Mobile Workforce Technology and the Cost of Distracted Drivers

When it comes to managing a professional fleet of drivers and service vehicles, nothing is more useful to your business than mobile workforce technology. After all, what you run is exactly that: A mobile workforce. It’s excellent to be able to closely track your fleet from headquarters and offer real-time support when it is needed. And your teams value being able to connect to online work resources through mobile apps while out on the job. So naturally, it makes sense to equip both vehicles and vehicle teams with mobile technology. And to integrate mobile technology into your business procedures.

However, there is a risk that not all fleet managers see coming: Distracted driving. Even reliable, focused drivers can become distracted if they are too hooked into their mobile device while driving. Especially if they are anticipating important messages from headquarters. This is why it’s very helpful to have a second person in the car who can track communications and act as a navigator. But that isn’t always an option. Many business fleets have one driver per car instead of a whole service team who can share duties. 

When integrating new technology into your fleet, it’s tempting to just look at the possibilities. But it’s also important to consider the potential downsides as well. Mobile workforce technology like GPS and phone apps can absolutely make them more efficient. But additional technology can also distract your drivers while they operate the vehicles. In fact, distracted driving is now a defined legal infraction and employers are accidentally distracting their well-equipped drivers all the time with messages and phone calls.

Distracted Driving is a Common Illegal Mistake

Everyone ignores the ‘hang up your cellphone’ signs on the highway. We all think “Oh, that’s not me. I’ll be careful”. And you assume the same of your drivers. But this isn’t just a matter of carefulness, it’s a matter of law. Across the US, it is officially illegal to be distracted by mobile device interactions while driving. In many states, adults are limited to hands-free calls and navigation system use while teens are not allowed to use mobile devices at all while driving.

Distracted driving accounts for about a 25% of all motor vehicle crashes each year. Looking at a tablet or smartphone can cause drivers to miss early warning signs about dangers on the road or not see the way other drivers are moving. This significantly reduces the safety of driving and can lead to a wide variety of crashes from one-vehicle property damage to high-speed collisions.

In most cases, the issue of distracted driving come up after an accident occurs. While it’s true that few officers are going to pull someone over for talking on their phone, it can make accident liability much worse. If one of your drivers is occupied on a phone or mobile device when a crash occurs, it is assumed that they were not paying sufficient attention to the road – no matter what the other circumstances may be.

The problem is that many employers embracing the ‘mobile workforce’ mentality don’t realize that they are putting their drivers in danger. When drivers are expected to answer calls, texts, and app messages in the middle of their route, this will almost inevitably lead to distracted driving.

Mobile Workforce Technology vs Safe Driving

Mobile workforce technology can be used ‘on the go’ but most was not designed specifically for drivers. It was designed so that professionals can reach their work resources and stay in contact when stationary in remote locations. Mobile workforce technology allows professionals to send and receive messages on business trips, working vacations, and on-location with clients. Behind the wheel, however, your drivers need to disconnect to pay attention to the road.

The entire point of mobile workforce upgrades are to keep your teams in the loop. Unfortunately, this directly clashes with the requirements of safe driving. The Always-Connected work culture has increased car accidents by about 12 percent, according to Motus. Your fleet drivers need to be absolutely focused on the road in order to protect themselves, passengers, the car, and other vehicles. They cannot be constantly taking calls, tapping out texts, or answering emails while driving. It’s just not practical no matter how ‘mobile’ their work may be.

The Most Distracting Factors

The most distracting aspects of mobile workforce technology are phone calls and messages. Especially if the driver is expected to pick up and engage right away. This is especially true if their navigation device also receives messages. Alerts about calls or texts often pop up on the screen of mobile device while it is acting as a navigator and drivers often feel compelled to answer.

Getting a message in the middle of driving a route could mean that the route or schedule has changed. Checking that message can feel urgent. But it’s not more important than safely operating a vehicle and HQ should know that. Any message you send drivers out on the road will need to wait until the next time they park to be read and answered. When both drivers and management understand that, a safe routine can be established to keep drivers focused on the road.

But even if HQ knows not to send drivers messages while they’re en route, others may not. Calls from clients, family, or even fellow drivers who are stopped can also serve as distractions. Fortunately, we have a solution.

Mobile Workforce Safe from Distracted Driving

Naturally, you don’t want to take great mobile tech away from your drivers or fleet teams, just eliminate driver risk. That is why Ready Fleet has put together a distracted driving solution. The solution for the mobile workforce makes sure that when a driver is on the road, their calls and messages are put on hold. It’s nearly impossible to keep messaging apps from chirping when a driver gets an incoming text or chat update and they may feel the need to answer. Even if there’s nowhere convenient to stop.

Our solution solves this problem by being aware of when the driver is moving. If the car is stopped, calls and messages come through normally. However, if the vehicle is in motion, it will stop messages from coming through and distracting the driver until they are stopped again. This not only keeps drivers safe on the road, it also can help management and teams adapt to a safer driving standard. Messages, for example, can still come through on the phone of a second team member who is sitting in the navigator position, encouraging management to know who to call for urgent updates. And any accidental message sending to someone driving has no chance of dangerously distracting them because calls are stopped before they even reach the phone.

Upgrading your fleet to a mobile workforce doesn’t have to mean more risk for your drivers. With Ready Fleet’s Groove feature, you can keep your drivers safe while keeping the rest of the team in the loop. Drivers will get your messages when they come to a full and complete stop but navigators can still act as a center of team communication. Your drivers won’t even be distracted by calls coming from outside contacts like clients or family. For more information on how Ready Fleet can help your mobile workforce fleets stay high-tech and safe at the same time, contact us today!