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Should You Pay Drivers to Allow Cameras in Their Trucks?

In a recent article for Fleet Forward, Chris Brown poses the question “Is Paying Drivers to Allow In-Cab Cameras a Good Idea?” Here’s the dilemma Brown tackles: fleet managers know telematics offer major opportunities for improved safety, increased efficiency, and better protection against litigation. But they also know most drivers hate the idea of being watched all day. So, how do managers get their drivers to accept recording devices?

As a manager from Texas is quoted in the article, “They want to talk on the phone, they want to eat while they drive, and I’m sure that some still want to shoot a text message while driving even though it’s against the rules. They’d feel it’s an invasion of privacy.”

More charitably, it may not be that truck drivers want to continue getting away with things they’re not supposed to be doing but are simply uncomfortable having cameras on them at all times. But, whatever the reason, managers are having to overcome this resistance before realizing the benefits of cameras. And matters get especially complicated with the ongoing driver shortage and high turnover in the industry.

One popular approach the article touches on is gamification. This involves turning compliance into a game, where drivers score points through adherence to specified protocols. Part of why gamification works is that it focuses on rewarding positive behaviors instead of punishing bad ones. This is important because if drivers are uncomfortable with the thought of their every move being recorded, the awareness that the footage is being used to catch them messing up is only going to make matters worse.

The problem is that for fleets to improve safety, they kind of need to curtail unsafe behaviors. So, whether managers are explicitly focusing on bad habits or not, drivers can usually guess what’s going on.

Hence Brown’s question: what if trucking companies simply paid drivers to let cameras be installed in their cabs?

GP Transco, an Illinois-based company, is currently experimenting with this idea, giving its drivers an added 2 cents a mile if they agree to have cameras pointed at them whenever they’re behind the wheel. The beauty of this approach lies in the freedom it provides the drivers—if they really hate being monitored, they can say no. Of course, that’s also one of the biggest downsides (along with the cost, which many smaller fleets won’t be able to afford).

“I don’t think most businesses can afford to leave those decisions in the hands of their employees,” Brown quotes Verizon Connect’s Kevin Aries saying in response to this idea. If a trucking company is using cameras as part of an effort to lower insurance rates, for instance, then it can’t just let its drivers decide whether they want them installed. And what happens if a truck without cameras is involved in an accident?

So, is paying drivers always a bad idea?

What’s interesting about GP Transco’s approach to driver adoption is how direct it is: you don’t want to do this, we want you to do it, and so we’ll pay you to do it. But there are other ways to get drivers on board with telematics. Kevin Aries warns trucking companies to expect a series of questions when implementing a strategy involving cameras. The last in his series offers an especially clear idea of what drivers are afraid of: “How often will the footage be reviewed? Is it going to be archived? Are you going to be able to ‘hold something against me’ eight months from now?”

What this shows is that drivers worry any evidence recorded by cameras will be used against them. In other words, it’s all downside. In this context, simply paying the drivers to accept being recorded seems like a reasonable compromise. But the real problem here is that fleet managers have allowed an adversarial relationship to take hold between them and their drivers. That means the drivers naturally see cameras as loaded weapons pointed at their heads.

To some degree, an us-versus-them relationship between managers and workers is inevitable. However, if you set up the company’s incentives in a way that lets drivers know what’s good for the company is also good for them, you can count on a lot more cooperation.

Paying drivers who accept cameras in their cabs will obviously get quite a few of them to comply, but it does nothing to get buy-in from them for your larger goals of improving safety, reducing liability, and increasing efficiency. What you can do instead is let everyone know what kind of benefits will come from the adoption of telematics—and let them know that they’ll share in those benefits.

Here’s where gamification comes in. Setting the focus on positive behaviors goes some way toward allaying drivers’ fears, and making drivers compete against one another provides a little motivation. But what if you offer top performers a percentage of the savings the company achieves? The initial meeting announcing the installation of cameras could then be used to explain how the game will work, how participating will benefit the fleet, and how those benefits will be spread around to drivers with top scores. Now, instead of drivers reluctantly acquiescing for a slightly bigger paycheck, they’re eagerly competing to help the company reach its goals. What’s good for one is good for all.

In this scenario, you’re technically still paying drivers to allow cameras in their cabs, but you’re also making the payments contingent on how diligently each one works to help you achieve the company’s larger goals.

There’s probably no one-size-fits-all strategy that will make every driver in every company happy. GP Transco’s approach to getting driver buy-in may end up working perfectly well for them. Simply establishing game rules and posting scoreboards without any further incentives may work for another company. The key is finding the right mix of strategies that works in your individual setting. The good news is that once participation in the game is established as a norm, you’ll have a lot less difficulty getting everyone to comply.

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