The ultimate goal of a driver safety policy is to protect drivers, their organizations, and their fellow citizens. An effective driver safety policy can also result in improvements with financial ties, such as fewer speeding violations and collisions, less property damage, fewer losses, lowered insurance rates, and fewer workers’ compensation claims.
With benefits like these, you’d think every fleet would have one in place — but they don’t. That may be because fleets simply don’t know where to start. The following categories offer a foundation on which fleets can build to get going.
Assess Driver Qualifications
Al Curtis, fleet services director, Cobb County, Ga., said the first category a driver safety policy should address is the qualifications drivers need before they ever join the organization. “Check to verify employment and to help determine the driving qualifications and history of the applicant,” he recommended. “Consulting motor vehicle records (MVRs) is a good place to start.”
Beyond a suitable driving record, Steven Holland, chief risk officer, University of Arizona, said other driver requirements might include age, driving experience, and type of licensure.
For current employees, qualifications might include whether driver training has been completed, the employee’s record of preventable accidents, driving history, driving certifications, and vehicle operator record.
For both new and existing employees, the policy should clearly state that applicants with poor driving records should not be allowed to operate vehicles on behalf of the agency.
Holland recommended putting some thought into whether new hires should be held to the same qualification criteria as existing employees.
“If you are reviewing the MVR of a job applicant, you might have a minimum standard that must be met to be hired. If you are evaluating the driving record of a 20-year, highly trained, veteran employee with an otherwise good employment record, would you hold them to the same standard as the new job applicant?” he said. “It’s better to decide this up front as part of developing policy philosophy.”
Require Fleet Driver Training
Once you’ve outlined driver qualifications, lay out the requirements for driver training. Categories can include informal training, such as covering a safety topic at the beginning of a shift, or formal, in-classroom training. Your policy may state how many hours of training a driver must complete or could lay out a specific course curriculum. In any case, make it clear to drivers what training must be completed and in what time frame.
Curtis also recommended doing more than requiring attendance — he suggested recording progress and covering a wide variety of topics.
“Employees should be tested on what was covered, and test results should be documented and placed in each driver’s file,” Curtis said. “Training sessions should follow a checklist to ensure all topics are consistently covered and should always include defensive driving training. Watching post-drive video can also help drivers become aware of their risky behaviors, increase their skills, prevent collisions, and save lives.”
5 Ways to Enforce a Driver Safety Policy
- Make it part of the driver appraisal process
- Incentivize good driving behavior
- Invoke disciplinary action for non-compliance
- Require retraining for employees with bad driving practices
- Make sure managers "walk the walk": Always wear seat belts, don't use cell phones while driving, follow traffic laws, etc.
Determine Vehicle Operation Rules
Obeying traffic laws is an obvious place to start, but Holland encourages fleets to consider rules for governing vehicle use beyond following the law. “These could include hours of operation, distance between breaks, inspections and maintenance, accident reporting, parking, passengers, distractions like cell phones, and more,” he said.
For instance, are drivers allowed to have a passenger? Are there rules (and consequences) for talking on the phone or texting while driving? Making clear rules on acceptable vehicle use can ensure drivers will operate them safely.
In particular, Bob Williams, assistant commissioner, vehicle and asset management, State of Tennessee Department of General Services, said use of mobile devices should be reviewed in depth before creating a policy. “Distracted driving is currently the main catalyst of accidents, so use of mobile devices should be as limited as is practical,” he said.
Evaluate Driver Performance
With the rules for operating a vehicle in place, it’s equally important to outline how compliance will be monitored and evaluated.
Holland said driver performance reviews are best left to the managers and supervisors who know them best. Detailing how reviews will be performed and how often sets the proper expectations for drivers.
Curtis also recommended checking all drivers’ records at least once per year, but he noted that this responsibility should fall outside of the purview of fleet management.
At Cobb County, telematics is used to monitor driver behavior in addition to MVR checks. When drivers are involved in an accident, they are required to complete a vehicle accident/incident report and submit it to their supervisor within 24 hours.
“The supervisor will send copies to the Risk Department, which conducts a review of the accident to deem if it was preventable; then, appropriate actions are taken,” Curtis explained. “This information will be included in the employee’s personnel file.”
Establish Consequences of Non-Compliance
To ensure employees are following safe driving practices, a driver safety policy should also outline the consequences for violation.
“Without consequences for bad behavior, you will never see results,” Williams said.
Curtis said it’s equally important to take action on the written consequences. These could range from reassignment to non-driving-related positions — up to discharge.
“Establish corrective actions necessary to restore the employee to the driving position and period for completion,” Curtis said. “Forward all documentation of the annual review and the actions the supervisor has taken to Human Resources.”
Williams said a driver safety policy should include reporting requirements for incidents, clarity on disciplinary action for nonconformance, an incident review process and, if applicable, clarity concerning appeals.
For Holland, the behavior of leadership is key for compliance. “Managers also must ‘walk the walk’ and demonstrate policy compliance through their own actions by wearing their seat belt, avoiding distractions like cell phone use, following traffic laws, etc.,” he said.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
When it comes to drafting a driver safety policy, Holland said there is no need to reinvent the wheel — fleets should look for good examples in organizations similar to their own and use them as a starting place.
“Fleet safety policies have been common for many years, so a good one shouldn’t be hard to find; copy the parts that are most relevant to your organization,” he advised.