DriveCam event recorders, coaching protocol steer TXI fleet costs south

A 2011-13 portfolio shift solidifying integrated cement and concrete positions has seen TXI expand its mixer fleet and ready mix production capacity nearly 50 percent—growing an existing market footprint more than any producer this decade. The shift has involved asset exchanges with home state peers Trinity Industries and Cemex USA, netting Dallas-based TXI an additional 250-plus mixers and tanker or dump tractors, all serving 40-plus plants across central and east Texas.

Arrival of new rolling stock and driving professionals dovetails company-wide adoption of DriveCam technology. It combines cab-mounted video hardware monitoring action on both sides of the windshield; footage capture of triggering events like sudden braking or abrupt lane change and, cellular network relay of video files to the user-dedicated DriveCam Online 3.0 portal. Equipped with dashboard functions, the portal supports a training and coaching program where fleet or plant supervisors review with drivers ways to improve behavior patterns that compromise safe vehicle operation and fuel economy. Supervisors or designated coaches also present mixer operator footage validating measures that prevent accidents or addressing misleading or inaccurate claims made by motorists against TXI.
The producer’s full DriveCam rollout to existing and new mixer trucks and dump or tanker tractors is no accident: Initial 2008-09 deployment of the technology for 200-plus mixers and tractors serving its principal concrete market, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, revealed strong cost-saving potential. “DriveCam yielded meaningful results over a relatively short period of time. Not only were claims reduced compared to years past, but we also saw a reduction in overall fleet costs as well,” says TXI Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jamie Rogers. “Improving safety, education and our fraudulent liability profile all paved the way for us to transform how we operate, and this approach quickly gained momentum across our ready mix operations.”
“We measured a 67 percent reduction in frequency of automobile incident reports and related liability costs in the pilot,” notes TXI Vice President–Concrete Tom Zais. “That alone amounted to a return on investment in the first 18 months of technology deployment. When slicing certain performance aspects thinner, like reduction of rear end or side collision rates, improvement ranged from 50 to 90 percent.
“Installation in fleets beyond Dallas-Ft. Worth followed quickly after validation of the technology. We have seen year-over-year improvement in most categories of driver behavior throughout the fleet.”

Change catalyst
The DriveCam program was introduced as a closed loop feedback opportunity for supervisors to coach driving professionals on safe vehicle operations, but has instead spurred a cultural transformation for all TXI staff tied to fleet operations.
After observing results from the Dallas-Ft. Worth DriveCam installation, notes Zais, “We undertook reorganization to introduce instructor roles for day-to-day coaching skill development and established support personnel with a focus on overall operational competencies. The ‘manager-as-coach’ philosophy had been around a long time. We needed to improve supervisors’ coaching skills.
“Cameras and recorded events do little for you. It’s what you do with the footage that leads to improved safety and operating metrics. Like a golf swing, improvement in truck driving skills occurs when drivers are put on camera and can view what they do right and what they need to change.”
The positive effect of identifying potentially unsafe behavior and actions behind the wheel, and changing behavior leading to better driving skills, helped sideline driver concerns regarding “big brother” monitoring and event recording. Fleet staff reorganization, plus assimilation of former Cemex and Trinity managers and assets, has positioned TXI with about 60 supervisors and others assigned to coaching and training.
“Texas roads are unique,” says Zais. “In the Dallas-Ft. Worth market, we’re dealing with a lot of congestion, whereas our smaller markets in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas have different variables affecting truck safety. We train supervisors and Ready-Mix Instructors to manage against risks unique to their markets. Overall, we continue to layer in changes to enhance coaching development and squeeze more results out of the DriveCam technology.”
Aside from return on investment attributable to coaching and improved driver behavior, TXI also benefits from reduced exposure to fraudulent claims and liability in accidents when fault is in question: DriveCam video recorders capture action before and after vehicles collide or make contact. Prior to the company-wide DriveCam rollout and fleet expansion, says Zais, “There had been a least a half dozen instances where footage exonerated us from accident liability. Each was easy to relate to past (pre-DriveCam) situations where our drivers were presumed at fault. With expanded use of the technology, we see one to two incidents per year of driver exoneration.” The rapid availability of incident footage, he adds, is likely a deterrent to motorists tempted to make fraudulent claims regarding road incidents and TXI vehicles.
“DriveCam is an example of our commitment to innovation and continuous improvement, which allows us to offer mixer operators and their coaches solid data to facilitate a positive coaching experience,” he concludes. “The relationship between our operators and fleet managers is stronger than ever before, which has led to improved driver safety, increased productivity and significant claims reductions.”