Driver safety is one of the hottest topics in fleet management. Not only does it have to do with the safety of drivers and ultimately the lives of people on the road, it can also have a huge impact on a company's finances. Driver safety is the responsibility of the company, and having a proper fleet safety policy is not only a moral imperative, it is also smart business.
Driver Safety Education ProgramsDriver education is one of the most effective ways to enhance driver safety. Your drivers are the people on the road making the decisions that affect themselves and others, so making sure they are better equipped to make safe, responsible choices is the most direct way to improve overall safety.
Some of the best ways to educate drivers are:
- Online classes. Although these classes do not offer the hands on experience that in-person classes might, they are still excellent reminders of key safety concepts. Ideas like ‘staying 10-ft behind the next closest driver for every 10 mph of speed’ is a commonly forgotten safety tip that will make your drivers more aware on the road, reducing the risk of an accident. These classes can be offered as brief individual safety modules, which are effective at promoting awareness of key safety issues, to positively reinforce safe driving behaviors, and to correct unsafe behaviors with education, not punishment. Online classes are one of the most cost effective options for driver education and can be attended remotely, making them a good option for fleets that are on the road. No matter what your budget is, you can afford driver safety education.
- Hands on classes. When delivered by a driving expert, these are one of the best ways to teach driver safety. Nothing beats getting behind the wheel to practice safe driving in real time with a professional who is an expert at recognizing and correcting unsafe behaviors. Although this is a more resource-intensive option, it shows that your business is committed to safety and leads to safer driving over all.
- Reading printed materials. Ensuring your drivers have read and understand your fleet safety policy is another easy, but often overlooked, way to educate your drivers not only on general driving safety but also on the specific expectations of your company. Fleet policies vary from company to company, but your policy should have clear safety policies and procedures for employees that are required to operate a vehicle.
Stop Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. This includes:
- Texting or talking on the phone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Using a navigation system or maps
- Watching video or adjusting the stereo or infotainment system
The increased use of cellphones and the fact that text messaging demands visual, manual, and cognitive attention has made distracted driving the most talked about topic under driver safety. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. Operating a phone or other device increases your risk of crashing by 300%.
The best way to stop distracted driving is to educate your drivers about the danger it poses, but there are other steps you can take as well. Often drivers will claim that a phone is part of their job and they need it for their work. To counteract this, more and more companies are banning any type of phone use while driving even if it is acceptable by current laws (such as using hands-free options or voice-to-text, or even mobile apps that lock up the driver's phone while the vehicle is in use). Penalties vary, but some are as severe as grounds for firing if an employee is caught violating this rule.
Driver safety should be your top priority on the road, no policy is too severe if it can help save lives.
Preventative Maintenance and Insurance
Even if your employees are driving as safely as possible, accidents can happen if they are driving unsafe vehicles. If you choose to reimburse your employees for use of their personal vehicles, you must conduct regular inspections on their cars. Employees may say that they are having their tires, brake pads, and oil changed - but that doesn’t mean they are. Even with a stipend for maintenance, employees may pocket the money and skip the maintenance. If you use company owned or leased vehicles, make sure they are having regular preventative maintenance and that any safety issues that arise are fixed immediately.
Insurance is another important safety issue if an accident does occur. If you reimburse, are you sure all of your drivers are purchasing adequate driver’s insurance? If you use company owned vehicles, make sure that all of the vehicles you own are insured properly.
Enforce a Driver Safety Policy
Every business that operates vehicles needs a fleet safety policy in place before an accident happens and needs to enforce their policy. This encompasses everything we’ve already covered. What’s your policy for distracted driving? What’s your policy for driver education? What’s your schedule for maintenance if you own or lease? If you reimburse? What's your policy for incorporating the latest safe driving technologies? Policies both prevent accidents and demonstrate your commitment to safety if an accident does occur. Make sure these policies are presented clearly and allow drivers to ask questions.
Why is this important?
In the event of an accident, it is important to protect your company from legal ramifications. Demonstrating a commitment to safety goes a long way towards reducing liability but you must cover all your bases. From maintenance to technology implementation to a strong fleet policy, everything must be covered in order to effectively demonstrate that commitment. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is having a policy and not sticking to it. A policy that isn’t enforced isn’t a policy at all.