At the 2023 Fleet Safety Conference, Jeff Martin of Lytx made the point that drivers respond better to the carrot, not the stick. “We're not going to fire because of the outcome, we're going to retrain and coach that employee to get better,” he said.   -  Photo: Lauren Brooks/Monclay Media

At the 2023 Fleet Safety Conference, Jeff Martin of Lytx made the point that drivers respond better to the carrot, not the stick. “We're not going to fire because of the outcome, we're going to retrain and coach that employee to get better,” he said. 

Photo: Lauren Brooks/Monclay Media

Safe driving is a learned skill. Like any other skill, unless correct methods are practiced, the skill level will diminish with time. Driver safety needs to stay in front of drivers. To maintain those results, organizations need to provide continued driver safety awareness. 

This was a key takeaway of a seminar at the 2023 Fleet Safety Conference, convened in conjunction with the Fleet Forward Conference Nov. 8-10 in Santa Clara, California. I was delighted to moderate the session and to be joined by Jeff Martin, VP of global sales strategy at Lytx, and David Worthington, fleet manager for the County of Santa Clara. 

We discussed how to develop a framework to identify, manage, and correct high-risk driving behavior, and how intersecting safety technology and behavior-based approaches can make profound difference for an organization.

I kicked off the session with a dramatic opening video on distracted driving. The conversation that followed delved into how organizations that prioritize safety over speed and convenience can significantly reduce collisions.

Risk Management Principles and Practices

A combination of video safety and telematics brings those two together along with that behavioral approach. With the opportunity for AI, and motor vision, it'd be possible in the cab to see a driver when they pick up the cell phone to be able to allow them to self-correct in the moment.

Tracking speed through fleet tracking, DVIR compliance, and ELD compliance, allows logistics to strengthen their game, and dispatchers as well, besides customer service, with the fleet tracking, but behaviorally speaking, it's really an opportunity to put that driver in a winning position. Make sure the coaches have the right information to have the right conversation with the right person at the right time for the right reason.

Believe in technology. It has a lot of benefits. One of them is enhancing the safety of people out there on the road, driving company-owned vehicles, their own vehicles, but more importantly, reacting to the public that shares the road with them.

Look for patterns, if you see the same driver with multiple infractions, read the accident reports. And find out if there is a pattern, either with the vehicle they're driving, the work that they're doing, the place that they're working in, or it's just their general behavior.

With crowded roadways, traffic safety is becoming a significant issue. The organizations are being held accountable for accidents, with enormous damage amounts awarded in wrongful death suits.

Safety Training and Telematics' Role in Internal Training

Technology, it's not to be used to tell what a driver is doing, a company doesn’t want to know who's driving the vehicle, it’s to know what the vehicle is doing. Upper management can do its due diligence regarding who is driving the vehicle.

For a driver to be held accountable for their actions behind the wheel, the driver must be educated regarding proper safe driving techniques. For example: How is it possible to hold a driver responsible for a hit-from-behind collision if that driver was not aware of the proper techniques used to maintain a safe following distance? If a driver receives safe driving instruction, you can then establish a criterion for driver accountability. This is crucial in creating a safe driving culture within your organization.

Provide all your drivers with the important elements necessary for them to avoid collisions. They should be aware of the basic principles of safe driving. They should know necessary to avoid the most common collisions. Educate them so that they are aware that it is their responsibility to drive safely. Safe driving should be an important part of their work responsibilities.

Embrace technology and learn about it early and adapt and learn from the information it provides. The data that's produced is very helpful in avoiding accidents and can exonerate an employee. Telematics exonerates employees more times than it ever brings to question an employee’s behavior.

Constructive Approaches and Conversations 

Martin commented during the session: "We start having constructive approaches, and drivers realize that it's the carrot, not the stick. My employer believes in me, guess what else starts to get better attendance, customer service, efficiencies, taking better care of the fleet, changes organizations, and once you can crack that safety net, it is a core value. And we're not going to fire because of the outcome, we're going to retrain and coach that employee to get better. Fleets are doing a much better job, and they're taking a look and using it constructively and not as a stick."

Worthington agreed: "Some of the best employees I've ever had are the ones that created the most challenges for me. And we took care of it and did it head-on right away. And we coach them, here's the two paths. I don't fire people, people fire themselves. We're here to help you to make sure that you can be successful and create the opportunity for you, we'll do whatever we can in our power to give you the resources to be successful. But if you don't want to be, then I didn't fire you, you fired yourself, you chose to fire yourself. We're here to support everybody. It's a different attitude than it was 20 years ago."

I added that I'm very stringent regarding all of these new enhancements in vehicle technology, and there should be a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s safety manual. I think a safety manual should have an overview every third quarter of the year. If there needs to be updates and implementation of changes, there will be time to review with employees. Safety is an ever-changing evolution. The most important safety feature in the vehicle is the driver.

What Keeps You Up at Night?

To end the session, the panelists gave their perspectives on the question: What keeps you up at night?  

For Martin: "It really comes down to the interactions I have with drivers and frontline supervisors who use video technology, and a behavioral-based approach of coaching is that question of do you see the roadways getting any better? Are they staying the same? Or are they getting worse? And I have yet to have a group tell me that it's getting better."

I'll ask three questions: How many of you every day have seen or continue to see impaired drivers on the roadway? How many of you see aggressive drivers on the roadway? How many of you see distracted drivers on the roadway? It’s not about the teams that we all support, yes, we are trying to make sure that we're putting employees in a winning position. We're doing everything we can with it.

Training and development, and certainly in-cab technology, assists that individual to make sure that they're 100% engaged and making the right decisions. We must continue to sharpen that saw and take a pioneering approach because it doesn't look like the rest of the motoring public is changing. As we're trying to help drivers change, and I think that's the dynamic we all face, it's a great opportunity. We wouldn't be here if we didn't care a whole lot. But when you think about it, it's still significant. And we've got to continue our pursuit.

For Worthington: "Three things that keep me up number one, trucks, and trailers. Everybody that tows a trailer, a little garden trailer with a little tractor that weighs 400 pounds on it thinks they can tow a trailer, that's 10,000 30,000 60,000 pounds, they can't. Making sure we get the drivers trained to tow vehicles, making sure somebody's riding with them for an extended period, making sure that they're making good turns and paying attention."

"Trailers are concerned for me, there are a couple of different things we're doing. One of the big things is we're going to move forward with a color-coding scheme. On the tow hitch of the truck will be a color scheme or multiple colors, and the trailer will have a color scheme. You can't tow the trailer on the truck unless the color schemes match up."  

"Distracted driving, but not from the personal standpoint but the technological standpoint that's being put into vehicles. You can have the best technology in the entire industry, but the focus is on the technology, and not enough on the person. The technique, we can put everything into the vehicles, we can cram them with technology, we can use telematics, we can do all that. But a driver will make a difference."

To end the session, we flashed the County of Santa Clara’s texting ad campaign on texting and driving: One text or call could wreck it all.

About the author
Judie Nuskey

Judie Nuskey

Director of Operations

Judie Nuskey is the director of operations at Advanced Driver Training Services (ADTS) and assists corporations in creating custom driver training programs to lower (or keep low) their crash rates.

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