PART 3 – The Driver’s Role in a Successful Camera Program
“Never forget we treat them as independent contractors for a reason – because they are independent.” Jesse P. Gaddis
In early December, 2011 we began our DriveCam test period with an install of cameras in 20% of the Broward Yellow Cab fleet. DriveCam had provided driver orientation materials, and every driver who had a camera installed went through a class. I “taught” the first couple classes and frankly blew through the orientation materials:
- This is for your safety.
- This will help you operate your vehicle in a safe manner.
- This will protect you from fraudulent claims.
While I thought we had created an excellent program, Yellow Cab didn’t listen to its drivers. Drivers were suspicious. Comments included “you are spying on us,” “you are going to punish us,” “you want to use this to replace me” and so on. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the drivers when the program began. For the first time Management could see how drivers were doing on the road, and we were going to change it come hell or high water.
By mid-January, 2012 it was clear the camera program was going to be a success, at least from Management’s position. Accidents in the test vehicles had been reduced, as well as the number of events that required face-to-face involvement (coaching) with the drivers. Yellow Cab committed to a 100% install and a five-year contract in late January. All drivers had to attend orientation. Unfortunately, Yellow Cab’s implementation of the program and the driver rumor mill had added to drivers’ concerns. Those drivers who had the cameras were unhappy and had told those who didn’t about every perceived slight that occurred during the coaching sessions. By the end of January, Yellow Cab had a festering sore that erupted in a full-blown infection within weeks.
On Monday, February 27, 2012 cameras had been installed in over 80% of the fleet, and I decided I would “help” with driver coaching. What a mistake. To say I was heavy handed was an understatement. Drivers who were already unhappy now had to deal with the “boss” telling them how badly they were driving. A coaching session attended by roughly 12 drivers devolved into a shouting match which turned into a full-blown riot involving over 1000 taxicab drivers in Broward County.
To understand the seriousness of the situation, you have to understand the taxicab market in February, 2012 (B.U. – before Uber). Broward’s tourist season begins in November but hits its height in February. The Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport serves the two busiest cruise ports in the world – The Port of Miami and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Over 50,000 cruise passengers pass through the Airport on a cruise weekend, and at the time, a large number took taxicabs for transportation.
The 12 drivers stormed out of the coaching session and immediately went to the Airport’s holding yard where discontent turned into a full-blown riot. I was called to the Airport to help deal with the situation because the drivers had shut down taxi service to the airport. Over 200 drivers were involved. Many carried signs and it seemed all were shouting in unison “F*** you Camillo.” The sheriff’s department responded, cars were towed and drivers were arrested.
By the weekend, the work stoppage ended and things returned to “normal.” What was clear was Yellow Cab needed a different approach to its drivers relative to the cameras. I brought in a consultant who spent a considerable amount of time speaking to Management and drivers. At the conclusion of her interviews, she sat me down and explained that Yellow Cab needed to approach coaching with the understanding our drivers were people. Coaching should start out with an understanding of the driver and his or her motivations, desires and so on. Most drivers, she explained, had family. Talk to the driver as a person and then talk about changing driving behavior.
While the consultant didn’t tell Management something it wasn’t aware of, she did help focus Management on a different approach. When I coach a driver, we spend time talking about non-camera issues. How is your family? How many children do you have and what are they doing? What are your drivers’ aspirations? By the time we get to the coachable event, we have a different understanding of the driver than just somebody who follows too closely or doesn’t come to a complete stop. We use the understanding we gained about the driver to relate the coaching to the driver’s life. “If you have an accident, how are you going to pay your bills?” “If you end up hurt, who is going to pick up your baby?” In the end, by spending a few minutes to get to know the driver, we are able to relate his or her driving behavior to the impact it may have on the driver’s life.
Over time, Yellow Cab’s driver population accepted the camera system and many have embraced it. Drivers state the cameras have made them more aware and better drivers. They also understand the cameras are there to protect them. New drivers speak to tenured drivers who now extoll the virtues of the system. Drivers in the Yellow Cab system want the cameras because of their benefits. Management continues to explore ways to make the system more driver friendly such as remote coaching for some events.
John Camillo, President
Cable Insurance Company
Yellow Cab of Broward and Tallahassee