Improving Employee Safety with GPS Fleet Tracking
by Wyn Partington
The oil and gas industry is an extremely important component of the economy. Oil and gas are already dangerous by nature. When you add jobs that often require the use of specialized equipment in varying terrain conditions, safety is crucial. There are many tools out there to help improve employee safety, but fleet tracking providers are transforming their technologies to produce all-in-one safety solutions. Fleet managers and business owners in the oil and gas industry can use this technology to monitor, manage and improve all aspects of employee safety.
Ensuring safety policies and procedures are being followed is extremely important when on a jobsite, especially when heavy equipment and hazardous materials are involved. In an effort to help businesses create a safe work environment for their employees, some fleet tracking providers have developed intrinsically safe asset tracking devices. Many businesses use GPS tracking to keep an eye on their assets. Satellite based devices that are intrinsically safe are ideal for oil and gas companies because they are safe to use in environments, such as oil rig locations, with combustible materials.
Along with improving safety on jobsites, businesses can use fleet tracking technology to improve safety on the roadways. When workers are driving to and from jobsites, it’s important that they are practicing safe driving habits. Aggressive driving not only puts employees and other motorists at risk, but it can lead to expensive liability costs. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), motor vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion annually in medical care, legal expenses, property damage and lost productivity. With fleet tracking features such as real-time alerts and automated reports, businesses can modify driver behavior and reduce the risk of vehicle crashes and liability expenses.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, almost one-third of all fatalities continue to be speed-related. Because fleet managers can’t always be in the passenger seat with their drivers, it can be difficult to determine if they are following the rules of the road. With speed-based alerts, fleet managers can quickly identify speed offenders right from their computers or mobile devices. Real-time alerts provide instant notification via text or email if drivers are exceeding the posted speed limit of a roadway or a user-defined threshold. This helps businesses to quickly pinpoint unsafe behavior and eliminate it before accidents occur.
Automated reports also allow fleet managers to pinpoint aggressive driving patterns. Reports provide a detailed view into driving habits and allow businesses to monitor and track specifics such as locations and times that certain incidents occur. Reports can be set up to show speeding violations for a specific driver or an entire fleet for any time-period selected. This can help to identify repeat offenders and significantly reduce violations and liability claims. In addition to speed reports, businesses can use driver safety scorecards to identify and eliminate aggressive driving.
Driver safety scorecards are built from data obtained from accelerometers built into the hardware of fleet tracking devices. The hardware identifies aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, harsh braking, rapid acceleration and sudden cornering. The scorecard report improves visibility into how drivers perform on the roadways and helps determine which drivers are following safety policies and which need further coaching. When unsafe driving events occur, fleet managers can simply pull up the report as proof and hold drivers accountable for their behavior. Subscriptions can also be set up to have reports delivered to management via email on a daily, monthly or weekly basis. This makes it easier for businesses to gather the data they need to monitor driver behavior over time.
There are also fleet tracking providers that offer distracted driving solutions that prevent workers from using their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. These solutions use a non-pairing Bluetooth Trigger Unit coupled with a mobile application to prevent talking, texting, email and surfing the web while driving. Using a distracted driving solution can help to keep drivers focused on the road, rather than their mobile devices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,060 people are injured each day in vehicle crashes that involve distracted driving. Because distracted driving is such a problem in the United States, it’s important to take the necessary precaution to prevent it. Distracted driving technology can help to keep drivers and other motorists on the roadway safe.
Because jobsites in the oil and gas industry may be located in remote areas, it’s crucial that fleet managers are able to maintain effective communication with their drivers to ensure safety. With dispatching applications, fleet managers or dispatchers can communicate with drivers through in-vehicle Garmin devices. Messages can be sent back and forth quickly and easily, helping the office and field to stay connected if emergencies arise. Lake Truck Lines, a commercial oilfield transportation company, uses a fleet dispatching solution to ensure its drivers arrive to jobsites safely and on time. The company now has peace-of-mind knowing it can reach its drivers and stay connected, no matter how remote the location.
Preventive maintenance is also crucial to ensuring employees have a safe mode of transportation. Brake pads, tire tread and pressure can all contribute to a vehicle not being able to stop in the event of an accident. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), more than 10 percent of all at-fault truck crashes can be attributed specifically to vehicle issues. An easy and efficient way to ensure vehicles are receiving proper routine maintenance is through the use of an automated maintenance module.
Maintenance schedules can be tailored for the specific needs of the business and allow reminders to be set by days, miles or engine hours. This “set it and forget it” method helps businesses to ensure preventive upkeep is occurring consistently and on schedule. Fleet managers can also use maintenance logs and reports to view details of all services performed, helping to ensure policies are being followed and met. Properly maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles can help to prevent crashes and related accidents.
Providing field workers with ongoing driver training can help to reinforce the importance of safety. For businesses with workers constantly on the go, it can be difficult to set up training sessions that fit everyone’s schedule.
With online driver education courses, employees can get the training they need, whether they are at the office or at home. Fleet managers can also use online driver education courses as a proactive and reactive approach to driver safety. The courses can help to educate new hires on safety best practices or reinforce safety measures for drivers with multiple instances of poor driver behavior. Encouraging responsible driving consistently overtime can help to minimize incidents and reduce many traffic-related expenses.
With a GPS fleet and asset tracking solution, companies can keep workers safe, modify driver behavior, reduce accidents and improve the safety of their fleet and company reputation with one easy-to-use solution. As an added bonus, certain auto insurance providers even offer discounts of anywhere from 5 to 15 percent to businesses that use GPS fleet tracking technology to improve safety.
As technology continues to advance, fleet tracking providers will continue to enhance their safety feature offerings to ensure businesses are provided with comprehensive solutions.
Wyn Partington is vice president of marketing at NexTraq, provider of applications, such as Fleet Dispatch, Fleet Metrics and NexTraq Connec, which deliver real-time data to optimize fleet operations.