Ensuring driver safety through smarter vehicle checks. By Andrew Tavener

Logistics providers should be ensuring that vehicle and driver safety is their number one priority when operating fleets of any size. But with busy, time-pressured day-to-day schedules safety can easily get overlooked or essential vehicle checks rushed making them ineffective. However, conducting vehicle safety checks isn’t something to be taken lightly and they are essential in maintaining a roadworthy fleet, and to remain compliant with DVSA regulatory standards. Historically, checks have been carried out using paper records which can cause delays and leave room for error, so by utilising a digital system that unlocks real-time data capture and transfer, this process can be overhauled and streamlined.

Time is money
Transport operators understand the time constraints of the industry – time is money, but this should never result in sacrifices to safety. Compliance procedures and employer due diligence are essential to maintain a functional and effective fleet, and could save the business vast costs in fines or incident control. It’s clear that paper-based systems are being left behind across all areas of the industry, and when it comes to vehicle safety this should be no different. Smart technology provides the chance to fundamentally transform safety and compliance, and critically can provide real-time data and visibility of potential issues. Not only that, but by using data analysis to provide automatic alerts and warnings, safety can be truly optimised.

After all, the compliance model has already been changed when it comes to features such as telematics, with digital tachograph software and digital driver card data systems widely accessible. When it comes to safety checks, there is a similar range of features available. The best of the systems include services such as ‘walk-around’ check tools, which allows drivers or safety inspectors to walk around a vehicle and be prompted by a digital system about which aspects to check or report on. This type of software can be available through web browsers and handheld devices and gives drivers the tools to complete the relevant and essential checks on vehicles and equipment, whilst recording the time, place and duration of the inspection.

By utilising real-time data uploading, these cloud-based solutions can easily replace paper-based record keeping, and data can be automatically uploaded and reported on all aspects of each inspection. Giving transport operators full visibility of the latest reports from each vehicle in great detail. This provides key team members with the added confidence that checks have actually been conducted to the required standard.

Working smarter not harder
In addition to the obvious time savings associated with this automatic and remote upload and download model, cloud-based digital access to this data opens the door to a far smarter approach to compliance management. The need to rekey data, for instance, is completely eradicated.

Succinct audit trails can also be created to serve a range of purposes from creating compliance reports for the DVSA, to providing critical information to aid internal managerial decisions. It becomes easy and simple to implement any required corrective actions to protect drivers and the general public alike, a goal all transport operators should be striving to achieve.

Transport managers can also access a real-time holistic view of the status of all vehicles within the fleet and generate internal reports of defects and repairs as well as monitoring driver behaviour from the installed telematics system. As such, the overall safety and effectiveness of commercial fleets can be greatly increased, and when combined with other digital solutions, the time and cost benefits are significant.

All-encompassing efficiency
Typically, the data routinely collected to ensure transport operators remain compliant is under-utilised. Managers spend time cross referencing vehicle and driver data in a bid to resolve unaccounted distance; but otherwise information is often collected and locked away. For paper-based vehicle safety checks, this information is only pulled out again should an incident occur that requires verification.

Yet this data offers huge potential value to any company. Combining digital safety check information with tachograph analysis and reporting, driving licence and driver CPC verification with the DVLA, all in one location, transforms the way this data can be used. Opening doors to new ways for businesses to save money, time and increase their profit margins.

With a single source of compliance data, companies can leverage automation to move from reactive to proactive management by exception. This can be applied to tachograph data for instance, and to vehicle safety checks – transport managers can easily see if the expected number, location and duration of vehicle checks have been recorded. Fleet managers can log repairs via the web browser system and set the safety status of vehicles to provide invaluable information in real-time.

Ultimate compliance
It’s clear that there is an untapped opportunity to both address the compliance overhead and unlock additional value through reliable cloud-based data and management information. Operators can demonstrate their compliance easily and quickly, and use the information to focus on any problem areas of non-compliance and problem drivers that could result in expensive fines, loss of the operators’ licence or banned drivers – this is crucial when there’s a shortage of drivers. Smart technology focused specifically on safety fits perfectly into the digital compliance toolkit and enables a joined-up approach that can transform efficiency and allow transport operators to focus on value-add activities, as well as identifying and addressing potential issues before they arise. It’s no surprise that these organisations that take a proactive approach to their data will be best placed to reap the rewards of competitive differentiation.

Andrew Tavener is Head of Marketing at Descartes Systems UK. Descartes is the global leader in providing on-demand, software-as-a-service solutions focused on improving the productivity, performance and security of logistics-intensive businesses. Customers use its modular, software-as-a-service solutions to route, schedule, track and measure delivery resources; plan, allocate and execute shipments; rate, audit and pay transportation invoices; access global trade data; file customs and security documents for imports and exports; and complete numerous other logistics processes by participating in the world’s largest, collaborative multimodal logistics community.