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Changing Driver Behavior: Engagement is Key

As the saying goes, “Old habits die hard.” But when you’re running a business, employees who are unwilling to change driver behavior can prove extremely costly.

For fleet managers, boosting driving performance standards has become recognized as one of the most effective ways of cutting fuel and maintenance costs, managing road risk and reducing insurance premiums.

But one of the biggest obstacles to achieving and sustaining these improvements is getting buy-in from drivers who are often resistant to change.

Motivation or engagement?

Working across industries, we see many companies monitoring employee driving styles and adopting both ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’ approaches in their efforts to improve performance.

Anecdotally, punishment for poor driving and incentives for improvement have both proven successful. But there’s a third approach that might just be most effective: Engagement.

In an approach based on the principles outlined in Dr. Paul Marciano’s book Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, practicing driver engagement, rather than relying on motivation, holds the key to motivating employees to drive more efficiently and safely.

A spirit of collaboration

Dr. Marciano’s RESPECT model, an acronym for seven principles of engagement, suggests motivation achieved by ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’ will only succeed in changing behavior in the short-term. Real employee engagement is needed to bring about long-term change. If employees are not engaged, they will not stay motivated.

A stick exists for both drivers and managers in the shape of the law to curb speeding and aggressive driving behavior – however few enlightened managers believe punishing employees is the best way to get results. Collaboration should be the cornerstone of a company’s culture – rather than a hostile “us vs. them” philosophy.

This is where fleet management technology can come into its own, putting drivers in control of improving their own driving behavior by feeding live performance information back to them as they drive, in the form of audible and visual alerts delivered to the in-vehicle device. This enables them to change their actions in real time and on their own terms. Find out more on TomTom’s solutions for Improved Driver Behavior.


Occasional incentives, such as small rewards for drivers with the best driving records, can help but may not always be necessary – simple recognition and acknowledgement of their efforts can be equally effective.

What’s more, if employees truly understand that everyone benefits from improving fuel efficiency, and this message is communicated consistently, they are much more likely to improve their performance behind the wheel.

Troy’s Autocare, a towing and auto maintenance company in Michigan has seen fuel consumption drop by almost 30 percent as a result of improved driver behavior. According to Troy’s VP Donnie Hudson, “Speeding alerts are great, and we’re able to reward drivers who do not get any alerts in a given month – and follow up and address the problems with drivers who do speed too often.” Learn more details of how Troy’s Autocare is saving and improving operations here.

Clear communication and positive feedback

Hudson also shares that his drivers, while initially concerned about the system’s ability to alert the office that they were speeding, have come to embrace it. “They know that if this system allows me to save money on insurance and maintenance, that I am going to share that money with them through bonuses, outings and parties. They’ve embraced it because they see the benefit.”

By offering positive feedback on driving style, as well as constructive criticism where required, employees will be encouraged to tell their colleagues. If they are given negative feedback, they will usually keep it to themselves. By creating a culture of collaboration and positive reinforcement, the good guys will give their fellow drivers something to aspire to and everyone will strive to do their best.

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