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Supporting truck drivers to be the primary risk control

Technology may have the potential to make this industry safer, but people and communication must always come first.

That’s the overarching message for National Road Safety Week (May 15-22) from Adam Gibson, transport and logistics risk engineer for NTI, and his colleague Kelly McLuckie, customer culture and transformation manager.

Gibson says he empathises with truckies who turn up to work to find that there’s a new ‘widget’ in the cab and no one in the office has adequately explained what it is, or why it’s now there.

“If you ignore the human in this process, stuff just doesn’t work,” said Gibson.

“It’s about saying, ‘How do we support drivers of trucks to be our primary risk control?’.

“We’re still averaging 34 truck drivers killed in in-motion accidental road crashes every year, so clearly something else needs to be done in this space, and part of that will be technology, but it’s technology to support, not to replace.

“Managing people is tough, and it’s not a skill that has been particularly emphasized or cultivated in transport.

“When it comes to how businesses look after the people in trucking, there’s still a lot to learn.”

McLuckie adds that it’s important to acknowledge that changing people and behaviour isn’t easy, even if it is to improve safety.

“It’s the reason that we fall back on technology, and we just shove these things in sometimes, because systems and technologies seem to be easier answers than people,” said McLuckie.

“But the reality is to get change, you have to actually address the human side of it, and how we think and how we behave, and transport typically could be better at doing that as an industry.”

McLuckie says it’s vital that operators outline their expectations from the technology and explain why it’s there, and that the truckie isn’t afraid to ask questions.

“The boss doesn’t have to have all the answers, but discussion is the best way to get people on side and to be able to take them along with the change that you’re trying to make.

“Asking questions is the number one way to start to get people involved.”

Gibson agrees that the best way to gain acceptance of technology is to improve communication between operators and truckies. Nothing beats it, he says.

“If your people aren’t telling you you’re over-communicating, you are absolutely certainly under-communicating,” said Gibson.

But that doesn’t mean you need to employ a marketing team, with all the bells and whistles, cautions Gibson.

He shares the story of a medium-sized operator with a 30-strong fleet, and 38 staff, whose management team upload weekly video messages recorded on their phones to an employee Facebook group that typically garner 20 likes and two or three comments each week.

“They’ve got the highest level of employee engagement communications of any fleet that I can think of,” said Gibson.

“You don’t need the multi-million-dollar marketing team; you don’t want hair and makeup. What you want is honesty, regularity, and an effective two-way communications pathway. 

“Or else it goes the other way. The stuff just turns up, the staff circumvent it, and they hate it, or leave.

“Yes, it’s not easy to change-manage effectively. But it’s a heck of a lot harder to not change-manage effectively, and to deal with the fact that half your fleet is parked up.”

McLuckie says data from NTI’s Traction program, designed to help businesses problem solve safety culture at all levels, proves operators who communicate well are reaping the benefits with improved safety records, staff retention and productivity.

“So, the benefits to the people who are getting this right is evident,” she said.

“A safer business is also a more profitable business, and in an industry that desperately needs to retain its people, and grow really good people, I think it’s just such an opportunity.”

McLuckie’s top 5 tips for on-boarding technology

1. Talk about why

Talk about it, and ask why, and keep coming back to that.

2. Talk about your expectations

It might not be perfect from the start, but learn from that and let everyone know that you’ll amend it if you have to.

3. Ask questions

You don’t have to have all the answers. It’s about a conversation, whether you’re the boss or the person who the change is happening to, and make sure you follow-up on this.

4. Expect feedback

Appreciate that it’s not necessarily resistance, or people getting annoyed with a change. It’s just feedback, take it as feedback and learn from it.

5. Keep talking 

Set and forget is not good enough, keep talking to people and coaching them on what they’re learning from the system to be able to get the benefits from it.

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