Fleet drivers make their living behind the wheel, logging an average 2,000 miles per month. Though they may consider themselves “masters” of the road, accidents still happen. On average, fleets experience a 20-percent accident rate per year.
Getting through to employees who have been driving for years, are more aggressive in their driving habits, and/or don’t think they need safety training can be challenging.
Employ a ‘True’ Safety Culture
According to three leading accident management companies — CEI, Corporate Claims Management, Inc. (CCM), and Fleet Response — reaching drivers through safe driver programs starts with a true safety culture within the organization from the top level of senior management on down.
According to Brian Kinniry, manager of Risk & Safety Operations at CEI, fleet managers should educate senior management on the financial impact of accidents by providing key metrics on accident rates and overall associated costs, including overall productivity.
“This will greatly assist in getting leadership to buy-in to the concept of driving safety through the organization,” Kinniry said.
He also pointed out that the field manager plays a key role in making sure employees focus on safety as a top priority. The manager must be clearly aware of the driving performance history of each employee and should actively participate in “ride-alongs” with drivers.
“The manager can also use ride-alongs as an opportunity to educate employees on the statistical relevance of accident data within the company and industry so that the employee is well aware of the risks he or she faces while on the road,” Kinniry said.
Kinniry also suggested drivers access a complete record of their own driving performance, including accidents, motor vehicle record violations, camera violations, and fleet policy violations.
Managers and drivers should also be held accountable for safe driving by making it part of employee performance reviews. But just as important is recognizing drivers who perform well.
“Encourage them to share their success with others through testimonials or other forms of interactive communications with their coworkers,” said Kinniry.
A structured safe-driver program and training are also critical to a successful safety program. CEI’s DriverCare Risk Manager enables fleet managers to have a complete view of a driver’s profile, including accident history, motor vehicle records/driver abstracts, traffic camera violations, driver monitoring (“How’s My Driving?” programs), company specific safety and fleet policy violations, assigned and completed training (both online and behind the wheel), along with any recognition awards the driver received during his or her tenure.
Kinniry said CEI customers experience a 5- to 40-percent reduction in incident rate over time while using CEI’s services.
The bottom line, he said, is that it’s important for fleet managers to be sensitive to all employee challenges while instilling one of the most important goals of the company: for drivers to make it home safely every day.
“Safety has to be presented as part of their job responsibility, along with a responsibility that they have to their families and communities,” Kinniry pointed out.
Use Statistics to Sell
While drivers may think they have good driving skills, CCM believes there is always room for improvement.
“Most people always believe something bad will happen to someone else, not them,” said Bob Martines, CCM president and CEO. “When you make a company driver aware that one individual in five will experience an accident and then you ask how many drivers are in their immediate family, realization sinks in that an accident involving one of their family members may occur. The process of creating a safety environment is embraced a bit easier at that point.”
Martines also pointed out downtime and lost hours are key motivators to company drivers, especially if their earning capacity is interrupted due to an accident. Engraining a safety culture into a company is vital. The more frequently a company promotes safety, the more safety becomes a priority.
“Monthly newsletters are reminders of why safety is important, ongoing training proves to the individuals being trained as well as other team members that safety is important, and behind-the-wheel training clearly demonstrates a company’s commitment to safety as drivers can learn valuable, long-lasting skills that can save their lives one day,” he said.
CCM’s safety solution, FleetGuard, provides fleets with options such as monitoring driver history for accident reporting, motor vehicle reports, automated recommendations, and safety training verification. It also categorizes drivers, company employees, and/or any other persons permitted to use the company vehicle into fleet-established risk levels.
Many online training courses are already downloaded into FleetGuard, so drivers receive instant notifications of courses required to stay in compliance with company policies.
“FleetGuard was designed to help companies keep their drivers safe, as well as protect them and their drivers from negligent entrustment concerns,” he added.
Martines has seen his clients reduce accidents, liability claims, and expenses. Typically, he said CCM clients see more than a 20-percent reduction in actual incidents.
“One of the most important aspects of any safety program is repetitiveness,” he added.
[PAGEBREAK]Make Safety a Routine
According to Allison Lanzilotta, VP of business development for Fleet Response, selling drivers on safety comes from an approach that includes management and direct supervisors believing in and supporting a safety culture.
“It is creating an atmosphere where driving safety is visible and tools are in place to promote the behavior,” she said. “It goes beyond just having a written policy, but having practices in place that make the policy part of daily work activities.”
Successful programs have several layers, she added, including regular communication with drivers via newsletters, e-mails, or other electronic media, as well as asking them to actively participate. This participation can be regular training or even just annually signing off on the policy to confirm they are familiar with it and know one is in place.
“For drivers who think they are already extremely safe behind the wheel, assigning training can support their existing good habits or provide tips and new ideas,” Lanzilotta said. “Again, it’s in the approach from management that the training is to ‘support’ their existing behaviors and to make sure everyone gets home safely every day.”
She also advised managers to make safety training a regular task so it becomes part of a driver’s routine. For instance, online lessons and electronic newsletters sent quarterly with regular due dates can be part of annual performance and job expectations.
“A key is to make the task routine and mention it at reviews and department meetings,” Lanzilotta added. “Safety is then part of their job goals, like selling or servicing.”
Fleet Response’s comprehensive safe driver program, Driver History Profile, includes identifying and monitoring high-risk drivers, assigning general and targeted training, running electronic motor vehicle records, and providing electronic newsletters. The company also partners with in-classroom training instructors, telematics providers, and reporting call centers to help fleet managers have all driver information in one place.
Lanzilotta has seen driver safety and training programs dramatically reduce annual accident rates and the severity of incidents, lower the number of drivers with repeat incidents, and identify issues never before addressed.
“Each fleet’s results will vary depending upon the approach and focus of the program’s goals,” she added.
Lanzilotta also believes a best-practice safety program includes a regular, consistent approach with support from high-level and front-line managers.
“Having the drivers’ direct supervisors on-board with the initiative will help create a consistent message in the field that safety is a company goal and the tools in place will help make everyone safer drivers,” she said.
Experience Cost Savings
The experts agree a successful safety program includes many components, of which training is just one. Establishing key strategic goals and then implementing policies and programs with management and drivers, can engrain safety into the company’s culture.
“The ability for the fleet and safety managers, human resources managers, and, for that matter, the drivers themselves at all levels to receive driver event information in an automated and timely fashion is key to effective remediation and consistent policy enforcement,” said Kinniry of CEI.
A safety program can be implemented fairly easily and with minimal cost, according to Lanzilotta. “An approach using online training, electronic newsletters, and annual electronic MVRs could save a company thousands of dollars by avoiding one costly accident claim,” she said. “The return on investment is typically realized much sooner than anticipated because, by communicating effectively the goals of the programs through management, attitudes begin to shift and behaviors will soon follow.”
The most important elements of a safety program, according to Martines of CCM, include timeliness and repetitiveness.
“Safety is not a one-time investment. Ongoing reminders via newsletters, e-mail blasts, giveaway items, as well as occasional 20- to 30-minute online refresher courses are extremely helpful in keeping a driver’s safety a priority,” he concluded.