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May 26, 2016

Beyond Compliance – Four ways to help create a safer work environment for your drivers

One of the most challenging workplaces is one we all interact with every day – the public streets. More and more companies are looking for ways to create a safer work environment for their employees that drive a company vehicle. Even though no one can control everything that happens on the road, here are four ways companies can take a proactive approach to workplace safety for their drivers.

1. Driver Management
Typically, when employees start a new job, the safety department will collect information from a driver. The key is to make sure the copies are current in their driver records.

Companies will often have a checklist for new driver files. Best industry practices include several pieces of information safety departments should collect and keep on file for a commercial driver employee. Some of the items below are required and should be updated annually or when the license is renewed. This depends on the minimum weight of the vehicle the employee is allowed to drive.
  1. Copy of Driver’s License
  2. Copy of Driver Abstract or Motor Vehicle Records
  3. Road Test Certificate 4. Copy of Medical Certificate
  4. Verification that the medical examiner is on the National Registry
  5. Copy of Resume
  6. Accident History Background Check
  7. DOT Drug Screening
  8. Verification the driver has a copy of the company policy and driver handbook
Whether in hard copy paper or an electronic file, the goal is to make sure the driver is trained and licensed to operate the vehicle they are required to drive on the job.

Employees driving a smaller company vehicle that is not considered a commercial vehicle, are not required to produce this documentation. But it is best practices to ensure all employees driving while on company time have a valid driver’s license.

2. Hours of Service Management
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), commercial driver employees are required to track their hours of service (HOS) using a record of duty status (RODS) if they drive a vehicle that meets the criteria for commercial driving. The purpose of these rules and the log book is to set parameters on how long a driver can drive in any given period of time, track driver work hours, and create a safer work environment.

The debate is that HOS limits the ability for drivers to operate and meet the growing expectations for faster service. Drivers are squeezed on the other end by employers, suppliers, and customers with delivery and pick-up deadlines, traffic, road construction, weather, and any number of factors beyond their control. Drivers often feel pressured and push themselves too hard, creating stress beyond the stress of driving.

Employers, customers, and suppliers, often take the transportation portion of a sale, job, or internal transfer for granted. They pull up an online map or dispatching software, place start and end points, and use the estimated hours as a guide. This is dangerous because it does not account for mandatory driver break times, truck speed limits, which are different than cars, and weather.

There are some easy ways to help drivers be more successful and lower the stress levels of an already stressful position.
  1. Internal education for non-driver employees that work with drivers. Teach the basics on what is required of a commercial driver. Many fellow employees may not be aware of the limits.
  2. Add some buffer time into a delivery schedule. Even eight hours can make a difference.
  3. Create an open door for dialogue and check-ins with driver employees to discuss any issues. Empower your drivers to speak up.
  4. Offer additional training opportunities to drivers so they can grow and become better drivers. There may be an area they would like more practice, like backing up, but often will not ask for help.
3. GPS and Mapping
GPS is often viewed as a big brother tool to oversee drivers. Although this may be that case for some company cultures, many integrate GPS as a safety tool, especially for employees that work alone, in remote locations, or night time hours.

This double-edge viewed of GPS should be addressed with all employees that use the service since few, if any, other employees in the organization are tracked to that level of detail.

A few things you can do to build driver trust and turn GPS into a driver safety resource are:
  1. Train dispatchers, supervisors, and managers on basic driving and commercial vehicle operations. This way a dispatcher is not radioing a driver for speeding 5mph over the limit for 5 seconds when the driver is coming over the crest of a hill.
  2. Focus on the percent of good driving time. The drivers in your company are professionals doing a skilled job. Reward them for driving well.
  3. Use the GPS to coordinate and plan routing, estimate average driving times between points, and maintenance scheduling.
4. Fleet Management
Operating safe equipment is critical for a driver and the general public. An ounce of prevention cannot only keep the vehicle on the road, but could save a life.

When a company has a strong maintenance and safety culture, driver trust increases because they are operating safe equipment.

Best in class maintenance departments work closely with the safety officer. Together, they make sure key benchmarks are in place and followed company-wide, including:
  1. Routine maintenance,
  2. Preventative maintenance schedule,
  3. Daily inspections,
  4. Complete recordkeeping of past maintenance, and
  5. Equipment specs and information that is easily accessible for mechanics and supervisor.
Drivers and their vehicles are an important public face and safety behavior is contagious. By helping to create a safe work environment for your employee drivers, we can also improve the driving environment for other commercial drivers and the general public.

Safer roads save money, save time, and lower driver stress.

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