Bill, tell us about your position at the City of Edmonton.
I retired after working 28 years with the police service in Edmonton and came into my current position in December, 2010. During my career in law enforcement, I would say about 50 percent of that was spent in the traffic division which included investigating serious injury and fatal collisions. I was also involved with the education end of things with impaired driving education. I went on to work in various other areas of the police service and then came back after a number of years as commander of the Traffic Section. Ultimately, after spending some time there I saw an attractive opportunity to retire and change careers: managing the fleet safety program for the City of Edmonton. I certainly had a lot of experience and background with seeing the realities of what happens if people don’t drive safely and the importance of having a good driver safety program in place. I have knocked on doors in the middle of the night to provide some bad news to people about their loved ones – I have certainly seen the direct results of unsafe driving practices.
A goal that I have with managing the driver safety program with the City of Edmonton is to ultimately change the driving behavior of the public. Driving a marked City of Edmonton vehicle is like driving around with a huge billboard as the public is always closely watching the behavior of City employees. If City employees are driving in a safe manner, they can set a good example for the public to follow.
Now, one of the ways I see in changing that culture is responsibility on the part of drivers. To use the term “It was in an accident” is no longer acceptable. An accident is something that is unavoidable. We use the term collision. If I am involved in a collision I play a part in the cause of that collision no matter what my role was. When I use the term accident, “I was in an accident this morning,” that takes the blame away from me, it has less significance on the event.
The City of Edmonton was audited relative to compliance with the National Safety Code standards which governs the safe operation of vehicles as well as the maintenance of those vehicles. The government inspected driver records, the driver safety program and the maintenance program and as a result of that, we identified some areas we could improve upon. These regulations had been in place a number of years and not just within the City of Edmonton, but across the industry. We took the opportunity to start educating our drivers as well as our maintenance personnel about the importance of following the National Safety Code guidelines and as a result, we wrote a new driver’s safety program for the corporation outlining what the rules are, so to speak, rules of the game so everyone could understand what their obligations are when they are driving. We also started looking more closely at things like drivers conducting trip inspections, making sure they are not working too many hours, fatigue management, that sort of thing.
Our program called “The Fuel Sense Program” has been in place for a number of years now. It is required for all full-time drivers with the City of Edmonton. It is a short course that teaches drivers basic defensive driver techniques in an effort to improve fuel consumption. It is a program that not only teaches the person how to save fuel while driving their City vehicle; it is one that they can also take home and apply when they are operating their own personal vehicles.
Do you have an example of how your training increases driver awareness?
One thing I have found over my years in law enforcement and even in this current position is almost 40 percent of preventable collisions occur when a person is backing up. Those are plainly preventable collisions; there is no way around it – for example when you back into a pole. Like I say, close to 40 percent of our preventable collisions occur while backing up and we are looking at rolling out a new program, a safety campaign to remind our drivers that we do have a policy in place that requires them to follow certain procedures – use a guide when available for backing up a vehicle and do a walk-around the vehicle before getting into it. If they are to follow those procedures and guidelines, we theoretically reduce our preventable collisions by up to 40 percent. That is something we have rolled out recently and are I hopeful that it will be effective at reducing backing up collisions.
Congratulations on receiving NAFA’s 2013 Excellence in Public Fleet Safety award. Give us your thoughts on receiving this prestigious award.
It was certainly an honor. I was nominated for the award; however, I reluctantly accept the award personally. It is a team effort. I have a great team back home that all work to bring together such things as the driver safety program and the change process that took place relative to educating in excess of 3,000 drivers with the driver safety program and delivery of National Safety Code as a result of our audit.
Providing National Safety Code training also includes the ongoing messaging of going around to departments to try to change the culture relative to driving. Driving is an extension of your workplace. Many people may have a job such as an electrician, they may be mindful of safety while doing their job as an electrician, but they just use their vehicle as a means of transportation to get to another job. So, I think it is important to change the culture to extend workplace safety to include driving and the vehicle as their workplace. Follow the safety rules while driving – just as they would while in their workplace.
Trying to convert the culture within the corporation is the goal in mind and continuing to reduce collisions – part of which will require us to continue to educate drivers on driver’s safety. What happened last year, receiving notice of being a finalist, it was an honor and I was even more surprised when I was announced as a winner at the awards dinner. Like I say, this was not an “I” thing – it was the result of the Fleet Safety team I have back home. I am very proud of them.
Bill manages the Fleet Safety Section – which is responsible for managing the driver and vehicle safety programs for the City of Edmonton which involves over 6800 drivers and 4500 vehicles. This includes education and oversight in relation to compliance with driving policies and legislation, including National Safety Code compliance for the operation and maintenance of commercial vehicles. Additionally, this area is responsible for the investigation of collisions and other mishaps involving City vehicles.