Data. We get a lot of it — more so now than any other point in time thanks to modern communications technology. There seems to be data available about everything, no matter how large or small the topic.
In fact, we receive so much information on a daily basis that it’s easy to fall into “data overload,” a state in which we find ourselves unable to interpret and apply all the information at our fingertips.
In “Data Overload: Identifying Hidden Risk and Taking Meaningful Action with Your Driver Data,” a recent webinar presented by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), addressed the problem. Speakers Hayden Cardiff, founder and chief innovation officer at Idelic, and Brian Fielkow, board member of Jetco, discussed how the massive amount of data available today’s can be used to manage and improve driver performance.
“We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and not know what’s going on with our data,” Cardiff explained.
When it comes to data, Fielkow said, we’re moving toward a time of the “haves” and “have nots,” adding that people everywhere are figuring out how to adopt data and make it actionable.
“The role of data and how it changed is this: I come from a strong conviction that behavior drives results,” Fielkow said. “You focus on the behavior; it may take a while, but it’ll move the needle.”
Fielkow says the proper use of data makes companies smarter and more focused.
However, with all that data comes a lot of “noise,” according to Cardiff, who believes the challenge is raising the bar on what is expected from fleets — and that change can be hard to keep up with.
“Whether or not you are looking at your data, let’s talk about who is,” Fielkow said, stating that current and future employees are among the people looking at information about your company. “The best employees want to work for the best company. The best customers want to work with the best carriers.”
“The plaintiff’s bar is an omnipresent threat,” Fielkow said. “The more you can use data to figure out why you’re having the problem, the better you can fix it. Even in the best scenario, they’re going to twist that data and use it against you,”
Both Cardiff and Fielkow agree that one of the most important uses of data is improving safety at a company.
Setting better rates that attract more customers and drive more revenue, along with using driver data to help improve retention, are functions of looking at data and behavior and then improving safety outcomes, according to Cardiff.
“Safety is the bellwether of an operationally excellent company,” Fielkow said. “On the cost side, you have a huge advantage in your insurance rates if you’re operating safely.”
Cardiff says safety data comes from many sources including ELDs, in-cab cameras, human-resource systems, and dispatch systems.
“The plaintiff’s bar is an omnipresent threat,” Fielkow said. “The more you can use data to figure out why you’re having the problem, the better you can fix it.”
Driver performance management is one of the key aspects of improving safety, according to Fielkow, while Cardiff notes that companies need to be able to pinpoint that “intersection” between driver productivity and operational efficiency.
“When you have that intersection what you get is retention, higher improved outcome from a safety and operational standpoint,” Cardiff said, pointing out that this improves a carrier’s bottom line.
“With data, like telematics, there’s a lot of concern among frontline employees in how it’s going to be used,” Fielkow said of data being used to measure drivers’ behavior.
“My first question: Was this an honest mistake or was it intentional or deliberate behavior?” Fielkow said. “Most safety failures are an honest mistake. If it’s deliberate behavior, it’s a different story.”
Fielkow says when a company takes the vast majority of safety issues and treats its employees with respect, it builds trust. That trust can enable carriers to use the data for coaching and continuous improvement, particularly when the driver and the coach are side by side.
“Building trust is the key cornerstone,” Cardiff explained. “If you understand the why, targeted and identified behaviors are driving the risk. (You’re saying to the driver) we’re wanting to make sure you get home safe to your family. You’re not in trouble. We just want to help you become a better professional.”
Fielkow notes that it’s important for executives to realize that safety is not a drain on productivity.
“The imperative is safe and productive,” Fielkow said. “The safest companies are the most productive because they’re not cleaning up their mess. More time proactive, less time reactive.”
Both Fielkow and Cardiff emphasize that safety should be a priority at every level of a carrier, not just in the safety department.
“They’re not the ones dispatching,” Fielkow said. “They’re not the ones telling drivers to get something done.”
Cardiff believes the cost of safety is a lot less than the cost of replacing drivers, equipment, and customers, and says companies should look at overall behaviors instead of events.
“With data and the right integration, you can move from the analysis to the action plan,” Fielkow said. “If someone is coachable and a continuous learner, we’re going to be OK. If they always know better than you, you find that in the process, and hopefully, you clean it out faster.”
Cardiff says that often coaching sessions are better approaches than disciplinary actions. He emphasized talking to drivers as professionals with a measure of accountability, instead of talking “at” them.
Accountability can be broken into three parts, Fielkow said: Individual, organizational, and peer to peer.
Broken down, he said, individual accountability covers deviations by a single driver. Organizational accountability means that companies must model accountable behaviors if they want their employees to follow suit. When it comes to peer-to-peer accountability, the goal is for employees to hold each other accountable and point out unsafe behaviors.
“You’ve got to say something,” Fielkow said. “If you don’t, you may be attending a funeral — and it may be your own.”
In the end, the abundance of available data and information doesn’t have to be a bad thing; companies simply need to work to organize it.
“Data is the bright shiny object right now. Everybody is looking at data, you got to start with the end in mind,” Fielkow noted. “Having a roadmap — a guiding principle — and how you deploy data are important. Data for data’s sake isn’t helpful. But data packaged with AI, with the analytics, become easy for safety, operations, for the executive suite to align and figure out the plan. That’s what we want.”
Joseph Price has been a journalist for almost two decades. He began in community media in 2005 and has since worked at media outlets in Virginia and Arkansas. He is also a commercial drone pilot and video editor. He hosts a weekly community radio show focused on goth, metal and industrial music that airs Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. at www.kuhsradio.org.