The use of telematics continues to expand among fleets as companies see the benefits of this technology. Over the years, telematics systems have become a must-have for fleets, and driver acceptance of these systems has grown. But initially telematics wasn’t always well received, especially among drivers.
Jim Coniglione, owner of Scoopy Doo, a pet waste removal service, remembers many of his drivers being apprehensive to the telematics technology when it was first introduced.
“When we first installed telematics, the systems were something new and unfamiliar,” says Coniglione, whose company uses TomTom telematics. “The older drivers didn’t think that they would be able to understand the technology.”
Additionally, many drivers didn’t like the idea of being monitored all the time. “No one likes the ‘Big Brother’ watch,” says Mitch Bower, lead dispatcher at Vancouver Warehouse and Distribution Co.
To help their drivers become more comfortable with the idea of telematics, fleets need to take the time to train drivers and explain the benefits of telematics, including how it can help the company become more efficient.
Before installing his company’s telematics systems, Coniglione gathered his drivers for an informational meeting. Scoopy Doo has a fleet of 16 pickup trucks that serve residences in Long Island, Queens, Westchester County, and the Albany area.
“We sat the drivers down and explained that we would be using telematics to make our business more efficient,” he says. “For us, it was more about customer accountability than not trusting our drivers.”
When Scoopy Doo started 18 years ago, drivers filled out paper forms to keep track of each appointment. Not only was it time consuming, but many drivers would also forget to write down how long they were at each appointment, according to Coniglione. “If a customer said that we didn’t show up or filed a dispute, we would have to go through months of paperwork. I had to hope that the driver wrote down that job as well as the timing.”
Vancouver Warehouse, which chose Eroad as its telematics provider, was first drawn to the technology to help with back charging for access time. When presenting the idea of telematics to its drivers, the company emphasized the system’s benefits for serving its customers.
Telematics Introduction: Best Practices
Originally a milk delivery company, Vancouver Warehouse offers moving and storage services as well as transportation services. The company runs 19 trucks and serves customers in Vancouver, Wash., as well as in Seattle and Portland.
“We needed a way that showed how long a driver was at each stop,” says Bower. “Telematics would give us concrete evidence. You can’t fool the satellite in the sky.”
Joyride Coffee, a beverage manufacturer and distributor serving customers in New York, Massachusetts, and California, started looking at telematics systems four years ago to help ensure that drivers were operating the vehicles in a safe manner. Before implementing the Fleetmatics system (now Verizon Connect Reveal), Adam Belanich, co-founder and president, talked to his drivers about how the data would be used.
“We presented it as we are planning to use the data to make sure that each driver is responsible and driving the vehicles safely,” says Belanich. “We told them that we wanted them to take their time driving these vehicles safely. When you phrase it that way, it makes it harder to have objections to it.”
Importance of Training
No matter what style of training, these fleets spent time making sure that their drivers were comfortable with the new telematics systems.
Joyride decided to hold its training session in a group format. Belanich wanted his drivers to be physically in the same location to have the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers immediately.
“They had questions on how they would get notifications if they did something to raise a red flag such as harsh braking or acceleration,” he says.
At the meeting, Joyride’s management showed the drivers how the back-end of the telematics systems worked. Additionally, drivers learned more about how they would be interacting with the systems on a daily basis.“
After the training, I didn’t have any pushback from our drivers,” he says. “I think they understood why we had the new systems.”
Vancouver Warehouse also held group training sessions led by a sales executive from Eroad. The executive also made herself available for one-on-one questions afterward. Additionally, Eroad sent a test unit that Bower left out on the dispatch counter.
“The drivers could see the system and ask any questions,” Bower says. “I could show them how it worked. I also had manuals available for them to look over.”
First Class Charter, a charter bus company that operates 12 coaches, included each driver in the process of trying different telematics systems. The company installed a telematics system from GPS Insight to satisfy the ELD mandate and to alleviate paper logs, automating back-office systems.
For its training, the company broke up the drivers into smaller groups, letting each driver go through the electronic record-keeping process, according to Mark Dennis, First Class Charter’s director of sales and business development. The drivers then ran electric logs and paper logs in parallel for a month.
“It’s how you go about it,” says Dennis. “If you take something and shove it down their throat, that’ll never work. We sold it that it would make everyone’s job easier and free up time for more important things.”
A Driver’s Perspective
For Fred Stropple, telematics systems were introduced within a year of him starting as a technician for Scoopy Doo. Before telematics, Stropple and other Scoopy Doo drivers used printed-out sheets to figure out their daily routes.
“It took a little while to adjust to the new telematics systems,” he says. “At first, there was a little trepidation and resistance from the older drivers.”
In addition to being unfamiliar technology, some drivers didn’t like the idea of being tracked. At Vancouver Warehouse, Bower recalls one or two drivers being very vocal about not wanting to use the company’s new telematics system.
“Because telematics was now part of company policy, we told them that they had a choice: either drive the truck with the telematics system or go find another job,” says Bower. “This led to one driver leaving because he refused to use the telematics system. It makes you wonder why the driver is being so obstinate about it.”
Once Stropple realized how telematics could save time during his routes, he says it was easier to embrace the new technology. “I have lived in Long Island my whole life, but the GPS feature guided me down streets that I had never heard of to create more efficient routes.”
For Stropple, the right management style also plays a part in how the driver will treat the technology system.
“I could see how telematics may appear to be intrusive and prevent a driver from doing his best job if he feels like he is being micromanaged,” he says. “But we don’t feel that at our company. Our manager uses the telematics data to help us. The systems help everything go smoothly when you are connected with management and they are connected with you.
“If you are doing your job right, in a way telematics can make you look better,” adds Stropple. “Management can tell if I’m hitting all my marks. And if I need help, the dispatcher knows where I’m located to help.”