One of the primary concerns within the trucking industry is the issue of high driver turnover rates – a situation that has consistently held true for several decades. Though there are various reasons for a driver to leave his job, it mostly boils down to a fundamental disconnect and an interactional breakdown between the driver and fleet management.
“Keeping your drivers safe, recognizing them for doing the right thing and offering a solid feedback loop are key to increasing driver engagement – and retention,” said Adam Kahn, the vice president of fleet business at Netradyne, a vision-based fleet-safety startup. “Although the current turnover rate is far from positive in most transportation segments, you can break the cycle by incorporating some simple features to make your drivers feel safe, secure and valued.”
Kahn started by explaining how fleets overdo safety monitoring by constantly surveilling their drivers when they are in the cab, making them feel suffocated while driving. “Constant monitoring does not make your driver feel safe; if anything, it accomplishes the opposite. Having someone breathing down his neck to monitor his driving habits takes away a driver’s autonomy and contributes to a feeling of insecurity,” he said.
A lot of rapport can be built between the fleet management and the drivers by approaching interpersonal conversations in a more positive light. For instance, management can seek to understand who its best drivers are, rather than trying to determine who the worst drivers are and chastising them.
To do this, fleets will have to change the way they measure driver performance. Kahn pointed out that most of the fleets in the last two decades have used inertial sensors as a marker for measuring driver performance, which Kahn felt has “short changed” the conversation.
“Most systems have been based on the fundamental belief that if something severe happens, the management can analyze it and then talk to the driver to make sure he does not do it again. This is not a good metric. An inertial sensor that measures critical events will be triggered for less than 1% of the day, and that would mean that a fleet can use only one or two minutes of a day to mark the performance of a driver,” said Kahn.
Moving towards edge computing technology from the legacy inertial sensor systems will enable fleets to process data at the device level. This helps fleets to capture much more driving time and thus keep a reasonable track of driving behavior. “This allows the management to approach a driver not only when something bad has happened, but to have a conversation where they could appreciate a driver’s efforts of having had a great week,” said Kahn.
Having regular conversations that tend to lean towards more positivity helps to build trust between the fleet’s management and its drivers. Kahn pointed out how this can foster a cultural change.
“Historically, you can imagine the type of feedback you might get from angry drivers working for a fleet. But it was very inverted with our technology, as drivers asked us how to get more ‘green minutes’ and ways to improve their driver scores,” Kahn said. “It is about harnessing technology in the right way with the purpose of leaning into that positive driving experience.”
In the case of smaller fleets that cannot invest heavily in technology, Kahn believes management should have longer and more frequent conversations with its drivers. It will serve management well to approach drivers who are having a great day behind the wheel and tell them they are doing an excellent job. Ultimately, as Kahn said, it is about promoting conversations that have a more collaborative touch, while actively steering clear of accusatory one-way discussions.