Illustration of Keolis' "Driver eXperience" study

Learning more about the mental workload of drivers to better understand their expectations

Illustration of Keolis' "Driver eXperience" study
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PostedAUG. 17, 2023
Words byKeolis
Improving drivers’ working conditions is a major challenge in the stiff competition for talent. To this end, Keolis launched a behavioral study called “Driver eXperience”, which takes an in-depth look at the driver experience. Its goal is to learn more about how drivers view their daily tasks and offer solutions to limit the cognitive overload caused by certain job-related situations. Learning how drivers view their work experiences will enable Keolis to provide the best possible support to its teams and recruit candidates suited to the specific characteristics of the driving profession.

Context: minimal appeal for a job seen as stressful and dangerous 

Passenger transport is not immune to the recruitment difficulties observed in many sectors. There is currently a shortage of 2,000 bus, tram and metro drivers in France.

Amplifying this is the lack of interest in working as a driver, a job often seen as dangerous and stressful. Given the changes in driving conditions (heavy traffic, sharing the road with a wide range of modes of transport including bicycles and scooters, etc.), developments in the driving environment (new driving aids, digitization, etc.) and new passenger behavior patterns, the mental workload placed on drivers is constantly increasing.

This cognitive overload can have concrete consequences: stress, absenteeism and sometimes resignation. Well-being at work is therefore an essential issue for drivers themselves, as well as for the quality of service provided to passengers.


drivers needed in France



Estimated absenteeism rate



of drivers resigned in 2021

Innovation: understanding the mental workload of drivers through an exploratory study in cognitive science 

The mental workload on drivers is steadily increasing. But until now, no study has been carried out to quantify this phenomenon. In order to evaluate and shed light on this situation, Keolis launched a pioneering study entitled "Driver eXperience", which was designed and carried out in collaboration with specialists in behavioral and cognitive sciences. As its partner, the Group selected Mental Eco, an expert in managing cognitive resources in the workplace.

The purpose of the study was to determine how drivers experience their work, in order to understand when their cognitive overload reaches its peak . This qualitative study involved 35 drivers from five Keolis networks in France and abroad: Keolis Atlantique, Antibes, Lyon, Chambéry in France and Sydney in Australia. The diversity of these networks enabled us to observe a variety of driving situations: from urban transport (buses and trams) to intercity, on-demand and school transport. The research carried out at Keolis Downer in Sydney will allow us to consider the impact of cultural determinants when assessing the need to carry out this study in other countries facing the same challenges.

The study includes a self-assessment interview

The protocol includes an initial phase during which driver behavior and reactions in a given situation are filmed (for 3 hours), followed by a self-examination interview aimed at deconstructing certain driving sequences to understand how information is processed with the aid of objective data.

Sofia Escamilla Garcia

Sofia Escamilla Garcia

UX Strategist & Researcher – Keolis Innovation

"The mental workload of drivers is increasingly high, but no specific research has been conducted on this subject to date. But for Keolis, the issue of cognitive overload is central to our HR challenges of recruiting and retaining talent, and to our operational challenges of improving processes."

Benefits: evaluating the mental workload and the impact of determinants, analyzing lessons learned and understanding the driver experience 

The observation and exchange phase of the Driver eXperience study will be completed in fall 2023. This chronicle of driver activity will allow us to identify the determining factors behind the increase in mental workload. On this basis, it will be possible to define driver profiles, including the different characteristics of each driver in terms of mental workload management, and even a map of their cognitive overload as a function of the situations they encounter, traffic density and passenger interactions.

This in-depth knowledge of drivers' experiences will enable us to take more effective action to improve their working conditions.

Accompanying a driver at his workstation
Accompanying a driver at his workstation

Next steps: rolling out concrete solutions 

The Driver eXperience study is a tool for improving drivers’ performance, quality of life and well-being. As a result, it will lead to recommendations related to training and support that will help employees better manage their cognitive resources and ensure a positive driver experience. Similarly, the study's findings will help optimize operational and recruitment processes, provide drivers with new opportunities, enhance the value of the profession and ultimately boost its appeal. 

Cover of Le Progrès magazine featuring a bus driver
Cover of Le Progrès magazine featuring a bus driver