The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Are Drivers Putting Safety First?

From management leadership down the ladder to each driver, the importance of driving safety must be a mission-critical part of an organization’s DNA.

May 2013, by Joyce Tam

A committment to driver safety can deliver ROI when matched with driver safety technology.
A committment to driver safety can deliver ROI when matched with driver safety technology.

At a Glance

To create a safety culture, fleet managers should:

  • Start with the data.
  • Assess the risks.
  • Get the Board of Directors “on board.”
  • Communicate the “rules of the road.”
  • Use technology for measurement.

Drivers face ongoing pressure to deliver goods or services on schedule, while also dealing with roadway congestion and various distractions. According to Trimble, best known for its GPS technology, the majority of drivers admit to eating or using a cell phone when behind the wheel.

Data from the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) state that about a quarter of drivers will read or take care of personal grooming while driving. All drivers are affected by the safety implications these distractions cause.

Studies consistently show that the top contributors to crashes are both external distractions and driving behavior, including driving too fast for the conditions, speeding around curves, and illegal maneuvers. While managers are limited in what they can do about external distractions, driving behavior is something they can truly influence.

Many fleet managers create programs that bring together various safety-related communications, incentives, and training to promote a safe driving culture. Various consulting groups work with managers to assess an organization’s crash history, identify improvement targets, and build a new personality for the business — creating a safe driving culture.

Some areas to adjust that can help encourage safer driving culture are routing, scheduling, and dispatch.

Creating a Safe-Driving Culture

Investing in a safe driving corporate culture can pay off threefold: It helps drivers stay safe, reduces crash costs, and minimizes risk to an organization. Jeff Colburn, leader of UK Marsh Risk Consulting, said current health and safety legislation places much responsibility on the employer for employees involved in driving collisions while working.

“There’s a belief among some employers that they don’t need to worry about managing occupational road risk if their employees drive their own vehicles, or if a fleet management company handles its fleet,” Colburn said. “But, irrespective of whom the vehicle belongs to, management of occupational road risk remains the responsibility of the employer.”

Creating a safe driving culture involves communicating safety across the entire organization; this means that from board leadership down to each driver, the importance of driver safety is understood to be as much a mission-critical part of the organization’s DNA, as marketing and customer service.

Whether the fleet consists of five vehicles or more than 10,000, there are five key components to include in any campaign to create a safe driving culture:

1. Start with the Data. Look at the organization’s recent history of incidents and associated costs. Knowing where the fleet is starting from helps synch plans with the realities each organization faces. It also allows for the ability to measure real improvement. Try to assess the following areas over the past three years:

  • What are the fleet’s collision, incident, and injury rates per million miles?
  • What are the direct costs of repairs, fees, legal expenses, and premium increases?
  • If possible, estimate any indirect costs of lost productivity or added management time related to the incidents.

2. Assess the Risks. Take data gathering one step further to find out how, where, and when incidents occurred:

  • Is there a common part of a route that tends to be dangerous?
  • Are particular vehicles more prone to incidents than others?
  • What role do driver attitudes and behaviors play?

3. Get the Board “On Board.” Effective change requires the full support of an organization’s board and/or management team. They should know the data and provide the necessary leadership to guide the organization through a culture change.

4. Communicate the “Rules of the Road.” Identify the specific rules your drivers should follow, both on the road and when an incident occurs. Then communicate these rules through employee training, new-hire orientation, driver handbooks, and ongoing meetings until they become integrated with corporate messaging and culture. Be sure to include both driving rules and post-incident rules, for example:

  • While driving: no texting, no eating, must slow down for turns, and maintain speed limit, etc.
  • If a collision occurs: what to do to prevent further damage or injury, who to call, what forms to fill out, etc.

5. Use technology for measurement. Once the rules have been set, there needs to be a way to measure and enforce compliance. Find a driver safety technology solution that can give managers and drivers real-time visibility into the day-to-day and long-term effectiveness of your safety program.

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