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How DHL Supply Chain, NuCO2 and Emery SAPP & Sons are using Samsara to improve safety and training across their fleets

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez July 3, 2024
One of the primary use cases of Samsara’s technology is using cameras and telematics to improve the safety of fleets and deliver training directly to drivers.

Semi Tanker Trucks Fleet © welcomia -
(© welcomia -

Whilst many vendors over the years have sought to capitalize on the opportunity of Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies, the successes have been few and far between. The problem that those vendors often faced was: what is the use case? Just because there is now the ability to use cheap sensors, cameras, cloud compute and analytics to connect up environments, doesn’t mean organizations would. This is where Samsara has managed to buck the trend - it identified a use case that many organizations have struggled with in recent decades: improving driver safety and training amongst large vehicle fleets. 

Samsara uses cameras, sensors, and AI to provide fleet managers with insights into how individual drivers are performing on the road, delivering alerts in real time if drivers are showing signs of tiredness or are on the phone, analyzing who is at fault if there is an incident or harsh braking, as well as providing performance scores so that drivers know how they need to improve. In addition to this, Samsara provides in-app personalized training to drivers, catered to areas where they need to improve, in the hope that this drives up their safety performance and scores. 

Since focusing on this use case during the early days of business, Samsara has seen significant growth and has now analyzed 60 billion miles of driving time. And at the company’s annual user event in Chicago last week, three companies outline how the Samsara platform has helped them to improve their fleets’ safety and training. 

Chris Johnson, Senior Director of Safety and Fleet at NuCO2, a leading US provider of beverage carbonation systems, acknowledged that whilst there was initial pushback from his company’s drivers, due to them feeling like they weren’t wholly trusted, the key to finding success was focusing on their safety: 

Before Samsara we were having one at fault accident a week. The hardest part was getting the driver buy-in. Everyone was talking about improving safety without disrupting the business - we didn’t want to lose our employees. But little by little as we showed them that we’re making them safe, we’re bringing them home safe, we got the buy-in. And the results have just been outstanding. 

And one key incident helped really drive uptake across the fleet: 

Inward cameras were disabled because that’s where most of the pushback was from the drivers. About three months into having Samsara we had a driver go off the road and was seriously injured. At that point, we were like ‘we have the technology to be able to prevent this from happening. And that’s how we sold it to the team. We said, we are here to protect you and we want to get you home safely. The safety went off the chart after that. 

Samsara customers also often find that the safety scores provided to each driver, where often the goal is to achieve above 90-95 performance, has been a big help for buy-in from drivers too. Customers have found that this provides a level of gamification amongst the fleet, as drivers compete to become the ‘safest driver in the business’. 

David Russeau, Manager of Systems Operations at DHL Supply Chain, said that this was key to getting support from DHL’s drivers: 

Our retention has been great. It was kind of surprising at first, because we didn’t realize that was going to happen. We thought everybody was going to complain about it. But if you’re a good driver you love Samsara, because it’s exonerating you for those harsh breaks when someone jumps out in front of you. It’s only the bad drivers, the ones we want to coach up, that have an issue. The good drivers love it. We launched with a slogan ‘change the behavior, not the driver’.

The gamification, just having the scores there and making it a contest, right? The drivers have taken it upon themselves to look at the scoreboard, ask what each other’s scores are, it’s really something that they take pride in. And if a driver's score drops a point, they want to know why and what happened. They want to know where the point went. 

Eric Thiessen, Transportation Manager at Emery SAPP & Sons, a leading civil contractor in the US Midwest, agrees and said that the gamification has been key: 

That’s been huge for us. Drivers are very competitive people, they want to be on top, so they monitor their score all the time. If something shows up to make their score drop, they definitely want to know why and what’s going on. 

Connected training

In addition to performance monitoring, Samsara also offers fleets personalized training in-app. For example, if the system notices that a driver is braking too harshly or is often using their phone whilst driving, when they finish their shift they can receive a notification that they need to complete a training course within their application. The training videos and questions for drivers typically take between ten to fifteen minutes to complete and customers of Samsara have found that this mechanism has driven up overall safety scores.

Emery SAPP & Sons found that the training in-app has allowed its business to expand training in ways that were difficult previously, as Thiessen noted: 

Before Samsara we did training about once a year. We had to get everybody together in one location, they were spread out in several states, it was a logistical nightmare, it was very expensive, and it was very time consuming. It took a lot of planning to get people into one spot. 

We usually did about a day’s worth of training and it was hard to tailor that training to exactly what was needed. We tried to cram a lot of things into a very short timeframe. We were also very reactive to things that went on within the company. It just wasn’t very effective. We couldn’t tell if we were getting good bang for our buck out of it and we didn’t know if the drivers were really engaged or not. 

The system has also meant that the training is targeted to the individual needs of drivers: 

Before, we were reacting to whether somebody got a ticket, or got into an accident, or if someone had rung in and complained about a driver. With Samsara and the AI features in the truck, we were able to detect what was actually going on. It really opened our eyes. We had no idea what the drivers were actually doing in that truck before the AI cameras. So we were able to focus our training better to what was actually needed and stop wasting time on coaching things that they were doing well. 

DHL Supply Chain has an extensive fleet across the US and Russeau agreed that the standardized messaging and training has been crucial to improving safety across the business: 

You’d train the trainers and bring it across [to the drivers], but we didn’t know what kind of consistency we were getting. With Samsara, especially with the training aspect, we know what message is being sent out. We have a way of tracking, we have a way to see it. So the message is standardized and we know it’s a message we believe in - and that it’s getting to the drivers that we coach. 

NuCO2 was also having trouble getting consistency across its training programme prior to the introduction of Samsara. As a business that’s open all year round, 24 hours a day, the challenge was getting all drivers together at the same time, working across multiple shifts. Johnson said: 

Even if you did have a meeting, you’d get maybe 70% of the people there. We wanted 100% effective training. We want the person in New York to get the same training that the person in California does, so with connected training we were able to achieve that. 

When you take a look at the KPIs and your Samsara scores - there’s probably five to ten percent of people that are those that need to get to that 90 plus range. Because that’s where your accidents are going to be. And with Connected Training we can target those people and get them on board. Once we did that our accident rate dropped significantly. The harsh events went down, the accidents went down. It worked. I’m a firm believer in the training programme. 

Thiessen has also found that the training being delivered directly to drivers has meant that drivers across Emery SAPP & Sons fleets are far more engaged: 

We can send the training directly to them, to complete it in their own time. We’ve got it set up so that they can do it at the end of their shift and it shows up in their app. It makes it a lot simpler, a lot easier. 

The drivers are much more engaged. They feel like they’re part of the process a little bit more. Makes them feel like they have buy-in in the company too, that they’re not just getting yelled at all the time by their manager. They’re wanting to become better drivers. 

And SAPP & Sons is now expanding the use of the technology to even more vehicles in its business, as Thiessen said: 

We are trying to get Samsara into more and more vehicles. We currently have it in our heavy vehicles, but we want to get it into our smaller vehicles as well. Also, on the training side, we have a lot of specialty operations. We’re a construction company, so we have a lot of heavy loads that we move….so having specific tailored safety training for that. 

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