This editorial feature appears in the February 21, 2019 issue of Fleet News and is sponsored by DriveTech
The benefits of driver training are obvious and well established, with fleets usually reporting improvements soon after it has taken place.
This may be through reduced collision rates or fuel consumption, dependent on the focus of the training, leading to significant savings and/or improved safety. But the effects of training do not always last.
“Most follow-up studies show that any psychological and behavioural effects found immediately after skills-based training have worn off within one-to-three months,” says Lisa Dorn, associate professor of driver behaviour at Cranfield University.
“In short, drivers’ previous habits often reassert themselves over this timescale.”
So how can fleet decision-makers ensure the benefits are long-lasting?
Read the Sponsor's comment by Nick Butler, fleet director, DriveTech
“Through training, we’re looking to achieve a change in attitude and – through that – a change in behaviour,” says Paul Jackson, head of impairment research at TRL (Transport Research Laboratory).
“For the changes to be any more than temporary, it requires appropriate scenarios and the ongoing use of technology as part of a blended approach.
“This blended approach should comprise this combination of elements – as well as facilitated groups where any problems or issues encountered by drivers can be discussed with a view to appropriate action being taken.
“Ultimately, any driver training programme needs to be tailored, appropriate for that organisation’s requirements and be ongoing.”
Dorn agrees that ongoing training – “in the shape of nudges or prompts” – can remind people to take positive actions and promote a more preferred behaviour.
These nudges need to be motivational, encourage active learning and promote the use of self-reflection on personal risks.
Dorn, who is also the founding director of online educational company DriverMetrics, adds: “Targeted proactive driver training based on the risks identified within individual companies coupled with regular monitoring and feedback in a commercial fleet organisation can achieve significant reductions in driving-related accidents.
“Some of the nudging methods available include, telematics, e-learning modules delivered throughout the year at regular intervals, profiling risk and providing feedback on driving style.”
Here, fleet experts discuss some of the ongoing prompts recommended to maximise the longevity of driver training...
Regular communication with drivers should be one of the pillars of any effective ongoing training programme.
“Of all the businesses we work with, the ones that experience the most noticeable long-term benefits in driver behaviour are the ones that keep a regular stream of communication with their drivers on all matters relating to driver safety and best practice,” says Tony Greenidge, business development director at IAM RoadSmart.
“It’s not about finger-wagging or a constant drone of rules, but frequent and timely reminders relating to things like weather conditions, checking the condition of your tyres and other information that demonstrates to employees that road safety is always a priority.”
These safe driving messages should be communicated throughout the year. “This shows that an organisation is serious about the subject of road safety,” says Steve Winnitt, learning, development and international training manager at DriveTech.
“Smartphone apps can be useful for this. In the absence of telematics, these apps – that can track driver performance such as speed, harsh acceleration, cornering and braking overlaid onto a route map – can be a useful self-check on driver performance.
“An example of this could be after attending a speed awareness course, to help ensure the driver isn’t lapsing back into bad driving habits and risking points on their licence.”
Regular driver assessments
Regular driver assessments should form an intrinsic part of each organisation’s ongoing driver training policy, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
Good driver assessment “does not just focus on driving skills, but also on driver’s attitudes, knowledge and understanding of how they can manage driving risks”, says the safety charity’s Driving for Work guide.
IAM’s Greenidge says these regular driver assessments can best be described as “reassessments”.
Furthermore, it’s important not to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to their frequency, regardless of whether they’re online or in person.
“Making periodic reassessment a routine requirement can play a role in ensuring that drivers maintain a high standard over time,” adds Greenidge.
“It can also help to avoid the perception that it has been administered as some kind of intervention or punishment.
“But the appropriate frequency of reassessment will vary between businesses and roles.”
Ongoing on-road coaching
Ongoing on-road coaching is deemed essential by many driver training providers to avoid the return of bad habits.
DriveTech’s Steve Winnitt says this coaching needs to be both practical and tailored.
“Participants need to experience tangible benefits,” he adds. “Ultimately, this question should be answered: ‘Does the training they receive make driving easier or more enjoyable?’.
“This is more likely to ensure continued buy-in and the reason why practical behind-the-wheel coaching is shown to have the greatest and most lasting impact.”
Winnitt says on-road coaching can help a participant face the challenges or triggers that potentially change their behaviour, such as being late for an appointment.
“It also gives them the opportunity to experience first-hand how an effective driving plan can not only mitigate incident risk but potentially shorten journey times and improve fuel efficiency,” he adds.
“This is the most effective approach to overcoming barriers that prevent change.”
The rapid evolution of technology – and particularly hand-held devices – makes e-learning an ideal option for ongoing training.
It’s now possible for a driver to complete a module on a particular topic and then receive questions on that subject by email or text message at an agreed point in time afterwards.
If they struggle on a particular topic, then further questions can be sent, along with appropriate micro e-learning courses.
Ultimately, this can be a simple way for fleet decision-makers to check that knowledge is consistently maintained.
“Using bespoke software, it’s possible to track driver compliance and tailor interventions, providing training that reduces the number of poor driving events being recorded,” says Andy Wheeler, business development director at TTC Group.
“Employees will be able to complete courses at a time to suit them on any device and with minimal disruption to their working day.
“Little and often engagement is the key, so safe driving becomes part of everyday working life.”
