The first 6 months of unsupervised driving are the most hazardous in a driver’s life. That’s why most states choose to implement graduated driver licensing systems which gradually introduce drivers to more and more freedom on the road as they gain experience. However, even experienced drivers can be at risk for accidents. Plus, over time some drivers will develop bad habits ranging from speeding to tailgating to red light running.
As the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association notes, repeat offenders accounted for 41% of the total driver observation calls. 50% of the repeat offenders have 3 or more unsafe driving calls. 100% of their drivers who received 4 or more calls had an accident.
Drivers in commercial fleets come into contact with thousands of other drivers everyday and they represent your company. Taking action to correct unsafe driving should be your number one priority. One of the most effective ways to do this is through driver safety training.
With driver safety training you can:
- Reduce your at fault accidents which will reduce your out-of-pocket expenses and insurance premiums.
- Cut down on the leading cause of death in the workplace. 25% of job fatalities are a result of a driving accident, costing corporations more than $60 billion per year (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- Limit crash-related costs such as damaged goods, wasted time, replacement of vehicles, administrative costs, mental health care costs for crash victims, cargo delays, earnings lost by family and friends caring for the injured, etc.
- Send the message that you are a company with a commitment to fleet safety by having safe and respectful drivers on the road.
Safe drivers are typically more efficient and productive drivers too:
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the manner in which a vehicle is driven can impact its fuel efficiency by 33%. Accelerating quickly, in the case of unsafe drivers, leads to lower fuel efficiently.
- Safe drivers also don’t brake harshly which increases the life of the braking system.
Obviously there are a lot of benefits to having safe drivers on the road but what is the best way to go about training your drivers? Before we get into how to train your drivers, let’s discuss when to train your drivers.
There are three key times for the most efficient training:
- You want to make sure your new hires are driving safely the moment they hit the road. Even if they have previous driving experience you don’t know what the policies at their previous position were. You also want to make sure all your drivers are well versed in your company-specific policies.
Once a Year Every Year After Hiring
- As we discussed above, drivers may start out great but slip into unsafe habits over time. A yearly reminder will encourage drivers to keep up the safe driving protocol they already know and demonstrate your company's commitment to safety.
For Specific Circumstances
- If there is going to be an MVR review change, or if one of your drivers has a near miss or an actual collision, you should schedule another training as soon as possible. This training should focus on the specific incident or circumstance that elicited the training.
So now that you know when to train, let’s take a look at some of the best methods for training your drivers. There are four common options:
- Online Training
Each of these options comes with their pros and cons. Understanding what each option offers and what your business needs will help you make the best decision on how to train your fleet drivers.
Ride-alongs are exactly what they sound like. You review your drivers in real time by riding along side them on a practice drive. This is an effective teaching technique for teaching novice drivers, because it gives drivers the hands on experience of being behind the wheel. However it is only effective for the commercial driver on the actual day of the ride-along. Many drivers will likely revert back to their old driving habits after the training is over.
Ride-alongs are also costly. You can only spend time training one driver at a time, eating up a lot of a manager’s time. For these reasons ride-alongs may not be the most effective form of training unless you have a small group of new drivers.
Driving Simulator Safety Training
Simulators are as close as you can get to real driving experience without actually being there. Research indicates that driving simulators are a practical and effective educational tool to teach safe driving techniques for all drivers.
However, like ride-alongs, simulators are an expensive training option better suited for novice drivers or training commercial drivers on a new piece of equipment. For seasoned drivers a simulator will probably not demonstrate what their day-to-day driving behaviors are.
Lecture Based Driver Safety Training
Lectures are the simplest and most straightforward way to train your drivers quickly. This technique is an efficient and relatively low-cost way to train large groups and auditory learners however there are some drawbacks.
Although a lecture can act as a good reminder of certain safety best practices, it can not replace real world experiences. Lectures also must be scheduled around a lecturer and drivers may have to miss trainings due to conflicts. Although lectures are a lower-cost driver training solution than simulators or ride-alongs there are still expenses like an instructor’s time and training materials to consider.
Online Driver Safety Training Classes
Online training is similar to classroom based lectures but with some added advantages. A web-based solution is available on-demand 24/7, meaning that the training can be taken anywhere anytime as long as there is a computer with internet access. This means online training has the greatest flexibility in scheduling and location, and attendance is easily tracked to account for absences.
Online training can also address specific issues that have arisen on the road. For example, if a driver has had several calls complaining about speeding there are speeding-specific trainings they can take part in to address this issue. Plus, online training is one of the lowest cost options for training your drivers.
The only thing online training lacks is the hands on experience of real-time driving, but from a manager’s perspective this is an excellent solution for your driver safety training needs.
Education is the first step to any affective safety strategy. Even experienced drivers can have accidents on the road costing your company time and money. Having a training plan in place and knowing the best times to educate your drivers can greatly reduce your driver’s chances of crashing or near missing as well as demonstrating your company’s commitment to safety.