Every fleet safety program should include some form of driver coaching.

That’s because the best drivers on your fleet are the safest drivers on your fleet. The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported 499,000 crashes involving large trucks in 2018. Trucks involved in large crashes increased 48% between 2009 and 2018.

Every day, your fleet puts their lives at risk. That’s why a driver safety program that includes driver coaching is an essential part of making sure your team stays safe — and your cargo gets from A to B in one piece.

In this guide, we cover the basics of driver coaching: what it is, why it’s important, and how it benefits your organization.

Learn:

  • What is Driver Coaching?
  • Benefits of Driver Coaching
  • What Top Driving Coaching Programs Do

What is Driver Coaching?

Driver coaching is a set of programs, techniques, and training that educates drivers about your brand, safety requirements, and best practices. You may or may not have a formal driver coaching program — but chances are, your managers are doing more coaching than you think.

It’s also an opportunity to provide career development. The more information your drivers have, the smarter decisions they can make on the road, and the more empowered they’ll be to best represent your brand.

Benefits of Driver Coaching

Safe drivers make for smoother operations and a better bottom line. The advantages of road safety awareness are obvious — but coaching isn’t just about the rules of the road.

Implementing a driver coaching program as part of your overall fleet management can:

  • Increase safe driving behavior: Reduce collisions and incidents and promote safer driving at every step in the journey.
  • Improve overall safety awareness: Drivers display enhanced safety awareness when coached at regular intervals. Understanding safety awareness topics like signaling, braking, the rules of the road, and what to do in an emergency can make a difference.
  • Give drivers recognition and career development: Coaching encourages a driver to perform well when positive driving behaviors are recognized. Setting GreenZone score thresholds with Netradyne encourages drivers to meet or exceed the fleet goal.
  • Creates a driver incentive program: Whether you use monetary incentives, gamification and points traded for prizes, or good old-fashioned peer-to-peer competition, adding driver coaching gives you the opportunity to reward your fleet for good behavior.
  • Increase ROI: Safe drivers mean fewer accidents and third-party claims, but it also means better, happier drivers. The more empowered they are, the more likely they’ll stick with your team and make more positive contributions.

It’s not hard to see why driver coaching is important. But implementing a driver coaching program can seem overwhelming if you’re not sure what to do. 

In the next section, we’ll talk through how top driving coaching programs do it: what coaching techniques they use, when they coach their drivers, and what technology makes it all happen.

What Top Driving Coaching Programs Do

The best fleet safety programs include a driver coaching component. You may already be working with your drivers with safety meetings, a comprehensive training program, or ride-alongs, which are all important aspects of driver coaching. 

But turning good programs into great ones is introducing positive reinforcement and motivation. Pointing out mistakes only goes so far to change behavior — when choosing between the carrot and the stick, the carrot wins every single time. Positive reinforcement increases confidence and instills cultural values, making a safer environment for everyone.

Techniques for Successful Driver Coaching

Top trucking company Veriha Trucking knows the power of a formal fleet driver coaching program. Since they train most of their drivers from the ground up, they’re constantly looking for coaching opportunities to reinforce safe driving behavior, from biannual driver simulations to monthly safety tips.

Why are safety meetings important? Just ask Karen Smercheck, President:

“As a training fleet, safety is our #1 value – that’s what we’re focused on. This is an obligation without compromise. By making poor safety decisions, we could be out of business tomorrow.” — Karen Smerchek, President of Veriha Trucking

In addition to regular safety briefings and trainings, they use Netradyne’s four layers of effective coaching techniques to add peace of mind to their program, implement specific safe driving tips, and empower their drivers to make better decisions:

1. In-cab audio alerts offer automated coaching opportunities in real-time to drivers that prompt corrective action. The Driveri device will deliver an audio reminder – a beep or spoken words – directly to the driver. 

