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Driver Monitoring Is Only A Test

Posted by Mark G. Gardner on March 7, 2014 in the category Uncategorized
Driver monitoring is not a substitute for thorough driver selection and training.

Every day more and more driver monitoring devices hit the market.  All with the promise of helping you get better results.

Driver monitoring is not a substitute for thorough driver selection and training. Driver monitoring is not a substitute for thorough driver selection and training.

Using G-force sensors, these devices identify speeding, hard braking, excessive cornering speeds, sudden stops and other events purportedly related to unsafe driving behaviors.  The data is then to be used to talk with, coach, reprimand, warn, suspend or even fire an offending driver.  But not train.  Training should have occurred before the driver hit the road.

It’s important to see these monitoring devices for what they really are: essentially, tests.  Using the proxy measure of G-forces, they test what a driver has learned about defensive driving skills. The driver passes the test by not triggering an event that gets on the technology radar. You pass the test by being anonymous. The monitoring folks don’t know your name.

I have no problem with this approach, provided:

  1. The driver is given effective outcome-based education and training before he/she begins driving and
  2. The driver was hired based on his/her propensity to avoid risk.


Training Before Driver Monitoring

Maybe things have changed, but back when I went to school, you learned subject matter before you took a test. You learned how to make a bread board in shop class before you were graded on making bread boards.

But it seems today, too many carriers are willing to skip the training step. In their rush to put warm butts in empty seats, they send drivers out on the road without first providing them with adequate defensive driving training. Their career with a carrier might start with an assumption: “They should have learned that in driver school or through experience, right?” Or it might begin with a hope: “We’ll just put them out there and let the monitoring devices sort them out.”

Not only are these approaches patently unfair to the drivers, they’re also bankrupt logic.  Monitoring cannot and should not be a proxy for training - especially today, when virtually every driver is precious. Accidents and many other bad things can happen before the technology “catches” the driver.  Their behavior can be very costly before they flunk your “test”.

Selection Before Driver Monitoring

We have a sign in our office that says “You can teach a squirrel to fly but you’re better off starting with an eagle.”  Some applicants are more risk adverse than others.  The Winter Olympics just ended in Russia.  After viewing several events, I came to realize that there were several types of competitors I wouldn’t want driving for me:

A risk taker, not a good driver candidate. A risk taker, not a good driver candidate.
  • Skiers and snowboarders who do multiple spins, flips and other tricks in the half pipe,
  • Freestyle skiiers who proform high aerial tricks like back flip 360’s, elaborate somersaults and twists and then put huge g-forces on their knees as the try to score a perfect landing,
  • Downhill skiers who fly down the mountain navigating twists and turns at 80 miles per hour,
  • Pair skaters who can lift  or throw their partners while zipping along on one skate,
  • Bobsledders who take the risk of flipping over at 118 mph on the steel and concrete course lined with thick ice.

 USA Figure Skater Gracie Gold TV commercial: “I may not look very tough but I can accelerate faster than the guys in a race car, take harder impacts than a rider thrown from a bull, and handle more G-force than a fighter pilot.”

These folks have a predilection for risk…all adrenaline junkies competing in Sochi.

No. Instead, give me the cross country skiers: steady, thoughtful with low risk of injury, with supreme understanding of their equipment.

The same logic applies to hiring drivers. Rule out applicants who willingly accept risk. Profile their attitudes toward risk.  Thorough background checks are a good start, but an assessment of personal risk tolerance is vital.  It can be done.  Neither monitoring nor training can change a squirrel into an eagle.

Driver monitoring is (expensive) icing, not the cake.   Driver monitoring has its place as a test. But only after thoughtful hiring and selection and engaging, memorable training has set the stage for success.