Merging at Ramps

junction13Accessing a highway can present several challenges to drivers – whether novice or experienced: poor weather, low light levels, road design and the discourtesy of other drivers can each contribute factors that increase our risk of a crash while merging at ramps.

In a perfect driving world, we’d be the only operator and vehicle on the road; however, that’s just not possible.  We face congestion, road work, and delays each day as we go from site to site.  Merging adds stress since we have to cope with limited visibility areas (aka “blind spots”) and finding that gap in traffic flow where we can “squeeze in” to our spot with all the other vehicles.

SafetyZone-Safety GoalJuly’s Ten-Minute Training Topic provides drivers and their supervisors with insights and discussion about merging at ramps.  The driver handout refreshes operators on common problems encountered, and offers reminders about traffic, ramp metering and even wrong-way crashes that happen when a confused (or impaired) motorist manages to take the wrong ramp and rushes head-long into oncoming traffic.  The slideshows also help to illustrate these issues and aids for drivers.

Automotive Fleet Magazine recently posted a nice article and video to promote safe merging at on ramps.  To view these click HERE.

ramp collisions

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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

Hidden Liabilities for Fleets

Wayne Smolda, President of CEI, offered the following provocative thoughts on his blog (bold added by us for emphasis):

On balance, technological advances are proving to be beneficial to fleets. Vehicles Ediscoveryare safer than ever before and get better fuel economy. When used properly, wireless communications are also helping fleets and their drivers to be more productive in such ways as plotting more efficient routes and enabling drivers to stay in closer touch with their organizations and customers. But there are two applications of wireless communications in the realm of traffic safety that I believe are having a potentially very nasty unintended consequence.

The applications are telematics and traffic cameras, and the unintended consequence is an all-but invisible increase in fleet liability…such systems are also capturing data that could reveal that some drivers are habitually speeding…the data being captured makes it possible for fleets to identify high-risk drivers. Yet, how many fleets are actually converting that data into actionable information…? I submit that many are not – even though the data resides in their computer systems.

A similar challenge comes from the proliferation of traffic safety cameras. Camera-redlight cam pictureissued tickets are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle, but in most cases that is the fleet, not the driver. That means that most of the violations don’t get recorded on one of the major tools fleets use for identifying high-risk drivers, their motor vehicle records. Unless fleets find a way to connect traffic camera violations to the drivers responsible, they are missing another opportunity to use the data they have to identify drivers they ought to reconsider trusting to operate a motor vehicle.

The very real gap in data leading to “compassionate interventions” to address safety issues can be easily overcome by using SafetyFirst’s “Safety Hotline” program and our “E-Another example of a blended scoreDriverFile” system.  Both programs capture telematics alerts AND automated traffic enforcement violations to present on a BLENDED RISK SCORE REPORT.

In fact, we’ve previously published an article showing a one-year decline in GPS speed alerts of 600% based on using our coaching processes to curb the risk taking behavior BEFORE it led to bigger problems.

YOU set the time frames and the score weighting for your own fleet operation, and you can also generate “violation only” scores versus “blended scores” — where one can be used to assign non-punitive training (via our new “SAFETY ZONE” learning management system with the industry’s newest, most provocative refresher modules, and the other can be used for Human Resources (i.e. disciplinary) purposes.

Copy of Copy of EDF LOGO (final)

How IS my driving?

UNFI on the roadBased on industry estimates there are several million commercial vehicles (ranging in size/type from SUVs/Vans and Pickups thru tri-axle dumps and tractor trailers) using some sort of “how’s my driving” placard system.

Some of these are internally developed and executed hotlines — where the observer is actually calling the fleet operation directly.

However, most of these hotlines are through a third-party specialist organization that handles all of the administration of:

  • Processing calls on a 24/7/365 basis (instead of dealing with voice mail during “off hours”)
  • Dispatching reports on a timely basis to the correct location supervisor so that he/she can coach the driver promptly
  • Delivering professional driver training materials to help in the coaching process — to focus on a safety “conversation” instead of a disciplinary or fault finding “confrontation”
  • Providing training to supervisors on “how to coach” productively (the goal is to influence drivers to look at their own behaviors and want to be safer tomorrow, not “prove” someone did something wrong)
  • Supporting a “close the loop” process — to track the status of each and every report
  • Providing simple, but valuable management reporting proactively BY EMAIL
  • Providing supplemental driver training modules for the benefit of ALL your drivers (keep them all safety minded).

