Near Miss Reporting for Fleets

Featured Image -- 1451Every day drivers operate their vehicles amidst the chaos of growing congestion caused by stressed-out and distracted drivers.  Vehicles drift out of lanes as drivers distract themselves with gadgets or texting. Other drivers mindlessly tailgate with the mistaken belief that by driving close to the vehicle in front they’ll somehow arrive sooner.

When two (or more) vehicles almost collide, but don’t, many motorists might utter some exclamation, shake their head about how bad the other driver is and continue on their way.  Many safety professionals would label the incident as a “near miss”1,2 – as in “it was nearly a collision but we missed”.

dis-enf-10-ever-officials_lo_res-post-72-enCollecting data on near miss incidents in the workplace is an emerging part of many safety professional’s jobs:  they have the advantage of making direct observations of the workplace, soliciting feedback from employees and even building a culture of self reporting of near misses.

The driver safety specialist has a harder time obtaining near miss data since drivers are not likely to self report near misses as they happen, make detailed observations of all circumstances, or remember details from an early morning incident at the end of their day.

If there were convenient mechanisms enabling us to collect and analyze near miss data, it would help us:

  • Address flawed processes and procedures (i.e. scheduling, routing, dispatch, etc.)
  • Investigate enhancements to equipment (i.e. mirrors, steps, rails, etc.)
  • Adjust educational programs for content, length, periodicity, etc.
  • Cross reference this new data against historical information (i.e. crashes, violations)
  • Tailor our finite attention and resources where it can have strongest and most immediate impact.

Most importantly, it would give us an opportunity to hit the “pause button” on life and compassionately intervene with our operators – perhaps before a “real” collision actually happens, injuries are incurred or violations are issued.

Don’t we already accomplish this with historical data?

Near Miss Article sidebar 1Fleet safety professionals have tirelessly identified drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision by looking at historical data.  The phrase “historical data” is often interchangeably called “lagging data” since the information lags behind the actual incidents that we aim to avoid.

The difficulty with depending on lagging indicators of performance is that the driver must “suffer” the consequences in order to appear on the safety professional’s reporting matrix.

How would a driver “suffer” negative consequences?  Getting cited by a police officer would typically result in:

  • Policea fine paid out of pocket by the driver,
  • lost employment time if the driver must appear in court,
  • increased personal car insurance for the driver, his/her spouse and any other drivers (i.e. teens) in their household
  • decreased employability of the affected driver due to a littered MVR/Abstract which is reviewed by prospective employers as part of their hiring/screening process

Near Miss Article sidebar 2Further, for some drivers with extreme violations or a history of violations, it may mean:

  • possible loss of driving privileges, suspension or revocation of license
  • possible loss of employment

In short, lagging indicators provide very valuable insights, but come at a very real cost to the organization and the employee.  Leading indicators of performance, while harder to pinpoint, chart the way forward towards prevention and avoidance.

The comparison of leading vs. lagging indicators led one commentator to ask the provocative question; “Are your managers operating as company doctors or coroners?”7 Put another way, is the focus of your effort principally to increase wellness, or does it feel like you’re spending most of your time doing “post-mortem” examinations?

To be very clear, the MVR/Abstract review process and post-crash investigations, et.al. are vital safety tools and shouldn’t be abandoned; however, it is clear that it would benefit the driver and the employer to find ways to identify “at-risk” drivers before they receive violations or get into crashes.

The identification and inclusion of “leading indicators” (indicators of “at-risk” performance, habits or behaviors prior violations or crashes) would make a significant difference.  Near miss reporting would be one set of leading indicators that could help.

How might we get this data? 

There are a number of resources available that provide insight into “near miss” events – those events that would have been collisions – IF – conditions had been slightly different, or reports of habits/behaviors that if left unchecked will likely lead to collisions or violations.  I’d like to offer a short list of some examples:

  • Near Miss Article sidebar 3Commentary Drives and Supervisor “Ride-Alongs”
  • Driver Safety Hotlines (aka “How’s My Driving?”)
  • Tachographs, Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBR), “Telematics” devices

During commentary drives, near misses may occur which provide the opportunity for immediate “no-fault” training and coaching. This approach is highly proactive, but requires a tremendous amount of resource time to ride with 100% of drivers.  Some fleets use this method with all drivers on a periodic basis (once every X years) and others use it when drivers have been identified as needing help through lagging or other leading indicators. This second approach (selectively using commentary drives) reduces the number of drive events to effectively coach those drivers who may be at greatest risk.

