Surveillance for Amazon Drivers? Keys to Monitoring Driving Safety

Five U.S. Senators wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on March 3, 2021 to express their concerns about surveillance cameras with tracking software being installed in some delivery vans operated by contractors.  The Senators were concerned about privacy and potentially harmful unintended side effects on driving safety.  Similar monitoring technology has been used in many settings in the last 10 years, and we at ADI have witnessed their use in our consulting to several transportation industry clients. 

We have seen some fear and active opposition to such monitoring systems by drivers in the early stages of implementation.  As I pointed out in a previous blog post, the fear was largely based on how the data would be used, not on privacy issues per se.  Most of the systems in use can detect speeding, hard braking, and location via GPS tracking, and cameras can show what the drivers did leading up to a vehicle accident.  Typically, when an accident or driver error occurs, the system “flags” the event and notifies a series of people about the event.  

Drivers fear that the data will be used unfairly and we agree that is a legitimate concern.  By “unfairly,” what we mean is that only errors in driving are tracked, and this gives a distorted picture of their overall driving performance.  The errors are rare in comparison to the miles and hours of safe driving, and all too often the safe driving goes unnoticed as merely “absence of errors.”  Management sees the error data and their interactions with drivers also become distorted because they only discuss the rare errors instead of total driving performance.  From the drivers’ perspectives, the technology is only a source of bad news and trouble from their bosses. The likely unintended side effects here are not more unsafe driving, but hatred of the job, soured relationships with management, and resulting turnover.

Is there a way to monitor driving performance that is more capable of improving safety without the negative side effects?  Yes, and here are 3 key steps for leaders to take who want to use such monitoring systems:

  • Involve drivers in review. Drivers must have a chance to review the flagged incidents with management and explain why it occurred.  In some cases, a full review exonerates a driver from fault in a flagged event.
  • Build in positive reinforcement. Management should ensure that these systems can track safe driving performance equally well as errors.  There must be ways to recognize and reinforce safe driving patterns, which make up the bulk of driving.  Building the safe performance you want is a better strategy than only focusing on what people are doing wrong while ignoring what they are doing right.
  • Ensure company systems don’t increase risk. Management can’t design company practices that cause unsafe driver behavior and then complain that unsafe driving is happening. Delivery volumes or schedules may be so difficult to meet that drivers feel pressured to drive unsafely.  Companies may offer incentives for deliveries or penalties for late deliveries that encourage unsafe behavior themselves.  A realistic review of these practices can suggest alternative ways to encourage productivity with less risk of driving incidents.

ADI can help companies improve safety by reviewing how performance data are used and designing management practices that encourage and sustain safe driving. For additional resources, visit: Surveillance Monitoring Resources or talk with an ADI safety expert.


Posted by Cloyd Hyten, Ph.D.

Cloyd is a senior consultant and thought leader in the field of performance improvement. Dedicating more than 20 years to this work, Cloyd has also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and served as President of the OBM Network. Outside of work, Cloyd enjoys history, food and football.