Victor Malchesky of Swift Transportation lays out five guidelines for effective driver coaching, and some of them may surprise you.
When Victor Malchesky isn’t racing cars or riding across the country on his motorcycle, he helps steer over 20,000 drivers to be safer each day as the director of safety and compliance at Swift Transportation, the largest full-truckload motor carrier in North America.
With more than 400 coaches at Swift, Malchesky could have taken an automated approach to driver coaching. Instead, they built Swift’s driver coaching guidelines around one of the most basic human interactions—a conversation.
At the 5th Annual Lytx User Group Conference in March, Malchesky discussed the Swift coaching method and its key components.
The Swift coaching method, he said, is built on two principles—transparency and respect. For full transparency, Malchesky said his company goes to great lengths to explain the rationale behind all its safety policies, along with the consequences of not adhering to those policies. Swift drivers also are given full access to DriveCam videos of their own driving events and encouraged to review them.
As for respect, “it’s personal for the drivers,” Malchesky said. “We owe it to our drivers and the motoring community to have meaningful conversations with them to help fine-tune their driving—gently and professionally.”
Here’s how Malchesky laid out five of the company’s guidelines for its 400 driver coaches:
- Show drivers you care. Frame coaching discussions in terms of how much you care about their safety. Remind drivers that you don’t want anything bad to happen to them and others around them.
- Be specific. Train around specific behaviours that can be improved. A single video can help focus the conversation and keep the conversation from getting sidetracked.
- Have a conversation. Treat drivers as professionals and give them actionable takeaways, specific things they can do to improve. Don’t turn the conversation into a “beat-up session.” (For managers who dread having difficult conversations with their drivers, read our next article, “A Practical Guide to Difficult Conversations: How to Coach Through Conflict.”)
- Get a commitment to change. Allow your drivers to say they want to improve and to agree with the adjustments you are recommending.
- Add positive feedback. Acknowledge drivers when they do the right thing and reinforce that behaviour with praise.
Coaching sessions don’t have to be lengthy to be effective, either. Another speaker on the same panel with Malchesky described how to get results in a three-minute driver coaching session:
- Review the behavior. Watch the DriveCam video and ask the driver to point out what they’re seeing. With video, coaches are able to cut to the chase about what actually happened, saving time.
- Communicate expectation. Review what steps should have been done.
- Commit to improvement. Similar to the Swift coaching guidelines, this approach calls for the driver to commit to making specific changes and the coach to work with the driver toward safer driving.
Finally, gaining the trust of the driver is crucial to getting their buy-in and commitment to improve, panelists agreed. “During the review, make sure coaches address only the safety concerns,” one speaker said. “Avoid personal intrusions by ignoring their dress, their appearance or the music they’re listening to. That’s a big thing. That’s how you gain their trust.”