Creating a Culture of Safety: Best Practices for Managing Driver Risk

Recently in Illinois, a Waste Management truck ran into a power pole, knocking down powerlines and cutting electricity for 75 local residents. Last winter in New York, a speeding snowplow driver caused thousands of dollars of damage when he plowed too close to a car dealership, pushing several parked vehicles into each other. This year in Utah, a dump truck driver lost his life when a truck tire blew, causing him to collide with a highway median.

There are over 100 million employees in the United States who drive as part of their job. Companies who employ these road workers are thereby exposed to a tremendous amount of risk. An on-the-job accident can harm employees or other people, damage equipment, diminish productivity, and cost a company thousands in increased insurance premiums. The potential costs incurred from only one of these incidents can be enough to put a small company out of business. For those in the sweeping industry or similar service work, understanding and managing driver risk is one of the most important things we do.

Investing time and resources to hire and retain good employees and to do initial assessments of driver capabilities is money well spent. However if the continual maintenance and follow up of your employees is overlooked, then the potential for accidents increases. License checks and new-hire safety courses are good first steps, but they must be followed up by regular policy reviews, ongoing driver checks, continuing driver education and an overall emphasis on comprehensive safety culture. Even your best employees will get careless on the road sometimes, especially if they’re stressed, tired, or rushing to get to a client.

If driver management is an aspect of your company that needs a bit of work, here are a few suggestions to begin making improvements.

• Develop consistent procedures for license checks, both for new hires and long-time employees.

• Require new drivers to report any past traffic violations or accidents, and validate those reports through reference checks with previous employers.

• Train new employees in defensive driving techniques, and give refresher courses to your long-time workers. Emphasize the importance of anticipating other drivers’ actions, identifying threats before they become problems, and avoiding distracted driving.

• Implement a zero-tolerance policy for drivers who are found to be texting, talking on the phone, eating, or engaging in any behavior that may distract them while operating a vehicle.

• Check in with your drivers on a consistent basis to reinforce safety policies. Use one-on-one meetings to look for signs of exhaustion, stress, or anything that could jeopardize their ability to drive safely.

• Request feedback from drivers for ideas on new equipment, policies, or procedures that will help them stay safe on the road.

• Clarify policies at all levels of your organization. Supervisors must also be well-versed in the company’s safety culture in order to effectively manage drivers.

• Consider incorporating telematics software into your fleet to track driver behaviors.

Developing thorough safety practices and incorporating them into the day-to-day culture of your organization will keep your equipment protected, your costs down and your drivers safe.

Story by NiteHawk Sweepers
Video: ‘Speeding’ Snow Plows Damage Cars, Endanger Customer At LI Dealership

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