Featured How Fleet Managers Can Introduce New Technology To Drivers

Published on January 23rd, 2023 📆 | 3976 Views ⚑


How Fleet Managers Can Introduce New Technology To Drivers


COO of Zonar, pioneering smart fleet management solutions in vocational, pupil, mass transit and commercial trucking industries.

Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs describes a pathway to achieving one’s full potential. Technology’s purpose is to accelerate the realization of that potential. As with all technology, of course, it requires proper implementation.

In the workplace, proper implementation requires employers to effectively communicate a given technology’s purpose. Otherwise, employees might see that technology as an intrusion that stifles creativity, productivity, potential and, ultimately, efficiency.

As the COO of a company that provides fleet-management solutions, I’ve seen employers in the trucking industry face this challenge, too. The transportation sector is at an inflection point regarding driver acceptance of new technology, which depends entirely on how employers introduce new solutions to their workforce.

Addressing ‘Big Brother’

In my experience, drivers’ opposition to new technology is typically emotional but not irrational. When you consider dual-view in-cab video, for example, who wouldn’t consider this technology intrusive at first when telematics has been used to punitively correct driver behavior?

The good news is that I believe opponents want to be persuaded. They want communication. They want solutions to problems. This attitude offers employers the opportunity to take a strategic communications approach that gives drivers an alternative perspective.

First, employers must establish a set of unassailable, commonsense truisms:

• There is no perfect driver.

• All drivers can improve their skills.

• All drivers want to arrive home safely.

• No driver wants to be blamed for an accident he or she didn’t cause.

• All drivers want to maximize their potential, productivity and efficiency.

Next, employers must postulate that if these five truisms are end goals, then innovative technology might be able to help drivers accomplish them. The key is to introduce new technology solutions on a solid foundation of reason, which allows employers to turn to persuasion.

Persuading Truck Drivers

Once a foundation of reason has been established, a fleet manager can turn to persuasive tactics to bring drivers on board with any form of new technology. Persuasion is often misunderstood as a process of trying to convince someone to do something that is bad for them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Persuasion is about using empathy to show understanding of another party and deliver information to them in order to solve a problem. It isn’t a pitch. It isn’t a value proposition. It’s about making another party feel that they are part of a situation that needs to be resolved so all parties can accept the outcome.

Once fleet managers have established truisms that everyone can agree upon, they have a robust platform from which to move into persuasion. In my experience, resistant drivers tend to view new technology as invasive, and that manifests as concern that the tech will be used for recrimination. That’s an emotional response, namely, a fear of being devalued or distrusted. Nobody wants to feel like that, especially because those emotions can then trigger worries over job loss.

As a result, fleet managers have a two-pronged problem to address:

1. They must remove the fear.

2. They must demonstrate the unseen upsides of the technology solution they’re considering. The upside cannot be seen with fearful emotions clouding the view.

Thus, the critical distinction employers must communicate is that every driver wants the potential upsides afforded by the new technology and that the technology will not be used for recrimination. This is where the foundation of reason comes into play, as one can demonstrate how the technology is used in service of a truism, and those truisms are about serving the driver.

This changes the conversation with the driver from subjective and personal to objective and team-oriented. This approach reorients the employee mindset away from, say, “Big Brother surveillance” and instead toward helpful coaching. In our specific example above, you’re communicating that the technology isn’t about surveilling them every time they open a soda but about making them safer drivers, which protects them.

Your tone of voice is also critical. Have these conversations in person with drivers. Don’t be aggressive or assertive. Be straightforward, show deference and maintain eye contact. This demonstrates that you are honest and engaged.

Stonewalled? Gather Information

If fleet managers find they aren’t making progress, they’ll need to gather information to assess the real feelings behind driver resistance. This requires the use of a very popular word that everyone hates, yet is the single most important word necessary to obtain information: “No.”

That single word provides people with a feeling of safety. It also provides information because of the follow-up questions that naturally arise after the “no” lands with a seemingly terrible thud. Those questions begin with the words “who,” “what,” “where” and “how.” For example: “How should we tackle this problem together?” “What do you feel when this technology is proposed?” “Where is the place you need to get to where you would feel comfortable with this technology?” “How might I be able to do that?”

Now, you’re gathering the information you need for further persuasion, and if you are able to skillfully phrase a question that requires them to think, you’ve elevated the conversation to a level of collaboration. That alone is a huge victory. You’ve moved them from resistance to cooperation.

Beware of the one question you must never use: “Why?” Never ask “why.” A “why” question puts people on the defensive. Consider how a driver might respond to, “Why are you opposed to this amazing new technology?” The only answers they can possibly give are defensive ones. Cooperation doesn’t work when one side is on defense.

Embracing Technology’s Potential

The trucking industry’s value to America is clear, as is the importance of how you introduce innovations. Technology must be embraced with minimal driver friction and dissatisfaction, especially if that technology could easily demoralize the people behind the wheel. Properly positioning the introduction of technology allows drivers to recognize its value in helping them realize their full potential.

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