Melissa Purcell, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Customer Success, SmartDrive
Being immersed in the ATA Management Conference & Exhibition for five days this week has given me a renewed perspective—and pride—about our industry, our people and our impact on our nation. According to a 2015 ATA report, our economy depends on trucks to deliver 10 billion tons of virtually every commodity consumed—over 80 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S. In fact, in the U.S. alone, more than $700 billion worth of goods were transported by truck.
As evidenced by the number of educational sessions, our industry is not one to rest on its laurels. From “Automated Trucks” and “Infrastructure Funding” to “Big Data” and “Global Safety Trends,” attendees received a plethora of information to help drive their fleets forward. With continual sessions throughout the conference, one of the trends that stood out for me was automated vehicles and the role of the driver as we begin to transition to this advanced technology. There was lots of debate about when full autonomy will be reached—and the dangers of complacency as vehicles have some level of autonomy, but drivers still need to be ready to take control.
As with the past few years, technology was at the forefront of many discussions, including video-based safety platforms. A backdrop to these discussions was the report released last month from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which in part stated installing video-based onboard safety monitoring systems on all large trucks could potentially prevent as many as 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths annually. I received a lot of positive feedback from customers as to the benefits they’ve received from our program—from significantly lower claims costs and litigation that was avoided from knowing what happened to settling early or showing video evidence that’s exonerated their drivers.
One of the best-attended sessions was “Global Safety Trends,” presented by Carl Johan Almqvist, traffic and product safety director with Volvo; America’s Road Team Captain Don Logan; and Jason Palmer, COO of SmartDrive. Featuring data presented by Volvo and videos from our SmartDrive program, the session focused on the causes of collisions. The videos readily supported the points Almqvist made by showing rollovers, close following and drowsiness—and how video safety programs help drastically reduce these risks and drive down collisions. I’m happy to say that there was a lot of support for video in the room—both from the ATA Road Team and audience members who shared that they leverage video in their fleets.
Of course, the ELD mandate continued to garner a lot of discussion at the conference. Although the majority of fleets are moving forward, there are still some that are not. With the mandate fast approaching, ATA President Chris Spear told convention attendees, “the issue has been legislated, promulgated and litigated. It is now time to move forward.” Many fleets still claim that the devices will be costly, encroach on their privacy and contribute to even more regulation, but the general sense is that the deadline is less than two months away, fleets need to comply and we need to begin putting our efforts into other areas that benefit our industry.
I enjoyed meeting many of our customers and people who are considering our solution. I also enjoyed seeing what’s new in the industry and talking one-on-one to learn what’s keeping people up at night and driving our industry forward. One issue that continues to be a hot-button for fleet execs and safety managers is distracted, drowsy and inattentive driving. With the onslaught of cell phones and iPads, managers not only need to worry about distractions in their drivers’ cabs, but distractions in every vehicle on the road. With 80 percent of collisions being caused by car drivers, commercial drivers need to be ever more vigilant. We received very positive reaction to our new SmartSense for Distracted Driving—a new sensor that interprets driver cues proven to accurately indicate distraction, such as head and eye movements. We hope this new technology will help remove the driver from this dangerous equation.
I’d love to hear what you thought of this year’s show—and what you found new and exciting!