Did You Know?

  • Eighty percent of all drivers NEVER get a complaint call report during their career?
    • Further, of the twenty percent who do get reports — half get ONLY one and NEVER get another.
    • However, the final group of drivers get call after call after call.
  • Typically these multiple reports focus on common themes — tailgating, following too closely, space management issues, speeding, aggressive driving, etc.
  • Often, the issues raised in the call reports mirror the past violations on the MVR of the affected driver.
  • Sometimes, the call reports actually forecast an imminent collision — in other words, ignore the report and waiting will result in either a violation or preventable crash.

Aren’t these just crank calls?  Motorists with an ax to grind?

  • Our clients investigate each report — even if it’s on a “star” driver or an unusual situation.  They find that only one or two reports out of every hundred are unable to be validated or were not helpful to their own investigation and coaching process.
  • If the reports were from crank callers, the callers would be picking trucks randomly out of the crowd.  The call statistics don’t show a random distribution of calls.  We see 80% of the drivers NEVER get a call, 10% get one (and never another) and 10% get multiples.  So if it’s all made up, why do some drivers get almost all of the reports?
  • Interestingly, the drivers who get multiple call reports have the same sticker as all their peers.
    • Their sticker isn’t larger or bright neon green or offering to pay a bounty for anyone who calls — so why do they get more reports than their peers?
    • Behavior, habits, risk taking, complacency…..call it what you may, but this represents a chance to HELP this driver avoid any future tickets, fines, or crashes.
    • All it takes is a management team willing to have a conversation, sit him/her down for some training, and keep an eye on them in case the training was ignored.

Isn’t this “old fashioned” and being replaced by Hi-Tech?

  • Just because something’s been proven effective and has been around for thirty years doesn’t mean it stops working.
    • Pizza has been on menus for much longer, but it’s still popular.
    • Baseball and Football have been around much longer and they’re still popular — why would something become ineffective just because it’s been around?
  • It is true that there are hi-tech toys and gizmos out there to monitor drivers.
    • They focus on location, idle time, on/off route, raw speed, harsh braking, harsh cornering, aggressive swerving, and harsh acceleration.
    • ultratrack_1_smThese systems can never detect running a red light, speeding through a school zone when children are present, passing a stopped school bus, discourtesy to other drivers, littering, speeding based on “at the moment” conditions of weather, traffic, etc. (and more).
    • They’re good at what they offer and may provide a fleet with great data; however, separating the mountains of “background noise” data from the “urgently actionable” issues requires a full time analyst who is not provided with the system.
    • We already incorporate telematics alerts into our coaching system.  One client recognized a 600% reduction in speeding behaviors by linking the two systems! (Click HERE)
    • These systems are roughly 100 times more expensive than “how’s my driving?”

Capturing Near Miss Data

People who call in a report about risk taking behavior typically do so because they were frightened or angered by what they saw.  Think about your own experience on the highways — you’ve seen risky behavior, but what would motivate you to actually place a call report (hands free!)?  Something that was “almost” a crash, but was, instead, a “near-miss”.

Rarely do we receive calls about trivial situations — typical calls deal with high speed merges, tailgating, weaving in traffic, and other situations that could lead to crashes featuring bodily injuries (not just physical damage).

Because our system self-selects the most egregious behaviors for reports, the number of reports is quite low — only two or three reports per month (per 100 vehicles).  However, the importance of each report is very high.  This is the opposite of telematics systems that produce mountains of paperwork and you’ve got to locate the needle in the haystack.

Here’s another way to look at this approach:

Pyramid 2011 for blog

 

Closing the Loop

Our clients have an aggregate close out rate of 80% — that means almost every report is investigated to the point that a definitive management action has been instituted.

Another example of a blended scoreFurther, several studies have conclusively shown that this coaching process (without video training or online training) has been the key to unlocking significant crash reduction results (10–30% fewer crashes than without the hotline program in place.)

