A driver gets the job done but engages in risky behavior, like speeding. A truck breaks down, delaying an important delivery. Bad road conditions increase the probability of collisions, putting you at a greater risk of liability.
As a fleet operations manager, you've been there before.
Worrying about driver resignation, damaged goods, and legal fees from a simple lack of safety shouldn't take up most of your day.
In this article, you'll learn the seven key components of fleet safety programs and how establishing one will create a safer, more productive work environment for you and your drivers.
What is a fleet safety program?
Fleet safety programs reduce liability and the risk of collisions by standardizing procedures and coaching drivers, thereby creating a safer work environment.
A fleet safety program’s documented procedures ensure managers and drivers are on the same page, especially when it comes to issues like personal vehicle use, accident reporting, vehicle maintenance, and fuel stops.
However, such a program also includes educational resources that bring awareness to the risks and costs that come with reckless driving behaviors — like speeding — and how harmful such behaviors can be to both the driver and the company.
If you've been in the game for some time now, you know that on-the-job vehicle accidents cost money. We’re not just talking about repairs — you're also looking at skyrocketing insurance rates, higher maintenance costs, and even potential legal fees.
An estimated 43% of fleet companies reported spending between $2,500–$4,999 on hard repairs per vehicle involved in a collision.
Another setback you can encounter in your fleet is driver resignations.
Solid truck fleet safety programs ensure that drivers don't have to worry about unsafe work environments and will therefore be less likely to quit. Plus, they help to increase employee engagement, resulting in maximized uptime and improved fleet efficiency.
Not to mention fewer accidents lead to lower insurance premiums. With a fleet safety program in place, pinpointing risky behavior is much easier and can be addressed promptly.
The effectiveness of fleet driver safety programs is undeniable. High-risk drivers who didn't complete their program's driver safety assignments had 2x more accidents than those who did.
Now that you understand how an effective fleet safety program can benefit your business, let's discuss the seven key components your program should include.
1. Pinpoint problems to solve and identify risky drivers
Before drafting any company policies, procedures, or programs, it's essential that you identify which problems pose the biggest threats to efficiency and safety.
Not every company is the same.
Pulling from another fleet safety program and slightly tweaking it won't address your most immediate concerns — in fact, it might even make you spend unnecessary time coaching drivers on issues that don't need resolving.
First, identify your biggest safety concerns in your drivers, such as ignoring speed limits, personal misuse of company vehicles, and distracted driving.
If you can't list a few concerns off the top of your head, do some investigating or more driver monitoring. Ask others on your team what concerns they have. You can even survey drivers to see how they might suggest improving on-the-job safety.
Research on fleet accidents is eye-opening. 44% of companies reported that 100% of their fleet accidents happened during work hours over the past year.
There may be more safety hazards to discover than you originally thought, which means more opportunities to mitigate the risk of accidents.
Once you've pinpointed your most urgent safety issues, determine who the fleet safety program will apply to. The most obvious answer is all fleet drivers. But what about operations managers, vehicle maintenance staff, and safety crews?
Finally, specify (in writing) what the fleet safety program intends to achieve and what the fleet management team is committing to do.
Your employees will now know they're required to review and/or complete this new program. But they should also know that as their manager, you're on their side and are ready to coach them through anything they need guidance on.
Your fleet safety program shouldn't be seen as a rule book. Rather, it's a commitment by management to ensure that drivers return home safely and by drivers to uphold workplace integrity.
2. Establish policies and procedures to address the problems
With a clear outline of your future fleet safety program, it's time to start creating policies and procedures that address the problems identified in the previous step.
Your policies need to specify what the expectations are and the consequences for violating them. All parties involved should have a clear understanding of what's allowed and what's not, as well as the seriousness of violating each expectation.
At a base level, your policies should clarify expectations around issues like:
- Personal use of company vehicles
- Vehicle records for each driver (what they contain, how they're stored, who has access to them, etc.)
- Safety guidelines for driving (speeding, wearing seat belts, using GPS tracking systems if applicable, using technology while driving, etc.)
- Accident reporting
Your procedures should take this a step further and lay out exactly how each party involved is to deliver and meet the expectations.
For example, if personal use of company vehicles is allowed, by how much? In the event of an accident, how should the driver report the collision or vehicle breakdown, and who should they contact first?
Establishing clear expectations between employees and managers makes implementing a fleet safety program a commitment and sets it into motion with ease.
