Use data to cultivate safe driver behavior

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Behavior drives results and using driver data to improve safety helps carriers boost their bottom line, safety and data professionals said during a Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) webinar.

Brian Fielkow, board of directors, Jetco, underscored the need for fleets to get rid of safety as a department mentality.

Incentives for operations employees like bonuses and promotions may be weighted too heavily on productivity but should be measured on safety as well. Thinking must be changed, making safety the responsibility of the operations team, he claimed.

Truck driver using phone while driving
(Photo: iStock)

Hayden Cardiff, founder and chief innovation officer with Idelic, said the cost of safety is less than replacing customers or contracts and than paying for losses and increased insurance premiums.

Companies are facing data overload as information streams in through telematics, cameras, dispatch, and human resources systems. Cardiff said integrating the data is key to allowing drivers to be safe and productive, improving retention and obtaining a healthier bottom line.

Fielkow said not using data exposes a fleet to risk. Current and future employees, customers and prospects, and insurance companies are all looking at data. The competition is also keeping an eye on it.

Insurance rate advantage

He said it is easier to save a dollar than to spend it. With cost pressures going up, margins will be squeezed. With a good safety record there is an advantage in insurance rates.

Cardiff added that a fleet can see up to a 150% difference in insurance rates because of better safety outcomes.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) help obtain predictive behavior, Fielkow said. AI offers prevention by better identifying risks.

Cardiff said traditional scorecarding is reactive, static and could include biases and offers no room for understanding nuances. On the other hand, AI looks at driver tenure, demographic, types of routes and is effective in predictions.

Build trust

Fielkow said when coaching on performance improvement it is important to know if it was an honest mistake or intentional behavior. Most safety failures are honest mistakes and there is no need to revert to old-school progressive discipline. Treat the person with respect and build trust and deploy data for coaching performance improvement.

Cardiff said to build trust and get the full picture it is important to understand the why. Drivers should be told that behaviors have been identified that are driving risk and the coaching is meant to make them a better professional.

Frequency and brevity are important when coaching safety. Introduce six- to 10-minute training modules, Fielkow said. Professional development plans can be delivered to drivers quickly using remote learning systems like Zoom or Teams. There is no use bringing someone into the terminal three weeks after an incident.

Bite-sized chunks

Cardiff said a three- to four-week training plan with short weekly touch points works well. Bite-sized chunks of information can provide consistent messaging. For example, this can be done when a dispatcher is already talking to a driver.

Cardiff advocates the use of mixed medium and multiple messages. These can include phone calls, peer review, ride-alongs, peer-to-peer coaching and videos.

Better results are not seen immediately, but there is a positive shift a couple of weeks down the line and a steady decline in risky behavior after that.

Patience and persistence

Fielkow said attitudes drive behavior and humans learn in a certain way. All that is needed is patience and persistence.

Focus on behavior, it may take a while, but the needle moves. Data puts the focus on behaviors that should be rewarded and on those that need to change. Amalgamating data and getting a holistic picture provides an opportunity to improve behavior, thereby raising safety standards.

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Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at

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