As a contractor maintaining railroad tracks across North America, Loram Maintenance of Way is held to a high level of safety. The company is constantly striving to achieve what fleet manager Graham Rose calls the push towards “safety excellence”.
The company’s specialized rail maintenance fleet consists of 17 heavy-duty trucks, carrying the parts and equipment needed to perform overhauls or maintenance on Loram’s rail grinding equipment. Loram also operates a few bulk fuel trucks to deliver things like grease to the company’s rail friction management division.
While Loram had a “good” driving record in 2018, Rose knew there had to be opportunities to improve driver safety, especially when it came to distracted driving. This led the company to pursue the next step in its fleet safety program: artificial intelligence technology.
“It took me a while, but I dug in and talked to everyone I could reach to find out who or what was the best system to come for safe driving and distracted driving,” Rose says.
Eventually, he came across Nauto’s Fleet Safety System, which helps fleets detect distracted and drowsy driving via inboard and outboard-facing cabin cameras. The system also detects and notifies the back office of collisions.
Loram piloted the technology on about 15 vehicles in November 2018. As of April 2019, all 387 vehicles in the fleet — from the fleet’s light Ford F-150s to its largest Class 8 trucks — were equipped with the technology.
Distracted driving was the biggest area of opportunity Loram saw for improvement. Nauto makes it possible to know whether drivers are looking at their mobile phones while driving or whether drivers are wearing their seatbelts, thanks to video sequences.
“We looked at images from 15 vehicles over a few months and saw the difference it made” in driver habits, Rose says. Since the implementation of Nauto at the end of 2018, Loram has recorded a reduction of around 79% in accidents.
Nauto creates a per-driver safety score called a Visual Enhancement Risk Rating, or VERA, which assesses driver habits such as hard acceleration/braking, tailgating, and speeding. In the first six months of implementation, no Loram driver had a Nauto VERA score of 100. Now, 71 drivers in Loram’s fleet have a perfect score, and the top 200 drivers have a score of 90 or more . The average Nauto track fleet score is around 78.
Loram uses video footage to review incidents and coach drivers. If the system picks up a bad habit of tailgating or speeding, for example, Rose’s team can identify a pattern and have a productive conversation with the driver.
When the company first introduced the technology, drivers weren’t comfortable having cameras in the cabin. It was feared that management was monitoring them in real time.
However, Rose says, the concerns were resolved when Loram began showing drivers footage of cases where in-cab video helped defend Loram and its drivers from wrongful charges when an accident occurs.
“Our crew members were okay with using the system, especially when they saw what it did for them in terms of driving habits,” says Rose. “It took a little while for all the fear of Big Brother to dissipate.”
Even some veteran employees who seemed to be the last to accept the new system are now among the biggest supporters.
This article first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.