The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Creating a Driver Orientation Safety Program for New Hires

Implementing a new-hire-orientation driver safety program can lower accident and vehicle repair costs, keep fleet drivers safe, and reduce an organization’s negligent entrustment risk.

May 2012, by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

New-hire safety training is a process, not an event.
New-hire safety training is a process, not an event.

At a Glance

Driver safety training should be a key component of new-hire orientation and include:

  • A review of company fleet and safety policies.
  • An overview of business practices and process tied to safety.
  • Documentation that new hire has read and accepts fleet safety policy.

As new employees join a company fleet, safety and fleet policy training instantly becomes a top priority. And, with high-tech training programs and information available to drivers online, through Webinars, and via e-mail newsletters, the “safety learning curve” for new drivers has shortened considerably in recent years.

This is good news for organizations with fleets of all sizes, especially in light of some startling safety stats:

According to Automotive Fleet magazine's research, the average authorized amount for accidents in 2010 was $2,097. Include the cost of indirect expenses and the total cost exceeds $10,000 per incident.

On-the-job highway crashes cost employers more than $24,500 per injury, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS).

Also, according to NETS, every four days an employee dies in a work-related crash.

Automotive Fleet recently spoke with four safety solution providers — ARI - Automotive Resources International, The CEI Group, Inc., Driving Dynamics, and Fleet Response — about how to effectively create, implement, and operate a new-hire driver orientation program; expected results of an effective program; and new trends in driver orientation programs.

Effective Components of a Driver Orientation Safety Program

An effective driver orientation program must include key stakeholder input, be timely, and consist of a thorough review of a company’s fleet and safety policies, either through one-on-one, classroom, or online instruction.

According to Ed Iannuzzi, ARI’s manager of Driver Services, “The training should cover the business practices and processes that stem from the company’s culture for safety. A successful program will ensure the driver’s comprehension of the business practices and processes.”

It’s not enough to just utilize one training method, but rather to incorporate a comprehensive approach.

“The most effective new-hire orientation programs we know of incorporate a multimedia approach to convey the importance of driving safety to accomplish the company’s goals,” according to Brian Kinniry, CEI’s manager of Risk and Safety Solutions.

These components include meetings, printed materials, desktop computer presentations, and online training. Kinniry emphasized that the key is not any one particular component, but the combination of several. 

Kinniry added that important elements of the program include an endorsement from senior management, a testimonial from a fellow employee who has exhibited a safe-driving history, and documentation that the new driver has read and accepts the organization’s fleet safety policy.

“The program also needs to tell drivers how the company apprises itself of every driver’s behavior and the consequences for unsatisfactory driving, as well as how drivers are recognized for good driving behavior,” he explained.

New-Hire Safety Training is a Process, Not an Event

According to Arthur Liggio, president of Driving Dynamics, driver and new-hire orientation is a process, not an event. As such, an increasing number of companies aren’t just distributing safety material and obtaining driver signoff anymore, but instead conduct ongoing indoctrination, promotion, and training, which helps a driver learn and appreciate the company’s safety culture, policies, roadway citizenship expectations, and improves actual safety performance.

“It is a smart investment for a company to accomplish training early in the game, even before drivers get the keys to the car,” Liggio said. “With today’s technology, like webcasts and online courses, you don’t need everyone in the same place for training.”

Liggio also sees more companies tying their safety programs to risk identification. “Once the risk is identified, companies can rank the risk of each driver and tailor training to cover those risk areas. Training then can specifically address the driver’s weaknesses,” he said.

Utilize Available Technology to Track Historical Data

Innovative tracking technology also allows companies to conduct historical analyses within the first 12-24 months of driver performance, and then revamp new-hire driver safety training programs to target the specified areas of concern.

Liggio also pointed out the  importance of meeting regulatory standards through risk analysis and driver safety training, helping to protect a company from negligent entrustment concerns. “A formal safety policy becomes the roadmap for new-hire orientation, as well as tenured employees,” he said.

Allison Lanzilotta, vice president of business development for Fleet Response, echoed Liggio about the importance of tracking historical data, pointing out that statistics reveal the number of incidents is greater in a driver’s first year of employment.

“When creating a driver orientation safety program for new-hires, fleet managers should look at the types of incidents occurring with drivers in their first year with the company. This will allow the fleet manager to implement a driver safety training program that is aligned with the fleet trends they are experiencing and take a proactive approach to address those issues from continuing to occur,” she stressed.

Fleet managers also must ensure front-line managers are involved and that their expectations of the drivers are in line with the expectations set forth in the fleet policy.

“Front-line manager involvement also sends the message to the driver that safety is an important part of the company’s culture and is taken very seriously,” Lanzilotta added.

Expect Results of a First-Class Driver Training Program

Fleets can expect many benefits of an effectively crafted and smoothly implemented safe-driver program, including fewer accidents and violations, which immediately lower accident costs and downtime, according to Iannuzzi.

In fact, a greater appreciation for the company’s safety culture and reputation directly results from an effective driver safety program, Liggio added.

Another critical result of driver safety training includes a decline in the severity of accidents. “Over the course of 24-36 months, fleets should see a statistical change in the number and severity of incidents occurring with drivers that are in their first year with the company,” Lanzilotta explained.

Kinniry emphasized that companies should continually revisit their new-hire orientation driver safety programs and identify trends that prove program effectiveness, such as a reduction in the number and severity of MVR violations, accident events, and policy violations.

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