More campus employees have been taking the Web-based version of UC Davis' driver safety training program than the previous classroom-based course.

More campus employees have been taking the Web-based version of UC Davis' driver safety training program than the previous classroom-based course.

The University of California Davis’ fleet services department has created a new Web-based driver safety program for University employees. In addition, the University is also offering safety devices for University vehicles. Government Fleet spoke with Richard Battersby, director of fleet services, about both programs, how they came about, and how fleet services implemented them.

UC Davis’ Safe Driver Training Program

Since UC Davis’ fleet services division made the online driver training available in October 2010, 398 individuals have taken the course, and another 91 individuals are currently in progress on the course (a user taking the course can pause and then resume where he or she left off). This is a significant increase over the number of people who went through the classroom-based program.

“For comparison purposes, while offering only the classroom training, we had about 200 individuals per year go through the training,” Battersby said.

He said his predecessor, Bob Summersett, started the original project to convert the classroom-based program to a Web-based one. He retired after scoping the project and securing funding for it.

“The previous training was classroom based and required Fleet staff time to teach the course as well as the administrative part related to scheduling and coordinating training,” Battersby said. “There were costs associated with the classroom size as well as class size limitations that could be eliminated with an online training course.”

The project to convert the training course to a Web-based version took 12 months to complete. Battersby worked with the departments of Risk Management and the Online Innovation Group of UC Davis Extension to create the training program. The course features three segments: Safe Driver Awareness, Green Driving Techniques, and Introduction to Fleet Services.

The Green Driver module in the training course is designed to teach drivers about driving techniques and practices that help maximize fuel economy, which, if put into practice, reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and ultimately lower costs for UC Davis. Battersby said the expertise and information provided by East Bay Clean Cities was instrumental in developing the Green Driver training module.

The Introduction to Fleet Services module in the course is designed to familiarize fleet services’ customers with the programs the division offers, train customers on fleet equipment and processes, and educate them about campus policies and procedures guiding fleet operations.

The driver safety training program combines humor and educational information.

The driver safety training program combines humor and educational information.

Battersby said the reason for both training programs was to reduce the number of accidents that occur on campus. Over a 7-year period, the University experienced a total of 1,164 vehicle accidents. These accidents resulted in $2.2 million in indemnity paid and property damage, which excludes any workers' compensation payments, he said.

“We didn't necessarily compare ourselves to other campuses or fleets related to accidents,” Battersby said. “We simply examined our accident history and tried to specifically tailor the Safe Driver training to reduce overall frequency and total cost of accidents. We’d like to hit zero in both categories, but for now we’re just looking to measure success by reducing our counts. The intent of moving the Safe Driver Program to an online application was to make the training available to a broader audience, reduce costs, and make the training more convenient.”

He added that the Safe Driver Awareness training is mandatory for certain job classifications where the primary duties involve or require driving. Also, the course helps eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, as instructors and campus employees taking the course don’t have to drive anywhere to attend.

Beyond the application to fleet vehicles, drivers who take the course will benefit from the training when driving their personal vehicles, too. “We think the scope and reach of the programs go far beyond just the campus fleet,” Battersby said.

With this driver safety program in place, Battersby said he’s turning to additional types of training courses. After the completion of the initial online course, collaboration with Risk Management on future online training modules was immediately extended. Planned courses already in production include training on distracted driving, safe trailer operation, (the campus has 335 trailers), and driver supervisor training that informs supervisors who have drivers in their employ what they are responsible for, what to look for, and covers related regulations. There is also training for commercial drivers in the works.

So in this era of zero-growth budgets (if not cuts), how is fleet services funding this? Battersby said he discovered the funding, secured by his predecessor Bob Summersett, was made available through the ongoing Be Smart About Safety (BSAS) program, part of the campus’ General Automotive and Employment Practices Liability (GAEL) program. A small percentage of University funds spent (Battersby said pennies from each dollar spent) on that program goes to BSAS.

“All of these training modules will be funded through the campus Be Smart About Safety program,” Battersby said. “It’s a convenient funding mechanism for risk mitigation projects, and we have the expertise to create course proposals and training outlines while Risk Management helps with funding and subject matter experts and UC Davis Extension produces the material and hosts the training online.”

In the next section, we cover UC Davis' safety equipment program and how it's funded.


Safety Equipment for Vehicles

The other safety-related program fleet services implemented is to provide campus vehicles with safety equipment. Equipment available through the program includes backing sensors that provide an audible alert, rear cross view mirrors, and backing proximity sensors. In addition, another department has suggested installing rear-view backing cameras for larger vehicles.

Battersby became interested in this concept when while working on the Safe Driver training he noticed that one of the most common causes of vehicle accidents on campus was due to backing incidents. He also noted that because of the campus environment, there are generally a lot of students walking around campus who aren’t necessarily paying attention to what’s going on around them, which is a safety and liability concern. 

“The audible backing alert devices can be placed on any vehicle,” Battersby said. “They substitute one of the back-up lights on the vehicle. They produce a noise when the vehicle is in reverse. Frequently, students are listening to audio equipment or talking on cell phones, so you need to catch their attention, and a backing alert device is one way to do it.”

The BSAS program is also the source for safety device funding.

“We were already aware of the Be Smart About Safety program as a potential funding source so I researched the available options, identified likely vehicles for installation, estimated potential savings through avoidance, and submitted an application through campus Risk Management,” he said. “The application was accepted and funding made available for the program.”

He said fleet services went about implementing the program in a couple of different ways. First, fleet services directly contacted customers they thought could benefit from this. After handling those installations, Battersby said fleet services made an announcement regarding available safety equipment through the Campus Resources online newsletter. So far, Battersby said fleet services has installed 18 backing proximity sensors and scores of the audible backing alarms on a wide range of vehicles, though typically high box trucks, cargo vans, or utility vehicles, where visibility is restricted, are the primary focus of the program.

Both programs have been around since 2010, but fleet services only recently began promoting them more broadly to campus employees.

By utilizing existing campus resources and funding, Battersby was able to implement two programs that can reduce costs, potential liability, and time spent managing programs. Government Fleet will follow up with Battersby in a few months to see how the program is going.