CCJ Commentary: Safety not just a data point; it’s a feeling

The following blog was written by WorkHound CEO, Max Farrell, and published recently on CCJ.com in CCJ Commentary. 

In the trucking industry as a whole, data is the focus. Telematics can tell us where our trucks are, how fast they’re going, whether or not a driver is wearing a seatbelt, and so much more. Because of the ways in which this information can be utilized — to minimize the possibility of accidents, to earn a better overall reputation, and to lower skyrocketing insurance rates, to name a few — we find that companies are often so deep in the weeds of analyzing data, they’re overlooking a very critical element of their company’s success: how their drivers actually feel.

Enabling thousands of drivers to contribute real-time feedback via text message has taught me and my company quite a bit about the impact of the immeasurable parts of safety. Working with companies across the country to solicit and respond to anonymous driver feedback has uncovered some staggering trends over the past several months.

While companies are worried about things like harsh braking and truck speed, drivers are worried about themselves. Not only is this a very human condition — after all, we wake up each day as the hero of our own story — but the realities of our current health and social climates pose a significant perceived threat to drivers who don’t have the option to stay home.

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In April, 23 percent of all driver feedback referenced the Coronavirus. As we see an upswing in protests and civil unrest across the country, we’re fielding urgent questions like, “What do I do if I come across a protest blocking traffic in the direction I’m headed? Do I keep driving?”

Drivers are worried for their own safety. They’re concerned about their families. They’re facing uncertainty about the stability of their jobs. But what we’ve learned over the years is that a little proactivity on the part of an employer can go a long way in easing drivers’ concerns.

If you’re a trucking company considering ways to offer a sense of safety to your drivers, my simplest piece of advice is to be the copilot. While you or I may be able to check on breaking news via Twitter or news broadcasts, drivers can’t scroll through the latest feeds on the road.

Drivers need dispatchers and company leadership to be sharing updates and addressing unique considerations related to COVID-19 hotspots and active protests routinely. They need to know you’re doing your research and taking the time to consider their safety. They need to be met with empathic leadership.

You know that old saying, “They won’t remember what you said. They’ll remember how you made them feel”? At the end of the day, as leaders, this has to be our guiding principle. The truth is, we’re asking a lot from drivers in these uncertain times. In order for them to step up to that challenge, we need to show them that their safety is our utmost concern.