Many fleet managers grapple with the best way to present new policies to their drivers. Most managers find that their drivers resist changes, which typically results in the changes not being as effective. Below are some key areas that address the benefits of merging driver buy-in with new rules or changes to your fleet process.
Like in any industry, employees want to know what's in it for them, and want to see the value in any new policy that has been introduced. Drivers who have some form of buy-in are more likely to both embrace and implement new policies and changes than those who don't. This is primarily due to the fact that drivers feel their opinion is valued when managers take the time to help them understand the purpose of the changes and update them on how the changes are going to benefit the fleet. They are more likely to embrace changes and adapt easily to new rules or technology if they are included in the process instead of simply having changes thrust upon them with no explanation. Plus, by including your drivers in the process of making changes you may find they have insight you didn’t otherwise have which may impact your decisions. Fleet drivers make observations concerning processes and procedures during their day, which have an impact on the overall operation. Their observations and feedback are very valuable and should be embraced by management. Otherwise, drivers will shy away from verbalizing hands-on issues that could have an impact on the company.
Changes to Fleet Operations
Fleet managers implement new policies for a variety of reasons, but mainly due to common issues that affect the drivers’ performance, efficiency and safety. These may include fleet policies about distracted driving, mobile phone use, using company cars for personal use, purchasing fuel with company cards, paying for maintenance or repair, and more.
According to distraction.gov, 3,154 people were killed in 2013 due to distracted driving. When you enact a company policy on distracted driving you’ll want your employees to embrace this policy for their own safety as well as the safety of the company. The best policies are clearly defined and written down. Check out this free sample policy from distraction.gov that you can customize to your own company’s needs. Equally important to having the policy is how you go about notifying your drivers of the new policy. Sending out a company memo, like this one, will certainly help. Going a step further and having an in-person meeting to discuss the importance of the policy and why you’re enforcing it will help employees better embrace it.
Laws and Liability on the Road
State laws concerning operating motor vehicles change on often, as do laws about company liability. Employees can pose a great risk to employers when operating a vehicle as part of their job, particularly those who are distracted or negligent while driving. According to the legal theory respondeat superior, employers are liable for the actions of their employees if they were performing their job assignments during the time of an accident. This applies to employees driving personally-owned and company-owned or leased vehicles. When employees understand the laws and the company's liability risk, they are more careful about avoiding risky behavior behind the wheel. Therefore, introducing new policies that address liability risks due to negligence is also warranted.
Methods for Introducing New Policies
Fleet managers who take time to hold group or individual meetings to communicate with drivers about new policies before implementing them tend to get a better response from their drivers. In comparison, those who force the new information or system upon drivers have apathetic participation at best and worst case, have drivers who may respond negatively to the new policies. Managers that take the time to alert drivers of new changes beforehand and give them the opportunity to provide their feedback on how the new policies may impact their job assignments will see a much better outcome for the fleet as a whole. Additionally, presenting the new policies or systems in a positive manner, as opposed to a negative one, yields a better response. This may include discussing how the new policies or systems can improve certain aspects of the operation, reduce liability risk or increase safety, or help drivers to understand and embrace the need for the change and understand where the need came from.
Putting it All Together
For the most part, employees that do an outstanding job to begin with don't have a problem with embracing changes or with being held accountable for their performance. They just need to find a way to tie the changes into areas that are of importance to them. Communicating any changes to fleet policy or systems with your employees early and in a positive light will help them embrace the changes and even be ambassadors for change to those who are potentially less willing.
The bottom line is that employee response to new policies is incredibly important, and introducing these policies is much easier if fleet managers provide a platform for drivers to become involved in the process and offer their feedback.