Taking A More Holistic Approach To Improving Driver Safety

Efficiency and safety, important in every aspect of logistics, are especially crucial in the food industry where delays are more than an inconvenience--they can significantly impact margins and jeopardize customer and supplier relationships when food spoils or loses shelf life.

A study by Accenture found that out-of-stock products cost the food industry between $7 and $12 billion per year and inefficient transportation and excessive inventory represent an estimated $30 billion savings opportunity to the industry.

Inefficient driving, including speeding, prolonged periods of idling, frequent stops and starts, hard braking and sudden acceleration, can cause delays in food distribution and endanger the quality of products. These driving behaviors compound vehicle wear and tear and negatively affect fuel economy. More importantly, these behaviors put drivers at risk for crashes.

Consider that driving behavior contributes to over 90 percent of vehicle crashes and up to 33 percent of fuel consumption. What can you do to improve the safety and efficiency of your fleet and reduce the operating costs, losses and liability associated with unsafe driving?

Traditional approaches such as ride-alongs, ride-behinds, classroom instruction, simulators and the like promote safe driving skills and help reinforce corporate policies and transport procedures, but they do not provide 100 percent visibility into driving behavior. They are unable to provide any information once the driver has left the training course or the supervisor is no longer in the cab or riding behind the truck.

In contrast, driving behavior improvement services that provide continuous observation and in-vehicle feedback in real time help drivers identify and correct risky driving behavior in the moment, before an accident occurs. This constant feedback is like having an objective driving coach in the vehicle at all times, helping drivers identify and improve driving behavior and sustain improvements over time.

Collaboration Yields Results

Comprehensive systems not only recognize the full range of driving events--speed handling, cornering, lane handling, braking and acceleration--they also analyze and evaluate both safety and efficiency. Holistic programs that integrate Web-based reporting, alerts, coaching and other tools with an in-vehicle system help drivers track their driving performance. They also enable fleet managers to quickly spot trends in driving behavior at the individual and fleet level so they can tailor training programs accordingly.

This collaborative approach empowers drivers and fleet managers and yields results. Fleets that employ driving behavior improvement services typically reduce total crashes by up to 50 percent and increase fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent.

Alternative solutions such as video-based driving improvement offerings, speed limiters and lane departure warning systems only offer snapshots of brief moments in driving time and do not provide comprehensive details of all of the risky events that happen during any given trip. Video-based alternatives in particular are typically perceived negatively by drivers who object to the invasion of privacy they present and by management due to the cumbersome review process required.

Driving behavior improvement services that track driving maneuvers, rather than monitoring the driver, and provide continuous, immediate coaching are less invasive and proactively help prevent collisions.

The benefits of driving behavior improvement services extend beyond safety and reduced crashes. Vehicle maintenance and wear and tear costs associated with inefficient driving are also typically reduced. A further benefit of safer driving is reduced fuel usage and lower carbon emissions. In addition, drivers who benefit from in-vehicle feedback on the job generally carry their improved driving habits home with them and are safer drivers in their personal vehicles.

Steps To Safety Success

If you are considering implementing a driving behavior improvement service in your fleet, there are several steps you can take to ensure success. First and foremost, you should evaluate your particular fleet and employees. Consider the culture of the organization and its unique needs. What type of coaching program will flourish with your employees? What motivates them to be safe drivers? What kind of driver training programs have been used in the past--were they comprehensive, proactive and driver-focused, and what outcomes did they yield?

Obtaining buy-in is also a crucial step--management and drivers alike need to be aware of and committed to the driving behavior improvement program to guarantee results. Education is an important part of this process so that all members of the organization understand what the solution does--and doesn't do--and how it will be used within the organization.

A driver behavior improvement service will be more effective if you also stay connected with your organization. Solicit feedback from drivers and management on the service, how they believe it is working and whether anything can be improved or added to promote safer driving. Holistic systems that are closely tied to a feedback system and an incentive program are often the most effective and help sustain progress.

The benefits of successfully implementing a driver behavior improvement service are significant. Driver behavior improvement services can reduce crashes and fatalities, help ensure the timely and safe delivery of products and lead to reductions in carbon emissions. Services that essentially run themselves require minimal management oversight and can be employed quickly across any number of vehicles.

Installation is immediate and results are seen within the first month of use, with measurable improvements the efficiency and safety of your fleet. When it comes to safety, especially in the workplace, you can never be too careful. d

Steere is president and CEO of GreenRoad, Redwood Shores, CA. The company helps commercial fleets, insurers and consumers measure, improve and sustain safe and fuel-efficient driving behavior.

Go to www.greenroad.com

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