10 Steps to a World - Class Driver Performance and Safety Program

David Coleman, EVP Strategy and Market Development, Cellcontrol
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David Coleman, EVP Strategy and Market Development, Cellcontrol

Even a momentary distraction while driving can cause a lifetime of devastating consequences,” states US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx. Recognizing the gravity of the issue the Federal Department of Transportation is leading an effort to stop cell phone use behind the wheel. Today, 44 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban texting for drivers of all ages.

“From the most recent data available, 69 percent of drivers admitted to using a cell phone while driving”

From the most recent data available, 69 percent of drivers admitted to using a cell phone while driving. For companies with fleets the danger and liability is seemingly worse; Coca-Cola was recently ordered to pay $24 million in damages to a woman injured by a distracted fleet contractor. Crashes, whether on the job or on personal time, can have significant physical, financial and psychological impacts.

Vehicle total lifecycle costs are a significant line item expense on the corporate balance sheet— crashes are not a necessary business expense like fuel/maintenance. So why in the world have any? Let’s take a look at their Worldwide Driver Safety Organization and program.

10 Step’s to the Epiphany!

Senior Management Commitment, Supervisor and Employee Involvement

Optimizing the safe driving of your employees requires the attention of management. Actively encouraging employee participation and involvement at all organization levels is a must have and ensures success. Employees, and if unionized their representatives, really need to be involved in the initial goals and policies planning phase.

Written Vehicle, and Device use Policies, Procedures, Expectations and Consequences

A written, delivered, and employee acknowledged statement emphasizing the commitment to the company driver performance and safety management plan is essential to a successful program. Create clearly defined set program goals with specific policies. Retain documented proof that the policies have been communicated to and received by all employees. These goals and policies are the requirements for how your vehicles are to be operated and the policy communication is the cornerstone of your organizations commitment to achieve the goals. The driver acknowledgement is the contract all employees have been made aware of, about the organizations policies, and procedures for driver performance and safety. The employee signed acknowledgement is the last line of defense to product the company. The company may be found at fault and the plaintiff against you in that crash may receive a award, the difference in the size of the award may be significantly influenced by the existence of a policy and the employees personal accountability and acknowledgement of that policy.

Implement Mobile Policy Enforcement Technology

The proliferation of mobile devices in the vehicle is reason to spend significant time on this part of the program. Negligent Entrustment and insurance scoring for severity have all elevated interest in device related distraction. A simple acknowledged policy of “No mobile devices in the vehicle at any time” is attractive if successful but unrealistic in most fleet environments.

Closing out the Mobile Device policy – each fleet is unique and the specific policy needs to contemplate the need to maintain high productivity from the driver balanced against the risk exposed by the company. Creating and communicating the tightest policy possible while allowing for operational efficiency is the goal.

Driver Scoring and Coaching

Check the driving records of all employees who drive for work purposes. Combine past performance and driving history with what you are observing behind the wheel from the in-vehicle technology. You must take measure on drivers who have poor driving records and are irresponsible behind the wheel. Drivers that are demonstrating correct skill and good history need to be acknowledged. Drivers with poor histories but are demonstrating correct performance need to be incented. Reminder—Clearly define the policies and procedures about both observed driver performance and safety scoring data as well as MVR/ violation scoring data that results in an employee losing the privilege of driving for work, and provide counter-measures and training where indicated.

Crash Reporting and Investigation

Define and enforce a crash incident reporting and investigation process. All crashes, regardless of severity, are to be reported to the employee’s supervisor at the time of incident. Crash policies and procedures should clearly guide drivers through their responsibilities in a reported situation. Focus on understanding the root causes of crashes and why they are happening and work toward eliminating them in future. Leverage crash suspect reporting from the in-vehicle technology, look for valuable before, during, after data from the system that will be input in to the settlement/subrogation process.

Vehicle Selection, Maintenance and Inspection

Selecting, maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles are an important part of preventing crashes. The organization is advised to review and consider the safety and performance features, of all vehicles to be considered for employee use. Vehicles that demonstrate “best in class” status for crashworthiness and overall safety should be chosen and made available to drivers. Driving performance goals should be aligned to minimize the costly wear and tear on vehicle lifecycle expenses—and seek to achieve/exceed the manufacturer performance rating on the vehicles and components.

Disciplinary Action System

Develop a course of action when the corporate policies are violated. These include moving violation as well as performance and safety measurement policies. The course of action plan should provide for progressive discipline if a driver begins to develop a pattern of performance and safety policy exceptions and/or repeated reported violations. The disciplinary action system should describe what specific action(s) will be taken if a driver does not perform to the acknowledged standard for driving performance and safety.

Reward/Incentive Program

Develop and implement a driver reward/ incentive program to make safety an integral part of your business. The best drivers contribute positively to the bottom line and are to be recognized. The unbiased data, from the in-vehicle technology, eliminates rewarding folks who have “just not been caught” and focuses rewards on clearly demonstrated skills against the corporate policy. The best reward and incentive programs involve a combination of recognition, monetary rewards, and special privileges to motivate the achievement of the communicated corporate goal.

Driver Training/Communication

Provide continuous driver safety training and communication. Even experienced drivers benefit from periodic training and reminders of safe driving practices and skills. It is easy to become complacent and not think about the consequences of our driving habits. Leverage the data from the in-vehicle technology to identify skill issues common across the fleet— and provide specific skill based training. Leverage the individual risk signature that is provided by the technology to design specific counter-measure appropriate to the individual driver.

Regulatory Compliance

It is important to clearly establish which, if any, local, state, and/or federal regulations govern your vehicles and/or drivers. These regulations may involve, but may not necessarily be limited to the:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)
Employment Standards Administration (ESA)
State and Local Mobile Device policy

This program is the company’s commitment to returning each employee home at night in the same condition that they came to work each morning—while returning to the company bottom-line savings associated with having the best drivers on the road. It is quite likely that the program will need to change driver attitudes, behaviors, as well as skills—as the organization works toward a “zero crash culture”, and drivers begin to equate working hard for the company with optimal driving efficiency and safety. Remember, your most fuel efficient drivers also happen to be the safest!

The best programs not only make good business sense, but also are a good employee hiring and retention tool, demonstrating that you care about your employees, not just your bottom line.

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