Challenges in fleet and equipment safety operation and maintenance lead to opportunity for automation

Oct. 26, 2023
Recent study reveals methods to improve safety for contractors

Most contractors make job site safety a priority for their projects, but recent data reveals that contractors would benefit from putting safety concerns regarding equipment operation and maintenance higher on their list.

The study by Dodge Construction Network (DCN), in partnership with Motive, details the impacts that 155 surveyed contractors said that they experience from safety challenges in the operation and maintenance of their vehicles and construction equipment and reveals opportunities for deploying technology to address them.

Respondents ranged from concrete contractors to single-family home builders, all of whom were required to live in the U.S. and be familiar with equipment and vehicle management processes.

Vehicular accidents and near-misses were reported by 57% of the contractors surveyed, which they say leads to productivity declines and increased insurance costs. More than one-third of those contractors also reported declines in company profitability.

Read also: How to develop a safety culture

Although accidents with construction equipment were only reported by 27% of the respondents, the impacts can be more caustic. Contractors linked the accidents to declines in productivity and scheduling and said they lead directly to a decline in profitability on projects.

Because accidents with construction equipment are less frequent, contractors seem less likely to consider strategies to avoid them. Respondents also said that operator error is the top cause of accidents for their fleet, which suggests fleet safety training should extend beyond simply preventing errors and include defensive driving practices.

Poor maintenance practices also contributed to fleet impacts. More than half of contractors (66%) also reported experiencing safety issues due to the need for improved fleet maintenance, including both vehicles and equipment.

How automation benefits fleet safety

The study revealed an opportunity for contractors to automate how they track and manage their fleet safety. The findings show that although 76% of contractors track vehicle safety and 62% track driver behavior, most rely on paper forms or spreadsheets to do so.

Only one-quarter of contractors automate data gathering on driver and operator behavior, and even fewer (18%) automate their fleet safety tracking.

Read also: Machine data changes operator behavior

The same is true for fleet maintenance, with only a quarter using automation or AI to help them manage that process. Of those that do, however, 80% said that they it improves safety on their projects.

Using some form of automation to track and analyze both vehicle safety and driver and operator behavior would lead to several benefits for contractors, according to the report.

Forms of proven automation suggested in the study include:

  • AI devices such as an AI-powered dash cam can draw on data from drivers and operators across its network of users to allow the camera to identify behaviors that can be improved. Aside from supervisors using the data to improve training, some systems also allow drivers to review their flagged videos to assess and change their behavior
  • Proactive maintenance through automated fleet management software and apps that link to built-in self-diagnostic systems provide real-time maintenance updates
  • Benchmarking performance against other companies allows fleets to better determine the types and degrees of training needed for their drivers and operators.
About the Author

Harlee Hewitt

Harlee is associate editor for Construction Equipment. She has a Bachelor's in English with a focus on technical writing.

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