A squeaky clean driving record may not be enough to mitigate risk. It might simply mean that the driver hasn’t been caught.
Everyone thinks they’re a good driver, but everyone can’t be right. Bad drivers can be expensive, especially if they’re driving a fleet vehicle, which is why it’s critical for fleet managers to be able to weed out the bad drivers in their ranks before those bad drivers become costly liabilities.
One of the tried-and-true driver screening tools is the driver’s abstract / record, which gives the employer a good idea of an individual’s driving history. However, while it can tell an employer whether that driver has a history of breaking the law or getting into accidents, it can’t tell the employer if that driver needs training in order to deal with challenges and deficiencies they might not even know they have.
“While we will pull a driver’s abstract,” says Jennifer Chapman, Marketing & Sales Manager–Central Region, Foss National Leasing, “we also recommend what we call a Hazard Perception Module. This is an online training module that determines what kind of additional training a driver would require, or if they would be considered a safe driver.”
The module, Chapman explains, can be fine-tuned to suit the kind of vehicles a particular employee would be expected to drive, including delivery trucks and sales vehicles. If, for example, the test determines that the driver doesn’t check his mirrors as needed, then the recommended training would focus on using mirrors.
“The customers who are taking advantage of this test, really like it,” Chapman adds. “They give the test to drivers as they’re being hired so that they can make sure that before the driver gets into a vehicle, they’ve had all the training necessary to mitigate the risks.”
While driver screening is a useful tool, it’s not foolproof, says Derek Montgomery, Supervisor, Driver Safety, Canada for Holman. That’s why fleet managers have to continue monitoring drivers after they’ve been hired, and that’s why there has to be an ongoing commitment to safety within the organization. It’s the only way to manage and minimize risk in the long run.
“It can be really difficult to screen out individuals with just a driver’s abstract or by looking at testimonials or references,” Montgomery explains. “Once you get the driver behind the wheel, there’s an opportunity to monitor their driving with the help of telematics. You can then take any kind of action that might be necessary to address potential problems.”
Although this is a useful tool, Sasha Arasteh, E-mobility and Services Manager–America, Shell Fleet Solutions says that telematics should not be used to write someone off as a “bad driver.”
“You’re measuring things like harsh braking, speeding, seatbelt use, and harsh cornering,” Arasteh says, “but you’re not doing this so you can label someone a bad driver. That’s not the point.”
Instead, Arasteh says, this should serve as a coaching opportunity for the fleet manager. “Let’s understand what happened,” she adds. “Is it the route that they’re driving? Is there some other underlying factor like stress and traffic patterns? Once you understand what’s going on and what the real problem is, you can set a goal together and make an improvement plan. So just because somebody has had a safety incident, or a driving incident, doesn’t mean the driver can’t improve.”
Telematics as a deterrent
While telematics can provide fleet managers with information about risky driving habits, Arasteh says that sometimes just simply having a telematics system installed in a vehicle is enough to deter some drivers from behaving badly. In other words, the knowledge that management is watching is enough to motivate drivers to follow company policy while behind the wheel.
Drivers also come to realize that they can make mistakes, and that management won’t overreact, but will instead provide them with the coaching necessary to improve. “They may not be a perfect driver, they may make mistakes, but they know that there are opportunities for improvement,” she adds.
Fleet managers have come to realize that driver screening is not a one-and-done project. Instead, it’s an ongoing process. While it’s true that you can learn a lot about someone by reading their driver’s abstract, even a squeaky clean record could mean that you’re dealing with a bad driver who simply hasn’t been caught.
Ongoing monitoring, however, can alert you to problems you didn’t know the driver had and can offer you the opportunity to train, coach and mitigate risk on an ongoing basis.