(Don’t) Crash into Me: How Fleet Managers Can Identify & Hire Safe Drivers

Posted by Stacey Papp

If you’ve ever watched a nature show like “Planet Earth” or “Blue Planet,” then you learned that animals have a lot of weird, wonderful ways of identifying each other. 

Ants wiggle their antennae at other ants, dogs smell other canines from a mile away, horses can recognize each other’s whinnies, and many birds have calls unique to them as an individual (although at 5 a.m. on a weekend when you’re trying to sleep, it all just sounds like a lot of noise). And to think people just use our own two eyeballs to identify each other.

We don’t just base identification on someone’s face, of course. We use other ways to identify each other – resumes for someone’s work experience, wedding rings for who’s taken and who’s single and ready to mingle, karate black belts for the ones you really don’t want to mess with – you get the picture. 
Fleet managers need ways to identify who’s a safe driver – and who’s not.

So what can you do to figure out whether the guy you’re hiring is Safey McSaferson … or Sir Crashley Speedwell?

Motor vehicle reports are a big one. Each state keeps a record on licensed drivers, which can be used to track violations and determine insurance prices and/or driver risk. Some of the items on them aren’t really a red flag (who among us has not gotten a parking ticket?), but there are a few things that help identify whether the driver is at risk of the so-called “big three” of moving violations: rear-end collisions, intersection collisions, and merging/lane change collisions. 

If the MVR shows that your guy got bagged for speeding; following too closely; failure to obey traffic signals; or failure to signal, then he is at risk for one or more of the “big three.” 

You’ll have to make a judgment call based on how many of these violations are on the report and when they happened to determine whether to still consider an applicant. One speeding ticket 10 years ago or a failure to signal at age 17 might not be a disqualifier. Some companies immediately disqualify for driving under the influence, but some are more forgiving (if the incident happened a certain amount of years ago, etc.).

After you take the first step of running the report, here are some other ways you can identify their driver behavior:

  • An interview. Ask questions about the applicant’s past driving experience, attitude toward safety and whether they are familiar with the service area. Someone new to the area might have a great driving record, but if they’re coming from a one-stoplight town to a large metro area, they may have some challenges (although GPS can really help with this one).
  • References. If they have previous experience, you can call their previous employer and verify length of employment as well as their driving record at the company.
  • Background checks. This is especially critical for industries where the driver might be transporting/driving with high-value goods or equipment.
  • Skills tests. You may want to issue both a written test and a road test, in the same type of vehicle that will be used for work purposes. The test may vary by company, but could include backing up, changing lanes, city and highway driving, vehicle inspection, stopping and pulling out on hills.
  • Personality. When you meet the future driver for an interview, is he or she cocky, aggressive, impatient or nervous? These traits alone don’t necessarily mean someone is hell on wheels, but coupled with other issues, they could tell a compelling story.

Of course, you can go through all of this stuff and harvest what you think is going to be a crop of Grade-A drivers – but are they really obeying the rules when they’ve landed the job and you’re no longer in the passenger seat, watching them?

That’s where GPS fleet tracking comes in. 

With the ability to see who’s where when they’re in the field and how they’re driving, you’ll never wonder if Safey has suddenly devolved into Sir Speedwell since his hire date. You’ll even get near real-time alerts at the time of the issue – whether it’s aggressive driving, harsh braking or speeding – and be able to take action immediately, before an incident occurs. (Think about how much more effective this is than the “How’s My Driving?” signs – how many citizen drivers actually dial that 800 number?)

And if you feel like you’ve been getting an awful lot of those alerts lately about one driver in particular, all you need to do is hit a few buttons to turn all the data the software has been collecting into a report, giving you the 30,000-foot view of that driver’s behavior.

While there’s no guarantee a normally safe driver won’t hear “Kickstart My Heart” on the radio and open it up while driving a company truck, GPS tracking software ensures that you’ll know exactly when it happens and let you take fast, corrective action – maintaining safety in real time.

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