Of the several factors that play a role in driver retention, pay structure is certainly one of them. With an ongoing shortage of qualified drivers, fleets – both private and for-hire – are looking to hold on to their drivers by providing attractive pay and bonus structures. Walmart, for instance, announced last month its decision to hire 900 truck drivers and increase drivers’ salaries to $87,000 per year, along with an added 21 days of paid annual leave.
Regardless of how appealing the announcement looks on the surface, the underlying requirements are stringent. Walmart specifies that the drivers who apply must have had at least 30 months of experience behind the wheel over the past three years while also maintaining a clean safety record. This alignment with safety standards is nothing new in the industry, but there is a visible increase in the interest fleets show towards maintaining a company-wide safety culture, as it helps positively reinforce their relationship with drivers, customers and improves the bottom line.
“Safety has always been a priority, but the change is in how it is being integrated or thought about in terms of the overall operations. Technology has certainly facilitated a tighter coupling and more integrated approach to safety,” said Melissa Purcell, vice president of customer success and marketing at SmartDrive.
“Fleets are looking for new ways to incentivize and reward drivers beyond the typical quarterly safety bonus,” Purcell continued. “They are looking for things that are more dynamic – involve the active participation of the driver, has a different type of engagement on an ongoing basis, and a direct tie to a driver’s in-the-field performance.”
Purcell spoke about how instances of litigation due to collision continue to skyrocket in the industry. And for fleets, it is not just about the direct costs involved in solving such issues, but also the time they spend in dealing with those collisions. For smaller and mid-sized fleets that do not have the luxury of having risk departments, managing such litigation can impact day-to-day operations and profits, which poses a significant challenge.
Video safety surveillance is a method to mitigate the impact, both from a cost and a time perspective. “Video safety is a tool that can help manage a situation – whether it is about exonerating the driver, or knowing early what the situation is and being able to take the appropriate next step of action. This is better than spending a whole lot of time on a particular plan because you are not really sure what happened,” said Purcell.
Apart from helping to cut litigation costs, Purcell felt that adopters of a video safety program can look at safety as a strategic asset, while accommodating safety initiatives as a part of their daily operations. “Video safety programs assist fleets in understanding the real-time performance of drivers in the field, and also help to boost driver relationship and engagement. It’s more of a holistic approach – fleets are looking at how they can engage with drivers on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
Purcell mentioned that such initiatives reduce driver turnover, as seen with some of SmartDrive’s clients. One of its clients is a for-hire fleet that has a turnover rate in the 30-40 percent range, far better than the industry average that hovers around 100 percent. Purcell believed that the client’s turnover rate is lower because the fleet considers safety to be an integral part of its operations and not just an addendum.
Video safety programs also assist drivers to realize their unsafe driving traits and help in rectifying them through actionable insights into their behavior. “It’s a fairly consistent process, as drivers see the benefit in improving their performance. The information that they get back reinforces that they’re getting better and creates a lot more self-awareness,” said Purcell.
Technological advancement means that fleets can monitor not just their drivers but can afford to have a 360-degree view of the truck, by fitting cameras all around it. This helps identify risky driving, and also has an impact on vehicles in transit – capturing on video a side collision, or damage to goods during the loading and unloading process.
“I think fleets are embracing video safety because they see the benefits their peers who have adopted them early get today,” said Purcell. “Getting a safety-oriented technology certainly helps with improving bottom lines.”