The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Shaping Driver Behavior with Telematics

August 2016, by Chris Wolski - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Telematics has been available to fleets for the better part of a decade. Used initially to help keep tabs on and route vehicles, telematics has influenced the way fleets look at the driver, developing procedures and programs to make them safer and more efficient.

While the change on the way vehicles are managed has transformed fleet management, telematics has had just as dramatic effect on the driver.

Changing Driver Behavior

The root cause in changing in behavior is the ability to monitor drivers in real time, according to Toby Weir-Jones, product line management director, FleetOutlook for CalAmp.

“Before telematics was used for fleet management, drivers were autonomous while out in the field and could easily take liberties with their job routing, as well as with breaks and lunches,” said Weir-Jones. “When those aspects of the job were unsupervised, inefficient routing and wasted time were bigger issues.”

In the earliest days of telematics’ existence, productivity, not behavior was the crucial element.

At A Glance

Telematics is being used by an increasing number of fleets to help improve vehicle efficiency. One of the ways that this has occurred is through improved driving behaviors tied to:

  • Monitoring.
  • Feedback and coaching.
  • Gamification and rewards programs.

“The data collected was mostly on GPS, date, time, and location. Telematics could tell you about the driver’s location, when they arrived at their stop, and when they left, etc. In the early days, productivity was the primary focus of most telematics solutions. Ten years ago, influencing driver behavior entailed collecting the data and then meeting with the driver to discuss any performance issues,” said Stephanie Voelker, vice president, Channel Sales, North America, for Geotab Inc. “Fleets can now see if their driver is wearing his/her seat belt or carrying a passenger that may or may not be covered under the company insurance policy.”

Unsurprisingly, monitoring, while improving fleet efficiency, has typically met with driver resistance — at least at first.

“I’ve been around telematics a long time, and while there is still a concern among some drivers around putting GPS on their vehicles, fleet managers, in particular, are seeing the changes in driving behavior, often with a direct correlation to the bottom line,” said Chris Ransom, manager of Solution Architects for Verizon Telematics. “There are a lot of good stories out there, now,” Ransom continued. “I was talking to a customer and he told me: ‘You wouldn’t recognize the way in which we operate our vehicles compared to a couple of years ago.’ It was a total sea change in how they drove their vehicles before to how they drive their vehicles now.”

These behavioral changes caused by telematics technology have translated directly to the bottom line for this particular fleet, resulting in lower repair costs, fewer windshield replacements, etc., according to Ransom.

Weir-Jones cautioned that, while monitoring is crucial to efficiency improvements, it is equally imperative that this is not seen as a negative.

“When changing from autonomous drivers to drivers managed in part by telematics, it’s important for owners and managers to encourage their teams not to feel like they are ‘under-the-company-thumb,’ but rather a team working to improve the bottom line of the company as a whole,” he said.

Making Drivers Better

The improvement in driver behavior is partially a function of real-time monitoring, but that’s only the first step in improving behavior.

“With new telematics technology, feedback can be delivered instantly, right after the unwanted driving event occurs. In this way, the driver clearly knows what he did was outside of the acceptable practices and can modify his actions immediately,” said Voelker of Geotab. “Driver coaching in the moment is much more effective in shaping behavior rather than instruction at a later time.”

Feedback is equally important to improve behaviors that impact the bottom line.

“Telematics has helped shape driver behavior as it enables us to pinpoint positive and negative behaviors and how they impact vehicle performance, including fuel efficiency,” explained German Parra, director of product management at Lytx. “At Lytx, we’ve always said and known that a safer driver is a more fuel-efficient driver, and telematics has backed that claim as we’ve seen reductions in aggressive driving directly correlate with reduced fuel consumption. DriveCam users generally experience up to a 10% improvement in fuel consumption just by introducing the safety coaching program and reducing aggressive driving, separate from other facts like idling.”

Parra noted that feedback needn’t be all negative, and should include positive reinforcement.

Gamifying Driving

Probably one of the biggest trends in telematics — gamification — is tied directly to improving driver behavior.

Gamification typically involves drivers competing either head-to-head or in teams against other driver colleagues. Fleets can use telematics to create scoreboards that help fleet managers, company leadership, and the drivers themselves monitor their progress.

Coupled with gamification is a rewards system that can be as simple as recognition (and bragging rights) in a company newsletter up to significant cash prizes or a combination of any number of rewards.

“Gamification is one way to bring a team of drivers together and reward the good behavior, which encourages the team to continue to make improvements,” said Weir-Jones of CalAmp. “Offering rewards such as a $25 fuel card to the most improved, or pizza on Friday if the team meets an improvement goal, can help to reinforce good efficiency practices.”

Giving drivers some ownership of gamification through a mobile enterprise management software platform can help fleets get higher driver engagement.

“By putting the control in the driver’s hands with mobile apps and analytics, companies can make exciting use of gamification to enhance a driver program to save fuel and keep their drivers safer,” said Mark Wallin, vice president product management for Telogis. “A defined mission with measurable KPIs that are completely aligned with an organization and backed by company influencers has the highest chance of successful deployment and, ultimately, savings.”

Scoring elements that are already being monitored by the telematics solution is a way to help make the game meaningful for drivers and fleet managers alike.

“Monitoring of harsh driving has certainly shaped behavior. Providers like Fleetmatics now incorporate these events along with relevant speeding events and mileage context into an overall safety score,” said Todd Ewing, director of product marketing for Fleetmatics. “This score, 0 to 100, makes incentive programs and gamification easier for customers who can rely on a single number to drive and measure progress.”

Wallin had some specific advice for fleets that are implementing a gamification program to improve efficiency through better driving behaviors.

First, he noted that everyone in the organization needs to be aware of the objective of the particular game period.

“If one of your KPIs is to reduce speeding by 50%, then let the whole team know, not just management,” he advised. “A team wins when it knows what it’s playing for.”
Wins or milestones need to be celebrated, he said.

“You don’t need to do cartwheels in the office every time a driver gets a perfect score but there should be recognition and reward,” Wallin said. “In most cases the size of the reward is not important; it’s about making sure they know management knows, and it means something to their supervisor and the company.”

Finally, the game period needs to have defined limits.

“Decide on how long each ‘game’ lasts,” Wallin said. “Employees will soon tire of a game with no end in sight. You can choose any reasonable period but in general, for achieving KPIs, a period of 90 days is most common. At the end of each period, results are tallied, players rewarded and recognized, and the game starts over.”

Putting it all Together

Monitoring, feedback, and morale-building gamification can’t exist separately. To successfully influence driver behavior, these three elements need to be tied together.

“A combination of all three will yield the greatest return,” said Bernie Kavanagh, vice president of North American fleet for WEX Inc. “You start with the data that the telematics devices provide, integrate that with other sources of data and provide real-time feedback to drivers and fleet managers, and finally utilize gamification to reward positive behavior, that’s where not only the savings come from but also increased compliance.”

Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for GPS Insight, emphasized the point that monitoring in and of itself will do nothing to influence drivers. The data must be made actionable — another recurring theme for fleets as telematics use matures.

“Just monitoring driver behavior alone won’t make any changes, but coaching and feedback, as well as gamification or awards for improved driving behavior are what make a big difference,” Driscoll said. “It is important to coach the drivers, to let them know where they need to improve and teach them how they can. It is also important to make sure they are on board with the goals the company has in place and a good way to do that is to give bonuses or gift cards to drivers that are helping you hit those goals. Gathering the data, taking action on the data, and providing rewards for improved behavior/data is what makes all the difference.”

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