As the industry evolves, it is consistently charged with getting more out of less and squeezing every ounce of safety from every dollar invested. To do this, many are turning to technology to help them continue their trajectory toward a safer future. It makes sense. The data supports the adoption of safety technology. Many professional truck drivers, on the other hand, resist. This puts the safety manager in the unenviable position of having to balance the benefits of implementing safety technology with the wishes of the lifeblood of the business, the driver. But if the data shows a clear benefit, why do drivers resist? Considering the psyche of the driver may provide some valuable clues.

This starts by understanding the driver’s perspective through a historical lens. Think back to the earlier days of trucking. Sometime between the advent of the interstate highway system and 1986. During this time, truck drivers were lightly regulated and challenged to succeed on their own terms. Most states didn’t have Commercial Driver’s License standards and, while that meant that anyone with a driver’s license could hop in a truck, not everyone could triumph. Over time, these drivers became masters of their craft, proud of their ability to negotiate challenging circumstances and happy to share this knowledge with their fellow drivers or anyone who asked.

In 1986, President Reagan signed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act which required that states implement a CDL program. This further professionalized the workforce and offered official credentials proving drivers’ expertise. Not everyone could be a truck driver and even fewer could be great. The CDL program also helped to specialize drivers by granting endorsements for specialized equipment, reinforcing their position as experts in their field.

All the while, drivers are left spending countless hours behind the wheel, left to think long and hard about how to perfect their craft. They are, appropriately so, proud of their accomplishments and their ability to safely deliver America’s freight while negotiating challenging circumstances on the road, which only have gotten worse over time.

When stacked up against this expert mentality however, it’s easy to see how a driver could view the introduction of a new technology or safety program as management questioning the skills and expertise they’ve spent so long building.

It’s this perspective that should be considered when introducing new safety programs. We must do so in partnership with our drivers, taking their expert opinions into account. We must engage them thoughtfully, understanding that their experience can help us discern how to calibrate these programs, how best to introduce them, and the impacts they will have on the driving experience. It allows us the opportunity to reinforce their self-worth while strengthening safety programs and performance.

Our goal must be to ensure that the adoption of new safety programs is not an assault on their credentials but as an opportunity for them to elevate this expertise.