Data harvesting in the transport and logistics sector is not just about finding efficiencies and maximising resource, it’s also about compliance and accountability.  The more information generated automatically by an integrated transport management system, the less burden of proof required by individual staff members, or even by companies facing legal action.

Whether operating as an owner-driver, or managing an entire multi-modal fleet, telematics is the practice of gathering and analysing up to the moment data about operations in the field. When accidents happen, central control can be essential to minimising risk for operators, clients and management personnel.

Vehicle telematics is about “… gathering, storing, and transmitting information about the vehicle for tracking purposes. This information can be used to analyse vehicle performance, vehicle conditions, driver performance, and more.”

News has just come out about Midland Red facing a £2.3 million bill for failing to act on data, resulting in public fatalities, including a baby and an elderly person.  As the police begin to allocate more resources to investigating digital information, fleet managers can expect that any serious transport incident in the future will result in the police requesting transport management software telematics data to identify possible causes for transport related crime and for the CPS to apportion blame.

Future compliance will mean that every car vehicle will have its black box, just as aircraft already do. Similarly, dashboard cams and app-based data will reveal details of poor driving or vehicle management habits which contributes to either a potential crash or theft from their vehicle.  By the same token, vehicle drivers can also be protected by technologies that can completely exonerate them.

Those transport and logistics companies putting off investing in TMS systems hosted by third parties will not be able to avoid legislation in the pipeline following high profile cases, such as the Midland Red case, that have used data to prove liability.

Burying one’s head regarding investment in tech is common across industries, as companies fear imminent obsolescence as hardware and software develop rapidly.

However, companies could be deemed negligent for not applying their health and safety policies effectively. It is beyond denial that digitally connected vehicles produce vast quantities of data, which could be readily accessible to the authorities when required, while also helping to optimise systems, through systematised analysis.

As this most recent case in the news highlights, it is better to endure the perceived disruption and discomfort short term by investigating all technical solutions in safety management and –proofing your company than paying the cost of poor implementation of policy from ignoring information already available which could avoid catastrophe.

Understanding the benefits of quickly viewing real time transport management software data and how this can underpin a coherent health and safety policy gives management, drivers, external stakeholders and even shareholders peace of mind that they are involved with a responsible company that cares about improving performance standards and can minimise the likelihood of accidents.

It is worth knowing that the police have been granted Government funding to survey dashcam data. Individuals can now share video evidence of others’ poor driving behaviour, making public accountability even stronger. North Wales Police have used such data for the past couple of years, issuing fixed penalties, increasing prosecutions and obliging driving retraining courses.  It is a matter of time before RTA’s or load spillages also become subject to police scrutiny at an unprecedented level.

With the ubiquity of vehicle based technologies among the general public, data obtained from witnesses’ cars will be correlated against a company’s vehicle data to assess liability.

The AA has undertaken research showing that 20% of drivers already have dashcams fitted, with more drivers planning to install them to protect themselves in the case of insurance claims. In the future, it will be verifiable public evidence versus the data of fleet and delivery vehicle operators.