Avoiding Multitasking Mistakes

Multitasking Is The New Normal

In 2020 there was a huge shift in the way we do business. We were multitasking before, but often in a community workspace with more team interaction. Social distancing has forced us to re-think the workspace and work more independently. With that comes more multitasking, and a new level of stress and confusion can emerge. For drivers who have more technology to manage on the road, mistakes can have deadly consequences.

Fleets are using more electronics than ever for navigation, ELD, work orders, and communication. Fleet managers supervise drivers engaging in potentially dangerous multitasking that in some cases runs counter to the safety programs in place. Managers and dispatchers make exceptions when they need something, but later hold a driver accountable for talking on a phone while driving. Is there a double standard? Where do operational requirements supersede safety best practices? It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but one we need to be having.

Applying Wisdom From Other Disciplines

As a training center for NSC’s Defensive Driving Course, we get a lot of safety related communications and links to safety related content. A recent article “Safety Leadership: Reducing catastrophic incident potential via enhanced human performance reliability” by Matt Hargrove from DEKRA Organizational Safety and Reliability caught our attention. His post focuses on catastrophic incidents that occur on offshore drilling rigs, but there was some underlying wisdom that can be universally applied.

Given, most of our readers are not doing potentially life threatening jobs in dangerous environments, but one statement Matt Hargrove made strikes at the heart of what most of us are doing.

“We make more mistakes when our work is designed to have us multitask.”

Matt Hargrove

Principal Consultant, DEKRA Organizational Safety and Reliability

Multi tasking manager

That statement is true for drivers, managers, support staff, vendors… all of us. And with all of the technology we use day to day, everyone is multitasking. So, how can we support employees to make fewer mistakes while still accomplishing all that needs to be done?

The author listed 5 specific “layers of protection” to be considered to “further reduce potential for catastrophic incidents”. If we consider those same recommendations with a fleet based operation in mind, are able to identify specific actions we can take to prevent the common multitasking related mistakes we make everyday.

Five Layers of Protection

  1. “Creating clear alignment on prioritization of competing organizational targets and objectives.”

Make sure drivers, managers, and support staff are clear on their own priorities, and each other’s. A manager that needs something done right now must consider a driver’s first priority is arriving safely. It’s OK to communicate urgency, but not to pressure the driver to hurry unduly. If he is a few minutes late due to driving on icy roads, express that it is OK.

  1. “Creating brain-aligned standard operating procedures and documents in which design and content are developed in a way that highlights critical steps and prompts specific actions that reduce potential for critical error.”

Maybe it’s time to take a good look at our forms and processes. Do forms follow the work flow so that drivers and other workers can document what they are doing in the order they normally do it? Are the fields for must have information required fields on electronic forms and highlighted somehow on paper forms? Are you using checklists to confirm the proper steps have been taken?

3. “Creating specific lines of inquiry related to human performance and human-machine interface to understand how errors might occur/or have occurred post-incident.”

When mistakes are made, they should be reviewed to determine why they were made. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn from mistakes and understand if multitasking is contributing to errors made. That responsibility needs to be owned by someone in the organization. Once we identify the common threads when mistakes occur, we can take steps to mitigate their re-occurrence.

  1. “Deploying a structured technique for hazard identification (going from looking to seeing and mitigating hazards). Creating prompts that move people out of the default autopilot (fast brain) during safety-critical transitions within work tasks.”

Within our own departments we do things out of habit because that’s the way they have always been done. Perhaps we should get a fresh set of eyes on our procedures and forms to help us identify areas we might improve. For instance, we recently identified that two employees in different departments were both creating and uploading a nearly identical document into the same shared folder. We determined it made more sense to share a single document cutting both workloads. Now, both know to check the folder for an existing document before creating a new one. It’s a small thing, but every little bit helps.

  1. “Training frontline team members to understand the causes of performance errors and co-develop the techniques and system changes necessary to control for them.”

This goes hand in hand with #4 on the list. Management needs to be on the lookout to identify wasted effort wherever it lives. It could be anything from an employee spending hours doing something manually that could be done more efficiently with the right software or integration, to identifying overlapping tasks that can be shifted to the most appropriate team member. If we can split the workload we can eliminate some of the multitasking.

A Few Simple Ideas You Can Implement Now

Some suggestions from our own staff include completing the task you are working on before starting another, closing your email client to avoid distractions, and organizing your email inbox with folders to prioritize and group similar tasks together. It all seems to come down to being open to change. There are a plethora of apps designed to help us get more done in less time and with less error. Being willing to evaluate and invest in those new solutions can be a game changer!

