Telematics are defined as the technology behind sending, receiving, and processing information over a telecommunications network. While this may not seem like an entirely new concept, it has been around for a lot longer than most people realize. In fact, the term “telematics” was first coined in 1978. Yet, it wasn’t until at least 10 years later that a major effort was made to use telematics in advanced transportation applications.
The GPS technology that is vital to telematics only became available to civilians in the United States in 1983. Why? Because the U.S. government had a strong hold on it. There was a concerted effort to keep foreign hands from accessing vital national assets. As such, for national security reasons, the US military scrambled the GPS signal, making it too inaccurate to be reliable to use.
Fortunately, that action was short lived. In 2000, then President Bill Clinton gave authorized the military to turn off the GPS interference signal and make GPS more responsive for complete civil and commercial use. This action paved the way for accurate, consumer-grade mobile satellite navigation to become the norm. Without that big step, telematics wouldn’t be what it is today.
But what is the point of this exposition? To paint a picture of how new this technology actually is to a lot of people, including many truck drivers. Sure, everyone has already become comfortable with GPS being a part of everyday life even though it’s only been usable by regular folks for 20 years, but that isn’t the full story.
Commercial motor vehicle telematics as we know them today are relatively new. Yet because fewer people have interacted with it or have truly been given the opportunity to understand it, they are hesitant when it comes time to implement it within their workplace. This is especially true for truck drivers operating newfangled equipment they may not fully understand. Getting buy-in from front-line operators is critical, but not always easy.
When truckers first start, they may have some hesitancy about using these technologies, but it is up to the fleets themselves to quell any misconceptions truck drivers have with using such technologies. Only through education and preparation can you ensure your truck drivers are ready to roll on day one with advanced telematics technologies.
Why Are Truckers Apprehensive?
Look at it from the same perspective a truck driver looks at it from. The most dominant stigma surrounding telematics seems to be that truckers feel it is akin to an “eye in the sky” spy watching every move they make. Consider it something like a “big brother” situation. Put simply, truck drivers feel like vehicle telematics systems are only put in place to spy on them and somehow control their behavior. In a sense, they are right, but not in the negative connotation that assumption provides.
As vehicle telematics have developed, it is not unreasonable for truck drivers to feel that way. This is especially true considering that telematics technologies are often combined with video. Just consider for a moment how much video surveillance has become ubiquitous in every-day life. It is easy to see how individuals can equate a telematics system with a spyglass.
Another common misconception around telematics systems is that they are used as a means for punishment. While the data provided by telematics can certainly be used for coaching sessions, overall, these technologies are completely benign from a disciplinary perspective.
The Importance of Truck Driver Buy-In
While fleet management are the ones who makes the decisions on what kind and when a telematics system is adopted, it is the front-line truck drivers who are most impacted by these changes. They are the ones who will use the technology every day. They will quickly discover the bugs and the quirks which, depending on their severity, can significantly impact their everyday job.
How well a fleet manager gets buy-in from their operators will determine how successful the rollout of a new technology is. If truck drivers understand the purpose of the technology, they will be more apt to adopt it with as little fuss as possible. This also means the company in question will do a better job retaining truck drivers and not needlessly turning them off to a potentially helpful technology.
An upside of having truck driver buy-in is that your fleet will have more productive and safer fleet drivers who are more likely to be loyal and work hard for you. You won’t have to buy them off with fancy benefits, either.
There are so many ancillary benefits to securing truck driver buy-in to your new telematics adoption, but let’s jump into how you can get that buy-in so you can see those benefits for your entire trucking company as a whole. There is a technique.
Top Tips for Telematics Buy-In
The most important thing to ensuring your people understand the technology you purchase. You may think everything is self-explanatory, but it is critical you build effective and easily understood processes around these new technologies. Once you make a purchase, your team will delve deep into the tech, but will they fully understand how it works without direction?
Knowing which features your telematics system has, what these features do and how to properly utilize them is critical if you want your drivers to trust both you and the technology you invest in. If you are knowledgeable and can answer every single question your drivers might have for you about the system, they will feel much more comfortable that it is the correct decision for them and for the company.
One of the keys to ensuring your people are comfortable with a new adoption is to involve your truck drivers from the very beginning. Make sure you do not implement a new system before you have informed your front-line people that you intend to do so. You also need to ensure you set up proper benchmarking so that you can utilize the data in an effective manner.
Just remember, you will receive backlash if you install a program without a plan to do so, or without notifying your people ahead of time. If that happens, you will find the data is hardly worth the headache you’ll have after trying to shoehorn your people onto the bandwagon. Make sure you talk to your people about their needs and find out what is important to them when driving. Remember, they are the ones who will be on the road every day.
Finally, you want to make sure you go into great detail about how implementing this technology will benefit your company. If your truck drivers understand that these systems will help you improve your bottom line and make their lives easier, they will have a much easier time buying into it.
There is Much to Gain
Fleet managers must become good at selling the benefits of new technologies. Often when companies look at whether to install telematics, they look at it from the perspective of what the business can gain from it. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but drivers and other employees may sometimes not really see how such a system will have a positive impact on their lives.
When the trucking company succeeds, everyone succeeds, and this message must be reinforced throughout the implementation process. When accidents are reduced, costs are reduced, safety is improved, and truck drivers have more satisfaction in the job they do. The more a company can grow and gain revenue, the more front-line workers benefit.
Truck drivers also struggle with the constant needs of compliance paperwork. Telematics systems reduce these hassles and provide a level of automation that lets truck drivers and fleet managers focus on their jobs. Operators will feel better about routing, scheduling, claims and even driving infractions. Telematics can vindicate truck drivers who otherwise did nothing wrong during an incident.
If you let your drivers know that you are in it to make their lives better as well, they will feel better about allowing telematics to come into their work life and will be more likely to work alongside you to ensure the system works as efficiently as it possibly can to reap the benefits.
Remember, when you consider implementing a telematics system at your trucking company, make sure you treat your truck drivers as the true stakeholders they are. They will be the ones using the system every day and be most impacted by it. Ensure you are transparent in how it works and how your employees utilize it.
When truck drivers have a trusting relationship with their motor carriers, loyalty, engagement, trust, and commitment all go up by leaps and bounds. This will make your drivers happy, your fleet managers happy, and your customers happy. In that scenario, everyone wins.