Truck Safety

Coaching technique and transportation technology encourages safety at all levels.

– By Jason Palmer

 A top priority for any fleet manager is to protect their drivers and the motoring public. A strong safety culture is the key to success. While no one would question the importance of safety, it can be difficult to teach drivers new safety skills, effectively enforce existing policies and eliminate risky behaviors that have been engrained over many years of service.

When launching a safety program, fleets must evaluate why such a program is needed and what specific driving skills are at the root of unsafe situations. Driver transparency and buy-in is the key to program success. By leveraging data-driven insights enabled by an advanced transportation intelligence platform and tapping into proven coaching techniques, managers can build a safety culture that empowers drivers to take ownership of their performance and transform their organization.

Understanding Drivers: Make It Personal

One of the simplest ways to begin building a fleet safety program is to establish a personal relationship with every driver based on mutual respect. These relationships offer fleet managers an opportunity to listen and respond to driver concerns and questions. That creates trust that makes difficult safety conversations easier to navigate later on.

When reorganizing an existing safety program, continued focus on personal relationships with drivers will ensure a smooth transition. Organizations can take a trickle-down approach by empowering managers through education of how new programs and technology will work – what they do and don’t do. Then, before new technology is installed in a truck, each driver must be educated on the technology’s capabilities and given an opportunity to ask questions. It is equally important to communicate how the program will be used by management and to explain under what situations the drivers will be coached, trained and evaluated.

Fleets must also incorporate safety into everyday discussions and partner with drivers to collaborate on issues, showing that they value driver input and address safety before disciplinary action is necessary. Showing drivers you care and listening to their input serves as the foundation for successful coaching down the line.

A Hands-on Approach To Coaching 

Coaching and driver training is a necessity in developing a culture of safety. It’s important that safety performance is frequently addressed and drivers receive prompt feedback after incidents. Thanks to recent innovation in transportation technology, managers are now alerted to incidents in real time through video-based safety and transportation intelligence platforms that record high-risk driving situations. These systems give supervisors the tools to provide the timely feedback to drive true change and make evaluation a regular part of the safety culture.

Quality coaching can be the difference between an award-winning safety program and one overrun with reoccurring issues. The easiest way to curb unsafe behavior and improve overall performance is taking the time to sit down with drivers and review specific events with video- and data-backed evidence. Video-based safety offers a better understanding of what occurred in the lead-up to risky events and gives drivers a first-hand look at their own performance.

Consistency and fairness in evaluation is equally important to program success. No matter the manager, every driver deserves fair and comprehensive feedback. For managers with tens, hundreds or thousands of drivers under their supervision, an advanced transportation intelligence platform, coupled with a managed service, eliminates the need to review every incident. This feature enables coaches to focus on the important work of changing dangerous habits that lead to collisions.

Tenured drivers often see risky behavior for the first time when viewing their own video. Like an athlete watching game footage, drivers will inevitably learn something about their reactions and behaviors by watching this footage. In these cases, video does some of the work of coaching itself, empowering drivers to take a step back and get involved in their own development.

These days, innovative mobile applications offer drivers access to a self-coaching tool anywhere, anytime. Mobile tools enable drivers to monitor their own risky behaviors no matter where they are in relation to the home office, a necessary benefit considering the nature of many drivers’ travel schedules.

By combining the vast amounts of data offered by sensor-driven technology with hands-on, regular feedback, managers and drivers can work together, truly elevating their conversations around safety performance, risky behaviors and organizational goals. Over time, these tools and coaching methods help drivers and fleet managers alike actively participate in improving an organization’s safety culture.

Set Expectations and Reward: Measured Improvement

Measurement is always necessary for success. When building a culture of safety, fleets must set clear expectations for each driver and take the time to explain what factors impact their safety score and how they can improve. Technology empowers managers to understand their own program analytics and define the organization’s key performance indicators, but that information is only effective if it is regularly communicated to each driver. When drivers understand the organization’s goal and where they fit, they become active contributors to the solution and by developing a positive safety culture.

Creating a positive fleet culture is not possible solely by focusing on discipline, but also by rewarding excellent performance. Video recordings and transportation intelligence are great tools that managers can use to recognize and reward the right behaviors. When fleet leadership shares clear expectations for their organization and goals for each driver, the data garnered from technology can highlight what drivers are doing right, as well as areas for improvement. When coupled with monetary and non-monetary recognition, drivers can be transformed into advocates for the organization’s safety policies.

Focus on Continued Success

When an organization is meeting all its safety goals, it’s time to celebrate the team’s success and then raise the bar. At this point, fleet management needs to continue the hard work of coaching risky behaviors, while also encouraging friendly competition between drivers. It may be time to reevaluate program goals and see if there are any new issues the fleet may want to address. By leveraging technology and hands-on coaching, fleets can empower their drivers to build a strong safety culture and take ownership over their own driving behaviors.

Ultimately, a strong safety culture, supported by the latest technology, will allow fleet managers to focus on protecting drivers and the motoring public – two keys to building and growing a successful business.

Jason Palmer is the COO of SmartDrive Systems, a provider of video-based safety and transportation intelligence. As an expert in fleet safety and risk mitigation, Palmer helps fleets in a variety of industries to identify and eliminate the riskiest driving and operating skills that lead to collisions and jobsite incidents.