Telematics technology can be key to consistently identifying risky driving behaviours.
Many training companies advise that telematics is used to assess drivers for up to three months prior to any intervention as part of an audit – and then after the training to monitor the benefits of that intervention.
Alberto De Monte, global Catalytix director at Masternaut, says: “Telematics can drive lasting, positive changes in driving behaviour.
“All sorts of data can be used to measure driver performance: speeding, idling and harsh events like sharp braking are the most notable.
“Access to this data makes a fleet manager’s job easier, as it provides accurate information that makes the discussion fact-based and objective.”
De Monte adds that the real key to enduring improvement is real-time feedback.
“Through an in-cab coaching device, drivers immediately know if they’re driving poorly and can adjust their behaviour accordingly,” he adds.
“A controlled study across more than 9,000 Masternaut customers demonstrated a 53% reduction in speeding with the aid of in-cab coaching, with fewer harsh events and consistently less idling.
"Importantly, this wasn’t a short-term result: the data showed a lasting, consistent trend in improved driver behaviour – and that means a safer fleet.”
Gamification is the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage users.
Advances in technology – and specifically telematics – are providing fleet decision-makers with a massive repository of data that can be used to create driver scorecards that foster a sense of healthy competition.
Ed Dubens, chief executive and founder of eDriving, says the key to gamification’s success lies in its ability to engage.
“Gamification is an important part of behavioural change and management strategies to help drivers live and breathe the concepts being promoted,” he adds.
“Research on models for learning and development shows that 10% of your return on investment comes from formal education and learning, 20% from exposure and social learning while 70% comes from experience.
“Training – whether in the classroom, behind the wheel or e-learning – is not enough to move the needle.
“Environments where drivers can compete at a friendly level and share performance indicators with each other as well as their managers can go a long way to reinforce both the policy as well as the behaviours required.”
Incentive schemes work most effectively when they are transparent and objective.
This allows drivers to see that their progress has clearly defined goals and set criteria they need to achieve.
Like gamification, telematics can provide a ready-made platform on which positive behaviour incentive schemes can be built.
According to Greenidge, incentivising drivers – along with regular communication – is arguably the most significant element of reinforcing training over time.
“Incentives can take many forms, but in our experience at IAM RoadSmart, the most successful safety initiatives are often the ones where the incentive is employee recognition, rather than anything material,” he says.
Case study: Ecolab
Regular behind-the-wheel assessments and refreshers are key to Ecolab’s efforts to ensure the benefits of driver training are long-lasting.
Every new employee at the water, hygiene and energy technologies company receives their initial behind-the-wheel driver training within six weeks of joining.
They then receive another behind-the-wheel refresher course automatically every three years afterwards.
In addition, Ecolab – which operates a fleet of 600 cars and 400 vans nationally – gives company vehicle drivers a ‘commentary drive’ on day one and thereafter quarterly.
This gives line managers the opportunity to get behind the wheel with colleagues to talk through their approach, observe driving standards and ensure their competence meets Ecolab’s high standards.
“Each line manager is trained to facilitate the commentary drive and it initially involves a detailed vehicle use check which takes place prior to driving off,” says facilities and fleet manager Gerallt Williams.
“The behind-the-wheel commentary drive then appraises a colleague’s driving style and approach to identifying hazards – I firmly believe this to be incredibly beneficial to every driver’s ability to maintain the very highest standards.”
Prior to undertaking this commentary drive, employees will log on to the website of Ecolab’s driver training provider to undertake a driving risk assessment.
“As part of the commentary drive, colleagues’ line managers will also talk through any issues they might have had, including collisions or incidents of minor damage,” says Williams.
“This process is designed to identify poor driving standards and educate staff to improve their driving style, observational skills and confidence.
“Our policy allows us to target those drivers with three incidents or more and ensure the line manager, driver and the safety, health and environmental (SH&E) representative focuses on identifying root causes and addressing standards by any means necessary.”
Those employees identified to be in need of additional training subsequently undertake additional one-to-one training facilitated by their driver training provider or are in receipt of words of advice and coaching from line managers.
Businesses approach driver risk management and road safety typically in two main behavioural ways – some do the basics to discharge their obligation, whereas others place road safety and driver behaviour high on the corporate agenda, adopting a more committed approach.
While the threat of prosecution and/or significant financial penalty is a big concern – there have been recent high profile cases published in Fleet News – assessing and training your drivers to make better driving decisions behind the wheel is where the business benefit and tangible cost reduction lies.
DriveTech – part of The AA – has been delivering professional driver assessments and training for more than 25 years, and we encourage businesses to measure their safety (and eco-driving) performance improvements wherever possible.
A recent award win for our client, Johnson & Johnson, indicates that a committed road safety and road risk programme can pay dividends with a measurable reduction in at-fault collisions at the core.
We’re committed to help businesses save money through better on-road behaviour.
The cost reduction in businesses – through, for example, more economic driving, reduced wear and tear on vehicles, and using data from telematics systems – can impact the business bottom line.
One DriveTech client recorded a 77% reduction in the number of collisions post-driver training. And we can indicate other savings on tyre use, fuel consumption and vehicle servicing. Plus happier, safer drivers too!
Our website has a series of compelling whitepapers and a host of other information to help you manage your risk and encourage a responsible driver training approach.