So, now that we’ve been producing brief (5-7 minute) reminder videos for our online Learning Management System (LMS) we expect even stronger loss reduction results.

The first five remedial/refresher videos were produced in both English and Spanish (for use with non‐regulated fleets), and cover the following topics:

  1. Tailgating
  2. Improper Lane Change
  3. Honoring the Right of Way
  4. Driving Too Fast for Conditions
  5. Running Red Lights / Stop Signs

These five topics cover roughly 80% of all Motorist Observation Reports (MORs) generated at SafetyFirst, and a similar emphasis on moving violations.

We are in the process of releasing additional topics based on MOR trends, client recommendations and the level of enthusiastic adoption of the videos within our client base.

As of September 1, 2013:

  1. Exceeding the Speed Limit (dealing with GPS alerts!)
  2. Aggressive Driving
  3. Distracted Driving (Cell Phone/Text)
  4. Drowsy Driving
  5. Faulty Equipment
  6. Drug/Alcohol Use
  7. Driving Too Slowly for Conditions (Impeding Traffic)

Summary

Driving Too Fast PPTWhether a regulated fleet or not, our program offers a range of benefits worth considering — it’s very low cost, includes a monthly training package, urgent alerts about near miss events, coaching and re-training emphasis (instead of fault finding or blaming) and the ability to run your drivers through very brief, but highly motivational online training modules.

We’re already the industry leader in driver safety programs for:  Arborists/GreenCare, Social Service Providers, Municipalities, Pest Control, HVAC, Electrical Contractors, Beverage Delivery, Telecommunications, Food Processing and Distribution, Specialty Contractors, Construction, Auto Parts Wholesale and Retail, Retail (Direct Delivery) and more!

Why not check us out?

1-888-603-6987

NEw logo

 

Summer Driving

summer traffic 1Over the past twenty-five years of my safety career, I’ve seen countless videos, bulletins and articles highlighting tips and advice to drivers on coping with the savage conditions of “Winter Driving”.  Without a doubt, the winter season can bring unpredictable weather (depending on where you live and drive) ranging from snow, sleet, rain, fog, etc.  Additionally, low sun angles make dawn and dusk glare difficult to see other vehicles.

One of our clients asked — “why so little attention given to summer driving?”  It wasn’t an easy question to address initially and I wondered the same thing — why don’t we see more published about summer driving?  Most of what I’ve found on this topic deals with motorists heading out on vacation — dealing with congestion, unexpected breakdowns, overheated cars and tempers, etc.

Still, one point was inescapable — summertime deaths on the road are just as tragic, and depending on your source statistics, more numerous than in the winter.

National Safety Council, among others, have coined the term “The 100 Deadliest Days of Summer” as those days between Memorial Day (the final Monday of May in the USA) and Labor Day (First Monday in September) where road deaths are higher than any other time of the year.  In fact, it has been suggested that the sheer number of fatalities on 4th of July exceed those associated with the New Year’s holiday in January.

Contributing factors may include:

  • Increased motor vehicle activity —
    • more drivers in more vehicles on the road at the same time (i.e. adding vacationers to the “normal” levels of commuters, delivery and commercial drivers)
    • Longer days means more driving over the course of more hours
  • Vacationers heading out on long-distance trips fall victim to drowsy driving (pushing to make it further to avoid mid-trip layovers) and speed-aggravated collisions.
  • Increased congestion breeds fender-benders
  • Generally more drinking and driving by vacationers and holiday partiers
  • More late night traffic to avoid day-time congestion
  • More construction zones with merge points, little respect for construction zone speed limits (aggravating crashes at merge points)
  • Distracted driving “may” be greater due to popularity of social media (i.e. posting updates from vacation trip, checking work emails from the road at a red light, etc.)
  • Sudden rainstorms (depending on geographic location) may lead to more hydroplanning when downpours provide excessive rain that won’t drain from the roadway surface quickly.
  • Impaired driving from OTC or prescription meds for allergies, sunburns, etc.

cropped-thanksgiving-traffic.jpg

What can drivers do to prepare for summer driving hazards?

