsthand how commercial drivers are performing behind the wheel. Company safety inspectors or driver trainers will never see what a crowd will see. A crowd can recognize if there is a problem and perhaps forewarn of potential driver concerns before the fleet safety department is even aware of it.

Consumer goods companies have recognized for years the value of obtaining public feedback to help shape their businesses.

Simply look at the number of contact channels they provide to the public. They invite people to comment on their Facebook page or correspond via Twitter, Instagram, email, 1–800 numbers, or via their website. They understand the value of public feedback and now rely on it. The question is whether fleet operators should also have the same interest in knowing what the public has to say?

To be fair, some fleet operators have been soliciting input from the public for years. We have all seen the 1–800 How’s My Driving (HMD) stickers on the back of some commercial vehicles. Other fleet operators provide their business phone number or web site on their vehicles but now operators can also use the new tech options available.

The 1–800 How’s My Driving programs have been around for decades although this seems to be declining with fewer vehicles sporting the stickers. Even with the increased number of mobile phones on the streets, we tend to see fewer vehicles with HMD stickers. The exact reason for this decline is unknown but it could possibly be associated with costs to the company or frustrations with the approach for both the company and the public. Maybe the public don’t like the idea of having to phone.

For the commercial vehicles simply posting corporate contact information on their trucks, they are providing contact channels not only related to driver safety but also related to general business inquiries. The downside is accessing via these channels isn’t fast.

While technological advancements in the trucking industry may be focusing on automatic data collection, companies shouldn’t overlook the value of crowdsourcing.

Changes in marijuana laws and the challenges in finding new skilled safe drivers may be a concern to some fleet operators. We believe the eyes and ears of the public can play a role in a fleet operator’s driver safety program. Many in the public want to be good Samaritans and help companies identify unsafe driving practices and reward good behavior. The crowd just needs to be given a convenient and consistent way to do it.

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