Two reports emerged recently showing that more professional drivers than ever are using their mobile phone while driving – and the vast majority of them do not use hands–free equipment even when it’s provided. What the RAC and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle studies respectively show, horrifyingly, is that fleet managers are losing the battle against mobile phone use.
Mobile phone use is a key source of driver distraction, visually, cognitively and manually. Whether looking at it, holding it, pressing options, or simply being mentally engaged with a conversation, mobile phone use severely disrupts drivers’ ability to see, or process what’s happening on the road around them.
The law is tougher than ever – six points and a £200 fine, two strikes and your licence is gone.
Companies with commercial vehicle fleets tend to have strong policies against hand-held mobile phone use, and many provide blue tooth equipment if they allow calls at all. Employers who do not manage mobile phone use by drivers could be liable in the event of a fatality.
And yet, the average van driver is making seven calls a day. A quarter of them do not have hands-free kits. More than one quarter say they have hands-free kit and do not use it. One in ten van drivers is spending two hours of each day on the phone while driving.
Why? How is this problem defeating fleet managers everywhere?
Quite simply, they cannot see it. If they cannot see it, they can’t prove it, and they can’t manage it. It’s that simple. You may suspect your driver of inattention. You may be sure he has been on his mobile while driving. But unless he was on the phone to you, while his telematics system says he’s cruising down the highway, you can’t know for sure – and even then you can’t tell if he’s calling hands–free.
This is where a video-based safety management programme comes into its own. You don’t have to interrogate drivers, or invade their privacy, (and invite a lawsuit), by asking to see their personal mobile calls list. In-cab cameras come to your rescue.
They will also come to the rescue of your driver, (although he or she may not yet realise they need rescue), and of those who share the road with them.
Here’s how. The SmartDrive system captures footage from inside and outside the cab, typically for 10 seconds either side of a triggered event, such as harsh braking. Our risk assessors study the footage, apply objective observations from a predetermined list and a risk score depending on severity and your fleet operating guidelines. Risky driving observations, such as hands-free mobile phone use, are fed into an online coaching queue, for review by fleet management and to facilitate proactive conversation and issue resolution, with the drivers. Managers can see the cause of risky driving events and not just their outcome. And drivers cannot argue with clear footage showing phone use.
However, we can go further. Having analysed over 250 million video event clips of on-road incidents, and crunched the numbers, SmartDrive knows exactly what using a mobile phone at the wheel does to your risk of collision.
Our SmartIQBeat snapshot for truck fleets shows that drivers who have collisions are almost twice as likely to text or dial at the wheel; twice as likely to use a handheld phone; and even much more likely to talk hands–free.
Remember, too that this is a cultural epidemic. Just as with seatbelts, we need to educate everyone that using mobiles at the wheel is dangerous. Because those 10 million people – 25% of UK drivers -who admitted to the RAC that they had illegally called or texted, are putting even your safest drivers at risk.
For more benefits of using our SmartDrive managed video-based safety system, check our resources page. It has informative guides to van, truck and PSV fleets respectively.
- Posted by Nicola Burgess
- On June 12, 2019