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Trust in truck drivers to coach themselves

MeBeSafe have invented a novel concept on self- and peer-to-peer coaching for truck drivers to drive more smoothly. Although Covid-19 made it impractical to evaluate the effect, drivers have been found to accept and trust the concept. The heart-warming response might hint at great potential.

The coaching measure will empower truck drivers in becoming even better at driving than they already are. Truck drivers, who regularly drive long-distance shifts for hours on end along main roads, are without a doubt already experts on driving. And if it’s possible to make truck drivers better, there’s potential for increased safety also for other types of drivers through coaching.

When out and about on the road, smooth driving helps drivers avoid potential accidents. It combines modest acceleration with anticipated braking, which helps drivers increase the grip on the road and maintain control when driving. This will in turn increase safety and comfort for all road users.

The measure provides coaching via a mediating app, that on the one hand collects and displays driving insights in terms of a smoothness-score, and on the other suggests when two peer drivers could meet and discuss their driving. The app will then propose relevant topics to help the peers get started, but they are actually not mandated to talk about them for the peer-to-peer coaching to have an effect. The discussion in itself between peers could arguably be a catalyst to stimulate insightful reflection upon driving habits. This is in essence trusting the truck drivers. Senior researcher Saskia de Craen from Shell, who has been part of the development since the very start, states that this way of empowering the drivers is really the strength of this measure.

“Everyone that we have spoken to is very enthusiastic about this concept!” Saskia proclaims, “There are many apps that collect data on driving behaviour, but our focus on empowerment is new and drivers seem to like it more than existing systems that tend to focus on monitoring.”

Indeed, the feasibility of delivering peer-to-peer coaching in trucking companies is affected by the willingness to adopt the measure. During the field trial, the app was introduced to 33 truck drivers in the UK and Norway.

Followed by a few bugs in the app and an omnipresent pandemic that limited everyday life and made peer-to-peer coaching unthinkable, the drivers of course stopped using the app. Except they didn’t. The drivers in fact kept using it, recording journeys and collecting insight for themselves, and showed an ever-present loyalty and acceptance of the app despite not being able to meet up and coach one another.

“Acceptance is equally important as the effectiveness of a system in changing behaviour” Saskia explains, “Because if no-one wants to use it then you’re done. It’s like intelligent speed adaptation, we’ve known for fifteen years that it is one of the most effective tools to save lives, but no-one wants to use it *.”

Although MeBeSafe, due to the imposed restrictions in response to Covid-19, hasn’t been able to interpret the effects that peer-to-peer coaching has on driving behaviour, the good reception among truck drivers really prompts interest of what the results could have been. Further research is needed to definitively say anything about effects, but then again, with the response from the truck drivers it’s natural to expect good results.

”We really believe that it could work”, Saskia emphasizes, “and I have hopes for a potential follow-up on all the valuable knowledge we’ve gathered in MeBeSafe”

* MeBeSafe have however found a way to increase the use of Adaptive Cruise Control, see here.