1. Safety Training
Years of driving experience does not guarantee someone is a safe driver. Many drivers receive basic driving instruction as teenagers, but very little training afterward. Without effective training, some drivers may not understand your vehicle safety policies or safe driving techniques.
Have a safety training program to educate all employees who operate vehicles on your company’s behalf. Individual training during orientation and following preventable accidents is a priority. Also provide annual safety training for current employees.
Provide safety training in various forms to help keep it interesting. For adults, keep training short, frequent and interactive. Encourage employees to ask questions, listen to their concerns and be positive and encouraging. The emphasis should not be on how to drive. This might be insulting to employees who have decades of driving experience. Instead, the training should be relevant to the hazards they face, the types of accidents your business has experienced, the vehicles they operate and hazards they encounter. Training should focus on the safe driving techniques and procedures that can help them avoid accidents.
Training can take many forms. It can take place in a classroom, informal group settings, or it can be computer based. Emails, newsletters and posters can also be used to reinforce training.
Document the training you provide to your employees. This can help you track ongoing training efforts. It can also help you defend against claims that you have not provided your employees adequate training.
2. Policies and Procedures
Communicate your company’s expectations on vehicle use. Take the time to formulate your policies and use them to inform all employees who drive for work. Have each employee acknowledge in writing that they understand and agree to abide by them. Examples of important safety topics to address in your fleet safety program include:
Accident reporting and response. Provide clear instructions on accident reporting and response procedures.
Moving violation and accident reporting. Require employees to report all moving violation and accidents, even if it involves a personally owned vehicle.
Driver qualification standards. Inform employee about your driver qualification standards and the consequences for not meeting those standards. Drivers who do not meet your standards should not be permitted to operate vehicles for work.
Mobile device use and distracted driving. Create a formal policy prohibiting mobile device use while driving. The policy should also limit hands-free phone conversations. Include other forms of distracted driving in your policy (e.g., eating, drinking, grooming.)
Corrective action procedures. Explain what corrective action measures will be taken when drivers violate company policies, are involved in preventable accidents or receive moving violations.
Drug and alcohol testing. Inform employees about your drug and alcohol testing procedures, including types of tests, reasons for testing and consequences for testing positive.
Impaired driving. Prohibit impaired driving in all forms, including from controlled substances, alcohol, fatigue, illness or from prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Work limits and rest requirements. Set daily work limits and rest requirements to reduce the risk of drowsy driving. Adhere to, and educate employees on, applicable commercial vehicle hours-of-service regulations.
Vehicle care and maintenance. Require employees to visually inspect vehicles and report problems immediately.
Personal use of company vehicles. Set limits on the personal use of company vehicles, including by employee family members.
Insurance requirements. Set insurance requirement for employees who drive their personal vehicles for work. Check with your insurance agent for recommended minimum coverage limits.
Safe driving expectations. Communicate your expectations for safe driving, including driving at safe speeds, keeping a safe following distance, parking restrictions, seatbelt use and other requirements.
Company operational procedures. Inform employees about procedures relating to vehicle operations (i.e., fueling, routing, communication, cargo handling, etc.) Have a central office manage your overall fleet safety program to help ensure all branches of your organization understand and consistently follow your policies and procedures.
3. Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance
Formal inspection and maintenance procedures should be in place to ensure all vehicles and equipment are in safe operating condition. These procedures may vary depending on vehicle type and use, but they should at least match the manufacturer’s recommendations. For regulated commercial vehicles, specific inspection and maintenance rules must be followed. Check with your commercial vehicle regulatory agency to learn about specific requirements.
Key elements of an inspection and maintenance program include:
- A written vehicle inspection and maintenance program
- Vehicle pre-trip/post-trip inspection requirements
- Periodic inspections by a qualified mechanic
- A process for reporting and correcting mechanical problems
- Vehicle standards for age, condition and safety features
- Documentation to record all inspections and repairs
- For regulated commercial vehicles, a review of roadside inspection results and follow-up actions taken to fix any defects.
How well you maintain your vehicle impacts more than just operational efficiency. Issues such as worn tires, bad brakes and burned-out lights can also lead to accidents. At the very least, a poorly maintained vehicle may be more likely to break down on the side of the road where they could be at risk of being involved in accidents.
Your maintenance program should be designed to ensure all vehicles are inspected regularly. Have your vehicles inspected by experienced mechanics to make sure they are in good working condition and safe. This is especially important for older vehicles, vehicles that are not used often, pool vehicles and commercial vehicles. In addition, have drivers visually inspect vehicles daily and report mechanical problems, place vehicles out of service so they will not be used until repaired.
Document all vehicle inspections, repairs and ongoing preventative maintenance. This is important to track what work has been completed and what future work is needed. This documentation can also play a crucial role after an accident if there are allegations that your vehicle was not maintained adequately.
4. Accident management
Regardless of who is at fault, a quick, effective and professional response at the accident scene is essential. It can help you get the facts you need to understand what happened and control accident costs. It can help you understand accident trends and develop strategies to reduce the risk of future losses.
Drivers need to know how to respond after an accident. Provide training to ensure they understand your company’s procedures for reporting accidents promptly, when to involve emergency services and the importance of contacting company and insurance representatives. They should also know your procedures for post-accident drug and alcohol testing.
Make sure drivers understand what information to collect at the scene, such as:
- The identity and contact information of everyone involved, as well as the insurance the details of any drivers involved
- A description and diagram of what happened
- Accident-scene photographs
In addition, make sure your drivers have the right tools available:
- Accident report form and writing utensil
- Emergency contact information
- Proof of insurance
- Mobile device for taking photographs
- Emergency warning devices
- Spill kit, if transporting bulk liquids or hazardous materials
Contact your insurance claim representative promptly, regardless of who may appear to be at fault. Reporting delays can make it difficult for your insurance company to investigate the claim and prepare a defense, if that becomes necessary. Provide any additional information that becomes known, including the legal correspondences.
Investigate all accidents to identify root causes. Once they are identified, you can better determine countermeasures to help prevent reoccurrences. Common approaches involve:
- Driver-specific corrective actions, such as training, coaching or job reassignment
- All-employee safety training
- Operational changes, such as route selection, vehicle choice or scheduling
- Vehicle design, such as improved mirrors, lights, steps, handholds and reduced blind spots
- Technology improvements, such as onboard safety monitoring devices, back up camera, automatic emergency braking and blind spot detection
Careful recordkeeping over time can I help you compile data to identify key loss types for your operation.
Assemble a review committee to investigate accidents. This can help ensure a thorough investigation is completed. It also can help your business identify appropriate corrective actions and ensure they are administered fairly and consistently.
5. Continuous improvement process
A fleet safety program should evolve over time, adjusting to operational changes and loss exposures. For commercial vehicle fleets, this could include meeting new regulatory requirements.
Managers need to establish benchmarks for safety performance. Goals should be set to improve on past performance. A continuous improvement process should be at work, where safety managers periodically audit the safety program and measure effectiveness. When exposures change and safety challenges emerge, new policies, procedures and controls should be implemented.