Another efficient resource for near miss and behavioral data is the humble and sometimes misunderstood Driver Safety Hotline.  Sometimes called a “How’s My Driving?” program, it is designed to solicit feedback on behavior – praiseworthy or risky – from other motorists.  Safety Hotlines have been repeatedly studied by groups large and small to see what effect the program has on crash rates:  these studies provide compelling testimony that the data leads behavior and management intervention reduces crashes by 10-30% in most cases. These studies were conducted in a manner that is similar to studies validating most technology platforms, and in one case included three and a half years of data derived from 30,000 power units in varied industries from among 200 fleets.  This provides much richer statistical data than many technology studies that were limited to “test pilots” of 25 to 50 vehicles in one or two fleets for time periods of less than a year.

The secret of the success of this program has been:

  1. Using the reports as a springboard for “no-fault” refresher training instead of blame setting9
  2. Incorporating the reporting as a positive element of safety cultures and behavior safety programs10,11
  3. Managers who will discuss the report with the driver to set individual safety goals for modified behavior.12

On-Board recording devices generate specific data sets on vehicle performance and by extrapolation, driver behavior.  Data sets typically include vehicle location through the course of the day, speed, harsh acceleration, harsh braking, swaying and sudden shocks or bumps.  Most systems report this data to a central reporting hub and management can review the historical data for exceptional events.  Some systems provide immediate feedback to the driver as events occur:  either through a flashing light or some sort of sound making device.

The successes of most on-board devices has been clearly documented in fuel savings, idle-time reductions, man power resource tailoring from routing efficiency and other “operations” metrics.  These benefits are significant, but don’t directly impact the reduction of crashes by themselves.  The challenge to most managers is finding the best way to translate volumes of data into enhanced behaviors.

You see, telematics data may be generated in a very different manner than a How’s My Driving report or commentary drive, but the application of that data to affect driver change can be as poorly executed or as brilliantly managed in any of these programs.

Telematics data showing speeding events can be hotly denied by drivers who’ll come up with clever (and often accurate) responses – locations are often “estimated” by satellite triangulation, and sometimes speeds are misread based on locations at crossroads or underpasses, etc.  After managing the data from both telematics and safety hotline programs (our clients have begun sending their telematics data to SafetyFirst for enhanced reporting and better training options), we have found that drivers are actually more inclined to deny the telematics alerts than the how’s my driving reports!

Additionally, the amount of data from some telematics programs can become overwhelming.  I’ve heard safety managers say that “there’s probably a lot of really good information buried somewhere in the pile of reporting”, but they can’t manage it on a daily basis.  If you call it “information overload”, “background noise” or even “dial tone” then you’re likely to move on to other priorities or return to only working with lagging indicators.

Our own firm’s experience is that there are clever and easy ways to avoid information overload and get traction in translating the data into a well crafted coaching session.

By sorting the urgently actionable items from the background noise and then leveraging the coaching processes pioneered and perfecting in the safety hotline program, our hybrid approach managed to reduce excessive speeding by 600% in one year at a major fleet operation. (Click HERE)

Fortunately, in the case of commentary drives and driver safety hotlines, the amount of data is self-prioritizing.  The ride-along supervisor can prioritize in real time as the drive continues, and most fleets using hotlines only get reporting on about 2% to 3% of their drivers in any given month (focused on the most egregious behaviors seen on the highway – motorists are not motivated to report trivial issues).

Dealing with Data Organizationally

Dealing with raw data, whether we call it a near miss report, motorist observation report or telematics alert, presents opportunities and concerns:

  1. We ought to be respectful of drivers and their privacy – no one wants to see their personal data on the company bulletin board as an “example to others” (i.e. share the lesson to be learned, but don’t embarrass the operator). Near miss reporting programs can be most productive when conducted in an atmosphere of trust and proactive goal setting rather than couched in threats and blame.
  2. We need a system to hold and correlate the data – to provide meaningful management reporting that can distinguish patterns and trends that may signal a larger policy/procedure or system issue13
  3. We need access to urgently actionable data in a timely fashion – to coach drivers while the event is still fresh in their mind14 while suppressing “background noise” data15
  4. We need to have a data retention plan in place to either preserve data from spoliation or to properly dispose of old records when the data is no longer relevant to our near miss program16
  5. Coaching Tips TitleWe need to develop policies and procedures that create a uniform method to dealing with the data — that it needs to be used to educate and redirect behavior – not as a blame setting tool. Playing the “GOTCHA” game with drivers isn’t likely to improve results or encourage them to embrace the technology that is “getting them in trouble”.   Working with an individual driver to set personal and professional goals related to changing habits can be challenging, but also lifesaving (or injury/violation avoiding) at the same time.

