Employees behind the wheel are a safety risk for companies of all sizes. Here’s what leaders need to know about fleet safety, from policies to procedures.
In the United States, motor vehicle accidents are the #1 way to die on the job in all business sectors. Driving Safety Advisor Mark Trostell focuses on impacting driving safety and lowering crash rates at Encana Corporation, an oil and gas company that operates in the United States and Canada. In 2009, Mark retired from the Colorado State Patrol with over forty years of insight and experience on the roads. Encana operates with a fleet of over 1,250 vehicles and almost as many drivers. They brought Mark on board to help them develop a safety-focused fleet management program.
Listen to this interview on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.
“One of the reasons that I came to Encana is because we had a couple fatalities in this company prior to my coming on board and they saw that they had the need,” Mark said. When he was hired, Encana had an average of 5.75 crashes per million miles on the road. That’s significant when your fleet covers nearly 25 million miles each year. Encana wanted to make a difference and protect their drivers.
Under Mark’s leadership and guidance, the company reduced that number to .30 crashes per million miles in 2017. How did they achieve these dramatic results? They developed Vehicle Technology and Driver Training programs. These programs helped Encana build a safety culture, define expectations for its drivers and ensure that they’re well equipped to be safe on the road. Creating an effective safety program for your organization can start today.
Developing a Fleet Safety Program
Whether you have a handful of drivers or a large company fleet, it only takes one unsafe driver to expose thousands of others to risk. The purpose of a fleet safety program is to reduce motor vehicle accidents and protect your employees. “We all share the roads, and I think that any size company, no matter how large or small, should have elements in place to clearly define the expectations that the company wants to share with their drivers so that they know what the requirements are for them on a daily basis,” Mark emphasized.
To best determine your needs, survey your organization’s driving practices. If you’re managing a large fleet, you may be familiar with some of your employees’ driving patterns. However, within many companies there is often also a “hidden fleet” of employees operating vehicles for company use. They can include:
- Part time employees running errands in their personal vehicles.
- Employees making deliveries or dropping off mail.
- Employees who regularly use their personal vehicle on company business.
The hidden fleet often goes without regulation or notice. Having a hidden fleet exposes your company to the same risks, especially if drivers are untrained in safe driving practices or operating vehicles that are not in safe condition. Identify if you have a hidden fleet by reviewing the vehicles and drivers in your organization. Then establish who can operate vehicles on company business and provide them with the policies and training they need.
Get Commitment from Leadership and Management Teams
An essential first step in creating a safety program is a commitment to safety by top-level management. Employees may find it difficult to follow safety rules without the participation of their managers and supervisors. Establishing a safety culture in your workplace begins with support from the highest tiers of your organization. Leadership should focus on recruiting and hiring safe drivers, actively responding to any safety incidents, and responding to reports of safety hazards found on the job.
Develop Solid Policies and Practices
The next step in developing an effective safety culture is establishing and enforcing policies and procedures. Written policies not only protect the safety of fleet drivers and the public, but also allow you to identify and correct hazards. Encana uses several safety policies to ensure their drivers understand company expectations and are practicing safe behaviors above and beyond what laws require.
Distracted Driving Policy
One of the swiftest ways to get into a vehicle accident is to become distracted while driving. A dropped snack or ringing smartphone can sidetrack even the most seasoned drivers. Teach your drivers how to avoid common distractions while operating fleet vehicles, such as pre-programming favorite radio stations and GPS routes ahead of time or pulling over to take notes or look up information. Signing a distracted driving policy holds drivers accountable for their actions while operating fleet vehicles and ensures that they understand company expectations.
Seat Belt Policy
Wearing your seat belt is the most effective action a driver can take to protect themselves in the event of a crash. Buckling your seat belt reduces your risk of fatal injury by 45 percent in a passenger vehicle, and by 60 percent in a light truck. In Colorado, where Encana operates from, drivers can’t be pulled over for simply not wearing a seat belt. However, the company uses a seat belt policy to confirm their drivers know that they are required.
Impaired Driving Policy
Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol not only poses a major risk to the driver of a fleet vehicle, but to members of the public as well. While employees may agree to a standard drug and alcohol policy within the workplace, policies that apply specifically to driving will reaffirm that operating fleet vehicles under the influence is both illegal and unacceptable.
Train Your Drivers
Before allowing any employee into a fleet vehicle, they should complete training that covers the company expectations and policies. Performing a driver evaluation test can allow you to see how employees have processed the information and put it into practice. Designed to evaluate driving behavior, a vehicle monitoring system can tell employers how their employees are performing on the road. Adding incentives for better scores can motivate employees to improve.
Do your drivers know what to do in the event of a maintenance issue or roadside emergency? An unexpected situation may leave your driver stranded by the roadside. Mark said, “We don’t want drivers parked on specific sections of roadways. I don’t want them on the shoulder of a road. I want them to get off of the highway to lower their risk of being struck by another vehicle that’s traveling by—even if it means destroying a tire or a rim.”
Develop procedures that detail what to do in the event of a roadside emergency or accident, which may include reporting to police or filling out an incident report. Proactively prevent vehicle issues by carrying out regular vehicle inspections and offering repair request forms for employees who have located a hazard. Equip fleet vehicles with emergency supplies, such as road flares, gloves, reflective triangles, and jumper cables.
Maintain General Fleet Safety
Maintaining a safe fleet doesn’t only come down to the knowledge of the drivers, but also to the condition of your vehicles! Require that vehicles go through frequent and thorough pre-trip inspections. For drivers who are going to be traveling in inclement weather, vehicles should have adequate equipment and proper tires. Minimize risk by providing employees with safe, functional vehicles. You should also have a process to verify that personal vehicles are safe to drive.
Why Companies Should Commit to Driving Safety Programs
In the transportation industry, developing an effective driving safety program is fundamental to creating a safety culture in the workplace. Operating a fleet without a safety program exposes your organization to risk and endangers lives. “I consider my employees kind of like my family. And losing an employee to the tragedy of a motor vehicle crash which is completely preventable is devastating,” Mark said. “I think it’s so important that companies take driving safety seriously, prioritize it, and do everything they can to sleep at night knowing they have done the best they can to help protect their employees.”
Every year, traffic crashes injure more than 4.5 million people. From Mark’s perspective, all crashes are truly preventable. “It’s pretty much accepted in the U.S. that we have traffic fatalities. It shouldn’t be. We’ve become kind of complacent in our view about dying on the highway.”
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