  • Expect Heavy Traffic:  Traffic delays on a Friday start earlier than any other day of the week, particularly when it’s sunny.  Typical delays begin at about 1pm and continue into the usual rush hour. Fender benders, lost drivers and heavy merging at on ramps can clog major roads – especially in urban centers where commuters and through traffic mix.
  • Stay Healthy:  Remember to keep hydrated but avoid any heavy meals to prevent drowsiness. Get consistent and quality rest at scheduled times. Eat a balanced diet.  Avoid adding to your stress levels.  Wear your seatbelt at all times when in your vehicle. 
  • Pack Smart: Keep a basic emergency kit stocked in the event of a breakdown. Key components may include a cell phone charger, water, snacks, necessary medications, first aid supplies and portable cooling devices, such as battery-powered fans.
  • Avoid distractions: There is no room for multi-tasking while driving because “driving is multitasking.” Driving involves a million small tasks, including watching the road, minding your speed, and being wary of other drivers. Distractions have no place in this demanding activity. Distractions don’t just mean cell phone or electronics use. Distractions can include everything from difficult passengers to talk radio programs that get you angry about social, political or religious hot topics. Keep your focus on the road — if you can’t, then pull over in a safe area for a break.
  • Slow down in rainstorms:  Hydroplaning is common in the summer with sudden downpours from thunder showers very typical in many parts of the country. You will need tires with plenty of tread depth to resist hydroplaning. So, if your current tires are nearly worn-out, get them replaced.  Increased levels of rain leave water on the road, which may cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles and hydroplane. The rain also erodes rock and dirt, destabilizing shoulders.
  • Don’t drive drowsy: Long drives, congestion, afternoon heat, prescription or OTC medications (for allergies, etc.), and “highway hypnosis” can all be causes of drowsiness. If your medication makes you drowsy or limits your concentration, plan your trips accordingly. It doesn’t make sense to take good care of your physical health while putting yourself and others in danger on the road. Also, if you feel yourself getting tired on the road, for whatever reason, rolling down your windows and blasting the radio is not enough. Get a drink of water, take a short nap (after finding an appropriate, safe place to park), or walk around outside of your vehicle to stimulate your body through exercise.  Many people will drive home on Sunday after a busy weekend without realizing how tired they have become. These drivers become a hazard to themselves and others on the road – watch out for vehicles unable to stay in their lane, drifting onto the shoulder, unable to maintain a consistent speed (slowing down and speeding up) – these drivers may be on the verge of falling asleep.
  • Take care of your vehicle:  Mechanical errors account for a small minority of car crashes, but it is still important to make sure that your vehicle is in good shape to avoid unexpected breakdowns.
    • Tires:
      • When roads get hot tires suffer; heat aggravates any existing problems with the rubber. Under-inflation causes friction and even more heat which will have an effect on any weak spots and causes punctures and blow-outs. Therefore, check your tire pressure regularly. Keeping your tires properly inflated can help improve gas mileage up to three percent. Be sure to check your tire pressure before you begin driving for the day. This allows you to get a cold pressure reading (the number commonly referenced in your owner’s manual).
      • One of the most common, but unexpected breakdowns is from flat tires.  If you attempt to change it yourself be very careful where you pull over. Make sure you are well away from on-coming traffic as you may not be visible if crouched down beside your wheel.
      • Tires with irregular wear or very low tread depths can contribute to problems in handling, stopping, steering and hydroplaning (skidding on top of standing rain water). Rotating tires regularly helps promote even wear and will help to spot troubles early.
    • Fluids:
      • Check your windshield wipers and wiper fluid: The combination of bad wipers and a summer downpour can leave you with no view of the road. Be sure you have plenty of wiper fluid to help keep your windshield clear of dirt and debris.
      • Change your motor oil regularly: Regular oil changes with the correct grade of motor oil can improve gas mileage up to two percent. Synthetic oils are best for high temperature driving conditions and for added protection when towing.
      • Clean your fuel system: This helps improve fuel economy and maximize engine performance by removing dirt and deposits from the fuel system.
      • Check your cooling system (radiator): It protects your engine from overheating in hot summer conditions. Follow your owner’s manual for regular maintenance.
    • Batteries: Batteries are more heavily stressed in cold AND hot weather.  Weak, older batteries may have trouble providing full charge and can crack or explode.
  • Fill the Tank: A well-fueled vehicle will keep you from being stranded with an empty tank on a hot day.
  • Increase your visibility:  Many collisions are caused by the glare on windshields caused by the sun, particularly at dawn or dusk. It’s also important to keep your windshield clean both inside and outside.  Dirt, grime and dead bug smears can obstruct your view so make sure there is plenty of fluid for your washers.  Since wiper blades last about a year so replace your wipers if necessary, both front and back (if applies).
  • Don’t overload your vehicle: Under-inflation of tires and/or overloading the vehicle will place added stress on your tires in the form of excessive heat build-up. Both of these conditions can adversely affect the vehicle’s handling and fuel economy. Visually inspect your tires. Look for abnormal signs of irregular wear around and across the tire tread area, and check the sidewalls for cuts and bulges. Irregular wear may be a sign of suspension misalignment. If you see any abnormalities in the tires, have the car and tires checked by a service professional. Don’t risk a blowout on the road, which at best can be inconvenient. At worst, it can upset handling and risk a dangerous situation.
  • Never Drink and Drive:  Hydrate with water – avoid sugary drinks and never drink alcohol before driving.

