According to the latest 2021 Bureau of Labor Statics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the fatal occupational injury rate represented the highest annual rate since 2016. Sadly, a worker died every 101 minutes from a work-related injury. Transportation incidents represent the occupational group with the highest number of fatalities among the major categories. That’s why most risk management experts vouch for a comprehensive fleet safety program.
“Roadway incidents accounted for 1,982, which is 38.2% of the total workplace fatalities in 2021, and have been the chief source of occupational fatalities for over 20 years and counting,” said Matt McDonough, Assistant Vice President of Risk Services at Safety National. “The data speaks for itself. We need to take a stronger approach to fleet safety practices, which includes management commitment, a written safety program, formal reviews of drivers, and ongoing training.”
A major factor in the success or failure of your fleet safety program lies within management commitment. Ideally, the initial message should come from senior management. A message from senior management exemplifies the importance of this issue and should get the attention of the entire company. From there, getting buy-in from middle management/supervisors is crucial. These are, likely, the leaders most involved with your drivers on a daily basis. If they do not embrace the idea of a proactive fleet safety program, who will your drivers look to for guidance? It is not only important to train your management on the program itself, but also help them to understand why such a program is necessary. Use relevant facts to “paint a picture” of the fleet exposures. This can be done through loss runs, risk registers, national statistics, driving scenarios or personal experience. Use anything that helps them understand the objectives of the program.
A written safety program addressing your fleet exposure is the backbone of your fleet safety program and serves as guidance for anyone driving for the organization. The written program should be a comprehensive guide for everything related to your fleet. The program should include policy statements, rules, checklists, maintenance plans, training requirements and driver selection procedures. Your rules should include, but are not limited to, seat belts, distracted driving, speeding, and mobile phone usage. Checklists can include pre/post trip inspection forms and maintenance requirements. Driver selection would include good hiring and retention procedures.
The written fleet program should be tailored to your driving operations. There are many reference documents online you can use to assist in developing your fleet safety manual. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recently revised their standard on motor vehicle operations (ANSI/ASSP Z15.1-2017). The standard sets forth practices for the safe operation of motor vehicles owned or operated by organizations. The standard includes management/administration functions, operational/vehicle/driver considerations and incident reporting and analysis.
Driver Selection and Review
A strong fleet program includes good driver selection and periodic reviews of those drivers. This includes running motor vehicle record (MVR) checks on employees that drive for the organization. MVRs should be run at the time of hire and regularly thereafter. A best practice is to employ a company that offers continual monitoring thereafter with real-time notifications. The purpose of an MVR check is to obtain a snapshot of a person’s driving history. Too many infractions or one major infraction indicate an “at risk” driver and may require disciplinary action. Merely reviewing a snapshot and assigning disciplinary action may involve decisions that are too subjective, especially if you have a large fleet. It is important to have MVR criteria in place. The criteria should be unbiased and used to determine the acceptability of a driver. The driver criteria should make clear the tolerability of their infractions over a given period of time. Disciplinary procedures should vary based on infraction severity. This could include warnings, training, probation, and/or termination based on the gravity of their infractions.
The criteria should be clearly communicated with your drivers. They need to understand that their driving habits inside and outside of work can affect their job. This is an important step in helping to modify risky driving habits.
Training is a key component of driver safety, yet is one of the more overlooked portions of a program. Many organizations rely on an employee’s personal driving experience to qualify them as an acceptable driver. This type of approach does not account for bad habits or driver complacency. A strong training program will include classroom and hands-on application. Hands-on training could include simulators, supervisor ride-alongs, or even a driving rodeo. There are also online driving courses that focus on specific scenarios that your operators may encounter in a day. Training should include defensive driving techniques. Defensive driving focuses on negotiating the best possible driving situation while taking into account the ever-changing variables around you instead of focusing on “fault”– meaning, “if I don’t hit them, it is not my fault.” While it is great that the driver escaped fault, ultimately, it would have been ideal to avoid the incident altogether.
When building a fleet safety program, the goal should be to arm drivers with the skills and knowledge necessary to avoid complications on the road. While experience is valuable, it is not enough to rely only on know-how.