Add Driver Training Programs to Risk Reduction Strategy

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A comprehensive driver training program is a must for fleets as part of an overall risk reduction strategy. PHOTO Wavebreakmedia

Keep your mobile workforce safe with a comprehensive driver training program.

With decades of fleet management experience under his belt, Ray Brisby, Provincial Manager, EMS Fleet Operations, Emergency Medical Services, Alberta Health Services is a strong proponent of driver training. He says it’s a must for fleets as part of an overall risk reduction strategy.

“A robust driver training program equals a reduction in crashes,” he explains. “Lost time is also reduced, while company image and morale is improved.”

Put it in writing

Before driver training can begin, it’s important to have expectations spelled out in writing. It’s one thing to say your organization is committed to driver safety, and quite another when details are printed out in black and white.

“A good driver handbook, that’s rooted in company policy and spells out all the expectations, is paramount to a successful driver training program,” Brisby explains.

A written document, or handbook, demonstrates that safety is something your organization takes seriously.

“It gives everybody—whether you’re the fleet manager, operations supervisor, or the driver—a clear understanding of what the expectations are,” Brisby explains, “and a handbook shows your commitment to safety, as well.”

According to Brisby, a driving program should begin during the recruitment phase.

“When we’re recruiting people into driving positions, you need to check their background and make sure you’re hiring suitable drivers. Once you onboard them, you need to have a multifaceted approach to driver retraining.”

This multifaceted approach includes what Brisby calls a “knowledge component,” followed by practical training where the driver is accompanied by a supervisor who rides along to see if guidelines are being followed and if the driver needs additional help.

“You get to see how drivers behave in traffic and other stressful situations,” he adds.

Driver training is not a one-and-done project, however. Brisby says that at Alberta Health Services drivers are taken through a “professional driver improvement course,” when they’re hired, and then again every two years as a refresher.

“That’s about a seven-hour program,” he adds, “so it’s a fair investment in training.”

Online training

Randy Roopchan, Supervisor Fleet Solutions Team, Foss National Leasing is a big believer in online training.

“There are quite a few companies out there offering what’s called a ‘driver risk assessment module,’” he explains.

“It takes about half an hour or 40 minutes for a person to go through as they watch videos and are presented with a variety of scenarios. The module will assess what kind of driver they are, how observant they are, and then it gives you a score for the individual.”

Once the score is known, the training program makes recommendations, based on where it feels the driver did not score well.

“It may recommend they take a course that covers driving in the rain, or a course about driving while angry, for example,” Roopchan says.

“You could assess all your drivers, raising their awareness, because we all think we’re the best driver in the world, but in reality we all have weaknesses and we all slip into bad habits.”

Return on investment

If your fleet doesn’t currently have a formal driver training program, the return on investment, were you to start one, could be significant.

“If an organization doesn’t have any driver training in place, and they implement a driver safety program, which includes driver training, they should see a very significant impact to their crash rate,” explains Rich Radi, Director, Product Management, ARI.

“We’ve seen situations where clients improved their crash rate by 73%,” he adds.

“If you’re coming from nothing, you should see a very significant impact to the crash rate, and if you already have a program in place, and you’re just implementing, say, a different kind of training, well, you’re not going to see quite as much impact as if you’re coming from nothing… but you’ll still see an impact.”

Once you’ve assessed a driver and determined where that driver needs help, Radi recommends corrective measures that cater specifically to that person’s needs, rather than a more generalized driver training approach.

“We’re a huge believer in personalized training,” he explains. “Generic training is good, but it’s not that effective, especially when it comes to driver training.

“Let’s face it—everybody, when they go into a driver training class, thinks, ‘I know how to drive. I don’t need to learn how to drive.’ But, if you point out, ‘Here are the areas that you’re good at, and here are the areas that you need some help with,’ you’re going to get their attention.”

Radi recommends monitoring driver behaviour with telematics, as well as pulling driver abstracts regularly to see how your drivers are doing in the real world. Once you receive the data, he recommends acting on it immediately to correct bad habits.

“If you’re seeing a lot of harsh braking on telematics reports, or you’re seeing speeding citations or failure to yield citations on their abstract, or they’re having preventable accidents—all of that needs to be taken into consideration,” he says.

“And when you see risky behaviour, take immediate action. Don’t delay.”

Dealing with pushback 

Since we all think we’re great drivers, some employees may balk at the idea of driver training. Convincing them that this is not an attack on them, but part of a bigger safety picture is key to limiting pushback.

“It’s all about how you position it,” Radi concludes.

“Focus on the idea that this is about safety and that this is a tool to keep the driver safe, and to keep others that share the road with him safe. You want them to see that as an organization you’re committed to employee safety in the workplace, and the motor vehicle is part of that workplace.

“Let them know that you want to keep them safe, and you want them to get home at the end of the day, safe and sound. That should help them see the bigger picture.”

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