3. Create a procedure for hiring new drivers
While current drivers must learn and adopt the new fleet safety program, future hires will be introduced to it right away.
As such, you need to create a foolproof interviewing, recruiting, and hiring process to ensure all new drivers are in alignment with the fleet safety program and understand the importance of safe driving.
The number of motor vehicle crashes was higher in 2020 than in the 13 years prior, with drivers having the most fatalities.
Your drivers should understand the consequences of risky driving and know that they're the most likely party to be affected in an accident.
This will weed out candidates who simply drive for a paycheck with little to no regard for personal and/or company safety.
Plus, those who are hired with the expectation that the fleet safety program must be completed are likely to finish their coaching assignments on time (which drastically reduces the risk of vehicle accidents) and be open-minded toward the mandatory policies.
4. Coach existing drivers on the new policies and procedures
Once the new policies and procedures are in place, introduce them to your existing drivers as soon as possible. Offer guidance and personalized coaching to make sure they understand them.
Clearly communicate your commitment as a manager to them when it comes to enforcing and advising on the procedures. Drivers should understand that they’re in place to protect not just the company but also their own personal safety.
The benefits of coaching go beyond making sure drivers have a clear understanding of the fleet safety program. Coaching reinforces a positive employee-manager relationship, keeping drivers engaged. This, in turn, creates a harmonious work environment.
The most common violations associated with driving a fleet vehicle are moving violations, such as:
- Following too closely
- Improper lane changes
- Reckless driving
- Improper turns
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Railroad grade crossing violations
- Failing to obey a traffic control device
"Coaching" doesn't have to be anything fancy. The most common violations that result in accidents, like speeding and improper lane changes, are quick fixes. This means making drivers aware of the policies regarding these simple corrections mitigates the risk of collisions instantly.
5. Establish driver training all employees must take
Since safety is the primary goal of any successful fleet safety program, it only makes sense to offer comprehensive training materials to make your employees better, safer drivers.
Start by compiling, creating, or investing in driver training materials that complement your fleet safety program and requiring all drivers to complete them. These are typically no more than a few hours long, but this small amount of time could save more money and even lives.
This is especially important because out of all fleet crashes that occurred in 2021, only 9% were reported as being unpreventable. The most popular answer was that most had been preventable.
6. Stay up-to-date on vehicle maintenance and inspections
Your fleet safety program should include procedures for completing vehicle maintenance and inspection tasks, as well as how to report maintenance issues.
Uninspected vehicles (or those that have not been properly maintained) not only pose risks to driver safety but also put you out of compliance with federal regulations.
The top vehicle inspection violations are:
- Proof of inspection
- Emergency equipment
- Inoperative turn signal
- Parts in need of repair
Staying on top of maintenance keeps you in compliance, your drivers safe, and the risk of accidents mitigated.
Depending on how many vehicles you have, tracking the maintenance history of each one can seem daunting. Luckily, there are a variety of technology solutions that schedule automatic maintenance appointments when they're needed, including most fleet management software.
7. Use tools to track vehicle safety
Without the tools to track adherence to your new fleet safety program, you’ll have no measurable way to determine whether the program is working.
As such, the final step is to determine which tools you're going to use to measure vehicle safety progress and program adherence, as well as monitor driver behavior.
The most common tools for fleet tracking include GPS tracking, assisted driving, exterior and internal cameras, SOS alarms, and parking assist.
Investing in the right tools greatly reduces the risk of human errors — which cause as much as 98% of collisions.
How fleet tracking software improved driver safety and operations for Cobb County
GPS tracking is the most commonly used tracking and safety device, and for good reason. Take this case study CalAmp performed on Cobb County's school bus fleets as an example.
By investing in CalAmp's fleet tracking software (which includes GPS tracking), Cobb County's bus mechanics were able to diagnose from remote locations why buses broke down.
The software also helped the dispatch team easily locate the scenes of accidents and breakdowns, and bus drivers were able to easily reroute when they were alerted of approaching accidents on their normal, everyday courses.
Risky driving behavior, out-of-compliance vehicles, and unsafe work environments affect every part of a fleet management business, from driver resignations to skyrocketing insurance premiums.
By implementing a fleet safety program, you can mitigate the risk of liability and ensure your workers return home from the road safely.
Use these seven steps to create an effective fleet safety program. You can even speak with a fleet safety expert from CalAmp today to help enforce, monitor, and measure your progress toward your fleet safety goals.