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Industry Strives to Use Technology to Prevent Accidents Before They Happen

The near real-time notifications and alerts of unsafe behaviors or situations provide route managers and supervisors opportunities to coach drivers and provide immediate feedback.

Prescriptive analytics—the use of technology and data to identify behaviors and correct them before an incident occurs—is somewhat new to the waste and recycling industry, but the practice already has had an impact.

“By being able to identify unsafe situations through sophisticated triggering on driving maneuvers, we’re now able to more effectively identify situations where the drivers are in unsafe situations and prescribe an effective training plan for the operator to improve—before an accident occurs,” says Jason Palmer, COO of San Diego-based technology provider SmartDrive Systems Inc. “By providing a specific training plan for the driver based on his specific needs, a fleet can help avoid potential safety situations down the road.”

Prescriptive analytics takes into account a variety of data sets including some that are more outside the box, such as real time weather, info from wearable technologies like Fitbits and Apple Watches, and traffic data. It combines that more traditional data like telematics and engine diagnostic data and produces a predictive model that can yield suggestions and influence decision making, according to Blake Gasca, CEO of Newport Beach, Calif.-based tech firm MuHu Inc.

“For example, someone who had three hours of sleep the night before driving on an icy highway later in morning should probably not be behind the wheel,” says Gasca. “Legacy technology data models cannot provide insight like this scenario by just relying on vehicle and telematic data alone.”

The near real-time notifications and alerts of unsafe behaviors or situations provide route managers and supervisors opportunities to coach drivers and provide immediate feedback—the same day or the day after situations occurs.

“Many hauling operations are creating [standard operating procedures] and processes around these alerts, holding managers and supervisors accountable for coaching drivers in a timely manner, while simultaneously rewarding drivers and management alike for safe behavior,” says Laura Askin, new product development manager for Los Angeles-based waste product manufacturer Rehrig Pacific Co.

When considering safety in the waste and recycling industry, it is not just drivers that have to be considered, but also loaders, other workers and pedestrians around vehicles. It is also not just driving safety that needs to be evaluated, but also operational safety.

“Technology … not only provides visibility to the driver and what is happening inside the cab, but also how other vehicles move around the vehicle,” Palmer says

For example, with the SmartDrive System, a driver can press a button in the cab that activates all of the cameras on the vehicle, triggering an event, while recording an audio description of the situation. The system then automatically alerts that driver’s supervisor and dispatch to get an immediate email to see and understand the driver’s situation. The context that the video combined with driver’s audio provides allows them to resolve the situation, while the driver continues on their assigned route.

Technology also provides measurable data to help fleets put safety practices in place to make the environment safer for their workers and drivers.

“Companies are not only using past video and data to coach drivers, but are making real-time decisions based on what information is coming back in real time,” says Gasca. “Similar to (the) ‘Waze’ (community-based mapping app), our always connected solution communicates with the driver and notifies him of upcoming events and current driving habits. We believe in saving the driver's life first; coach him second.”

Video is key in reducing accidents and improving driver behavior, says Palmer.

“In-cab and forward-facing video provides information to help drivers understand how to improve habits and reduce the likelihood of a collision, from mobile phone use, eating and multitasking to following too close, speeding and running stop signs/stop lights,” he says. “Without video or being in the cab at the time, there’s no way to know exactly why a driver stopped suddenly, began following too closely, or had a near collision. With real-time data, a driver’s coach or supervisor can help the driver understand the habits causing the issues and stop them before they result in a collision or loss of life.”

There are a handful of large trends affecting safety technology in the waste and recycling industry. According to Askin, the latest safety technology trends revolve around notifications and alerts.

“When it comes to safety, timeliness is everything. Current trends and future development are extremely focused on getting important safety-related information into the hands of the people monitoring an operation, as quickly as possible,” she says. “In-cab video solutions are an example of how technology can not only monitor driver behaviors, but can also provide e-mails with videos of questionable behavior to route and site managers to review immediately—often before drivers even return to the yard for the day.”

Down the line this may change if a new report from the International Transport Forum is accurate. The group estimates that autonomous trucks could reduce the demand for new drivers in the U.S. and Europe anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent by 2030.

“Yet, even with autonomous vehicles, workers are necessary to help adjust routing information and ride in the cab until stops are reached,” Palmers says. “Since video is the only way to see in or around the vehicle and understand driver and operational efficiency, it can help move along the continuum to automation and record incidents, should they occur. There will be a transition as we move to autonomous vehicles that will continue to require driver interaction. It is essential to continue to understand how our drivers interact with these more advanced driving functions as we move forward.”

Gasca agrees that there is a huge buzz around autonomous drivers and vehicles.

“MuHu is currently working with these companies developing autonomous vehicles by providing metadata associated with our video to help with their AI Machine-learning models,” he says. “As we all know, most accidents are caused by human error, whether it be the commercial truck driver or the passenger vehicle. Computer driver vehicles and decision making will ultimately reduce the amount of ‘human mistakes’ that are made on the road.”

Askin adds automatic braking, based on sensors on a vehicle, as an interesting progressive development currently bring piloted overseas.

“Speed governance or control based on AVL Telematics for vehicles driving in reduced speed areas—like schools and construction zones—could be next,” she says. “While the initial focus of safety technology, in our industry, seems to have been on primary collection vehicles for all lines of business— commercial, residential, industrial—I believe we’re now going to see a broadening of the technology’s focus into other vehicles within a fleet, including container delivery trucks and yellow iron—post-collection.”

TAGS: Trucks
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