Work-related road driving is one of the most dangerous activities undertaken by the rail workforce. Over the last 10 years around half of all rail workforce fatalities have been work-related road deaths. And it doesn’t just affect the railway – it’s an issue across the wider transport sector, whenever anyone is driving for work. There are many ways to manage occupational road risk. Here we look at one – telematics. Two CIRAS members – Auctus/RSS Infrastructure and Vital Rail Solutions – share how they are using this technology to improve staff safety and wellbeing.
How do telematics systems work?
Telematics is a form of technology where telecommunications and data tracking provide intelligence which can be used to protect workers, passengers and other road users. Systems typically provide real-time data to drivers to help them plan safer routes, avoid hazards and drive responsibly. At the same time, data is sent back to fleet managers to help them manage fleet logistics safely and tackle any behavioural and cultural issues.
RSS’ telematics system has been in place since 2018, and has been continually improved over that time, now combining a dash cam, tracker and fatigue monitoring system. The Vital system is the same one as used by UK emergency services and has an in-cab logger incorporating a satnav, providing real-time information to the driver.
Keith Woodcock, manager of Vital’s fleet department, and RSS’ John McDonough, fleet co-ordinator, talked us through the benefits.
Safer journeys through real-time planning
By providing real-time data on potential hazards ahead, telematics helps drivers plan the safest route and improve efficiency by preventing avoidable delays. Speaking about Vital’s system, Keith says, “Traffilog is brilliant at pushing details of problems on the route ahead to drivers and calculating a clear path through a blockage. This allows our crews to concentrate on getting to site without incident.”
Managing fatigue risk
RSS’ telematics system includes technology which helps when drivers are fatigued. John tells us, “The fatigue monitoring system tracks how alert the drivers are – for example, if they look like they are falling asleep or not looking in the right direction for a prolonged period of time, the system will sound an alarm.”
Telematics data also helps fleet managers manage shift-related fatigue by identifying where vehicles are located in relation to workers and work sites. Vital uses this data combined with operatives’ individual fatigue risk scores to plan shifts, minimising travel times and allocating staff with their risk of fatigue in mind.
Prevent incidents by identifying risky behaviours early
Telematics can act as an early warning system. Data from the system can reveal leading indicators, predicting where the risk of incidents is higher. That allows fleet managers to get on the front foot and intervene before an incident occurs. John says, “Our system records data on vehicle speed, harsh braking and whether an engine is left idling, allowing our fleet managers to contact the driver to explore the reasons for the behaviour. We ask anyone who frequently speeds or has incidents to attend driver awareness training. If that doesn’t help, we may prohibit a staff member from driving company vehicles.”
Data can also be aggregated to show trends that may indicate the need for cultural change or driver training and guidance. As Keith at Vital says, “We use Traffilog data to identify behavioural trends, which can allow line managers to intervene and prevent issues from becoming habits.”
It’s not just about changing risky behaviour, but also encouraging good practice. Keith continues, “We want to identify and recognise desired behaviours – taking time to acknowledge that our people are getting it right.”
“Staff have said that knowing they have this equipment in the vehicle does make them think about how they drive, and therefore they drive more safely,”
John adds. “This transfers into their personal life – the habit of driving safely extends to their own car as well.”
Responding to incidents quickly and effectively
Telematics systems provide the exact location of a vehicle, and other vital information that can help if there is an incident – such as alerts if the vehicle is involved in a collision. As well as getting help to a driver as quickly as possible, telematics can also provide incident data such as the time and location of the accident, and dashcam footage. This can protect the driver in other ways.
John explains, “This was recently beneficial when a staff member was involved in an incident with a scooter driver. The scooter driver had fallen off as our driver was pulling out of an access lane. He claimed our driver had knocked him off. Dashcam footage showed that the scooter footage driver was speeding and on the wrong side of the road – confirming our driver had done nothing wrong.”
Staff and asset security
Since Covid-19, there has been an increase in vehicles with single occupants, with the attendant increase in risks associated with lone working. Keith says “The system can tell us where a lone worker is. If there is an issue, we can get to them quickly.” This offers peace of mind to the workers and their managers.
And it’s not just staff security. Keith adds, “Should anyone be foolish enough to steal one of our vehicles, we can see exactly where it has been, and when – pinpointing its exact location.”
Last, but not least, telematics can help improve fuel efficiency. Generally speaking, when drivers stick to speed limits and don’t leave vehicles idling for long periods of time, this saves fuel.
Some final thoughts on implementing telematics
John explains, “There was some resistance to begin with from some older members of staff, with people being concerned they were being watched. Over time they came to realise that the system was not being used to keep tabs on them, as they began to experience the benefits.”
Keith adds, “The driver is responsible for not only his or her safety but that of any passenger and all other road users. That’s why the system is seen as a benefit, not big brother. We use the system to protect the driver and in doing so keep others on the road safer.”
And it’s not just about technology. Both RSS and Vital agree that it’s all about leadership, teamwork and communications. Telematics works best when both staff and managers understand it’s about protecting workers and improving safety. This engenders the close collaboration and level of trust needed to ensure everyone gets to where they need to be safely and securely – every time.