Telematics: Monitor drivers

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. Our restaurants offer home delivery services, and we would like to monitor the driving habits of our drivers. So far I've found several expensive commercial driver monitoring and tracking systems. Do you have any suggestions for an easier and less-inexpensive solution?

A. Driving behavior data is referred to in the industry as telematics data, and a simple solution called Autobrain (myautobrain.com) might meet your needs. Designed primarily for family use, Autobrain provides a device that plugs into a car's on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, which is available in all U.S.-approved automobiles built after 1995. Autobrain automatically stores a map that shows where the automobile has been, displays how far it has been driven, and reports how safely the driver has driven via a driving score calculated based on how many dangerous driving behaviors occur during each trip (e.g., a score of 100 indicates there were no dangerous driving behaviors), as pictured below. As of March 28, the Autobrain plug-in device was priced at $99.95, and the ongoing monthly activation fee was $15 per month (after the first trial month, which is free). Other Autobrain benefits include automatic emergency crash response in the event an accident is detected and roadside assistance (up to five free service calls a year, such as free towing and tire changes in which you pay only for parts and materials). The solution can also be configured to send instant messages to your smartphone (via the Autobrain app) if the driver is driving too fast (you set the threshold that triggers this message).

Be aware that the more expensive commercial driver monitoring systems offer superior functionality, such as the ability to automatically combine and report telematics data for all drivers (or subsets of drivers) for analytical purposes. For example, UPS claims to use its telematics data to match routes with vehicles that achieve better gas mileage at the speeds each route requires, and designs routes that minimize the number of stops and starts required along the way. The simpler Autobrain app is not designed to provide this level of functionality. (Related information on this subject was presented in May's "Expanding Your App-titude" column, page 74.)

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About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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