Intelligence Led Safety Interventions can help solve the Driver Shortage, says SmartDrive Systems


The UK driver shortage threatens to become more acute as we approach Brexit deadlines, but SmartDrive Systems says that fleets can encourage drivers to join and remain in the industry by using proactive, intelligence led safety interventions.

FSDF member SmartDrive Systems is a leader in driving performance solutions that reduce collisions and improve fuel efficiency. Vice-president, EMEA, Aidan Rowsome says: “Helping drivers to be safer and improve their professionalism is an act of respect. All too often professional drivers have not been respected for the difficulty and skill involved in their job.”

According to the RHA, the industry is short of 45,000 to 50,000 HGV drivers. The Freight Transport Association estimates that 32,000 HGV drivers and 22,000 van drivers currently employed in the UK are from other EU countries and so may be affected by Brexit. “As the driver shortage worsens, we need to do all in our power to value our current drivers and attract new ones,” says Rowsome.

“At SmartDrive we see the most successful and effective safety interventions are where companies explain to drivers exactly what they are trying to achieve, starting with: we want to help you be safer and to keep developing your professional skills.”

He cites four major reasons why rolling out analysis-based interventions such as the SmartDrive® video-based safety programme helps retain drivers – and could vastly improve the industry’s public image.

  • Well-thought out safety initiatives make people feel cared for at work, and this improves morale and retention
  • It demonstrates that the employer cares about continuing driver development
  • It protects drivers from false accusations of damage or unprofessional behaviour
  • It exonerates drivers when they’re not-at-fault
  • It raises and improves the public profile of professional driving.

Rowsome says that until recently technologies have not offered enough to the driver to make them feel their professionalism was valued. “For example, a telematics system that simply shows a harsh braking trigger gives no context; that could be the product of heroic reflexes or abysmal distraction. Without context it’s meaningless.

What we provide to fleets and drivers is significantly more context, combining triggers with analysed, risk scored observations and transportation intelligence, derived from the capture and analysis of over 220 million driving events to date.” 

He continues, “We are utilising sensor fusion – taking feeds from the vehicle data, plus video footage from around the vehicle, most importantly of the road ahead and of the driver, combining this with information from our own platform to give meaningful and specific insights into driver behaviour and risk.

The analysis of all these feeds is crucial, so that the insights provided are tailored to that specific driver’s duty cycle and operation, the road users around him and his driving style and choices.”

Rowsome says this is a breakthrough not just in fleet safety initiatives, but also in how the logistics industry can view its drivers. “Drivers are not generic. They are individuals. They each face different challenges, locations and types of work. At the end of the day, they all want to protect their commercial driving licences, they want to feel respected and supported by their employers and they want to stay safe on the roads.

For too long the industry has treated all drivers as though there is one truth about driving, one method – and ultimately one way to help them improve, i.e. more skills training. Most drivers do not lack skill. They need to understand how all the different factors in their working day combine with their individual tendencies as a driver to raise or lower their risk of collision or incident.

If fleets give drivers this capability to improve and keep themselves safe, they feel valued, protected and respected, as well as proud of their own professionalism.”

Rowsome, a pilot himself, says that professional drivers deserve the same level of respect granted to airline pilots, who also typically benefit from a far higher level of technological support, alerts and automation, while not having to deal with the levels of congestion faced by HGV drivers.

The SmartDrive video-based driver safety programme

SmartDrive Systems’ experience with thousands of fleets globally, and its analysis of more than 220 million video events from commercial fleets, gives it specific insights into:

  • The shifting attitudes of drivers to safety initiatives before and after the implementation of its video-based analysis systems
  • The matrix of contextual data which gives fleets a genuine and detailed analysis of risk
  • The safety, financial, cultural and staff development benefits of safety interventions.

The SmartDrive programme is centred on triggered video events, which are caused by specific vehicle actions, such as harsh braking, sudden course corrections, high impact shocks, etc. Triggered video is 20 seconds in length, typically 10 seconds either side of the event.  This is uploaded automatically via the cellular network, along with GPS positioning and base telematics data, to SmartDrive’s own review centre, where it is reviewed by its highly trained safety team.  There is also an extended recording option to put greater context around an event.

The footage is analysed against dozens of pre-determined ‘observations’ or driver behaviours and assigned a risk-score, personalised to the individual fleets’ corporate policies. This is then fed back to the customer via a dedicated, secure on-line portal, for use in driver coaching, as well as providing an extensive suite of KPI reporting, that can be drilled up or down, from company, to depot or division, to driver. 

Critical events, such as high-impact collisions can be set to trigger an immediate alert to relevant parties. Drivers can also manually trigger footage capture if necessary.

“Intelligence led safety interventions, such as the SmartDrive programme, provide a proactive and objective methodology for fleets to work in a closer and more supportive way with its drivers,” concludes Rowsome. “The rapid advances in compute power, coupled with the wealth of ‘big data’ and predictive analytics available from systems such as ours, has a major role to play in the current and future growth of fleet safety and driver development in the transport and logistics industry.”