Driver Safety Hotline – Dealing with Reports

cropped-decal-ate-truck.jpgOne of the most often asked questions from safety managers is “what am I supposed to do with a driver who has received a Motorist Observation Report?”

Blended Risk ScoreFor many, the assumption is that a report = disciplinary action, blame setting, arguments and confrontations that lead to sulky drivers and higher turnover.

However, that’s never what we had in mind (despite our competitors ingraining that ‘mentality’ into their fleet customers over the past three decades)….

The goal of a safety hotline is to increase safety results, not punish drivers.  

Unfortunately, many supervisors have never had training or education on “how to coach/counsel” for improved habits and to motivate drivers to seek a better level of safety awareness.  The other issue is often a lack of tools in the tool kit to help drivers.

Another traffic picFor example, when we send a report we not only provide as much detail as possible (taking a paragraph or two to describe what happened) but we also use a tactic called “polite interrogation” of the motorist.  This sounds horrible, but we’re working on behalf of the commercial driver, not the caller.  Therefore, we ask open ended questions instead of trying to simply fill out a checklist.  We have a few other tricks of the trade to help vet these calls, but a good artist never reveals all of their secrets.

Next, we have our computer system attach one-page safety fact sheets to reports which match the specific habit types listed on the report (i.e. tailgating, swerving in traffic, running red lights, etc.)  The driver reads these sheets and signs/dates the bottom of the form to document at least minimal training has been provided.

We send a link to a supervisory video program on how to conduct proactive, cooperative coaching sessions.  This includes role play scenarios on the most common issues presented by drivers.

Additionally, our reports “recommend” specific 5 to 7 minute remedial, online, interactive training courses with “one-click” ordering of multiple courses (one course for each key habit issue) so that drivers get the training they need the most based on actual observations.  Some vendors limit you to picking the most egregious habit (can only assign one course—and their courses average 37 to 42 minutes long apiece—YIKES, talk about mind-numbing disrespect of a professional driver and a waste of time, energy and resource)

Driver Safety Cycles

Summary

Our program isn’t about pointing fingers, setting blame or yelling at drivers.

Our program is a DRIVER EDUCATION program that happens to use stickers as a triggering agent to identify who needs the MOST URGENT attention on SPECIFIC TOPICS, right now, BEFORE a crash or moving violation happen.

Our goal is to help supervisors focus on the few drivers who just need a little “course correction” before they’re off the rails.  This is prevention at it’s best. 

Other food for thought from very recent client case studies (past two years)…..

  • One of our clients operates 12,000 trucks.  They installed GPS.  Their GPS provider had no mechanism for them to translate the data into actionable follow ups with individual drivers.  During the second year, all excessive speed alerts (driving more than a set maximum threshold) came to us to be processed as Motorist Observation Reports (to use our coaching process.)  Since the rule was that none of these could be deleted, each incident must end up with coaching offered to the driver.  Net results?  By the end of the second year, they had decreased GPS speed alerts by 600% (From 1700 down to 174).  This was by “no-fault” coaching instead of discipline and termination – result was curbing behavior while increasing tenure.
  • Another client with 450 tractor trailers (over the road trucking) has GPS.  They got 470 hotline calls (motorist observation reports) in the first year on the program (more than one per tractor!) – out of these, ONLY five were ‘inaccurate” based on GPS readings for location/speed at time of report – that’s only 1% considered inaccurate and all remaining reports were used for coaching.  Their accident frequency has stayed about the same; however, severity per claim is “significantly lower” than the prior year and they believe it’s due to the drivers being aware of their surroundings and using the training we’ve provided to modify their habits.

SafetyFirst

Managing Risk Thru Driver Points

For many fleets, the MVR review process is a time consuming, energy draining project done annually.  The paper produced by the project can represent great insights or merely a pile of paper. 

Progressive fleets have been working over the past decade to streamline their process by moving from spreadsheets and PDF files to “granular data” on each driver that can be sorted, sliced and diced.  This granular data of violations can be matched to a point system, and even blended with other data such as historical crash data (preventables, at-faults, or all incidents), telematics alerts, How’s My Driving reports, or other indicators.

While fleets have collected this data in the past, collating it has been an uphill battle since data layouts were not compatible, or, in some cases, difficult to get from one system to another.

Another example of a blended scoreConsider the image at right.  This driver has a lot of data and a lot of activity. 

Initially, many would simply dismiss the driver outright, but upon closer examination, you can see some interesting patterns in the data. 

From 2005 to 2010, there are five speeding events in five years (although three occured in 2008).  In 2011, there were two motorist complaints about driving too fast, dishonoring the right of way and failure to stay in lane.  The next event to occur was a crash in August of 2011 when the driver hit another vehicle in the rear. 

Another crash happened in January 2012 (and was cited for careless driving on same date), then another complaint about lane change, signals and driving too fast for conditions in June of 2012. 

Management had indicators that this driver tends to rush. 

  • Was there any direct observation of the driver to determine whether they allow proper following distance? 
  • Was there remedial training provided and completed? 

The system that produced this report can be expanded to show the remediation events (and, in theory could provide negative points for successful training, etc.)

At issue isn’t just one particular driver, but locating those drivers who are most likely to be involved in collisions based on patterns of behavior, or who’ve had one crash already and may be ready to have a subsequent crash.

The National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) recently posted the following video about driver point systems:

SafetyFirst’s E-DriverFile program has been ordering and processing these reports for years for clients with as few as 40 drivers and as many as 7,500 drivers. The system does much more than report on these metrics and can even help those fleets who are regulated by FMCSR.

How does your organization handle MVR point systems?  Do you have a database program?  Is it largely manual?  Can it automatically order fresh MVRs on higher than average risk drivers quarterly?  Would you save time if all this data was in a single spot?