Summary

Summer driving is typically more pleasant and less stressful than winter driving since the roads are clear and (typically) dry.  However, the increased congestion and road construction present a different set of challenges.  Keep your cool, stay hydrated, be patient, plan alternate routes and make sure your vehicle is in top condition and you’ll be well on your way to a better trip than if you fail to plan ahead.  

Another traffic picSafetyFirst has prepared a full “Ten-Minute Training Topic” for this issue which include driver handouts, and presentations for your drivers.  It’s a “special edition” that is not included in our normal monthly calendar — so give us a call or email if you’d like us to send you the kit. 

SafetyFirst works with 3,800+ active clients in all SIC Divisions, and 75+ insurance providers to supply leading edge driver safety programs.

Digging into the MVR – For Stronger Results

LINK — Digging into the MVR – All That’s Trucking – TruckingInfo.com.

There’s no question that fleets need to review driver abstracts (or Motor Vehicle Reports – MVRs) on their drivers to identify any trend or pattern in past moving violations.  The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has connected the links between receiving a violation and increased risk of subsequent collision in two studies that were reported on this blog in the past – HERE.

As recently reported at a fleet safety conference, two similar fleets had chosen to use the same standard for MVR review — exclude violations greater than 36 months old and allow for a combination of three violations and one preventable crash before suspending driving priviledges.  One of these fleets tightened their standard to two violations and one crash during the most recent 24 months and saw a five point reduction in collisions (from 22% of their fleet vehicles involved in a crash per year to 17% of their vehicles involved in a crash) and $2 million in savings.

Since not all violations represent the same level of risk taking, targeting specific types of violations would be expected to further enhance the results.  The ATRI study showed that the occurrence of JUST one of the following moving violations dramatically increased the likelihood of becoming involved in a crash by the following amount:

  • Failure to use or improper turn signal: 96%

  • Improper passing: 88%

  • Improper turn: 84%

  • Improper or erratic lane change: 80%

In comparison, speeding more than 15 mph over the speed limit — which most safety mangers would likely target as a clear indicator of a risky driver — increased the overall crash risk by only 67%.

Our E-DriverFile platform can instantly risk score and rank your fleet of drivers based on multiple data points — telematics alert history, violation history, crash history, automated enforcement violations, and even positives such as recently completed training or other factors that might tend to reduce the risk of becoming involved in a collision.

If you’re still ordering MVRs manually, or have a vendor that can’t do bulk orders, or must manually re-score each driver’s data points, consider our system’s capabilities.

In addition to MVRs, we can expand the program to cover crash reporting, DQ File maintenance, non-regulated driver policy compliance, online storage and completion of forms/files and even provide refresher training in the form of five minute, laser-focused topics that remind drivers of what they should already know and be doing.

Our system was initially deployed in May 2000, a full two years prior to any other driver risk management system on the internet.  Additionally, our program always included vehicle files in addition to driver files — no additional cost!

