Vehicle safety technology that uses real-time alerts and coaching can help reduce unsafe driving practices among drivers who work for truck and other fleet companies, according to research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Fleet operators are increasingly adopting in-vehicle monitoring systems as part of their motor vehicle safety programs. IVMS applications often combine real-time alerts in a vehicle and coaching by supervisors to help employees improve their driving performance.

To address the lack of strong scientific evidence for the effectiveness of IVMS in the workplace, NIOSH researchers have conducted a multiyear field study.

The IVMS technology used in this study was based on accelerometers that detect maneuvers such as hard braking, acceleration, cornering, or swerving, supplemented by forward- and driver-facing cameras mounted in the vehicle.

When the IVMS detected one of these harsh vehicle maneuvers during the study, the system was set to automatically capture 30 seconds of video and audio data (15 seconds before and 15 seconds after the triggering event).

NIOSH studied information from over 400,000 video events from two truck fleets equipped with IVMS—one a local trucking fleet, the other an oil and gas services fleet.

Researchers evaluated two types of feedback given to the driver: instant feedback from lights on the dashboard that flashed to denote harsh vehicle maneuvers, and one-on-one coaching between supervisor and driver.

The coaching consisted of viewing the recorded video events involving the driver and discussing company policy and safe driving practices.

NIOSH researchers noted the number of unsafe driving practices per 100 hours of driving before and after IVMS for drivers who received coaching and instant feedback.

They compared this with data from a control group of drivers who had IVMS installed in their vehicles but received no coaching or instant feedback.

Results show that instant feedback, combined with coaching, was effective in reducing unsafe driving practices in both fleets. The most commonly observed unsafe driving practices were driving unbelted and speeding.