The answer to the most frustrating question facing fleet managers

There aren’t many questions that are a greater source of frustration for fleet managers than this one:

How do I get my drivers to comply with safe driving policies and procedures?

It’s a constant battle.

To win this battle, the approach managers usually take is to focus on in-vehicle, skills-based training, i.e. ensuring drivers are adequately trained in how to operate a vehicle.

The logic of this seems reasonable on the surface:

Better trained drivers = Better drivers = Safe drivers / compliant drivers

Unfortunately though, this approach is fundamentally flawed: in-vehicle, skills-based training does not address persistent unsafe driving, nor the circumstances under which this occurs.

Here’s why.

#1 Safe driving is about more than skills

Safe driving is a broader issue than the areas that skills-based training focus on — which tend to be learning the rules and mechanical skills of manoeuvring a vehicle.

Indeed studies suggest passing a practical driving test, that key benchmark of driving skills, is no indicator of how safe a driver someone is*.

#2 External influences play a role

Your fleet driver’s intentions to adhere to any skills-based training they’ve had and drive safely can fly out the window when other influences kick in.

The way people drive for work is governed by ‘in the moment’ thoughts and feelings, and is a product of our personality and past experiences.

These occurrences exert quite a strong influence on driver behaviour and can override any training your drivers have received.

For example, being late for an appointment and thinking about the repercussions from the customer or line manager is likely to over-ride safe driving decisions, and whatever safe driving decision-making that has been “learned” through training.

Continuing this example, the worry about what might happen if a driver is late, changes a driver’s motivation from being safe to driving too fast to avoid the negative outcome.

These ‘in the moment’ motives are likely to wash out any safety motives highlighted by the skills-based training a driver received a few months or years ago — especially when they’ve put their foot down on the gas pedal when under pressure many times and got away with it.

#3 Context matters

Context plays a big role in determining driver behaviour, and context cannot be accurately replicated in in-vehicle, skills-based training

Recent research from Cranfield University driving simulation studies has shown that impatience in traffic is a function of the reason why the driver has been delayed.

An old lady crossing the road does not generate the same levels of impatience as that of a driver unloading a van and blocking the road — even though the time delay might be the same. This demonstrates how perception, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes in a particular driving context can have an impact on driver behaviour.

#4 Differences among drivers will have an impact too

Non-compliant driving behaviours are influenced by individual differences with some fleet drivers being more likely than others to violate the rules and take risks

No matter what level of in-vehicle training a driver has received, some drivers will always have a higher propensity to take risks.

It’s just in their nature, and it’s something that skills-based approaches are unable to remediate.

Identifying these individual differences in response to traffic via DriverMetrics is an important step towards targeting drivers at a higher risk of ignoring the rules.

So, how can you get your drivers to comply?

The answer lies in behavioural science — this approach offers a solution to encouraging safer driving behaviours, even amongst the drivers that are less likely to comply.

For example, nudge theory — an idea popularised by the Jeff Bloom’s book, Nudge (pictured below) — is a concept in behavioural science which argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions can achieve non-forced compliance.


Nudging can influence the motives, incentives and decision making more effectively than direct instruction over the longer term.

Your company can achieve behavioural change by providing more frequent feedback with the aim of rewarding safe behaviours.

A regular phased approach of interventions that address high risk behaviours leads to greater self-knowledge about the personal triggers for at risk behaviours.

One way in which companies are approaching this is in the use of a suite of interactive visually engaging e-learning modules designed by DriverMetrics, but there are many other ways to constructively ‘nudge’ your drivers towards compliance.

* To be clear: skills-based training may improve some elements of driving, namely those that require more practise like reversing into a tight spot. However, even then the effects may be short-lived.