Opinion: Is your rental car watching you?

By Oz Desai, gm of Corporate Traveller South Africa


Statistics show it is more likely that a traveller will be involved in a car or transportation accident than be the victim of a terrorist attack. It is the day-to-day of business travel that travel managers and TMCs like Corporate Traveller also need to address when employees are travelling.

Globally, the car rental industry has started to adopt telematics to monitor driver behaviour and improve safety on the road. Devices installed in the rental car will detect any ‘aggressive driving’ including harsh braking or accelerating, as well as over-revving. This behaviour not only poses a risk to the driver, it also leads to increased fuel usage and CO2 emissions.

Through monitoring each of the parameters that determine ‘Driving Behaviour’ and providing feedback on a regular basis, TMCs can help companies ensure their employees understand where they need to improve.

It’s not always necessary to explicitly reward good behaviour or penalise bad behaviour either. Research has shown that the simple fact of being ‘watched’ is often enough to bring about changes. Florida International University law professor Howard Wasserman has stated that the most significant impact of devices such as bodycams and taxicams is that people act differently when they know they’re on camera.

The same is true for driving behaviour. This can lead to considerable savings for companies who are liable for their employees’ actions when operating a vehicle while away on business.

In South Africa, car rental companies have not started installing behaviour monitors in great numbers yet. However, they are starting to explore the territory. The Avis SafeDrive product  for example monitors and rewards customers for good driving behaviour with rewards such as a free coffee or a free meal. 

Corporate customers can benefit from this product as their car rental bill should show an improvement in terms of damage costs, according to Avis. If corporates are self-insured, a decrease in damage costs will assist with their premiums.

Privacy has further been highlighted globally as an important concern with the increasing use of this type of technology. However, negative attitudes about privacy are not prevalent in South Africa. Research shows that South African drivers are keen to try out this new technology, especially if it could lead to decreased insurance premiums and rewards.

Professional Services Firm, Towers Watson commissioned a consumer survey

that shows the interest for telematics in South Africa is higher than in any other country worldwide. South Africans also said they would be willing to change their driving behaviour to benefit from rewards. When asked which particular driving behaviours they would be prepared to adapt, 78% said they would expect to pay greater attention to speed limits, 68% said they would drive more carefully, and 55% would be more conscious of keeping a safer distance from the car in front of them.

Improving the way your employees drive should definitely be on your radar for 2018. Turn to your TMC for advice on how to mitigate your risk when hiring cars for your business travellers and make them aware of the visbility you may have in terms of their drivingand the subsequent consequences.

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