By Brian Kinniry, Senior Director of Strategic Services, The CEI Group, Inc.
Some fleets believe they have a full-fledged safety program when, in reality, the methods in place keep drivers compliant but never truly involve those drivers in the safety culture. Make sure your fleet is doing more than the bare minimum for compliance and create a true safety culture that engages the workforce.
So, how do you instill a safety culture for your fleet instead of a compliance-focused culture? First, we must define the terms. Compliance in this sense is a bare minimum approach that allows a fleet admin to check off certain boxes without taking the next step. But that is not a safety culture. A safety culture is an attitude that permeates all levels of business where there is an acceptance and understanding of the role safety plays – to the point that safe practices become second nature.
There is a disparity between compliance and safety in many fleets. Fleets use a variety of services that are marketed to increase safety, yet some of these services fall short of ensuring that the fleet drivers become better drivers or that accident rates go down. Gone are the days when simply pulling an MVR for a new hire, and once per year for all drivers, is enough to be considered a true driver behavior modification safety program. It is a company’s moral obligation to ensure that high-risk drivers are identified and remediated appropriately, according to the fleet policy. A lack of targeted remediation tends to be a gap for companies that follow a compliance model instead of taking steps to allow a safety culture to flourish naturally.
Ask yourself this question: is my fleet’s safety program helping my drivers change their behavior, or is the safety program merely ensuring that the fleet remains compliant with certain industry standards and regulations? A successful fleet safety program will integrate various data elements into efforts to identify risky drivers and modify behavior effectively. That process will result in fewer claims and less severe injuries, which translates to greater savings for the company, in terms of both cost and human life.
But this objective becomes very challenging if the drivers and leadership team aren’t on board. Get the drivers on board through frequent communications, managerial involvement, driver recognition, gamification, and other initiatives that allow the drivers to feel like they are actively supporting the corporate goals rather than being forced to follow the rules.
The goal is to win hearts when implementing a safety culture. Another way to get drivers invested in safe driving practices is to convince all levels of leadership of the merits of your safety initiatives. Drivers respond positively when they see and hear their leaders being passionate about driver safety and setting goals for fleet safety milestones. Direct manager involvement helps too, because if safety is important to a direct supervisor, it will be important to the employee-driver as well. The main theme with these initiatives is transparency which allows drivers to see and be rewarded for good driving while giving management the ability to see negative trends that are happening to the drivers that report to them.
The next step is to guide and track your safety program. A risk ranking system is the most common way to determine which drivers need help the most. Training is crucial to a fleet that wants to see improvements in its safety record, but the utilization of training can take many forms. The primary goal of training should be frequency, but one of the most effective means of reaching a driver tends to be a personalized message from leadership.
Safety messages can come in any form – short training modules that are five to ten minutes, articles, newsletters, and so on – as long as they are easily digestible by drivers to maximize their time because we must take into consideration that these drivers still have other demands at work.
Still, all new hires should receive extensive training before ever hitting the road for business; the best chance to instill the company’s values and culture is during orientation and initial training. Reserve behind the wheel training and classroom courses for new drivers and those who are the most high-risk if you are unable to incorporate it within the entire fleet. Then continue to keep safety communications frequent and easily digestible to address broad fleet trends, keep safety top of mind, and build the safety culture.
Telematics and prescriptive analytics programs are safety tools that allow fleet managers insight into individual drivers like never before. What makes these offerings unique is not just the data that they provide but the opportunities that they afford for targeted remediation before an event occurs. It is now possible to target the real issues individual drivers are facing and either provide the appropriate training or start a dialogue between the driver and management on how to correct the issue. Telematics data can also highlight which drivers deserve recognition within the fleet for their safe driving habits.
A fleet safety program should make it easier to obtain MVRs, remain FCRA compliant, and get acknowledgments from the drivers that they have read and understand the safety policy. Just make sure that the safety program doesn’t end there. If you don’t have any methods in place to discover at-risk drivers and remediate the situation with training, take time to evaluate how your fleet can get to that point. But most importantly, find ways to spark interest in driver responsibility to help create a lasting safety culture. A well-rounded safety program will save money, reduce accidents and liability, and will protect your most valuable assets, your employees.