Our typical client has between 2,500 and 10,000 drivers, but we’ve worked with clients that have as few as several hundred drivers, too.  We work with motor coach operators, intermodal trucking companies, telecom, power generation and distribution, food and beverage, non-profit agencies, retail store chains and wholesale suppliers.

Contact us, toll free, at 1-888-603-6987 for an info packet or a demonstration.

Providing Coaching Feedback for Enhanced Performance

Driver safety programs start with what managers need to do to locate, recruit, screen and train/educate candidates to become qualified operators.  Most of these programs then skip to dealing with crashes and evaluating operator turnover.  The costs associated with letting crashes push the turnover cycle are huge; however, by adopting an assertive and fair coaching mechanism, “at-risk” behaviors can be detected early in the timeline.

Additionally, those drivers who repeatedly appear in front of supervisors for coaching feedback (positive directions on how to avoid repeating the negative performance) could be cycled back through refresher education — a far more beneficial outcome and less costly than having to replace an operator.

Driver Safety Cycles

An often overlooked, but critical management task is monitoring the performance of existing operators and providing timely, relevant feedback to help them eliminate bad habits and replace them with better habits.

Many driver safety experts place a great value on feedback mechanisms for two reasons — when done well they produce great results, and not all driver safety issues can be fixed by more traditional training programs (i.e. 42 minute, online course delivered in three modules, etc.)

Look at this quote from a recent FMCSA document (link):

Additionally, experiences from the insurance industry as reported in trade sources supplement the literature on driver behaviors, suggesting that risky drivers are more than simply those with a lack of skill or inadequate training. In an interview with Peter Van Dyne, technical director for Liberty Mutual, he explains that “many crashes are caused by drivers’ habits and practice, not by their lack of technical knowledge. For example, a driver may be careless about making lane changes, or the use of cruise control, even though he or she knows the proper procedures” (as cited in Leavitt, 2005). This reinforces the notion that safety cannot simply be improved with more training. Often drivers possess the skill and knowledge needed to drive safely, but a bad habit or outside factors, such as a weak safety climate or lack of communication within an organization, will intervene and result in unsafe driving behaviors.

In that same article, it was interesting to read about feedback delivered from technology versus a personal approach:

As in the focus groups, the survey results suggested that, even though drivers may find feedback from technology helpful, they would still like feedback from a real person in addition to the technology. The majority of drivers reported that when it comes to receiving feedback from a person, they would most like feedback from a safety director or their direct supervisor…

The problem facing managers is twofold:

  1. Figuring a time-efficient way to spot and document meaningful (urgently actionable) issues without being overwhelmed by “background noise” data.
  2. Developing coaching skills to deliver feedback in a way that avoids needless confrontation and focuses on improving results without spiraling into a blame-game.

First, multiple mechanisms exist to gather performance issue indicators –

  1. How’s My Driving actually works very well despite the myths and misconceptions about crank calls and wasted time.  Most safety managers who actually use the program have documented that 99 out of 100 call reports are valid and worth the time to investigate and use as a coaching tool.  This is a great statistic since most fleets only get two reports per 100 vehicles per month – that’s one “bad” report every three to five years for smaller fleets.  Best of all, the program is designed to provide helpful feedback to benefit the driver, not penalize them. (80% of the drivers NEVER get a report, but 10% get multiple calls despite having the same sticker as all of their peers in their fleet!)
  2. Periodic MVR review or profiling — pulling the history of police reported crashes and moving violations for each driver enables a fleet safety team to develop a baseline of expected performance and use that as an objective measuring stick.  If drivers are accruing violations for speeding, they should receive feedback before their license is suspended for too many infractions.  Additionally, by combining additional data points such as preventable crashes (reported internally), “automated enforcement violations” from red-light cameras and radar-speed-cameras, andBlended Risk Score how’s my driving events, et.al. the fleet can get a clearer picture of which drivers are taking excessive risks while behind the wheel.  In an article that appeared in Construction Executive driver safety expert Peter Van Dyne states “Annually monitor driver performance to compare each driver’s actual performance against established safe driving expectations. However, such monitoring provides limited insight if the company has not established the right expectations. The company should review the individual’s driving record, crashes and compliance with company fleet safety expectations using a combination of observation, technology and manager feedback.”
  3. Telematics or GPS systems provide alerts on harsh braking, excessive speed, heavy acceleration and excessive sway/swerve.  Some even provide speed limit alerts based on mapping of speed limits throughout the territory.  The issue is that the pile of alerts generated in a given day or week can become excessive, requiring a filter to separate the “urgently actionable” from the “background noise”.  Additionally, it can become tedious to keep repeating “Slow Down” to your drivers if they continue to speed.  Clearly, enhanced feedback strategies are needed to translate “DATA” into “Behavior Safety Results”
  4. Camera in Cabin systems capture video of crashes so that you can tell drivers what they did wrong and why they violated your safety policies.  Typically this leads to hurt feelings, animosity, bruised egos and fear among other drivers that their own mistakes might be documented for posterity (or court).  Still, these programs could be tailored to provide a more positive coaching experience and in those circumstances may be able to provide a long-term, sustainable solution via coaching programs instead of playing “gotcha!” games with drivers.

