A good safety training curriculum conveys how crucial it is to understand and minimize risk. Be specific about expectations around defensive driving, safe following distance, and navigating intersections.  - Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay 

A good safety training curriculum conveys how crucial it is to understand and minimize risk. Be specific about expectations around defensive driving, safe following distance, and navigating intersections. 

Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay 

Every driver you hire, you take on risk. You put them behind the wheel for your company and entrust them with your goods, services, vehicles, customers, and reputation. You also entrust them with others' lives. This risk doubles with inexperienced drivers. If you want to reduce your accidents and cost of loss, there are several safety training courses that are necessary for educating your new drivers.

What Risk Do Inexperienced Drivers Pose?

By inexperienced drivers, we mean someone who has little to no professional driving experience. They have no special licensing and likely have never been paid to drive. This means that, even if someone has had their license for years, they could still pose a severe risk to your company.

For example, this study looking at crashes involving truck drivers found that new drivers were more likely to cause accidents regardless of age.

We’ve found similar trends in working with non-CDL vocational fleets. Companies face the most risk from newly-hired drivers, regardless of accident history, age, and MVR data.

There’s a simple solution to this issue: train them.

When you train your new drivers, you reduce your risk of collisions. You lower your cost of loss. Most importantly, you save lives.

Here are four courses that we suggest ALL of your new drivers go through, regardless of vehicle type or industry:

  • Understanding safety & risk
  • Core defensive driving principles
  • Following distance
  • Navigating intersections

Understanding Safety & Risk

One of your biggest hurdles with new drivers is getting them to understand the risk they face.

Whether you have utility workers fixing downed power lines or pest control specialists spraying chemicals, the most dangerous thing your employees do is drive. And if you require your employees to drive in order to complete essential job functions, you have professional drivers.

The problem is, your drivers don’t see it this way. They see themselves as repairmen, utility workers, sales agents, service providers, or whatever else their primary job functions are. You need a way to educate them on the risks they face while behind the wheel.

We recommend you teach a course on the foundations of safety, risk, and accidents. Your drivers need to understand:

  • What safety is
  • What risk is
  • Where risk comes from
  • What accidents are and what causes them
  • How to avoid accidents, reduce risk, and become safer

The goal is to lay the foundation for understanding why driving is dangerous and how they can reduce the risk of accidents, injuries, and personal harm.

Core Principles to Defensive Driving

Especially with new drivers, you need an easy and effective way to communicate the millions of behaviors involved in defensive driving. Defensive driving is a broad category. It’s not enough to say things like “be safe out there” or “watch out for the other guy.” You need specifics.

For example, many companies use LLLC: The Four Principles of Driving Safely.

LLLC stands for Look Ahead, Look Around, Leave Room, and Communicate.

Every single defensive driving behavior fits into one of these four categories. Using this approach, it’s much easier for the student to learn, memorize, and put to use what they learn in their training.

Following Distance

I can almost guarantee that failure to maintain a safe following distance accounts for more of your accidents than any other unsafe behavior.

When drivers follow too closely, they increase their risk of:

  • Rear-end collisions
  • Sideswipes
  • Rollovers by trying to avoid a rear-end collision
  • Being struck from behind when they suddenly stop

These accidents can all be minor or severe, and they’re common in every industry. The kicker is that they’re so easy to prevent. Your drivers just need to leave more room in front of them.

When your drivers maintain a safe following distance, your company will see an immediate and significant decrease in accidents. You need to educate your drivers on the importance of a safe following distance and how much room to leave for their specific vehicles.

Navigating Intersections

Intersections are the most dangerous environment your drivers face. Pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles, changing traffic patterns, and much more add up to create a major risk of accidents. That’s why you must educate your drivers on how to safely navigate intersections.

You need to teach your new drivers how to:

  • Look ahead for risk as they approach intersections
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop
  • Look ahead for the status of the light
  • Look around for risk as they proceed through the intersection
  • Make safe turns

Intersections account for a large percentage of accidents for any vehicle type. Educate your drivers on safely navigating intersections to reduce your cost of loss and save lives.

Implement an Effective Safety Training Program

Left to their own devices, your drivers will cause accidents. They mean well, but we’ve seen it before. They just don’t know any better.

You need an effective, repeatable process for educating both new and current drivers on essential safe behaviors. We recommend following this model for best results:

  • Self-directed training online at point of hire covering these four courses and more
  • In-person safety training and orientation within their first week
  • Monthly safety meetings throughout the year for all drivers

When you follow this procedure, all of your drivers will work to prevent accidents. You will save yourself time and headaches dealing with accidents. Your company will save money with greatly reduced cost of loss. Most importantly, your company will be saving lives.

About the Author: John Kuder is a senior instructional designer at Avatar Fleet, the creators of the non-CDL safety training course, The Fleet Safety Course.

Looking for even more driver safety tips and resources? Check out the 2021 Fleet Safety Experience agenda to find the sessions to help you! The event runs Sept. 21 to Sept. 23. 

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