Driver Attitudes vs. Manager Attitudes

When capturing near miss data, drivers and managers may argue about data quality or what should be done with the data that is acquired.

  • In the past, we’ve met professionals who used to argue about “crank calls” on hotlines as a reason to ignore the data; however, 98% of hotline reports are confirmed accurate by safety managers who actually investigate each report and talk with their drivers.  The 2% of reporting that is discarded or deleted comes mainly from transcription errors (i.e. transposed vehicle numbers, etc.) 
  • Even commentary drives are susceptible to data quality errors: no two driver supervisors will share the same biases or spot all the possible hazards given the same route, same vehicle and same day.
  • Telematics data, while “scientifically” obtained can also be erroneous and a source of contention for drivers if they feel threatened by its “alerts”.

CoachingMy point?  Any near miss or leading indicator program could become a source of arguments and negotiations, or become a proactive “game changer” in terms of safety results.  It’s really up to the management team to decide if they’re going to help drivers improve through a positive coaching and training program or merely spin the revolving door of driver turnover by using data merely for discipline.  Unfortunately, it’s often easier to play the “gotcha” game of confrontation over alerts than to actually make the time to have an eye-to-eye, “no-fault” coaching session about improving habits to be safer while behind the wheel.

The first step is training supervisors on how to use the data to get a positive change.

SafetyFirst, in close cooperation with its own clients, has produced a supervisory training program called “Coaching Drivers – Conversations That Make a Difference”.  This program helps managers to make coaching sessions a positive experience by keeping focused on the safety lessons to be learned without getting sidetracked into confrontations over blame and who was right or wrong.

Without a consistent coaching process in place, the most accurate leading indicator, or near miss data, will not be effective in getting drivers to change habits.

This isn’t just a good idea – it’s been studied. Researcher Sunil Lakhiani of the University of Wisconsin-Madison presented findings from a study on near-miss reporting systems to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at the 7th Global Congress on Process Safety in Chicago in March 2011. Lakhiani reported that a positive management culture towards safety made a significant difference in the employee’s participation in near miss programs.

ALERT CSARecently, one of our larger clients inadvertently proved the coaching point as well.  They had installed telematics devices in several thousand vehicles for dispatch, routing, and related reasons.  During the first full year using the system, they also accumulated 1700+ excessive speed alerts (above 80 mph for a minute or more), but had no mechanism to push the alerts out to the drivers for coaching.  We worked with their telematics provider to have the alerts sent to our safety hotline where we treated the alerts like a motorist’s call-in observation.  The net change was dramatic.  By sending training materials, requiring the location manager to coach the driver and return the completed report showing goals discussed, training completed and corrective actions taken, they dropped the number of alerts to under 200 in the subsequent year.  Coaching makes a difference regardless of the data source if it’s handled in an atmosphere of trust and prevention.

What about driver education as a leading indicator?

Some safety professionals have considered driver education (its frequency and aggregate duration) to be a possible leading indicator of performance.  Let’s briefly consider the case for and against this conclusion.

Driver education can be used to introduce new skills or remind drivers of practices and procedures that they should already know due to previous educational experience.  In the case of new skills, many safety professionals may argue that habits not a lack of driving skills are the predominate cause of (arguably) 90% of all motor vehicle crashes.17 Therefore, the use of education programs to:

  • Remind operators of key safety policies affecting their daily activities, and to
  • Increase situational awareness and the rapid recognition of hazards while driving

is an ideal practice to help reduce the likelihood of future collisions.  Additionally, the assumption that an increase in education events (frequency/periodicity) or the overall number of hours of training (duration/aggregate) can reduce collision rates seems highly reasonable.

While we’ve characterized commentary drives as a near miss reporting platform, they were initially introduced as a method of driver education.  In this regard, they may be part of a leading indicator measurement system, too.

Individual fleets may set driver education as a leading indicator to be verified in hindsight (did crashes go down during the year we increased our education efforts?)  Indeed, firms who introduce the varied near miss reporting systems already discussed will likely increase their education efforts as they conduct refresher sessions with drivers who participate in commentary drives, get telematics alerts or safety hotline observations.

