Dashcams and Driver Performance Management

While dashcams are designed to benefit everyone, putting them into play can be a bumpy road. Chris Evans, Health and Safety expert, discusses how to approach difficult conversations with drivers who have demonstrated unsafe behaviour.

Implementing dual-facing dashcams in your fleet is bound to cause anxiety about a range of concerns, from personal privacy to data security.

But if you can communicate clearly with your drivers from the start, you’ll find their anxiety quickly lessens. The better their understanding about why these systems are being put in place and how they will be used, the greater the acceptance at the driver level.

Building driver understanding

Start by making sure everyone in your organisation knows why cameras are being installed: It’s not about a lack of trust but to benefit the safety of everyone involved, from the business to its drivers to other road users. Emphasise that dashcam technology is there to protect drivers first and foremost – after all, they’re the ones on the frontlines every day – while enabling the company to comply with New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work Act Who doesn’t want to do the right thing?

Then comes the how: Educate your team on the comprehensive nature of these systems. We’re not talking about just a camera here – dashcams feed into rich telematics systems that provide useful, often crucial operational data, and video is just one part of that. Make sure drivers understand exactly what will be recorded, who has access to that footage, and all its possible uses, be that training, insurance investigations, or performance reviews.

Once you have your why and how, make sure your drivers understand what is expected of them. Clearly state all professional driver requirements at induction and build them into refresher training and ongoing communications, such as toolbox talks and daily stand-up meetings. Frequent, friendly reminders of what is expected will normalise talking about driver performance while minimising any feelings of unnecessary intrusion.

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How dashcams actually work

When people hear the word “dashcam,” they naturally assume someone will be watching everything they’re doing all the time. Not true. In the case of the EROAD Clarity Dashcam, the camera is always on and recording when the vehicle is, but footage is automatically uploaded and reported to the fleet manager only during a driving event involving harsh braking, acceleration, or steering – and just 20 seconds of video at that: 10 seconds before and after the incident. Drivers also have the ability to manually initiate recording using a dash-mounted push button, allowing them to gather evidence that may exonerate them from blame. If needed, managers can access footage manually, providing they do so before the camera overwrites itself, after 40 hours of drive time.

Once people understand what dashcams do and don’t do, they’re bound to feel more comfortable and receptive to the new technology.

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6 tips for managing difficult conversations

Of course, despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions, what happens on the road is sometimes beyond anyone’s control. Things can and do go wrong. But how you handle difficult situations when they arise will make all the difference in employee compliance, team morale, and successful dashcam adoption.

When delivering feedback, bear mind that professional truck drivers and “casual” drivers of light vehicles are entirely different in terms of their skills, education, and expectations around driving. In the case of the professional driver, for feedback to be well-received and fully taken on board, it’s important that it be given by someone who knows how to operate a heavy vehicle themselves – and therefore has the frame of reference to understand why the driver may have acted as he did in that situation.

In the case of the non-professional driver, it’s about establishing and reinforcing an awareness of company vehicles and the road networks they travel along as extensions of the workplace. Many people who drive to other locations for work simply haven’t thought about it and don’t consider driving as part of their jobs. What will get them to think about it is asking open-ended questions, something you should do with any employee pulled in for a debriefing, professional driver or otherwise. 

“It’s about making them participate and explain,” says EROAD safety expert Chris Evans. “By explaining it to a manager, a lot of time, they find that they’re self-reflective and explaining it to themselves for the first time.” 

To effectively performance-manage drivers, whether professional or mixed fleet, here are six more things you should do:

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1. Prepare for the conversation

As a manager, make sure you know all the facts of what happened as much as possible. Have your questions, facts, and footage ready, and give notice of the meeting to allow the driver to mentally prepare. Ensure the meeting is of an appropriate length for what needs to be covered, and let the driver know they may bring a support person if they wish.

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2. Try not to make them difficult conversations

Spin them as positive learnings, give the driver the benefit of the doubt, and take a collaborative approach to behavioural improvement. Stay firmly on topic, which is addressing the identified unsafe behaviour. Assume that no one wants to do a bad job and ask how you can help make it better.

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3. Don’t be aggressive

Don’t be accusatory, dominate the conversation, or talk “at” the driver but do make sure they understand what the meeting is about, the seriousness of the event, and what the desired outcome is. Ask how they’re feeling, what they think happened, what they think caused the issue, and understand they may initially be defensive.

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4. Be supportive and open to listening

Consider the employee’s perspective. Give them the opportunity to share their side of the story. There may be an underlying cause behind the behaviour you’re unaware of, particularly if it’s uncharacteristic of that driver. If they’re tired or distracted, is there a personal issue at home or at work? Or perhaps a need for more training or further induction on behavioural expectations?

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5. Develop a reasonable action plan

Seek solutions aligned with company policy to help the driver reach the standards you require, such as defensive driver training; modifying the driver’s schedule, route, or vehicle where possible; more frequent reviews; or professional or peer support services. Set clear expectations and goals for improvement, have the driver acknowledge and accept the responsibility of meeting those expectations, and give them a fair chance to comply. Ensure a clear understanding on both sides of next steps, including required remedial actions and follow-up meetings.

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6. Be firm but fair on poor performance

Stay updated of their progress, offer positive feedback on any improvements, and ask what they need to prevent the issue from happening again. High levels of distraction can be an indicator of anxiety or stress that even the driver may not be aware of. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly investigate what’s happening on that route, in the distribution centre, or outside work that could be causing distress. If someone can’t or won’t comply, you’ll have taken all the right steps as an organisation to manage unsafe behaviour and bring the driver up to standard.

While knowledge around the human side of trucking operations is growing, wellbeing management and soft skills training have historically been under-prioritised. There’s a huge industry need to increase training and awareness on operational level, from those doing the scheduling to those managing teams of drivers. This includes identifying the signs of mental ill health and advising drivers on how to look after themselves, from staying hydrated to making better food choices, which will help them be more alert and capable, physically and mentally.

Tools for increasing employee engagement in safety, such as Leaderboard, which gamifies driver performance, can also go a long way towards building and reinforcing your company’s safety culture.


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