EAPs: A Cure for Risky Driver Behavior
Around since the 1950s, employee assistance programs (EAPs) haven’t been used to retain valuable employees who have bad driving habits by retraining and improving their attitudes. It’s time to give EAP assistance to fleet drivers a try.
At a Glance
Valuable employees may also be risky drivers. Instead of terminating them when they violate company safe driving rules, an option could be to turn to the company’s employee assistance program (EAP) personnel who can:
- Work with employees confidentially to improve their driving skills.
- Offer quantifiable yardsticks for improvement.
- Put the responsibility for success squarely on the shoulders of the driver.
Most seasoned fleet managers have had more than their fair share of encounters with risky fleet drivers. And, more likely than not, it has been the fleet manager’s responsibility to “figure out” how to deal with and correct this poor and potentially costly driving behavior. Complicating matters for fleet managers, these drivers often are valuable employees.
Traditionally, risky drivers were sent to a behind-the-wheel refresher or classroom-based training course. But, even with the refresher, these drivers often continued to exhibit high-risk behaviors — crashes, ticketed violations, and company policy infractions.
This is because continued risky behavior is not exclusively related to driving-skill issues.
Classroom or behind-the-wheel training programs do not address the underlying cause(s). The hard truth is that, often, high-risk drivers’ problems are “attitudinal” issues that can only be addressed in a more significant way. There will always be drivers who pay no attention to the rules. When they are ticketed or involved in a crash, they will always say: “It’s the other driver’s fault.” However, statistics prove otherwise: driver error contributes to 94 percent of vehicle crashes.
Finding an Answer with EAPs
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) began in the 1950s and usually addressed employees’ drinking habits. By the 1970s, EAPs had expanded to include helping employees cope with a broader array of personal problems. Historically, it has been corporate staff and/or manufacturing personnel who have been eligible and offered such programs.
Given its historic role in helping correct employee behavior while retaining valuable personnel, expanding the scope of EAP services to include high-risk fleet drivers makes sense, and offers a better option than termination.
Giving high-risk drivers a similar counseling process aimed at identifying and rehabilitating them will let employers retain productive sales/service people rather than firing these individuals.
When a company that had fired its best sales rep was questioned if it thought about an alternative to the firing, the answer was an unequivocal “no.” But, what if the company was offered an alternative response to keeping this employee? It was suggested that future drivers falling into a once only termination driving offense, attend EAP sessions and let the EAP counselor advise if this employee could be rehabilitated.
Linking Fleet with EAP
EAP counseling programs can be operated through national networks of professional counselors (clinical psychologists, social workers and/or psychiatrists) to provide an employee access to a process to work through emotional and/or psychological issues that manifest in their risky driving behavior without termination. Such programs would be designed to improve and enhance employees’ work performance.
And, it makes financial sense for a business to link fleet and EAP. Statistics show that for every EAP dollar spent, the yield is $5 to $16 in revenue.
If a company already has an EAP program, it probably is available everywhere it does business. So, risky drivers, when identified, wherever they reside, should not have to travel far to connect with and enroll in counseling.
EAP counseling services are generally set up on a fixed retainer fee with the employer. In making the referral, one to three counseling sessions are at no cost to the employee. If subsequent counseling sessions are necessary, the expense is the employee’s responsibility, and is most typically covered by company health care benefits. This places the responsibility of expense (as well as making adjustments) directly on the employee for the cost of subsequent sessions.
To be successful, an EAP should offer fleet drivers:
- Complete confidentiality.
- Improvements in attitude and driving performance, which are quantifiable.
- Knowledge that normal disciplinary procedures remain in effect if their driving record is not changed.
- Effort/performance expectations placed squarely on the driver overcoming his or her driving problem(s) along with the necessary desire and will to change dangerous driving habits.
Successful and loyal employees are hard to find. How much did the company invest in time and dollars, not to mention the rep’s account relationships? It’s a major investment.
If termination is the company’s policy, in such cases, it may be time to rethink the logic of it. Why not let a professional EAP counselor make the decision as to whether or not rehabilitation of the employee is possible. Keep in mind, EAP counselors may need training themselves in identifying, assessing, and addressing which driving attitudes and habits fall into their purview.
Benefiting the Company
EAPs remove management from responsibility to counsel and terminate, and rely on policy-based, due process instead of subjective evaluation by supervisors.
Interventions can be measured, as the driver’s attitude improves, so as not to leave the employee on his or her own.
The EAP professional who deems an employee rehabilitated assumes a good portion of the liability if his or her judgment is not sound.
It takes time to look into a new concept like this to benefit fleet professionals, employers, and EAP professionals alike.
It is time to be proactive. Take the wheel in hand. Take the time to explore teaming up with the company’s EAP to make a world of difference on the road, between work and home, near and far. We will all be better and safer for it.
Penny Levin Fields, MBA, president, PAL, Inc., is a fleet consultant. She was formerly transportation manager with G. D. Searle, a past Board of Directors member of the National Safety Council, and 25-year member of NAFA and AFLA. Contact her at [email protected] or (847) 331-8591.