Unfortunately, this author has not located many detailed studies published on the links between driver education and crash results other than the ATRI study conducted in 2008 titled; “A Technical Analysis of Driver Training Impacts on Safety18 In this study, 17,000+ driver records were studied to examine correlations between training and collisions/violations:

“The total “contact hours” or hours of interaction provided by training programs vary greatly from 88 hours to 272 hours. In addition to identifying the total contact hours a student is exposed to in a training program, participating training institutions provided details on the number of training hours that occurred within various training environments, such as the classroom, in-truck, behind-the-wheel and using a simulator. These environments vary between programs, with programs weighting and emphasizing classroom and in-truck training differently. Additional information was collected on the type of instruction that takes place within each training environment.”

The report’s conclusions included:

“…the analysis finds little variation among driver safety performance that can be explained by training program duration within the range of 88 to 272 hours.”

“…the lack of a safety improvement trend line towards the longer duration programs does not provide the researchers with a basis for this conclusion.” [that more training would necessarily result in greater safety results]

To be very clear, this author is not suggesting that driver education is any less valuable or critical to a firm’s safety program.  In fact, it is crucial.  It may be especially valuable when used to focus resources on those individuals deemed “at-risk” by the near miss system.  As a leading indicator, it may be more valuable when blended with near miss reporting or other elements of an existing driver safety program.

Setting a strategy for success

Hopefully you are feeling encouraged that driver safety programs can greatly benefit from incorporating near miss reports into their existing safety program.  Near miss reporting serves as a leading indicator to help balance your “scorecard” of valuable lagging indicators such as historical crash reports and MVR/Abstract profiling.

Each organization endeavoring to launch a near miss program should make a plan on how to incorporate this new data into their current safety program:

  • Outline where data will come from and how it may be used (i.e. will it be used for education only, or can it be used for discipline, if so, under what circumstances?)
  • Develop a process to deal with system faults or physical hazards (i.e. dispatch errors, maintenance items, equipment issues, loading processes, etc.)
  • Review historical crash and/or violation data (lagging indicators) and compare to near miss data for trends (i.e. prior to all preventable crashes, these types of near miss reports or leading indicators were present; therefore, if we see these near misses or leading indicators, we need to respond urgently to prevent a crash)
  • Have a clear process or procedure – who will be responsible to collect and distribute data?
  • Develop a coaching process to interact with affected drivers to affect a change in habits
  • Develop a process to track the success of the program (i.e. are collisions decreasing, are police citations/violations decreasing?)
  • Celebrate the progress with all affected employees – include them in the results as well as the coaching sessions

Summary

Near miss reporting is a valuable tool.  It requires a strong, consistent commitment from the management team at all levels to use the data to compassionately intervene with drivers in a trusting manner.  Building trust will take time, but it pays huge dividends in safety results for both drivers and management teams.  Coaching and education are two sides of the same coin, and each has it’s own supporting role to play.  If you want to get on the leading indicator side of the driver safety equation (while not abandoning lagging indicators), then near miss reporting may be the place to start.

Pyramid 2011 for blog

Feedback?

During my safety career, I’ve learned that despite all of the networking, conferences and research, I know I don’t have all the answers. I also know that together we can each contribute pieces of the puzzle to get to a better understanding of most any safety issue.  I’d love to learn about your experiences with near miss reporting in fleet operations, and hear about your concerns about leading indicators, too.  How do you currently identify drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision?  Do you incorporate leading indicators into your driver risk profile, or just lagging indicators?  Do you want to launch a leading indicator or “near miss” program, but aren’t sure where to start?

Many safety professionals are active on social networking sites like LinkedIn and share comments and questions through discussion groups.  Would you be willing to discuss this article online?  If that’s too “public” of an environment, I’d be very happy to talk with you directly, too (1-888-603-6987 toll free).