“Real-time alerts for behavior change is huge. We all have bad habits and they’re not going to change overnight. If it’s an experienced driver, the roots of a habit are pretty deep. Many times the habits are so ingrained that the drivers don’t think they’re driving distracted until we show them the videos. With these alerts we have definitely seen an improvement in behavior change.” — Karen Smerchek, President of Veriha Trucking

You can set alerts for a variety of safety reminders:

  • Following distance: Measured by the distance to the vehicle ahead at the current speed in seconds. When a driver gets too close (in the red or yellow zone), the system triggers a warning.
  • Speed limits: When the driver exceeds the maximum speed threshold set by the fleet, an alert sounds.
  • Distracted driving: All it takes is a few seconds for disaster to happen. According to the National Safety Council, using a cell phone while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year — in fact, at any given time, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use a cell phone while behind the wheel. If a driver’s eyes are off the road for more than a few seconds due to phone use, eating, or other distracted driving, this alert sounds.

In-cab alerts improve safe driving without any involvement of fleet management, simply by signaling a driver when certain thresholds have been exceeded.

2. Virtual coaching is another level of automated coaching which addresses specific driving behaviors.

This sends a focused message to drivers, so improvements can be made without requiring an active review by their managers. Using algorithms focused on specific traffic safety alerts, the virtual coaching system reviews severe alerts generated by drivers during the previous week and provides a small subset of alerts for them to review. 

This analysis translates to 50% less time for Veriha Trucking’s managers to review videos. Everything they need is right in their portal summary, which highlights trends like extreme increases or decreases to scores, which may signify a driver who is embracing the coaching, or a driver that’s having issues and needs support.

3. Remote coaching uses the Netradyne Driveri App to share information with a driver. Remote coaching is completed by Manager sharing alerts, DriverStars, and pertinent comments from the Netradyne portal.  The drivers can view these alerts, and comments from their managers, on the Driveri App. 

The goal of coaching programs like this is to recognize patterns, both positive and negative. By sharing this information, coaches can discuss the driver’s specific behaviors that need improvement, and recognize them for a job well done, without requiring a one-on-one session. There are no limitations to the types of alerts, or Driver Stars, which can be shared with the driver, using this method.

4. Managed coaching uses the Netradyne portal to prepare and document coaching sessions with a driver. Face-to-face coaching provides personal discussions with drivers, either to eliminate specific behavior that needs improvement or recognize a driver for their performance.

This type of coaching is the most time-consuming, but can also be the most rewarding. The manager should prepare for the coaching by adding the needed alerts and/or DriverStars to a driver’s coaching session, bookmarking specific alerts to share with the driver, and adding comments pertinent to the review with the driver. 

Face-to-face coaching may not be needed for every driver. But if you have drivers who habitually exceed coaching parameters (such as speed limits, a certain driver score, or consistent alerts), then it’s worth sitting down and having a meaningful conversation about driving behaviors.

When to Coach Drivers

Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but the reality is more complicated than that. 

“It’s important to stay disciplined with coaching, build relationships with drivers, and provide positive recognition. It’s like a bank account – you can’t make a withdrawal unless you have sufficient deposits.” — Karen Smerchek, President of Veriha Trucking

That’s why timing of your coaching is just as important as how you do it. For good safety practices and safe driving to be internalized, giving driver feedback must be done at several different times, not just all at once. 

It can be overwhelming to address too many pieces of feedback at once. Coaching is never a one-and-done process, but an ongoing conversation between managers and drivers. You want to consistently coach your drivers during:

  • Onboarding: Regardless of where they are in their careers, making sure every new hire goes through a specific onboarding program, including fleet safety, technology, and systems, sets them up for future success.
  • Incidents: Accidents and incidents will happen. It’s important to address what went wrong, and what to do instead in the future, as soon as possible after the incident. It’s important to follow up with incidents like hard braking, collisions, seat belt compliance, red lights or stop sign violations, and more.
  • Ongoing: Coaching doesn’t just mean drawing attention to what can be improved. Showing your drivers that you care about their career development, and rewarding them for what they do well, is just as important.

Get the Right Technology for Your Driver Coaching Program

Driver cams are just the beginning. With Netradyne’s comprehensive coaching platform, you’ll never have to worry about driver performance.

Ready to step up your coaching game with Netradyne? Schedule a meeting with us today.

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