Other programs could include supervisory ride alongs, road trailing (following behind company vehicles to make discreet observations) or incorporating feedback from customers.

Secondly, once a data gathering program is in place, supervisors need to develop practical skills on how to provide feedback on a regular basis.  This is best characterized as delivering material coaching on critical performance issues (i.e. complacency, failure to adhere to policy, excessive risk taking, et.al.) to an operator with the intent of helping them enhance their performance before a truly negative outcome occurs (i.e. crash, injury, etc.)

CoachingWhen it’s time to talk to the driver, it’s important to have a strategy.  Many supervisors don’t know where to start and quickly end up putting the driver on the defensive – unwilling to consider whether they could change their own habits to prevent injuries or crashes.  Drivers who fear coaching sessions because they’re perceived to be unhelpful, masked punishment will push back through defensive arguing and negotiating over the details of the incident regardless of how the data was developed (i.e. how’s my driving versus telematics — the driver will argue that the system failed in some manner and that the driver is blameless).  The key is to avoid blame setting by either the supervisor or driver, and focus on getting both parties to agree on what the expected level of performance must be and how to establish a goal to keep performance within those boundaries.

Coaching Tips TitleSafetyFirst has produced an online, interactive training module, a stand alone video and numerous power points and word documents to help supervisors prepare for coaching sessions.  In addition to these proprietary resources, we often recommend articles on providing feedback such as the recent one featured in Forbes (click HERE for the full article).

In summary, the Forbes article, titled “Are You Making Any Of These Common Feedback Mistakes?” covers five key mistakes folks make when providing feedback.

