Driver Safety

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Employers are often surprised to learn that injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash may be compensable under workers' compensation laws. Fleet exposure is one of the most overlooked loss sources of a company’s operations. This is even true when a company’s transportation needs are incidental to what the company does and the type of employees the company has.

For example, a company may hire a plumber, contractor, engineer or sales representative whose job requirements focus more on that person's specific qualifications for the job rather than on driving abilities. Assessing the prospective employee’s driving skills may only be limited to verifying that the person has a valid driver’s license, but the employer may go one or two steps further by requesting a current motor vehicle record (MVR) and conducting a limited road test.

While responsible trucking or transportation companies recognize the importance of carefully evaluating a prospective employee’s driving skills, knowledge and experience when considering a new driver, a company with an incidental fleet exposure may not. Did you know that a motor vehicle crash is the number one cause of workplace fatalities?

Driving is one of most dangerous job tasks that an employee with driving exposure does. For this reason, it important that you do not overlook driving exposure when developing and implementing your company safety programs. By better managing driving exposure, you can reduce the odds of incurring motor vehicle crashes and high probability of workers compensation claims.

Here are a few fleet safety program tips for both you and your employees to better manage fleet exposure:

Driver Selection
All companies, irrespective of fleet size, should implement effective fleet safety techniques to manage their exposures. (Example forms, questionnaires, guidelines and additional safety handouts are available from WCF Insurance upon request.)

1. Plan what you do with respect to job advertisements or job descriptions, the type of driver and vehicles operated, interviewing techniques, application form and skills. For example, you may not need to do a road test when hiring a sales representative, but you definitely want to check that person's motor vehicle record before giving him or her the keys to company vehicles and/or representing you while using a personal vehicle for company business.

2. Do an interview that asks specific questions about an applicant’s driving experience and type of vehicles they will be driving. Get correct information and ask the right questions.

3. Use an application. Have the prospective employee fill it out. Make sure it is completely filled out by looking for missing information. Check for and follow-up on gaps in work history.

4. Look at more than one applicant. Hire from a pool of qualified applicants rather than the first one that comes along.

5. Get a copy of the applicant’s motor vehicle record. Establish your own standards that meet or exceed regulatory standards. View regulatory standards as minimum standards. For example, one moving traffic violation in three or five years may be acceptable, but two or three citations and/or a conviction for drunk or reckless driving may not. Don't wait or rely on an insurer to tell you they don’t want an employee driving. Having your own standards puts you in the driver’s seat of who you allow driving privileges with your company.

6. Test the applicant. You may want to do some or all of the following: written exam, road test, skills test, pre-trip inspection test, psychological evaluation, credit and background checks, and physical exam. Again, some of these tests may be required by regulatory agencies for your type of fleet.

7. Verify information, check references and look at past performance which can predict future performance.

8. Finally, make your hiring decision based on knowledge you acquire through these methods.

Driver Training
Hiring is only the beginning. You should be training new employees concerning your company’s safety policies and procedures in accordance with any applicable regulatory standards. Depending on the size of your company, you may need a full- or part-time trainer, or you may rely on outside agencies to help with training. Training is a must if you want new employees to be successful and perform safely. Teach your employees your company’s safety culture. New hire training and orientation is where you make sure employees understand what is expected of them and what behaviors they need to develop to be
safe.

Supervision
Once trained and on the job, implement an ongoing employee supervision program. Supervision can be done in many forms. Call in procedures, radio, wireless phone, satellite communications and onboard tracking systems, road observations, driver surveys, in-house spot radar checks and 800 number “How’s My Driving” programs are a few examples of supervision techniques. You may also consider contracting with third party companies for similar services such as: www.drivercheck.net or www.fleetsafetyfirst.com.

Smaller companies such as those with incidental fleets may find that periodic joint visits to a customer or job site with an employee work well. Whatever method(s) you choose, be consistent with how you implement suggestions and recommended driving changes.