Can we show you how our program works for larger, multiple location fleets?

…but I got that ticket while in my personal car!

During my many years working in the field as a Loss Control Professional for the P&C insurance industry, I heard many employers (especially those who employed CDL license holders) asking about granting exceptions on MVR reviews when the driver had gotten a conviction while driving their own personal car “on the weekend”.

I was taught (in the insurance world) that it doesn’t matter what vehicle you were driving at the time of the violation — “behavior is behavior“.  If you speed on the weekend, you’ll probably speed on the weekdays, too.

PoliceA lot of managers pushed back on this notion by stating that people drive differently when behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound piece of steel.   That may be accurate, but learned and practiced behavior runs to the core of our personality and provides a strong governor of our actions.  When I learn to speed and roll through stop signs without getting caught for a long time, I take more risks and I learn to de-value the potential cost of risk taking.

Well, unfortunately for one driver (but perhaps an object lesson for others) the loss of a CDL has very publicly occured from personal driving violations.

According to published news reports,

“the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled Feb. 7 in the case of James Sondergaard v. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation and Bureau of Driver Licensing, that Sondergaard’s CDL would be suspended for life.  According to court records, Sondergaard was convicted twice of DUI in 2010. Both arrests occurred while Sondergaard, a CDL holder, was driving his personal vehicle. The Pennsylvania Driver Licensing Bureau then suspended his CDL for life in August 2011.”

Arguing that state law was not clear, a series of court battles ensued, but culminated with the lifetime suspension of his CDL.

As pointed out in Land Line Magazine (Click Here to See Source Article);

“While the state law may not be straightforward, the federal regulations governing truckers is crystal clear.

The federal regulations outline varying durations of disqualifications under 383.51 The regulation spells out the various “major” and “serious” violations. The lengths of the various disqualification are a minimum standard set out to the states. States have the option of increasing the length of the suspensions if they so choose.

Federal regulation 383.51 states that the first conviction of being under the influence – even in a non-CMV – results in a one-year suspension. The second conviction is a lifetime suspension.

However, lifetime may not necessarily be lifetime. Reinstatement is possible after 10 years if that person has voluntarily entered and successfully completed an appropriate rehabilitation program approved by the state, according to 383.51(5).

Summary

So reviewing a driver’s MVR is important for a lot of reasons.  First, the employer should spot exceptions such as suspensions to protect their own legal interests.  Secondly, the employer should care enough about their operator to alert them that their continued aggregation of violations and convictions can lead to disaster — whether measured by collisions from risk taking habits OR loss of driving priviledges which affect employment.

Making exceptions or attempting to rationalize violations doesn’t do the driver or the employer any favors even though it may seem that way.  “Letting a violation slide” becomes an enabler of inappropriate (or at the very least, risky) habits.

If your current MVR review policy grants exceptions, please revisit that decision soon.  It’s possible that there may be certain situations where granting an exception could be justified, but it should be the true, rare exception rather the commonplace occurance.

Finally, remember that MVRs are vital, but not perfect.  There have been many situations documented by studies where violations and convictions are not reported, are masked, or have simply been lost when they “slipped through the cracks”. 

Additional Resources:

  1. Identifying drivers who may be at risk of becoming involved in a collsion:  MVR Analysis http://my.safetyfirst.com/newsfart/UnderwritingTrends8-2006(MVR).pdf
  2. Why Order & Review MVRs on Drivers? https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/why-order-review-mvrs-on-drivers/
  3. How to Use Individual Driver Motor Vehicle Records to Manage Risk  http://www.bbdetroit.com/news.php?id=166
  4. Do How’s My Driving? Programs Really Work? (See section titled “The MVR GAP”) http://www.fleet-central.com/resources/AF11supp_p22_25LR.pdf
  5. New MVR Ordering Features added to E-Driver File https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/new-mvr-reporting-features-added-to-e-driverfile/
  6. Deciphering MVR Profiling https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/deciphering-mvr-profiling/

UPDATE: Drowsy Driving

Our recent posting about Drowsy Driving got a lot of attention.  We wanted to circle back and provide a few updates.

A federal jury awarded a $7 million judgment in the case of a fatigue (or driving while drowsy) case.  Here’s a link to the report:  http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southcentral/2011/11/14/223977.htm

Several interesting news articles have appeared over the last week or two and we wanted to share them with you.

November 17, 2011  http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/494110 (it starts with “For any motorist, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or without sufficient sleep can have disastrous results. However, drowsy or intoxicated truckers and other drivers of large commercial vehicles pose a unique safety threat, as serious consequences of accidents caused by these types of vehicles are far more likely to gravely impact passengers in other autos: only about ten percent of those killed annually in truck accidents are drivers or passengers in the truck.”)

November 9, 2011 — “Driving drowsy as dangerous as driving drunk, studies showhttp://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/09/driving-drowsy-as-dangerous-as-driving-drunk-studies-show/  “I know what it feels like and looks like and so do you. So why do many surveys show that most of us have driven while drowsy and many of us do so on a regular basis? Well, for one thing, we are not a culture that takes sleep seriously.”

November 15, 2011 – “Not Enough Drivers Realize Dangers of Drowsy Driving, Insurer Says”  http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2011/11/15/224095.htm “According to the National Sleep Foundation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that about one in six deadly crashes involve a drowsy driver.”

November 14, 2011 – “Is the driver in the next lane falling asleep at the wheel?”  http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2011/112011/11142011/664324 – “BE CAREFUL next time you’re out on the road–the driver next to you might be asleep. Or at least pretty tired. Neither, obviously, is a good thing.”

Our “Ten-Minute Training Topic” on Drowsy Driving has been one of the most popular and often downloaded topic we’ve published since 2003!  Thanks for the interest and support of our crash reduction programs.