27 Sep 17

Safety, a key to your Brazilian fleet policy

Developing a safety policy for your corporate fleet is of utmost importance and this could not be more true for Latin America's largest vehicle fleet, Brazil.

When one thinks of safety, what often jumps to mind is having a car with an impeccable crash test record. However, approximately 90% of traffic accidents are caused by human error so getting to the root of the problem is key.

One way to reduce accidents is by providing comfort and overall peace of mind for drivers, whether it be during the work day or during their commute to and from work. 

According to the country's largest automobile rental and leasing agency Localiza, workers need to be instructed on how to drive in the safest and most sustainable way to improve the efficiency and productivity of any fleet. This includes making sure that trips are relaxing and that drivers are respectful as well as healthy.

Avoid driving after a particularly stressful time at work and, if possible, refrain from driving during rush hour. Heavy traffic can increase stress, create panic syndrome, and even lead to accidents and death.

Having comfortable seats, air conditioning, automatic transmission, power steering, a GPS system, and ambient music are all important inclusion to your safety policy. 

To improve the experience, drivers should stretch from time to time. Even nibbling on a piece of candy or something sweet could help, according to doctor Dirceu Rodrigues Alves Junior who is the director of Brazilian traffic medicine association Abramet.

Employees should drive a maximum of six hours a day and breaks of at least 15 minutes should be taken every two hours. This improves circulation and decreases tension and anxiety.

Respect is also crucial, according to Localiza. Companies should reinforce the need to respect traffic lights, rights of way, the speed limit, and the use of turn signals. Obviously, never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Bad habits should also be avoided such as driving in neutral, resting your hand on the gear shift, driving with your foot on the clutch or with your arm rested on the window. This not only improves safety but reduce wear and tear on the car.

Finally, preventative maintenance must be in your safety policy and this includes key checkups such as those related to wheel balancing, alignment, suspension, brakes, power steering, and taking care of tires.

Besides improving performance and cutting down on wear and tear, this could avoid the unfortunate occurrence of an accident.

Using ICT to improve safety

In today's world, using ICT to improve comfort and safety and the overall efficiency of fleet management is influencing the industry more than ever.

One growing innovation is artificial intelligence (AI), according to Rodrigo Mourad who is a partner of Cobli, a startup specialized in fleet management.

A technology already being used by many companies is identifying drivers by the swipe of a magnetic card in vehicles. Another one which could be used is fingerprint reading and associated driver monitoring software. Both of these are ways to identify inappropriate driver conduct which could hinder the performance of the vehicle or your overall fleet.

Other performance improvement tools could be implemented such as those to reduce fuel cost, maximize tire use, schedule maintenance, and prevent accidents.

Meanwhile, another growing trend is the concept of connecting cars to other devices or vehicles by way of the internet or cellular networks, according to professor Luís Henrique Costa who coordinates the electrical engineering program of the Coppe research institute at Rio de Janeiro federal university UFRJ.

Basically, there are two types of services being offered in Brazil, namely infotainment (a cross between IT and entertainment) and driver safety assistance, the professor said, highlighting technology currently being offered by Ford.

In terms of Infotainment, it replaces the radio by offering Andriod and iOS voice command Apps in the car. The key is to give drivers access to smart-phone services without distracting them from the road.
Ford has 16 voice command apps available in Brazil. Besides music listening App Spotify, among them are those which locate parking spots and even assist in the ordering of pizza.

As for driver safety solutions, Ford has developed an accident support system. Once a crash occurs, accident information is transmitted and a call is made from the car to the local emergency service. This can aid in a rescue even if the occupants of the vehicle are unconscious.

At the same time, in Rio de Janiero, an anti-collision system is being developed by João Batista Pinto Neto who is a doctorate student at Coppe - Rio de Janeiro federal university.

Although top-of-the-line vehicles such as Tesla models already have systems that alert drivers of a potential collision and even take over control in particular highway scenarios, these cars are quite expensive for most Brazilian residence.

As such, Batista is developing a low-cost alternative known as the Precision Cooperative Positioning System (PCPS) which can be used with the common car. Instead of using expensive sensors, cameras and radars, the system relies on connecting the car to other vehicles as well as antennas installed along road shoulders.

It accurately defines where cars are located within lanes by tracking movement and direction. The information is then shared with other cars in the region to cut down on collisions.

Besides alerting the driver of upcoming road hazards and letting them know when they are speeding, PCPS can be configured to take control of the vehicle in extreme cases such as immediately before a crash.

Although it is already in the testing phase, the challenge is getting each and every car connected to the system. Once this is done, there will be no need for traffic lights and traffic will flow much more efficiently, says professor Costa.

Authored by: Daniel Bland