The Alert Notification Conundrum

Alert Notifications… 3 enough? 6 too many?

One of the things users of GPS tracking systems struggle with is alert notifications. That is what you asked for when you deployed your system because alerts were going to solve a lot of problems. The plan was to be on top of everything going on. Soon after you deployed, your cell phone was filled with text messages and your email inbox was overloaded. You knew everything that was going on, but could not get anything done, so out of frustration you just turned those alerts off.

Some of you may not be old enough to remember the old Fletcher’s Castoria commercial from the 1960‘s. It made the phrase “three enough, six too many?” famous. The product was a mild laxative for children, said to be better than prunes because there was no guesswork regarding the dosage. Giving a child too many prunes was something mothers wanted to avoid for obvious reasons. But the right amount was a very good thing.
Similarly, alert notifications from your GPS tracking platform are a great solution to some of the big challenges fleet managers face. At the same time, too many alerts create disaster. With our cell phones constantly alerting us to every little thing we have become numb to the notification sounds and can easily learn to ignore them, or even worse, allow them to distract us unnecessarily. It can even lead to distracted driving!
Multitasking manager

Managing by Exception

In contrast, if we create rules to uncover the things we want to know, but we don’t get alerts and we don’t schedule reports, we are not getting the full benefit of the system. Your GPS tracking system was designed to save you time and money, not keep you at a desk reviewing everything everyone did. Managing by exception is key. Filter what should not occur to the top of the pile and use the system to find the details that paint the full picture of those events/

The answer is achieving balance using alert notifications and scheduled reports in tandem. Consider what the things are that you really need to know as soon as they occur. If a sewage pump stops pumping, you probably want to be on top of that in a hurry. When a collision occurs and your driver is perhaps unable to call you, that is critical information as well. But, if Billy drives 5 mph over the posted speed limit, we can probably deal with that later.

Keeping it Super Simple

The common denominator is simply deciding which events require immediate action when they occur. If you will stop what you are doing to attend to the situation as soon as you know about it, an alert notification is appropriate. Conversely, if it is just more information that isn’t necessary right now, there is no need to send a notification message. You can digest that kind of information when it is more convenient by using scheduled reports. Scheduled reports will get the same information to you. Moreover, it is condensed with all events for all drivers for a day, a week, or a month, allowing you to separate isolated events from trends and bad habits.

What About Critical Alert Notifications?

When critical alerts are necessary, even 24/7, consider subscribing to Fleetistics Priority Notification Service. PNS uses a round-robin notification process to alert key individuals of critical issues. This occurs outside the noise of the standard GPS service information. Notifications are sent via SMS and then a digital voice call. First, they are sent to the primary person responsible for critical issues. Then, if that person is unavailable due to travel, vacation, cellular coverage, or whatever, the next contact on your list is notified. By including multiple people in the notification process, others are automatically notified when the primary is unavailable. Sign up for a 30-day trial if PNS sounds right for you.

Try Priority Notification Service, or any MyFleetistics service free for 30 days. No contracts! It’s easy, just log into MyFleetistics and go to:

MyFleetistics > Account > Administer Services

Priority Notification Service Free Trial

 

Click the button to turn on the service you want. Most services come with a 30-day free trial. Once the service is enabled the free trial automatically begins. The setup fee (if applicable) and monthly service will automatically begin billing after the trial ends, unless you switch the service off using the same button you used to turn it on. Once services are activated your panel will look like this:

 

Administer Services after Activation

Leveraging GPS Data Pays Off!

GPS Data can be mined just like precious gemstones…

In my time at Fleetistics I have noticed the clients we speak with generally fall into one of 3 persuasions.

  1. Those who remain unconvinced of the value of GPS data, undecided, and plan to deploy the technology someday.
  2. Clients who understand the value, deploy and then underuse their GPS data.
  3. Intentional users who deploy, immerse themselves in the value of the information at their fingertips and become POWER users.

If you are still just thinking about telematics for your fleet, every day you delay is costing you cold hard cash.

For those who have already deployed, are you using your system to its fullest potential?

And to our POWER users, I say CONGRATULATIONS!

You are leveraging GPS data to save your organization money, providing every department with valuable operational data to do their jobs better, encouraging safe driving, and quite possibly saving lives.

So what do the POWER users do differently with their GPS data?

First of all, they never forget that they have valuable GPS, telematics and diagnostic data to leverage. Frankly, I learn new methods to dig for data from the POWER users all the time. It usually starts with a question. “How can I find out (you fill in the blank)?”