A positive behavior based approach usually works better than an incident based approach. For example, if you reward and recognize an employee’s safe actions like buckling up, using the three- and four -second plus rules for maintaining a safe following distance, courteous driving behavior, etc., you can promote positive employee behavioral changes more effectively than by withholding recognition because of particular incidents. However, since some behaviors simply shouldn’t be tolerated, progressive disciplinary action should be taken for certain unacceptable behaviors like horseplay, reckless driving, racing, road rage and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

You may find that a combination of rewarding safe behavior versus incident avoidance more desirable, such as a 70 percent/30 percent mix, respectively. For example, if your safety incentive program rewards an employee $500 a year for safety, then 70 percent of the incentive would be based on measurable safe behavior and 30 percent on incident avoidance.

Vehicle Maintenance
Well-maintained vehicles avoid costly down time, accidents, repairs, insurance costs and fines. Local and national regulations must be adhered to for many types of fleets. Avoid operating your fleet in a crisis-maintenance or fix-it-when-it-breaks mode. A good preventative maintenance and inspection program that involves all drivers will save you money in the long run.

All drivers should do a documented vehicle inspection at regular intervals and turn that information into their supervisor. The extent and frequency of the inspection will vary depending on the type of vehicle the employee drives. Don’t simply rely on the state and county required annual safety and emissions inspections as proof that vehicles your employees drive are safe to operate. This idea extends to the personal vehicles your employees use for company business.

Example maintenance and inspection outlines are available from WCF Insurance upon request. Other sources include private, public and governmental organizations such as the Motor Transportation Association, Highway Safety Division, Safety Council, U.S. Department of Transportation (202-366-4000 or www.dot.gov), J.J. Keller (www.jjkeller.com), American Trucking Association (www.truckline.com), and the vehicle manufacturer or dealership where the vehicle was purchased.

Include Fleet Safety in Company Safety Program
Whatever the size and type of your fleet, make sure you address pertinent loss control measures for safeguarding your employees from motor vehicle crashes. Add a section(s) to your safety program manual or handbook that specifically states your fleet safety policy, driver selection, training, supervision and fleet safety procedures. The greater your fleet exposure, the more fleet safety information you want to include in your program, i.e., fleet safety policy, fleet safety director authority, responsibilities and accountabilities, management support, driver hiring and training practices, fleet safety rules, vehicle maintenance and inspection procedures, incident, crash reporting and investigation procedures, incentive programs, safety goals, etc.

For example, when a crash occurs, someone in your company should do an investigation to learn from the crash. For larger companies with larger fleets, you may compose an incident review committee to handle the investigation. For smaller companies, this may be the responsibility of the safety director, safety manager or other manager who also wears the safety management hat. Basic incident investigation techniques involve taking a mental step back, gathering facts and asking lots of questions, i.e., who, what, where, when, why and how. You may also want to visit the crash scene. Some companies’ safety director or manager actually visits all crash scenes to get their own pictures, facts and details. Either way, a good investigation will lead you to what happened by unveiling the chain of events and cause of the crash. These, once known, will lead you to develop effective corrective or counter measures.

Don’t stop there. Now that you know the causal factors and the corrective measures, you should then implement corrective measures, not only for the involved employee, but by sharing what was learned with all employees. Here are a couple resources to help you get started in developing your own incident investigation program.
• Commercial Vehicle Preventable Accident Manual: A Guide to Countermeasures. Produced for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carriers. Niles, IL, Triodyne Inc., Third edition, 1997. Visit www.triodyne.com/ComVehMan.pdf for more information.
The National Safety Council

Vehicle Occupancy Protection Systems
Establish and implement a company seat belt policy. Require your employees to always buckle-up no matter how big or small their vehicle. Combined with other occupancy protection system devices in today’s vehicles, the seat belt is the main component in preventing death and serious injury that can occur from a crash.

Drive Defensively
Train your drivers to drive defensively and know their crash risk. The average driver drives 12,000 miles a year and has a crash probability of one crash every 10 years. To reduce your odds of a crash, be a better than average driver. This can be done by consistently practicing defensive driving techniques learned by attending state, national and private or commercially recognized defensive driving courses. These courses can be very useful in helping your company promote safe driving among all employees.

Resources
WCF Insurance teaches the National Safety Council 4-hour Defensive Driving Course free to policyholders during the year. Visit WCF Insurance Safety Seminars for a listing of course offerings and registration information.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
385.351.8103

Ask a Safety Consultant

https://www.osha.gov
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes or standards.

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