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Using wearables to keep fleets on the road to success

Fleets that use wearables to educate their drivers on better health management can see real results financial and physical – on the bottom line.

Wearables started out with the simple pedometer but technological advances mean we can now measure all sorts of things about our day to day lives. Just by putting on a wristband or clipping a sensor to a pocket, we can find out our heart rate, sleep patterns, anxiety levels and, of course, the number of steps we take in a day.

On a personal level it has certainly led to many more of us getting interested in our health and changing our daily routines to incorporate a bit more exercise or sleep.

And they are increasingly more than just a way to ensure an individual gets their 10,000 daily steps.

With companies such as Vitality Insurance[1] building their health and life policies on the back of individuals’ wearable data (simply, more steps = lower premiums) clearly there’s enough evidence to suggest that wearables are, in general, a force for good from a financial and health perspective.

This is gradually being recognised by fleet managers too. There’s no point hiding from the fact fleet drivers tend to have some of the worse overall health of workers of a similar age, gender and background.

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety found[2] that 88% of long-haul truckers had at least one of the three risk factors that indicate chronic disease: obesity, smoking and hypertension.

But studies seem to prove wearables encourage truckers to take not, just rest stops, but activity stops. To take measures to manage moments where anxiety and stress rise and impact blood pressure, or to help guide employees towards a healthier diet are a logical step.

In September 2016, the New Scientist reported[3] that EIT Digital, part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, was about to trial wearables for truckers to make sure they stayed healthy at the wheel. The devices will measure physical responses primarily to examine driver stress and alertness. The programme is rolling out across 2017 and 2018 as the company gathers in data under the startup name ‘Ready to Perform’[4].

One of the biggest barriers to getting wearables on board with fleet drivers is the perception that it is an increase in surveillance. Wearables and the data they generate are highly personal devices and gives a very intimate look into driver health and behaviours.

The use of wearables does raise the issue of how much personal data should be shared between driver and fleet owner. It even questions what the definition of personal data is. Recent legislation[5] suggests that including personal driver data in fleet operations will require much more consent than in the past. Each fleet manager needs to consider how deeply they need to delve into driver data for the effective functioning of their team and then work on getting hold of the permission needed.

Aside from any personal embarrassment, drivers tend to view with skepticism any devices that might prevent them from getting their allotted hours on the road – and ultimately hurt their earning potential.

Not so, suggests project lead Jean Gelissen who stated in the New Scientist article that using sophisticated technology may mean drivers can prove to their fleet manager they are fit enough to stay on the road longer.

There are certainly clear benefits to the fleet as a whole from managers introducing these kind of programmes. TruckingInfo reported[6] that return on investment from using wearables ranges between $2 to $5 per driver.

It’s important to recognise that both legally and morally, wellness programmes initiated through the use of wearables must be a voluntary exercise. Workers shouldn’t feel that they will be disadvantaged if they don’t want to take part.

Clearly though, there are plenty of advantages to getting involved in a wellness programme so fleet managers should be ‘doing their PR’ to encourage take up. Ways this can happen are:

  1. Education. Show, don’t just tell your drivers how they can benefit from wearables. Wear one yourself and talk about how it helps you.
  2. Equip. Where possible, install supporting equipment to help them get the most from wearables. It might not be possible to install a full gym at the hub but perhaps including complimentary healthy snacks that relate to a matching app or hosting healthcare consultations based on wearable stats will link the device to real benefits in drivers’ minds.
  3. Programme. Building wellness into the culture of the organisation makes using wearables part of everyday behaviour. It’s human nature not to want to be treated differently. If everyone in the company is engaged in wellness, not using wearables becomes the unusual behaviour.

 

Wearables have become far more widely used both in and out of the workplace. Encouraging, educating and incentivising your employees to take charge of their own health will not only benefit their wellbeing in the long-term, but could prove to have real business benefits.


[1] Vitality.co.uk

[2] Driver Wellness Starts at Work

[3] Smart wristband tracks vital signs to keep truckers moving

[4] Fit To Perform

[5] New EU data regulation aims to protect driver privacy

[6] Driver Wellness Starts at Work


Motivation: the key to making and keeping great drivers

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