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The 2 Things That Actually Work to Get Drivers to Accept Cameras on Their Trucks

The trend toward ever-closer employee tracking is being driven by technological advances, and it’s affecting nearly every industry—not just trucking. You can trace it all the way back to 1881 when Frederick Taylor first pulled out his stopwatch to time production stages in a steel plant, inspiring what became known as the Efficiency Movement, which included Henry Ford’s famous assembly lines. Fast-forward to today when, along with a watch of sorts, most of us carry a sophisticated GPS tracking device in our pockets.

Video Feed and Tracking Data for Trucking Company

Naturally, every business seeking a competitive advantage—i.e. every business—is going to make use of the latest tech to get the most out their employees. So, truck drivers shouldn’t be all that surprised when fleet managers want to install cameras and recording devices in their vehicles.

The problem is truckers are a different breed. Most of them chose to get their CDLs precisely because they hate the idea of standing in a factory or sitting in an office all day, with a manager hovering over them with a clipboard—or a tablet. Now, they’re being told they’ll have a camera pointed at them whenever they’re in the cab. If you have any doubt how much truck drivers despise the idea of “in-cab” or “driver-facing cameras,” just scroll down to the comments section of any article you find on Google when searching for these keywords.

The benefits of cameras and other performance-tracking technology for fleet owners are obvious. You can’t incentivize safe driving if you have no way of measuring compliance with safety protocols. If one of your trucks is involved in an accident, a video feed could either establish that the other driver was at fault (which is the case 81% of the time) or let you know you need to settle the case. Maximizing fuel-efficiency, discovering fastest routes, identifying issues with wait times at various distribution hubs—vehicle tracking data can be used in several ways that are only indirectly tied to driver behavior.

But, of course, monitoring for things like distracted driving (texting), seatbelt use, speeding, tailgating, cutting turns too sharp, or, God forbid, nodding off behind the wheel can inform a company’s efforts to improve its safety record. Not to mention its insurance rates.

So—the million-dollar question—how can fleet managers implement tracking initiatives without honking off all their drivers? There are two methods trucking companies across the country are finding success with.

Get Drivers Involved in the Planning

The single most effective way to get buy-in from drivers is to invite them—or someone who represents them—to all the planning meetings. But it’s not enough to simply have them sitting passively in the room so they can relay the details of the proceedings to their fellow drivers. You’ll get a lot more traction with your plan if the people who will be putting it into action have a hand in actively developing it.

Truck Monitor on Dash

In other words, you’ll need to avoid a heavy-handed, top-down approach, where the plan is worked out in corporate offices and subsequently forced on drivers. Instead, you can inform everyone who will be affected what challenges the company is facing and solicit ideas on how they can be addressed. Obviously, not every idea that gets offered up will be incorporated into the strategy. The important thing is that drivers feel they’ve been heard and that their thoughts and concerns have been taken seriously.

Now, it’s probably not feasible to have every driver in your fleet attending planning meetings and lobbying for their favorite ideas. What managers of even the largest fleets can do, however, is appoint representatives that drivers have ready access to. It will be up to these reps to not only hear drivers out but to seek out their input so they can report back to you.

Don’t make the common mistake of having a preformed plan on paper before going to your employees for their ideas, only to deliver the original plan unamended. Rather than feeling grateful to you for taking the time to hear them out, your drivers will feel doubly aggrieved. Not only are you imposing a monitoring regime on them, but you also just pulled the wool over their eyes by making them think they had some say in the plan’s development (no wonder driver turnover is such a big problem).

Instead, your plan should be at least somewhat open-ended before you take it to your employees. That doesn’t mean you can’t limit the scope of what ideas you’ll consider. Nor does it mean you can’t frame the company’s goals in a way that suggests your own desired strategies. (“Our issue is that since our competitors installed cameras, they’ve outperformed us, so how can we up our game to be more competitive?”) The important thing is to avoid any division into rival camps of owners or managers on one side and drivers on the other.

As with any initiative, the sense among employees that it’s against them—that managers see them as interchangeable assets to be squeezed and forced into compliance—is an insurmountable obstacle to company-wide adoption. Instead, you’ll do best to foster a mindset of we’re all in this together. And merely saying it isn’t enough; you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is.

If your company improves its safety record and ends up saving on insurance, say, will any of those savings go back to your drivers?

Turn Compliance into a Game

Us-versus-them is a terrible mindset for your employees to have when it comes to their relationship with management. But competition isn’t altogether bad. What drivers are afraid of when they hear about cameras being installed in their trucks is that they’re going to be watched every moment they’re on the road and disciplined for every piddly infraction. So, shifting the focus onto what the drivers are doing right is a crucial first step. Then you can use the data to incentivize drivers to do more of the good stuff as opposed to cracking down on them for what they’re doing wrong.

One of the easiest ways to motivate drivers to strive for improved safety and efficiency is to translate performance data into scores—and have everyone compete to see who “wins” in any given time interval. Outperforming other drivers will be a big incentive in its own right, but you can also sweeten the pot by, say, offering bonuses to winners. (What are you doing with those savings from lower insurance rates?)

Truck Camera mounted to side mirror

This is what software developers call “gamification,” and it’s gaining currency across industries for being an effective approach to improving adoption of company projects. The main benefit is that gamification creates a completely different atmosphere—one of good-natured competition—than you get with the Big-Brother-watching-you approach. Instead of hiding from the cameras, some portion of the drivers will want to broadcast their scores. And their enthusiasm is likely to be contagious.

An added benefit of gamification is that it will be especially appealing to millennials who grew up with videogame controllers all but surgically attached to their hands. This is the demographic trucking companies are looking to attract as the industry faces an ongoing driver shortage.

So, if you invite drivers to your planning meetings and explain to them how the cameras you’re installing on their trucks are going to be part of a fun game, you’ll have no problem, right? Hardly. As with any significant change to work routines or environments, there’s really no way to avoid some resistance—at least initially.

But involving drivers in the process and using the technology to highlight the good instead of punishing the bad will help to minimize that pushback. Just as important, though, is the follow-through. Once the cameras are installed and the game is on, you’re going to have some promises to deliver on. Your drivers are going to be paying close attention to whether the reality their working in bears any resemblance to the plans they helped develop.

If they like what they see, it won’t take long until everyone’s adjusted to the new normal. And then you’ll have to figure out how to get them onboard with the next technology that changes everything.

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