Imagine having the ability to monitor drivers for hard-braking events, excessive speed or G-forces on turns and exit ramps, excessive lane changes, driving too close to surrounding vehicles, excessive rpms, excessive idling or violation of hours of service regulations. Imagine then being able to provide drivers with immediate safety training — right in the cab — to mitigate the possibility that this risky behavior will result in an accident.

That ability to predict and prevent accidents before they happen is here.

Instructional Technologies Inc. is gathering all the driver and vehicle performance data that various onboard systems provide and is making that data intelligent by, in part, overlaying concurrent road and weather conditions and GPS information. The results are expected to be available to fleets via all in-cab communications providers by the third quarter of 2008.

The fleet and the driver will be immediately notified of any at-risk driving behavior detected. Then, using its Pro-Tread interactive driver training, ITI can administer the appropriate, targeted lessons — in-cab or anywhere on the Internet — to remediate that at-risk behavior.

Pro-Tread driver training has been available over the Internet for several years, and is now available directly and immediately in the cab through DriverTech units. Within a few months, Pro-Tread training also will be accessible via GeoLogic and PeopleNet systems.

The first fleet in the country to begin using the new technology is U.S. Xpress, which has equipped more than 4,000 trucks with DriverTech units and began training drivers in-cab in early November.

"Continuing education for drivers is an important part of our industry, and we have always taken great pride at U.S. Xpress in finding new ways to reach out to our drivers with information that can make a difference in their daily work and their lives," says Max Fuller, U.S. Xpress co-chairman and CEO. "The ability to place Pro-Tread training modules within the cabs of our trucks through our DriverTech units is a true breakthrough."

Driver acceptance of the in-cab training program has been positive. "In my job, you never stop learning, and that is one of the reasons I've stayed with U.S. Xpress," says veteran driver Judy McCarley. "They are committed to training. Unfortunately, even at U.S. Xpress, it can be tough getting timely access to computer-based training modules. But, with the Pro-Tread training modules aboard my truck, I don't have to wait to visit the terminal. I can continue training at the pace that fits me the best. I am very impressed with the way the modules work on the DriverTech units. This has made life on the road much better for me."

Most significant is the fact that in-cab driver training will soon be coupled with the predictive technology that can immediately alert carriers to at-risk drivers. A fleet can set up instructions with ITI, based on the trucking company's own particular policies, to go ahead and administer the appropriate, targeted Pro-Tread training when at-risk behavior is identified.

ITI's Driver Management System will then notify the fleet and the driver when the required lesson has been completed with 100 percent mastery.

The fleet may also respond to the information on at-risk driving behaviors in any other way they wish, such as retraining the driver at a terminal or letting him go. They are not required to retrain the driver with Pro-Tread.

"For the first time, the trucking industry will be able to monitor driver and vehicle performance in order to detect risky and/or unsafe behaviors or tendencies before any incident occurs," says Bruce Weiss, ITI executive vice president. "This allows preemptive, targeted retraining and remediation for all drivers, based on the real-time performance of every driver in every road condition every minute the wheels are rolling. My belief is that it will dramatically decrease crashes, losses and costs; reduce driver turnover; and enormously affect the risk management and litigation environments. The public and insurance companies will no longer tolerate fleets that do not care enough to monitor their drivers for at-risk behavior and then manage that behavior, either through retraining or refusing work to that driver."

E-mail Deb Whistler at [email protected], or write P.O. Box W, Newport Beach, CA 92658.