Let’s say you’re a driver hauling a 20 ton load cross-country and you come upon a sharp turn on a mountainous highway. You’re driving fast and need to slow down to make the turn, so you have two choices: make a harsh brake, which will guarantee you turn safely around the bend, or make a slow brake, which you think may get you safely around the bend. In this situation, the safest choice is to make a harsh brake, but what would a rational driver do?
They would make a slow brake, avoiding the telematics alert, because they don’t want another call from their boss.
If drivers are under the impression that a harsh brake counts as a strike against them, they will avoid it even when it’s the safest maneuver to do—all in the name of looking safe on paper.
To Be Clear, Telematics Are Necessary
It’s undeniable that having access to telematics data is a powerful tool to monitor driver behavior, ultimately improving driver and pedestrian safety. If a driver is constantly making harsh brakes, their aggressive driving style is likely putting themselves and others at risk.
When examined with a critical eye, or even better, with the help of technology, telematics data is one of the few ways managers can actually see how their drivers are performing on the road. You can only get so much insight from a single ride-along with your driver as they conduct a route. With telematics, however, you can get a sense of how they perform overall, examining their behavior over hundreds of routes.
Goodhart’s Law and the Problem with Telematics
In a 1975 article entitled Problems of Monetary Management, the economist Charles Goodhart summarized what would later be known as Goodhart’s Law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
This concept is easy to understand when given an example, so let’s look at how telematics relates to your drivers. If a driver is approaching a yellow light they can choose to incur a harsh brake to stop or speed through the light. If the driver knows that a harsh brake will result in disciplinary action, they might run through the yellow light, ultimately behaving more dangerously but going undetected.
If a driver is constantly making harsh brakes on their daily routes, it’s likely their aggressive driving style may be putting them at-risk for an accident. You might send that driver to additional training or reach out to them to resolve this at-risk behavior.
But what happens when a driver knows they’re being evaluated on the number of harsh brakes they make?
Simple, they stop making harsh brakes. While the outreach and training given to this driver may look like it has successfully reduced their poor behavior, it’s also possible they are intentionally avoiding harsh braking even when it’s safer to do so. Beyond the fact that this poses a safety risk, another consequence is that the number of unsafe situations this driver encounters goes underreported. This means the telematics data fleets possess isn’t as useful of a predictor of driver risk as it normally would be, making it even harder for fleets to use data to reduce accidents.
How Can We Solve This Problem?
First, you have to recognize when telematics alerts aren’t the drivers’ fault. By digging deeper into alerts from any onboard system, your fleet can get a better understanding of when a driver is actually exhibiting poor behavior or is incurring an unpreventable alert. Next, you have to explain to your drivers that your employee review process is a holistic approach, and telematics incidents alone will not land them in the hot seat. By making this clear, your drivers won’t feel the need to avoid inducing a telematics incident when doing so would be the best option. Further, you should remind them that above all else, you care about their safety, so if they find themselves in a situation where making a harsh brake is the safest choice, they should feel secure enough to make it.
What can your fleet do right now:
- Investigate alerts prior to taking disciplinary action.
- Ensure your drivers understand telematics are there to help, not hurt them.
- Consider Integrating your fleet systems and data to find meaningful insights into driver behavior and reduce time investigating alerts.
With these steps, your drivers will begin to feel less watched over, making your telematics data more meaningful and your fleet safer. The easiest way to implement these steps is to integrate all of your fleet data using a driver management platform, like the Idelic Safety Suite. The Safety Suite’s industry-leading Driver Watch List utilizes advanced Machine Learning (ML) technologies to help fleets prevent accidents, reduce turnover, and lower insurance costs.
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