Analysis: Pandemic increases distracted driving from truck drivers

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Updated Jun 29, 2020
By tracking the number of phone distractions its technology prevented, Truce Software has seen an increase in potential risk during COVID-19.By tracking the number of phone distractions its technology prevented, Truce Software has seen an increase in potential risk during COVID-19.

Vehicle mileage fell sharply during the coronavirus lockdown but is returning to pre-pandemic levels. Along with the swing in mileages comes new driver safety risks, including speeding and driver distraction from mobile devices among carriers’ chief concerns.

Recent data analysis from ELD and fleet management technology provider Samsara across its more than 15,000 fleet customers shows a 20% increase in severe speeding events (more than 11 mph over the posted speed limit).

Analysis of 120,000 unique vehicles by Truce Software also shows that driver distraction has also been climbing sharply during COVID-19.

Texting on the rise

Data from Truce Software shows a 20% increase in the number of text messages sent to drivers in the transportation industry, correlating to the time the pandemic started in March, said Chief Executive Joe Boyle.

Drivers didn’t actually receive these text message while driving, however. Truce Software’s technology blocked them, and its data shows the number of texts, phone calls, app notifications and mobile phone use that would have occurred if its technology had not prevented it.

The number of inbound and outbound phone calls for commercial fleet drivers decreased by 10%, as did the number of app notifications and drivers’ use of non-essential apps.

Overall, the analysis from Truce Software found that all types of fleets in transportation, government, field service, etc., had an average increase in texts, calls and apps usage per 100 miles as follows:

• 26.4% in the number of inbound texts

• 30.8% in the number of inbound calls

• 26.5% in the number of times drivers attempted to access an app on their device while driving

Enforcing mobile policies

Fleets that use technology from Truce Software can set and enforce safety policies for mobile device use. A mobile application resides on drivers’ personal or corporate mobile devices to restrict drivers from using a personal device when behind the wheel of a company vehicle, for example. But it can be configured to give full access to all functions and apps when a driver is not in motion or in a personal vehicle.

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The mobile app can be paired with a small beacon device attached in the cab that permits the app on a device to take control only when the device is inside a company vehicle.

Boyle said drivers have been getting more activity on their phones during COVID-19 pandemic because face-to-face communications are at an all-time low. The patterns of business and personal communication have shifted as office workers and support staff moved to a remote environment.

Instead of working from inside a dispatch system or picking up the phone, fleet administrators are pushing more communications through text and apps, he believes. Drivers have also been using their phones more to stay informed on current events.

“In the world we are living in, the 24-hour news cycle went on steroids,” he said. “Apps are alerting us more and more frequently.”