Maximize Driver Safety, Compliance with NexTraq
BY AsphaltPro Staff
There are a number of uses for smartphones and tablets on today’s job site, from in-field communication to fleet management. However, these smart devices can also enable a number of distracting and downright dangerous behaviors if handled improperly.
That’s why NexTraq, a global fleet telematics company based in Atlanta, Georgia, launched MobileBlock: to ensure drivers’ smartphones and tablet screens are locked during driving.
MobileBlock is a self-adhering piece of hardware about the size of a quarter that can be placed anywhere within the vehicle. Once the hardware is installed, any devices that have downloaded MobileBlock’s companion app for iOS and Android will not be able to access apps, text or call (unless via Bluetooth) while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers will, however, continue to have access to emergency call and navigation apps. To access other apps, the vehicle must be in park with the ignition disengaged.
“We want to help our customers manage what is happening in their vehicles,” said NexTraq Vice President of Sales Todd Hanna. “Our customers are very concerned that their vehicles are operated in a safe manner.”
Although MobileBlock plays an important role in achieving that goal, it’s only one aspect of NexTraq’s overall mission to improve fleet visibility and productivity, maintenance and compliance, mobile workforce management, and driver safety.
NexTraq’s Fleet Management Vision
NexTraq, acquired by Michelin in 2017, is a part of Michelin’s Global Services and Solutions business line. It has more than 100,000 active monthly subscribers and its telematics solutions are deployed in more than 850,000 vehicles worldwide.
The NexTraq platform is accessible as a desktop application, a mobile app for iOS and Android devices, and as an application program interface (API) to allow for its suite of tools to exchange data with a customer’s preferred platform.
In addition to MobileBlock, NexTraq relies on a number of other devices to deliver actionable data to its platform.
The devices NexTraq uses to track the location and use of each vehicle or piece of equipment include a plug-and-play device about the size of a cell phone, which can be connected to a vehicle’s OBD 2 port, or a tracker hardwired into the asset’s Controller Area Network (CAN), which is an internal network designed to facilitate communication between components within the vehicle or piece of equipment.
If an asset has an OBD 2 port for immediate access to its onboard computer, the plug-and-play devices can be moved from vehicle to vehicle and installed in seconds. Without the port, it takes roughly 15 minutes to install and connect the device to the asset’s CAN-bus. Each of these devices can either be powered by the asset’s engine, or solar- or battery-power.
NexTraq is also working on a mobile device alternative. “Most vehicles already come with onboard telematics, but no way to display them or make them actionable,” Hanna said. “We’re working to eliminate hardware and utilize the devices people already have so they can just download an app and have the same functionality.”
NexTraq tracks assets every 60 seconds so users can pull up a live map of all equipped assets, as well as set up notifications as assets exit and enter various geofences (virtual geographic boundaries).
“Our customers want to ensure proper fleet utilization: do I have enough vehicles or equipment? What is sitting idle? How can I better manage my fleet across all jobs?” Hanna said. “And, they want to ensure drivers are working as they should. Are they leaving and arriving when they’re supposed to? Are they going where they are supposed to go, and not going where they aren’t supposed to go?”
NexTraq: More Than Fleet Management
In addition to fleet visibility, management and productivity, these devices also enable NexTraq’s three other pillars: maintenance and compliance, mobile workforce management, and driver safety.
“Many of our customers don’t necessarily have a payroll system that works if employees start from home or aren’t going to the same location day after day,” he said. “Our tools make it possible for that mobile workforce to clock in and out from wherever they are when they start their shift.”
The devices also track engine hours and will prompt maintenance activities based on the schedule the customer inputs for that piece of equipment.
“It’s important that everything is being inspected and serviced on an appropriate and regular basis,” Hanna said. “We want to help our customers manage their maintenance program, as well as their safety compliance.”
Customers can also equip vehicles with NexTraq’s inward and outward facing dash cameras. Anytime the CAN-connected devices recognize what Hanna refers to as the ABCs of hard driving (rapid acceleration, harsh braking, or tight corners), the 10 seconds before and after that event are logged. “By logging events triggered by those ABCs of driving, we save the customer time having to look through hours of video,” Hanna said. It’s also possible to have a live video feed of each vehicle, or request video from a specific time period.
Even without accidents—with or without video from the dash cams—tracking each incident within NexTraq’s platform offers employers a chance to coach their drivers on areas they may be performing unsafely.
A driver who may have logged more harsh braking events than desired might be required by his employer to watch NexTraq’s training videos pertaining to that issue, such as defensive driving and other strategies to eliminate harsh braking. The training is offered either by subscription or a la carte.
“We want this information to be actionable, and to do that we need to take it from a driver scorecard to an actual strategy for that driver to improve,” Hanna said. “We’re living in a litigious society where people seem to take every opportunity to sue anyone with a company name on the side of their truck. We want to help people manage their safety policy, so—should there be an incident—they will be able to show that they’ve done everything in their power to operate safely.”
MobileBlock was launched in August of 2019 and is now available in the United States and Canada. For more information, visit nextraq.com.