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Upgrading your fleet? Don’t neglect the importance of driver training

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Posted on 17th Sep, 2019 by Charlotte Coop

Vehicle safety technology has come a long way in the last few decades, and it’s evolving further with every passing year. (We should know!) Today, modern devices can improve the awareness of drivers, heighten overall visibility and even remind them of important tasks, like setting the handbrake when hill-parking. With all of this in mind, it might seem like technology is actually taking the hardest jobs out of the hands of drivers. But that’s not the case – these products are certainly designed to make life easier, but they’re no substitute for a diligent, careful driver.

How vehicle safety technology is making life easier for drivers

HGVs have been ferrying essential goods and utilities around our nation for decades, but it’s only really in the last few years that vehicle safety technology has really come into its own, improving safety for drivers and vulnerable road users alike. It does this in several key ways – for example by improving visibility, awareness, and security. Modern vehicle cameras have become a lot more sophisticated in recent years, allowing drivers to monitor historically dangerous blind spots on their vehicle.

lorries on motorway

Meanwhile, devices like TurnAware, our cyclist detection system, and reversing radars are useful for alerting drivers to encroaching obstacles and vulnerable people they may not have seen, while our RFID vehicle Ident system provides peace of mind for fleet managers that the vehicles are only being driven by qualified persons. As you might have guessed, we’re certainly not going to talk vehicle safety technology down here at Vision Techniques! However, it’s just important to bear in mind where it all fits in.

Why driver attitudes and skills are still critical to safety

We’ll sum it up thusly: all the technology we’ve outlined above is designed to help the driver, not replace them. When TurnAware alerts a driver to a nearby cyclist, and he acts (or refrains from acting) accordingly in order to ensure their safety, ultimately it’s not the technology that saves that cyclist – it’s the driver. The technology is just there to help, which it does by giving the driver vital information and awareness. But it can’t make decisions for them.

fleet operators doing logistics

For these reasons, even the most sophisticated of our products here at Vision Techniques shouldn’t be taken for granted – they’re there as an emergency measure, as a failsafe for a diligent driver. An HGV driver shouldn’t make a turn without looking, just because he relies on technology to tell him whether a cyclist is blocking his way – just the same as he shouldn’t neglect to engage the handbrake when parking on a hill, assuming BrakeSafe will do it for him. (It will, but that’s not the point!) When it comes right down to it, the driver bears the responsibility for himself and the vehicle, and to other road users, which is why even the most advanced of technologies can’t replace effective driver training. You can have the most cutting-edge vehicles in the world, but if they’re driven carelessly or irresponsibly drivers, all that tech counts for nothing.

Reading the road, identifying and responding to hazards, leaving acceptable braking distances, and reacting quickly and appropriately to aquaplaning are all examples of tasks that most current technology doesn’t do for you (and arguably shouldn’t). Similarly, the responsibility lies with humans to ensure that the vehicles themselves are kept in decent condition – ensuring tyres are at the appropriate tread depth, checking steering responsiveness, and that vision is clear.

The Direct Vision Standard

We’ve spoken at length quite recently about the Direct Vision Standard, and it’s relevant here because it supports our point. Specifically, the Direct Vision Standard assesses and rates how much an HGV driver can see directly from their cab (i.e. without the use of cameras or other devices). In doing this, it re-emphasises the role of the driver in determining the overall safety level of the HGV, while positioning vehicle safety technology as a secondary – although still important! – concern.

It’s currently being rolled out to London within the next year or so, but authorities in other cities and locations within the UK might start to adopt similar initiatives. It’s a good demonstration of how official positions still deem humans to be centrally responsible to each other’s safety, which means that driver training should be always be a key consideration for any fleet manager looking to overhaul the technology of their fleet.

Alongside training refreshers for experienced employees, it may also be wise to think about driver checks for new HGV drivers. We’ve gone into more detail on the linked post! If you’re already confident on the level of training for all employees, we’ve got a fantastic range of vehicle safety technology at Vision Techniques. You can browse the best products for your fleet right here on our site, or alternatively give our friendly sales team a call on 01254 679 717, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help!