We look at what GPS data is available to answer the question. Then we create new rules or zones if needed, and set alerts if appropriate. In most cases, we can customize a report to sift to the data that answers the question. If we cannot solve a problem with the GPS platform, we look to develop something custom or find a partner whose technology solves the problem.

Dashboard reports

Finally, we schedule the distribution of the report to the departments that it provides value to. The departments can take appropriate action based on the data they receive. With this flow of information, departments can evaluate ongoing improvement effortlessly.

5 Proven Ways to Lower Fleet Costs using GPS data that you may have never considered.

1. Wage war on distracted driving.

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study concluded that drivers that text while driving are 23 times more likely to have a collision or a near miss. Other VTTI studies have shown that taking your eyes off the road just prior to the occurrence of an unexpected event is responsible for up to 90% of collision and near-miss events.

A simple camera system can monitor for distractions like phone use, texting, and smoking. There are also clues in the GPS data. Frequent hard braking and hard turning events, especially when they occur in pairs, are a strong indicator that drivers are not paying attention.

Once you identify drivers that are at risk you can institute a driver training program, incorporate cell phone supression technology in vehicle, or start a program that recognizes and rewards drivers for improvement and safe driving scores.

2. Slow down your speeders

Speeding is dangerous and wastes fuel. As a result, if you can slow drivers down a little you lower risk and save money.

Wage war on speeding in the same manner as distracted driving above, but also look at why your drivers feel the need to speed. Review routes for efficiency, number of stops and factor the time each stop may take. It may be time to look at route optimization software to streamline routes and understand where you can and can’t fit another stop in.

Last question… Are your expectations of what a driver can complete in a workday reasonable? Really think about that considering speed limits, traffic patterns, and areas that get congested at certain times of day. If not, consider this.

average cost of a collision

What comes out of pocket depends on your insurace, but I expect it would cost your company less to hire another driver and spread out the workload.

3. Weather Factoring

For a ridiculously low investment, MyFleetview weather overlays can be added to your GPS system. When the weather is an issue in your area, you can see what vehicles may be affected and easily reschedule jobs or reshuffle deliveries to keep drivers away from unsafe conditions.

This is especially critical when doing outdoor work like roofing or landscaping. You are already conscious of the weather. Being able to see where a storm is headed in relation to your jobs and vehicles on the map makes those last-minute decisions faster and easier to make.

MyFleetview Weather Overlay

4. Develop and retain safe drivers

Sometimes we overlook the GPS data that shows us there is not a problem. We all know that onboarding a new employee and getting them up to speed is costly and time consuming. Keeping the experienced drivers you have is just good business, and it seems like really good employees are getting harder to find.

You can use the GPS data and score card reports to stay up to date on who your safest drivers are. Make that a point to cover in performance reviews and again, recognize and reward employees that are saving you money by reducing company risk exposure. Employees that feel appreciated stay longer.

5. Hire a GPS Administrator... no, really!

I know what you are thinking… add another salaried employee to save money??? Well, yes! First of all, your Managers have time to log in and see where their people are, but not the time to dig in and analyze all of the GPS data being collected.

If you hire someone whose primary job is to find ways to save money and streamline operations the payoff can be huge. They will have time to optimize the GPS system and use the GPS data to find ways to save you money, and their bonus incentive can be tied to those proven savings. Now you might just get everything you want out of your GPS data and more.

For a fleet of 20 vehicles, saving just $5 per vehicle per day, which can be achieved by controlling idle time alone, gives you $26,000 toward an Administrator’s salary package.

Fleet Administrator

Geotab Privacy Mode

Geotab has created a privacy mode that will allow drivers and fleet managers to temporarily hide their vehicle tracking in the Geotab application. When privacy mode is used, location, speed, and engine data will not be visible. The driving data will still be collected while in privacy mode, however, it will be stored as private.

The purpose of privacy mode is for companies to temporarily not track drivers that take their vehicles home after working hours. This feature can be set to automatically turn on when work hours are finished (for example 5 pm to 8 am) or when a vehicle enters a specific zone. This is a great feature for companies that will let their employees use company-owned vehicles for personal use. Privacy mode can also be used when operating in sensitive areas to hide vehicle movement.

The privacy mode feature is downloaded through the Marketplace inside of the Geotab application. Once it is downloaded, it can be configured so that privacy mode will turn on automatically or it can be left alone so that drivers can turn it on and off themselves. For a driver to enable privacy mode, they will need to install the Geotab Drive app on their phone or smart device. A member of the admin team will also need to create the driver in the database and set them up with a password so that they can log into the Drive app. If your company is using E-Logs/HOS, you do not want to download the Privacy Mode Add-In as it will affect your duty status logs and you may no longer be in compliance per the FMCSA.