By: Steve Vaughn, National Director of Field Operations at HELP Inc.
You definitely want your drivers to operate in a safe manner. You make safety a key element of your new driver orientation, and you talk about it in driver meetings. Your supervisors constantly mention it. Your dispatchers may even bring it up to drivers from time to time.
You “think” you operate a safe fleet, but do you know for sure? Simply put, if you want to improve your fleet’s safety you obviously need a good understanding of your current safety status.
A good place to start an assessment of driver safety is by looking at the CSA BASICS pertaining to drivers. As you do that, focus on the types of violations your drivers receive.
Are they getting moving violations? Are they receiving violations for Hours of Service? Have they been involved in any crashes?
Do not treat required annual driver reviews as merely a paperwork exercise. Review the annual motor vehicle record looking for any violations your drivers may have committed on their own time. Remember, they will drive your truck in much the same way they drive their personal vehicles.
Develop a progressive disciplinary policy. There is value in putting warnings in writing. Treat everyone equally to avoid watering down or sending confusing or inconsistent messages. Even if your best drivers receive a moving violation, treat them the same as probationary drivers. Soon the message will be clear that you are committed and serious about safety.
Review each instance, no matter how minor, with the driver. Create and involve a driver committee consisting of other drivers/peers. Allow the facts to speak for themselves, and you will be surprised at how demanding drivers can be on each other.
You can also look at data from the truck itself. Things like fast acceleration and hard braking can be indications that the driver is distracted and not focusing his complete attention on the road.
You need to gather safety data from as many sources as you can. Review it to determine what is going right with fleet safety and what areas need improvement. You can use the information to tailor training for specific drivers needing improvement in certain areas. You can also spot trends that will alert you to a systemic problem that could identify a weakness in driver training or your ongoing safety training, and may require additional training across the whole driver pool.
The important thing is to focus on continuous improvement. Enhance your observations using the data to help build a road map for your safety-training program, and you should see a notable decrease in safety-related violations.