How Positive Coaching Can Improve Fleet Driver Safety
Drivers have a difficult job. They spend hours of their day navigating traffic and dealing with other drivers while focusing on arriving at their destination quickly and safely. The pressures of job productivity can lead to bad driving habits like speeding, hard braking, and aggressive acceleration and potentially cause accidents. Luckily fleets have tools that can help identify these bad driving habits and address them. Video telematics systems can monitor the vehicle, and the driver and systems like the GPS Trackit solution can assign a score to evaluate how a driver is performing.
“They can view this data on a day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month basis and compare their drivers on how they’re doing,” said Devin Meadows, director of product management for GPS Trackit. “We provide a score that they can customize. When they get that score, it shows if there is a low, medium, or high kind of risk depending on the amount of point allotment they put on each of these events.”
Having a telematics system installed on your vehicles can go a long way toward improving fleet safety, which can pay for itself over time by stopping accidents before they happen and reduce costs from insurance claims and lawsuits when they do.
But simply adding these devices to a fleet will not do the job alone. Fleet managers have to use the information to improve driver performance. With the wealth of data provided by telematics and dashcams, fleets can have a clear view of any bad habit that a driver might have, from speeding to checking their phone while driving.
But there is still the question of how to use data to improve fleet safety.
Positive Reinforcement is More Effective Than Negative Criticism
It may be tempting to hound drivers who perform below the average to improve their scores. However, positive encouragement may do more to change behavior than negative criticisms.
“We have to really make sure drivers understand that these tools shouldn’t be used for punishment,” says Matt Camden, senior research associate at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Taking a negative approach can be counterproductive to improving driver performance. Studies have shown that negative criticism causes people to feel anxious and stressed, which reduces their ability to focus on the problem.
Positivity has the opposite effect, making people feel good in the moment and more focused on how they can continue to improve. Drivers should still be made aware of their expectations, but coaching using constructive criticism rather than the threat of punishment will go further toward changing unsafe behaviors.
Empower Drivers to Set Their Own Goals
One way to make expectations clear is to include drivers in the planning stage when setting safety goals. It will help drivers feel more accountable for their performance because they were able to use their own professional experience for input.
The goal for fleet managers is to make drivers feel responsible for their performance instead of being directed to by their managers.
According to a study on the successful implementation of safety monitoring devices from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, “When it comes to risky driving, it is important that drivers transition from other-directed responsibility and accountability to self-directed responsibility.”
Including drivers in the goal-setting process also has the benefit of reducing resistance to safety programs and making them more likely to succeed. The VTTI study concluded that “One of the most beneficial aspects of empowerment is that it counteracts the tendency of employees to resist new programs.”
“Furthermore, empowered drivers will help to ease tensions and concerns from other drivers that are more reluctant to the change. Finally, empowerment should help to develop more accountability in the program,” the study found.
The study also included some broad goals the fleets should keep in mind when implementing a safety program:
- Trust that drivers will perform safely.
- Provide supportive feedback about safe behaviors.
- Actively listen to drivers’ concerns.
- Allow drivers to develop their own goals.
- Allow drivers to develop their own strategies to achieve goals.
Recognize Good Driver Performance
Besides focusing on changing bad behaviors, fleets can be proactive in recognizing good behaviors. When reviewing a driver’s scores, fleet managers should highlight the drivers who maintain good scores and drivers who have done the hard work of improving scores. Both are equally important because you don’t want one group to feel marginalized at the expense of the other.
It is essential to incentivize safe drivers to continue driving safely while still encouraging lower-performing drivers to improve.
Whether the encouragement comes from more superficial means like public recognition or through some sort of bonus program, the key is to make sure that drivers feel that these rewards are attainable based on merit rather than as something to be taken away if they fail.
The goal for fleets is to make their drivers feel rewarded for good behavior, not punished for bad behavior. At times, the differences are subtle, but it ultimately boils down to creating a positive work environment for drivers rather than a negative one.
If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.
“Effective Use of Commercially Available Onboard Safety Monitoring Technologies: Guidance for Commercial Motor Vehicle Carriers” – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence
Effective Metrics for Rewarding Positive Driving https://www.automotive-fleet.com/157000/effective-metrics-for-rewarding-positive-driving
How to Keep Drivers Happy https://www.businessfleet.com/326468/how-to-keep-drivers-happy
When You Criticize Someone, You Make It Harder for that Person to Change https://hbr.org/2013/12/when-you-criticize-someone-you-make-it-harder-for-them-to-change
Devin Meadows is the director of product management for GPS Trackit
Matt Camden is the senior research associate for the Center for Truck and Bus Safety, Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia.
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