Safety & Accident

New Ways to Bolster Fleet Safety

Driver safety programs are integral to a well-run fleet, but sometimes the traditional means only go so far. From driver training to incident recording, fleets discuss the successes and challenges of their safety programs.

March 2012, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

A City of Mobile, Ala. driver goes through driver training as part of the City's safety program.
A City of Mobile, Ala. driver goes through driver training as part of the City's safety program.
At a Glance

Some methods to ensure driver safety include:

  • Identifying and keeping track of problem drivers by conducting motor vehicle record checks.
  • Enacting a strict cell phone use policy.
  • Pairing driver performance feedback with training.
  • Using video recording to train drivers and reduce agency liability.

Fleet safety policies have a long history of implementation. And while agencies always strive to continually improve them, sometimes accident rates flatten out, and it becomes clear that more needs to be done.

That's where finding new ways to beef up a safety program can help. A good safety policy is the foundation for any program, but more can certainly be done. With improved online driver training, in-vehicle video recording systems, and driver feedback programs, fleet managers have more options than ever to improve their safety programs.

Training Drivers through Incident Recording

The safety program in Orange County, Fla., relies on annual motor vehicle record (MVR) checks, as well as required driver education training (DET) at least once every three years or in the case of an at-fault accident. While these measures have proven effective, the County looked to technology to improve the program. Using DriveCam, the County is able to record 12-second "snippets" of video when a vehicle is subjected to a pre-determined level of g-force - incidents such as hard braking or acceleration, hard cornering, or a collision. When one of these incidents occurs, the video saves footage 8 seconds before and 4 seconds after.

Having this footage on hand gives fleet and safety managers two major opportunities: one, to coach a driver on unsafe behaviors and two, to help identify the cause and fault of an accident.

"When the incidents do not involve a collision, they are used as training opportunities to modify the behavior that caused the camera to record. It allows us to address issues like distracted driving before an accident actually occurs," said John Petrelli, manager, Risk Management and Professional Standards. "When a collision does occur, it allows us to evaluate negligence and liability immediately from a claims perspective and then further address the cause from training perspective."

As a result, the County has seen major improvements in its safety metrics. Since the DriveCam pilot program began in 2007, automobile liability costs are down, from $450,000 in fiscal-year 2007-2008 to less than $150,000 in fiscal-year 2009-2010. Likewise, the number of claims has fallen over those same years, from roughly 300 to less than 100.

"With our DET program, our accident numbers were fairly stagnant. We were looking at something to drive those numbers down further, and the program fit with our culture of training. Our accident reduction rate has been amazing," Petrelli said. 

While Petrelli has seen positive results from the program, he also encountered a few challenges. In terms of the product, the only restraint was time. "The program is easy to implement, with the biggest challenge being the logistics of having 780 vehicles taken out of service for 30-45 minutes to have the cameras installed," he said.

Other challenges proved to be more organizational. Because the program provides a greater opportunity to monitor and coach driver behavior, disciplinary actions are taken against employees who did not change their driving behaviors even when coached, counseled, and trained. And, with 50-percent of the labor force comprised of collective bargaining employees, the County encountered some union pushback when disciplinary actions were taken as a result of the program.

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