The More Things Change…

…The more they remain the same.  An old adage designed to remind us that the value of discipline and hard work (while tedious) will always win out over “easy, cure alls” and “the latest fad”.

Every new issue of a transportation magazine seems to tout the latest way to eliminate accidents by investing in some gizmo or gadget.  I’m not against technology — its great, when it works (have you ever had to reboot your computer?)

I think the broad appeal of technology in the safety world is that it looks so easy.  Stick a box with some wires into your vehicles and you have less crashes.  Neat-o!

I’ve heard the amazing testimonies of fleets who, during a pilot test, got a 50% reduction in crashes, but the details seem a little less than thrilling – it was a test of ten vehicles where there had been one crash the year before and during the test there were no crashes. 

Recently, the FMCSA gave a webinar on a “low cost” driver behavior system.  The two test fleets acknowledged a combination of driver sabotage and simple malfunctions that disabled about half of the little black boxes.  Imagine that — drivers who don’t like to be monitored, and technology that needed to be “rebooted” – go figure!  The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

It is my understanding that neither test fleet elected to continue with the program after the pilot. 

Forget the fancy statistics and charts — the users didn’t find it to be so easy upon actual implementation.  They actually abandoned the program since it was difficult to make work, and they needed to do much more than “plug in the box with wires” to affect drivers’ habits.

Does technology really work?  Probably, but it’s going to take some “people power” to get consistent results.  The gizmo will beep and spit out a report, but guess what — you still have to look the driver in the eye and talk to him or her about their risky driving manuevers if you’re really going to get them to change their habits.  And they are still going to complain about the system, and negotiate with you about why it’s not their fault that they speed (the more things change, the more they stay the same.)

Why not start with low-tech programs that cost about 100 times less, and require the same “face time” with your drivers?

Call me crazy, but if it worked yesterday, and it works today, maybe George Jetson should have a safety hotline sticker on his flying truck, too!  (Ok, if he really wants to spend the money, he can install a little black box with wires, too.)

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One thought on “The More Things Change…

  1. As a follow up to this blog posting, I found a news story (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/87745447.html) about a bus driver who crashed into a car while turning into a driveway.

    This is remarkable for several reasons — the driver has been under video surveillance, but has (evidently) received no coaching or counseling on his driving performance.

    Now, the public has the opportunity to watch clips from a single day’s trip where he runs through no less than TEN stop signs prior to the collision where he doesn’t slow down or even attempt to avoid the collision.

    Critics could contend that the video equipment was installed to monitor the children on the bus, but surely management could have used the videos for dual purposes (having invested the thousands of dollars upfront).

    While the little black box worked perfectly, the management system failed to take any practical advantage of the data, and the video recording ultimately benefits the Plaintiff’s attorneys (should a suit be filed) rather than the defense.

    The driver has been charged with homicide by vehicle for the death of the other driver involved in this recent collision. Which is a tradgedy for everyone — the collision might have been prevented had the management team done the “tedious, disciplined” thing and coached their driver about his performance. This coaching could have led to an improvement in performance or helped him to find a different career path that would eliminate the threat to the passengers and the public.

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