Internalizing Fleet Safety in an Open Road Environment
A full commitment to fleet safety is an industry-wide axiom. Unlike other company departments, the fleet workplace extends beyond the four walls of an organization’s headquarters, reaching public roads and civilian drivers.
Some industries have it relatively easy: Set the standards for an internal safety policy and make sure all the stakeholders abide by it, and if anyone deviates from the policy, it will occur within the boundaries of the office building or factory floor.
Fleet requires that the primary element of the work — the vehicle, be it a corporate sedan, a delivery truck, or an emergency vehicle — interact with the “civilian” driver force. For the general welfare of employees and those with whom they share the road, safety and risk management are a must. And, NAFA Fleet Management Association has always understood the far-reaching implications vehicle crashes can have for a fleet.
Safety Policies Inform & Indemnify
Safety impacts the financial bottom line, too. Managing the costs of repairs, liability, medical responsibilities, lost productivity, and — the very worst — fatalities begins with the culture of safety that is imposed upon a driving staff.
Safety experts from organizations such as the National Safety Council (NSC), the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agree that such an “imposition” is necessary. There is always room for compromise, but not when concerning road-readiness. Fleet safety expectations should be communicated clearly, because drivers are held to higher professional standards.
It all begins with the safety policy; it is the first line of defense. And, it applies to everyone who drives for the company or organization. Good policies state the employer’s expectations with an employee confirmation proving they have read, understood, and will comply with the policy. Ultimately, the policy has a two-fold purpose: it informs, but also indemnifies.
By establishing rules of conduct that reduce risky behavior, such as drivers who use handheld devices, fleet managers have an opportunity to dissuade risk-taking behaviors.
Fleet managers should also keep their staff informed about what constitutes good driving practices. Training and education are not tools just for remediation; behind-the-wheel and classroom training should be considered as a preemptive remedy to poor driving performance. Informing drivers with the current best practices makes a quantifiable difference.
An organization’s attitude cannot be underestimated. Everyone, from the top down, should follow the rules of safe conduct with real consequences otherwise. Risk management processes must go beyond documents and requirements. A fleet manager should be prepared to pull MVRs on a regular basis — yearly at the very least.
Promote Safe Driving for Exceptional Performance
Accident reports can identify trends in driver behavior. There are many reasons why a driver’s skills are being compromised. Some are easily addressed; others call for more drastic measures, but, in the event of a crash, there will be only one question asked of the organization: did you do everything in your power to prevent this?
Several high-profile lawsuits over the past couple years have brought home the need for control over distracted driving, and, specifically, distracted driving due to cell phones and texting.
Achievements in safe practices can often go unseen. After all, attention seldom is drawn to the crash that doesn’t happen. Promoting incentives for good drivers means a company is rewarding those who consistently follow proper safety practices.
NAFA is proud to be a part of the solution for fleets seeking best practices in safety. As a partner with NETS’ Drive Safely Work Week campaign, occurring each October, NAFA encourages companies and organizations to use NETS’ free materials to further advance the importance of driving safely and distraction free.
But, it goes far beyond that. NAFA’s Fleet Safety Advisory Council is devoted to getting the word out to its membership on all of the most important aspects of risk in fleet safety, and its work translates into the curriculum that is presented at the Association’s annual Institute & Expo, the editorial makeup of the Association’s publications, and more.
Learn more at www.nafa.org/safety.
Donald Dunphy is the communications assistant for NAFA Fleet Management Association. He writes for and manages the NAFAConnection e-newsletter, as well as contributes to FLEETSolutions and I&E News. He can be contacted at [email protected].