Driver behaviour can have a major influence on the efficacy of your fleet, explains Mark Thorneycroft CMILT, head of telematics training at Connexas Group. However, collecting data on drivers and offering simple practical workshops can work wonders for your fleet.
Business managers are increasingly aware of the importance of improving driver behaviour and the impact this can have not just on operational efficiency, but also on driver safety and wellbeing. To realise improvements in this area however, a tech-enabled approach to training and clear communication are required.
The direct link between improving driver behaviour and real-world operating costs is well documented. In 2014, the AA set up a two-year study of its fleet of 2,200 vehicles, using a telematics system. Among the findings, the study identified that more ‘maximum throttle’ events led to more accident-related insurance claims. Such behaviour would also be expected to impact fuel efficiency.
Despite the proven link between driver behaviour and running costs, many drivers report feeling under pressure to make deliveries on time. If they get stuck in traffic or fall behind schedule, this can affect their behaviour at the wheel – potentially causing them to speed or drive too close to the vehicle in front.
For business managers, the pressures inherent in the job can make it more difficult to recruit and retain van and HGV drivers, particularly if undesirable driver behaviour has become part of the organisation’s culture. Over time, the rate of at-fault accidents could increase, and a worsening safety record could make it even harder for the business to hire experienced drivers and keep them on their books.
To tackle this problem, a growing number of business managers are investing in the latest fleet tracking technologies to give them access to reliable, real-time information. Supported by complementary training programmes, these technologies can be used to address driver behaviour issues on a one-to-one basis, whilst bringing wider benefits for the entire mobile workforce.
Growing use of telematics and connected car technologies, including sophisticated onboard camera systems, has enabled business managers to monitor driver behaviour more closely and share data with drivers on a more regular basis if needed. Instead of the weekly de-briefs with individual drivers, some businesses have introduced team briefing sessions where information about specific on-the-road events is discussed and shared openly. Not only does this make it easier for managers to demonstrate that driver behaviour may have contributed to a specific event, it also turns the session into a training opportunity for the entire team.
One sign of a potential problem with driver behaviour could be an increase in harsh braking events. The driver involved may be unaware that this is happening but sharing video of specific events could serve to highlight how better observation, anticipation and forward planning could have avoided the need to brake suddenly. The driver’s own feedback about how he or she was feeling just prior to the harsh braking event could also help to increase self-awareness.
If a serious at-fault accident occurs, the technology can be used to shed light on the event. Data about driving behaviour can be downloaded immediately and overlaid with video to show what was happening at the wheel in the 30 seconds prior to the accident. Depending on the seriousness of the incident it may be appropriate to share the information with the driver in order to identify anything that could have been done differently.
The use of tracking technologies to monitor behaviour is not always welcomed by drivers, however. To encourage them to view it as a positive development, managers must communicate the benefits the technology will bring for drivers as clearly as possible at the outset. As well as facilitating driver behaviour training and enabling them to become better drivers, it can help to improve wellbeing and add value to their continuous professional development.
The first step to improving driver behaviour is usually a practical workshop to familiarise drivers with the technologies present onboard their vehicle. Instead of simply installing the technology and leaving it to drivers to work out the reasons why it is there, it makes sense to explain each piece of equipment in detail – how it works and how it is being used to improve their safety and wellbeing. Equipped with this understanding, drivers are more likely to welcome its use and actively engage with the training.
Much as a football coach might de-brief their team after a game, the manager can then host regular workshops to remind teams of best practice and share examples of good and bad behaviours. For example, a workshop might focus on the risks of ‘stop/start’ driving, whilst reminding drivers of the need to observe, anticipate and forward plan.
Before introducing any training initiative, business managers will be looking for some return on investment. For this reason, it is important to establish metrics, tailored to the business’ objectives. For example, depending on what the business wants to achieve, improving driver behaviour could result in higher mpg readings and lower fuel consumption. Forward-thinking managers are increasingly using diverse metrics, some linked to driver safety and wellbeing too.
Transport and logistics businesses have woken up to the wide-ranging benefits that telematics and connected car technologies can bring. As well as improving operational efficiency and decreasing maintenance costs, it can play a role in supporting driver recruitment and retention strategies. Tailored driver behaviour training programmes can help them to leverage these benefits to the full.