So how does a fleet create a safety culture? The following tips provide some guidance:
1. Implement a formal safety program
How do you make safety a part of your organizational DNA? A good place to start is assessing your current safety practices and identifying areas for improvement. Once you’ve done this, a critical next step will be to create a formal safety program. To begin, it helps to:
• Identify an executive champion to signal the importance of the initiative to your entire organization.
• Designate a safety manager to lead the program and give him/her all necessary resources.
• Engage employees by communicating safety messages on a proactive and continuous basis.
• Make sure policies, employee safety responsibilities and messages are clear and simple.
• Set up processes for hiring, training and monitoring drivers.
• Track results regularly and recognize/reward drivers for safe behavior.
2. Maintain your vehicles and conduct thorough inspections
In addition to preventing costly FMCSA penalties, CSA interventions and downtime, a well-maintained fleet can help prevent defects that lead to crashes. And, it makes more sense to replace a part before it fails than to wait for it to cause problems on the highway.
Preventive maintenance routines should be scheduled at regular intervals—mileage-based, quarterly and annually. At a minimum, technicians should inspect brakes, check warning and fault indicator lights, inspect engine compartments for fluid leaks, and tires for air pressure, alignment and tread depth.
Additionally, Part 396.11 of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and regulations requires drivers to complete Vehicle Driver Inspection Reports at the end of each working day. The report assesses several vehicle components—such as brakes, steering mechanisms, lights and reflectors, tires, horns, windshield wipers, rear-view mirrors, wheels, rims and emergency equipment—and can serve as a good guide for inspections.
3. Find and keep good drivers
When it comes to drivers, there is a strong correlation between a history of safety violations and a driver’s involvement in collisions. This is why it is so important to hire the right drivers from the start. Fleets can do this through rigorous pre-hire screenings, interviews, and hiring practices. Before hiring, it’s imperative to check Motor Vehicle Records, accident histories and legal records, run criminal background checks, and conduct drug and alcohol tests.
Providing driver orientations is also essential. The onboarding of new employees is a perfect opportunity to make sure new drivers understand your policies and processes and begin to understand your safety culture. Train every new driver on safety and driving skills from day one. This includes mandated U.S. DOT training for entry-level drivers in driver qualification, wellness, hours of service, and whistleblower protection.
Ongoing driver training is also critical to keep drivers aware of changing rules and regulations and remind them of the daily challenges of transporting cargo safely. Training improves the skills of your entire driver pool, helps retain drivers for the long term, and makes everyone safer. Ongoing training should include a regular schedule of courses to refresh driving skills.
Finally, it’s important to reward drivers with incentives and recognition: in addition to encouraging safe driving practices, incentives reduce driver turnover. Popular incentives include annual safety bonuses for crash-free driving and mileage-based rewards and promotions. Driver recognition programs that reinforce your safety focus such as Driver of the Month or Driver of the Year awards are also effective.
Andrew Leavitt is the Senior Manager of Safety & Loss Prevention for Ryder System, Inc.