If you have company vehicles — whether it’s a fleet of over-the-road class 8 haulers, or six locally driven Sprinters — driver safety impacts your bottom line.
Last week, my wife and I drove over 1000 miles, predominately on interstates. What was a source of frustration turned to acceptance — there are a lot of unsafe drivers. Everywhere we drove, people tailgated in packs — in metropolitan areas, it was four lanes of bumper to bumper — I thought I was transported to a NASCAR race. Drivers hogged the left lane, cut in and out of traffic, and seemed unaware of other drivers. These driving tendencies caused several near misses and accidents. We witnessed the aftermath of three crashes in one ten mile stretch.
What’s All This Have to do With Finding Safe Drivers?
The exceptions to this train wreck of poor driving were commercial carriers. We rarely saw any of the unsafe driving behaviors from commercial drivers. And the facts back this observation. According to FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) (PDF), drivers of large trucks and buses have significantly safer driving records than other drivers. In 2011, the incidence of a reported accident with injury in large trucks and buses was 3.80 per 100 million miles driven, while in all vehicles, it was 75.3. Nearly 20 times more!
How is This Level of Driver Safety Achieved?
There are several factors, most of which can be adopted by any size organization, driving any class of vehicle. Here are some of the keys to finding, developing, and keeping safe drivers.
Retention – More experienced drivers tend to be safer drivers. According to an FMCSA study on driver retention and safety, “… drivers attain satisfaction from a sense of achievement and recognition, and the key factors influencing how long a driver remains with an employer are steadiness of work, level of pay and benefits, company support while on the road, genuine respect from management, and amount of home time.”
Training – This includes training safe vehicle operations, emergency procedures, driving techniques and limiting distracted driving, but it should also include developmental training, like leadership, conflict resolution, and exposure to other departments. Offering employees the opportunity for advancement and insights into the entire operation adds to job satisfaction, which impacts retention.
Responsiveness – Whether drivers interact with the company through a dispatcher, fleet manager, or department head, responsiveness to drivers’ needs are critical. Unresolved driver concerns add frustration that may lead to apathy toward company procedures and equipment.
Working Conditions – A poorly equipped, unmaintained vehicle is more than a nuisance – it’s unsafe. Drivers who spend hours behind the wheel need both well maintained AND comfortable vehicles. Conveniences, such as an electronic toll pass, help. Forcing drivers to work extended hours by ignoring or manipulating HOS Regulations (Hours of service) supports unsafe conditions.
If you want to reduce the chance of accidents, retain safe drivers, and keep your insurance rates down, you must be proactive. Driver safety doesn’t just happen – you make it happen through training, taking care of your vehicles and drivers, and being responsive to their needs. What has your organization done to maintain driver safety?