Syed Kausar Hussain turned sharply at me when the banker-turned-transporter Jasveer Singh of Instant Transport Solutions (ITS) said, “What do you mean whether I know ADAS and DMS? Our fleet uses them.”
ADAS stands for Advanced Driver Assist System, and DMS for Driver Monitoring System. Both these acronyms are the buzzword in the trucking jagat of late.
Kausar’s surprise did not puzzle me because we had known these concepts like the back of our palms for over eight months if not more. Global giant Intel conducted a walk-through for Centre for Driver Relationship Management (CDRM) colleagues from its Bengaluru headquarters a few months ago. Then, Manesar, Haryana-based Hitec Robotics Solutions in the same ADAS-DMS arena, invited us for a talkathon with its Project Manager Priyanka Singh zipping through a 10-minute video clipping session, followed by an hour-long discussion.
We were so immersed in ADAS-DMS by now when Hitec Robotics sent Kausar and yours truly to Korba, Chattisgarh, for a live demo in a coal mine. We drove in ADAS-DMS-fitted Eicher Volvo trucks to get a first-hand experience with these new tech babies.
That’s why Kausar and I exchanged glances when the mustache-less Singh raised his eyebrows for doubting his familiarity with ADAS-DMS.
Surprisingly, Instant Transport Solutions is using Hitec Robotics goodies. We know the technology service provider and the user too of the same company. Sheer coincidence.
Also, the Nayara Energy team approached CDRM a couple of months ago, seeking our views on enhancing the safe transportation of its fuel and lubricants from its plants to the dealer network.
Then, we wrote to them thus:
For oil marketing companies (OMC), road safety is a key concern because their products are highly inflammable and therefore need special attention from public safety.
Significantly, public safety is mostly in the hands of the truck/tank/bullet driver who moves the highly inflammable goods (kerosene, diesel, petrol, aviation fuel, or bitumen and other petroleum-based items) from refineries and or bottling/filling stations to retail outlets spread across the country.
By and large, these vehicles ply in a radius of 200 odd kilometers from their production or distribution hubs through the public roads (national and state highways) to feed retail outlets serving the end-users, viz., passenger and freight carriers in all sizes.
These drivers, working for fleet owners/transporters outsourced by oil marketing companies, are expected to undergo special hazardous material handling training. Despite such precautions, hazmat drivers need something beyond such a mandatory license.
One of the key concerns is their reluctance to wear a seat belt once outside the perimeters of production/distribution hubs. They wear seat belts until they cross the city limits because of the fear of being penalized by the city police for contravening mandatory seat belt regulations.
Once out of city limits, they unbuckle their seat belts. Why? Because there is no monitoring system throughout the journey until the goods are delivered at the destination.
Besides non-compliance with the seat belt norms, speed limits are not observed en route. Why? Again, lack of monitoring.
Even if GPS is made mandatory and thus access to various driving behavior in real-time, such data capture is NOT monitored. Control Towers are there but lack attention. Vehicles on the move have to be monitored throughout the journey. But it is not done.
Harsh braking, overspeeding, and risky driving behavior are monitored and measured minutely through GPS. But those data points are not used effectively to discipline erroneous drivers. Sheer lethargy.
Parking of moving vehicles en route for short breaks for lunch/dinner, tea, etc., is another concern. So, how to usher in the desired behavioral change in drivers working for oil marketing companies? It is NOT rocket science. Constant vigilance is the need of the hour, plus regular interaction with drivers.”
We would subsequently learn that Nayara Energy has signed up Hitec Robotics for the ADAS-DMS rollout. Congrats, Nayara!
Indeed, these technological tools are necessary to help Minister for Road Transport & Highways (MORTH) Nitin Gadkari scale up safety awareness amongst us and get down from topping the dubious chart of maximum road fatalities globally.
But truck drivers’ techno phobia is legendary. It took several years before GPS could be made acceptable to truck drivers. Shippers declared, “no GPS. no load,” which led to fleet owners convincingly arguing with drivers that such an eventuality would finish their business and drivers would be jobless. Better sense prevailed, and GPS became a non-issue.
Now, the ADAS-DMS imbroglio. Same resistance. Truck makers cherish techno-fying trucks resulting in improved and digitized cabins to monitor everything. Fleet owners, any day, would love better driver monitoring tools. But, drivers don’t agree with this technology invasion into their workplace: cabin. Invasion of privacy is the core issue for them. Of course, they don’t have such jargon, but their antipathy is similar. “Once the truck is loaded, trip advanced received, and the final destination day and time decided; why anyone wants to monitor us minute by minute?” On the surface of it, this argument sounds logical.
Yet, such 24x7 surveillance has advantages as well. Alert in emergencies such as accidents, hijacks, etc. Such things are not a daily or regular occurrence is no argument at all. Once Nassim Nicholas Taleb of “Black Swan” fame remarked: it is the height of stupidity to bypass insurance on the premise that fire or industrial insurance is a sheer waste of money because they don’t happen daily. Such insurance should be viewed as a risk-mitigation exercise. It is worth the spend, he explained.
It is pertinent to recall drivers’ arguments against taking personal insurance at the cheapest premium the government offers. They said they don’t mind paying Rs.365 per annum premium, but if nothing happens during the insurance period, that premium should be refunded! Oh my God!
ITS boss’ modus operandi is noteworthy. His ADAS-DMS alerts drivers at work and simultaneously alerts his control tower executives working 24x7. If drivers don’t follow the alerts immediately, the control tower pings the driver to ensure the ADAS-DMS warnings are followed. “It works like a double alert. No way, our drivers can ignore,” elaborates Singh. Safety first. Listen to warnings.
How did Singh manage to get the buy-in of his drivers? “Simple. We explain the rationale or benefits of the ADAS DMS system. You drive safe. You live longer. Your family’s future is bettered. I don’t sing songs about the features of these tools. They are least bothered about the technical features,” adds he.
Precisely this is one blunder most tech companies offering solutions commit. They go on and on, talking about how great their product is. Blah blah. Such a jargon-laden lecture would put anyone off. Focus on the “What’s In It For Me?” route.
Tell me how it will benefit me. If this convinces me, I am for it. By the way, the tech solution sellers have to devise different agenda for different target audiences. What techies tell motormaliks need not be palatable for drivers. Horses for courses.
As Kausar and I walk out of Singh’s office in Dwarka, New Delhi, we recollect how a clutch of long haul truck drivers endorsed ADAS DMS while sitting under the hood of a loaded truck in Champa, Chattisgarh and connected us with their 200-plus fleet owner in Bilaspur, Chattisgarh (not Haryana!) advising us, “Meet him on your way to Raipur airport. He will love ADAS DMS.” We did halt and meet them. Indeed, they were spot on: their motormalik loves ADAS DMS.