Getting Drivers on Board with Safety Solutions

A close-up of onboard safety technology options.

Fleets are using technology to improve truck driver safety and shape driver habits. Onboard safety technology improves safety and can increase efficiency, reduce liability and cut costs — but fleets need to gain driver acceptance of any new solutions.

“The important thing is to communicate, communicate, communicate with drivers. Tell them new technology is coming. Have meetings about it. Then have one-on-one conversations,” said Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske Truck Leasing. “Tell them the benefits and how it can help them.”

More and more companies are embracing adaptive cruise control, brake assistance, collision avoidance and onboard cameras, which means many drivers are becoming more comfortable with the technologies.

“In the beginning, if drivers didn’t like it, they could quit and go to a company that didn’t have it,” Pagesy said. “Most of your top fleets now have the forward-facing and driver-facing cameras.”

Even still, he suggests fleets take a gentle approach when introducing new technology or welcoming a new hire who isn’t as familiar with it. “After you explain it, you want to coach drivers so they understand what they’re doing wrong while ensuring frustration does not set in,” Pagesy said.

Having specific data available can help fleets create customized safe driver tips and improvement plans. “Most people change their behavior quickly because they want to be good, safe drivers,” Pagesy said.

He said it is vital for fleets to emphasize benefits, particularly with cameras, which can concern some drivers. “It will make them better drivers, and in the event of an accident, it will document it, which can exonerate them,” he said.

Fleets can also share examples of situations where truck cameras benefited drivers. The American Transportation Research Institute’s study Issues and Opportunities with Driver-Facing Cameras found that overall driver approval of driver-facing cameras increased by 87% when carriers used video footage for specific proactive safety measures.

ATRI said cameras can help professional drivers defend themselves. “According to surveys of legal and insurance experts, driver-facing camera footage, when available, exonerates drivers in 52% of insurance claims and 49% of litigation cases, as well as leading to settlements in 86% of cases versus proceeding to trial,” ATRI wrote in the study.

According to ATRI’s study, drivers currently using road-facing cameras gave them a high overall approval rating of 8.19 on a 10-point scale, which was 266% higher than the approval rating they give driver-facing cameras.

Drivers offered several suggestions to help increase acceptance of driver-facing cameras, including turning the camera off when the truck was not moving, ending punitive use and only showing video footage after an accident.

With any onboard safety technology that fleets deploy, those within the company need to ensure they’re monitoring it and using it for corrective counseling. “My big concern is that if you’re going to invest in safety technology, you better make sure your supervisors and dispatchers are looking at the data and using it,” Pagesy said. “If you’re not going to look at the data, my recommendation is not to get the system.”