  1. The Pillow Effect – sometimes we’re so concerned with the potential emotional response (or bruising) that could happen when delivering feedback about negative performance that we go overboard in placing “pillows” of false praise to cushion the blow of the actual feedback.  Sometimes referred to as the “Sandwich” of praise, criticism and more praise, this approach more often confuses the operator because we’re sending mixed signals.  The article states “Studies have shown that this type of feedback leads to confusion, and causes a distraction from the essential problem that needs to be fixed. Just as bad, the feedback can come across as insincere and condescending. If you’re the recipient of such feedback, you’re generally just waiting to get to the real point — and preferring to be treated like an adult who can handle the truth. In fact, the only person who feels better from this approach is the one giving the feedback.”  Instead of trying to cushion the blow, be direct and honest.  Explain why this coaching session was triggered (we don’t want anyone getting hurt and we take safety seriously, etc.) and outline the ideal outcome of the session.  Perhaps the start of the conversation might sound like this:  “I’d like us to talk about and agree on a plan to do things differently to reduce the chances of a crash – part of that plan will need to include no-fault training that offers a basic refresher on key topics – not because you’re at fault, but because we need to document actions taken and because it’s never a bad time to get a refresher on safety.”  This is clear and avoids the “good news, bad news, good news” sandwich that leaves operators confused as to what’s actually happening – did I do well or poorly?  Am I in trouble and don’t really know it yet?
  2. Lack of specificity – as supervisors and managers, the more precisely we define the issue, the more constructive the conversation can be.  Saying things like “you need to be more careful” don’t help most operators very much.  Explaining why most drivers don’t realize that they’re following too closely can get them into trouble with inadequate reaction time and stopping distance is more helpful when trying to help drivers curb their tailgating habits.
  3. Wrong type of feedback feedback is not a one-size-fits-all effort.  The article states it well “When people are new at a task they need more positive feedback. As they move to a higher level of experience, they crave constructive criticism to stay sharp and increase performance.”  So a rookie driver may need more details and examples of how to do it right, but a seasoned vet may need a blunt discussion about following the rules instead of taking liberties with policies that are in place to protect them from getting hurt.  The article references a skills versus will chart to help us diagnose whether the underlying issue is one of skills (don’t know what to do or how to do it correctly) versus will (knows how to do it correctly, but isn’t willing to follow the procedure due to complacency or other issue).  http://www.primarygoals.org/general/skill-will-matrix/
  4. Wrong setting – “Where you give feedback matters greatly. The adage to praise in public and punish in private exists for a reason. Giving feedback in a collective environment, like a weekly meeting, can cause embarrassment and stress. Even if you as a manager don’t think it’s particularly harsh, that doesn’t mean the recipient feels the same. A quick, critical comment about an employee’s performance can have a disproportionate impact.”  Giving your operator a head’s up about the need to have a coaching session gives them time to prepare, but it also gives you time to prepare yourself to focus on the benefits of improved performance, elimination of sloppy habits and the reduced chances of being hurt due to a crash – even if it’s another driver’s “fault”.
  5. Over-reliance on positive or negative feedback – “Depending on our personalities, some of us find it easier to provide one kind of feedback over the other. For example, some highly analytical people tend to lean on constructive feedback, and can find positive feedback to be fluff. It’s important to know what you gravitate towards, and to shore up your weakness so you provide a balance of feedback.”  Regarding safety issues, it’s important to avoid the blame game and instead focus on working as a team to set short-term, highly achievable goals that reduce risk, comply with policy and encourage the operator to leave the session empowered to do their job in an expert manner – for the benefit of both the operator’s well being and the company’s mission.

Training Matters

Many employers are sending their operators to online training modules as refreshers.  This is a good approach, unless the training is boring, tedious or feels like punishment.  The average online training session for driver safety issues runs about 42 minutes long!  The average adult attention span is under 15 minutes, and most television ads have been cut from 30 seconds to 15 seconds in recent years.

The selection of training content could undermine all of your coaching feedback efforts in an instant.  How?  If you ask a driver to submit to a mind-numbing series of modules on why they should be using their turn signals consistently it will surely feel like punishment after the fact.

SafetyFirst has pioneered a series of HD, broadcast quality videos that combine live action, talking heads, onscreen animations, and limited text presentations which engage drivers and give them the reminder in less than 5 minutes.

The programs have been praised by safety managers as comprehensive and by drivers who feel respected as professionals by the brevity of the presentation.

The ten-question quiz must be passed with a minimum score of 80% and is unique to each driver (pulling randomly from a pool of twenty questions, and presenting the answer choices in randomized order each time).

The program has been through an extensive beta-test to increase the “user friendliness” for drivers and their managers.  For those fleets who need i-pad support, our programs are NOT flash-based and will work on any hand-held device (for those “gather around” meetings at job sites where all can group around a laptop to watch the presentation and then take paper-based quiz sheets to document their understanding of the content).  We have twelve topics in English and the five most common driving issues available in Spanish, too.

Current Safety Hotline (blue sticker program) clients can pay the upgrade fee to turn on the system, or they can purchase DVDs of individual titles if they’re not set up for online training due to firewall/IT issues.

Summary

Feedback is critical to assuring success in any driver safety effort.  For fleets of company cars, supervisors may want to examine MVR data (provided and profiled by our E-DriverFile program) for coaching and refresher training.  Other fleets may use telematics or How’s My Driving hotlines (like our “Blue Sticker Program”) to target drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision if their behaviors are ignored.

When you invest time to help supervisors improve their feedback skills, you’ll get a much larger dividend than from safety coaching alone – they’ll be better equipped to provide feedback on all sorts of performance issues (i.e. idling, customer service, etc.)

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