fleet safety

Safe Drivers: America's Most Wanted

Posted 05 October 2016 by Stacey Papp

Anyone who stayed in on a Saturday night in the late ‘80s and ‘90s – you know, in the years before we all had 1,000 channels, the Internet and Netflix – at one point, in the course of channel surfing, probably paused on one of the longest-airing Fox programs in the network’s history: “America’s Most Wanted.”  

Hosted by John Walsh – who was personally motivated to bring criminals to justice after his six-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped and murdered in 1981 – the show focused on the search for and apprehension of fugitives wanted for serious crimes. Scenes were reenacted using actors in the seedy, dramatic ‘80s style often associated with Lifetime movies and cop shows, and a theme in many of the crimes were that the bad guys were people everyone had known and liked – people who were not the same privately as they were in public.

Now, in no way are we suggesting that your drivers are criminals or fugitives or even in any way “bad guys,” a la AMW. But what does sometimes happen with a fleet business is that a driver is hired based on past excellent driving and safety scores, and things sort of just…slide…when they’re alone or with a co-worker in the car instead of in front of a service manager, or after they’ve been employed a while and might not feel so pressured to impress.

While unsafe driving isn’t generally a criminal offense worthy of John Walsh’s wrath, it’s definitely a bad scenario. Good drivers are good business: They reduce the cost of loss due to accidents, lower liability and insurance costs, and boost a company’s public image when they ensure that they are driving safely and respectfully and getting to jobs on time. So what can you do to keep your drivers on target?

6 key elements of a fleet driver safety training program:

  1. Screen your drivers carefully. This is absolutely the first step to having safe drivers – and while it doesn’t prevent employees from slacking later, it certainly helps in weeding out the ones you don’t want there to begin with. Make sure to verify past work history and safety checks; conduct background checks; review motor vehicle records; conduct written and road tests; and verify any licensing or certifications before you ever let someone behind the wheel of a company vehicle.
  2. Commit to your program. Ensure that you have leadership support, and walk the talk by demonstrating good practices.
  3. Establish written policies and procedures. This works two ways – drivers have something to reference if they ever have a question, and you have something to point to, helping to set clear expectations.
  4. Train them – now and forever. An onboarding training program is standard, but don’t just set ‘em and forget ‘em – keep the training on safety going year-round. Make sure drivers have access to information on general safe driving policies as well as any business-specific ones.
  5. Have a plan. All vehicles should be on a regular maintenance and repair program, helping to reduce unexpected breakdowns and avoid accidents – both of which directly impact safety.
  6. Provide ongoing management. Make sure you always review any accidents and incidents as they occur, but also be proactive – don’t wait for disaster to strike. Perform ride-along evaluations, keep track of any motorist call-ins, and use technology to help keep an eye on things when you’re not there. 

It’s impossible for a service manager to be in all trucks at all times, and of course you want to be able to cut the cord and trust your guys. You can give yourself some peace of mind while staying informed with fleet tracking software, which can send alerts showing safety issues like fast or aggressive driving, hard braking, unplanned stops and even engine computer codes. 

Fleet safety services like telematics programs watch the drivers in a less conspicuous way and will reveal more than when you ride shotgun. Being able to point to exact data that shows where and when they were driving unsafely also leaves nothing to interpretation – they can’t say that the motorist who called in was just annoyed that a truck was in front of them.

It’s an unfortunate fact of a fleet business, but drivers might not always be following safety procedures, whether they do it on purpose or not. Implementing a fleet safety training program and having a way to track their behavior can help keep your drivers safe and honest – and make sure they don’t end up on your own “Dirty Dozen” list of unsafe drivers.

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