Operating a fleet of vehicles carries risk. Companies rely on humans with various levels of experience to drive responsibly and safely. The reality is the drivers are human and make mistakes.
For businesses with a vehicle fleet and managers responsible for implementing risk management processes, here are a few simple steps that will help mitigate risk, improve driver safety, minimize repairs, and reduce accident rates.
Establishing a company culture where safety is a priority requires a conscious effort by leadership. Team managers must verify driving habits align with company policies. A plan should include triggers for corrective action related to incidents, infractions, and preventable accidents. This plan should be followed consistently. As Adam Berger, Vice President of Sales at Doering Fleet Management says, “people behave differently when they know they’re being watched. They behave better.”
Fleet Driver Policy
Step one: Implement a written fleet policy. This policy must clearly and concisely explain what is expected of the drivers. It is important to make sure the plans are useful and can be communicated across your organization. It must be followed so be mindful only write what you plan to measure and enforce. It must be implemented and followed concisely to be enforceable. A fleet policy should include many topics including:
- Driver eligibility
- Vehicle selection options
- Maintenance guidelines and responsibilities
- Incident scoring
- Accident protocol
- Incident-based testing
- Loss of driving privilege
- Personal use
- Disposition guidelines
- Driver testing practices and triggers
Driver policy is a vital document and should be updated regularly. Consult internal departments such as Human Resources, Risk Management, and Finance to weigh in on and create the guidelines for your fleet policy.
To create a safe team of professional drivers, it’s important to screen staff before putting them on the road. Check for proper licensing and review their motor vehicle record (MVR) for multiple, or significant infractions that could be detrimental to the company.
As part of onboarding and continuing risk assessment, assess the risk profile of each driver. Utilize prescreening, cognitive function tests, and other on and offline risk assessment tools to analyze their future performance and potential.
Fleet driver safety training is a cost-effective method to enhance company productivity and the safety of drivers and the general public. Tailor the training program to the driver based on their risk. Incentivize proper behind-the-wheel habits by rewarding drivers with exceptional records and those who stick to safety procedures. By rewarding appropriate behavior, staff is motivated, performance improves, and long-term safety techniques become habit throughout the driving team.
“People behave the way they are paid and how they are watched.” -Adam Berger, VP-Sales, Doering Fleet Management
Driver safety should be a priority when onboarding new hires. No matter their driving history or experience, road testing the skills of new drivers should be standard practice. Years of on-road experience does not eliminate poor driving habits or prevent accidents. Risky driving behaviors are not always caught, therefore solely hiring based off of a clean record and MVR will not signal the red flags that a behind-the-wheel analysis might.
Reaffirm the company’s commitment to safety by making road testing a standard in the hiring process. Also, consider retesting seasoned veterans every couple of years. Ensure their visual acuity, response times, and sense of correct speed remains passable throughout the driver’s professional lifespan. If trouble areas are spotted with established team members, remedial driving courses are an excellent resource to help up the skill level and safety habits of the fleet drivers. Ultimately acknowledging bad driving habits from the beginning is a healthy alternative to addressing them after a costly or painful accident. Driver testing is a fleet service offered by fleet management companies and offers an independent voice managers can use to support tough decisions.
Most companies under-communicate by a factor of ten. An email or meeting announcing the Fleet Safety Program is not enough. Begin with the fleet safety strategy. Share objectives, why they are important to the stakeholders and staff, and share where you are going and how you plan to get there. Communicate this message consistently and often. The goal is to create buy-in at all levels. Introduce safety goals and provide regular updates on progress against goals as measured by the key performance indicators. Explain the greater good for staff and for the business.
Embrace a culture of open communication to mitigate your risks. Listen to and evaluate voluntary and confidential complaints and concerns from team members and reports from the community. By doing so and showing your team that you will take actionable steps to address valid concerns, you create a culture in which drivers feel confident in the commitment to their safety and wellbeing. Ultimately, this confidence will result in continued open communication so that you can be proactively aware of any lingering issues.
There are fleet services that can help you mitigate fleet driver risk. Telematics is the useful fleet management tool that can track and detect bad driver behavior. Why are so many companies deploying this tool and why has the usage of telematics become commonplace?
When evaluating the management of your fleet, the most important issue is not cost. It is risk. Telematics is a tool that helps to manage and reduce risk.
It’s also evolving and incorporating new devices, technologies, and metrics. Dashboard cameras, driver feedback in real time, and competition around driver safety are not the future. They are here today.
In the old world of telematics, it did feel like big brother watching over. In the early years, productivity was the focus, not driver behavior or safety. Managers would get reports after the fact and conversations would occur with drivers about their performance. The discussions were around taking long breaks, inefficient routing, and wasted time. In the new world of telematics, the focus is behavior. Gamification has allowed drivers to monitor their own behavior real-time and make corrections immediately. Additionally, not all feedback is negative. Positive reinforcement is also an important element.
Fleet Management Companies offer many fleet services. Driver safety policy guidance, driver testing, and telematics are just a few of the many fleet services they offer to help you mitigate your driver risk.
Go get ‘em!