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Using video to enable coaching for better performance

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Coaching drivers on risky habits —and citing them for when they perform well—is a lot easier if those risky actions are being recorded on video.

That was the message in a recent webinar sponsored by FleetOwner, with presenters from SmartDrive and Central Oregon Trucking Company, a SmartDrive client. SmartDrive’s video system captures a 360 degree view of a truck’s interior and exterior, revealing both driver behavior and the conditions under which the driver erred, or where the driver showed particularly strong driving skills.

Central Oregon has implemented the system, but Brad Aimone, the director of driver safety and services at Central Oregon (which is a Daseke company), made clear in the webinar that just having such a system is not adequate. A company needs to marry it to a dedicated coaching system, like Central Oregon has. SmartDrive can be provided with a company’s standards and guidelines, and its system can trigger a notice to the coaching staff of a client, which then kicks into action. But then the coaching team needs to kick in.

Aimone said Central Oregon’s coaching team consists of five coaches to support 300 drivers. Two of them are focused on video review and post-accident investigation.

A good coach, Aimone said, “has the ability to listen, not just to hear.” The coach also needs to have the interpersonal skills “that give you the ability to relate to the person on the phone.” He said 90-95% of the coaching does get done over the phone, so a coach does not have “nonverbal cues to go by.” The average coaching session is just three to five minutes. Training a driver to become a coach is about a six-week process, Aimone said and is open only to those who have been a “highly successful driver.”

The webinar featured videos that demonstrated the type of behavior that triggers coaching. In one of them, a driver on a cloverleaf ramp reached for his phone during the maneuver, and as a result moved to the right and off the road. Aimone said when he first discussed the incident, the driver was “adamant” that he had not reached for his phone. But upon seeing the video, “he said he had no idea I was doing that, and that made the coaching session different.”

In the second video—which unfortunately wasn’t able to be displayed, but was discussed by Aimone—the driver performed strong driving moves which helped avoid an accident. “Everyone likes a pat on the back,” Aimone said. “It was great to call that gentleman for a job well done.”

The goal of the process is not to be punitive, Aimone said. It’s not a process that would lead to a cut in pay, but if the violations are egregious or frequent enough, “you could lose your job.” He said in the two years that Central Oregon has operated the video-based coaching system, that has occurred twice.

Resistance to the suggestions made by the coaches do occur, but the videos help get the message through. “Everyone that drives a vehicle more than likely has developed bad habits,” Aimone said. “More than likely, they don’t even know it.” The videos coming from the SmartDrive system provide a “footprint” that can support data that is coming from the truck’s electronic control modules (ECM).

Kaitlin Jager, the senior customer success manager at SmartDrive who also was on the webinar, said that SmartDrive’s work before the coaching is to prepare a compilation of data and incident reports. But that is based not on any sort of SmartDrive standards, but on those of the client. “That is then sent to the company for targeted safety coaching,” she said.

While most of the coaching may be over the phone, Aimone said if he sees repeated behaviors by the same driver, he will find a reason to have that driver come to the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Oregon. “I’ll sit down and try to get inside their heads,” he said, and attempt to figure out what the issue is. The results generally improve with that sort of approach, Aimone added.

Central Oregon is in the process of having the SmartDrive system installed in the entire company’s fleet of approximately 300 trucks. There was resistance to it at first, with the suggestion by some that it was “spying” by Central Oregon. But with a grading system and rewards, “they actually like it,” Aimone said. And it’s been used by the company to protect drivers, he added, for example, when a police officer tries to hand down a citation for texting and driving, and the video record shows that no such texting was going on.

Distracted driving does go on, however, and the video records have allowed Central Oregon to implement a new policy. If a driver racks up three “camera events” of risky behavior with a cell phone, suspension or termination is now the penalty.

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