END NOTES:

1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_miss_(safety)

2http://www.toolboxtopics.com/Gen%20Industry/Near%20Miss%20-%20The%20One%20That%20Almost%20Happened.htm

3http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/One-Pager%20CMVE.pdf

4http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/ATRI_Crash_Predictor_One_Pg_Summary_Apr_2011.pdf

5http://www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov/Pages/default.aspx

6http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/basics.aspx

7http://www.bptrends.com/publicationfiles/TWO%2003-09-ART-Leading%20vs%20Lagging-Gotts-final.doc.pdf “Leading Indicators vs. Lagging Indicators” by Ian Gotts, March 2009, BP Trends

8http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_commentary_driving

9https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/recent-news-articles-on-safety-hotlines/

10http://my.safetyfirst.com/newsfart/ISA%20December%202009.pdf – “Changing Unsafe Behavior Using Activators and Consequences” by Andrew Salvadore, December 2009, Arborist News

11http://www.treecareindustry.org/pdfs/EXPO/ABCsOfHumanBehavior.pdf – “ABCs of Human Behavior” by Andrew Salvadore, TCIA Expo presentation

12http://vimeopro.com/safetyfirst/safetyfirst-coaching-tutorial/video/30495547 “Coaching Drivers – Conversations that make a difference” by SafetyFirst Systems, December 2011

13http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2000/HAR0001.pdf NTSB Highway Accident Report conclusion; “…policy of disregarding anonymous calls to 1-800-SAFEBUS prevents the company from identifying patterns of unsafe driving practices by particular drivers or on particular runs and diminishes the potential safety oversight benefits of this program. Including all complaints in driver personnel files would enable [company] to better detect an operator problem and act to eliminate it before an accident occurs.” [italics added for emphasis]

14http://www.virtualriskmanager.net/main/aboutus/niosh/t1-2_paul-farrell.ppt “Negligent Entrustment – When is a license check not enough?” by Paul Farrell, International Conference on Road Safety at Work, February 2009

15 – A technology vendor’s presentation states (about their own system) “There are many reasons why a device might trigger:  Pot holes; Unpaved roads; Railroad tracks; Turning hard in a large vehicle; Rocking an unloaded tractor-trailer; Waste truck throwing a trash bin into the vehicle hard; Jack-rabbit start; Vehicle Maintenance; Defensive Driving/Evasive Maneuver…” excerpted from http://mcsac.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/June2010/DriveCam%20presentation.pdf

16http://www.atla.org/cps/rde/xchg/justice/hs.xsl/14259.htm “Danger On The Road – The mighty trucking case” by Jeanmarie Whalen, Trial Magazine (American Association for Justice), February 2011, Vol. 47, No. 02

17http://www.virtualriskmanager.net/main/aboutus/niosh/t2-3_lynn-berberich.ppt#18 “Crash Analysis and Benchmarking as Tools to Improve Fleet Safety – or – What Metrics Should I Use and How Should I use Them?” by Lynn Berberich, International Conference on Road Safety at Work, February 2009

18http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/driver_training_impacts_on_safety2.pdf “A Technical Analysis of Driver Training Impacts on Safety” by ATRI, May 2008

speeding banner2

Electronic Logs for HOS Reporting

Geotab HOSLast month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed electronic log mandate took another key step forward towards becoming part of the regulations.  The proposal still faces it’s comment period and potential legal challenges before it would become finalized.

Still, this 256-page proposal marks a big change in one of trucking’s older “traditions” — moving from paper log books with their “flexibility” to smudge the lines to electronic devices that demand absolutes from drivers.

cropped-trucks-highway.jpg

A recent article published at truckinginfo.com (click HERE) summarizes the current proposal’s status:

The agency will take comments on the proposal until about mid-May. After it reviews the comments and publishes a final rule, perhaps later this year, carriers will have two years to comply. Carriers that already have recording devices that meet current specifications would have an additional two years to bring their devices into compliance with the new specifications.

The rule will apply to drivers who have to prepare paper logs. Drivers who don’t have to prepare logs may use the electronic devices but won’t have to. Drivers who use timecards will not have to use the devices. And drivers who use logs intermittently can stick with paper logs unless they use them more than eight days in 30 days.

Of course there are many technical details to be addressed:

The technical specifications spell out how ELDs should work.
The basic requirement is that the device record specific information – date, time, location, engine hours, mileage and driver, vehicle and carrier identification – and make it available to inspectors.

The driver must be identified by his full license number and the state where his license is issued.

The device has to be synchronized with the engine to record on/off status, the truck’s motion, mileage and engine hours.

The device will have to automatically record a driver’s change of duty and hourly status while the truck is moving. It also must track engine on/off, and the beginning and end of personal use or yard moves.

The agency is proposing that the devices use automatic positioning services: either the satellite-based Global Positioning System, land-based systems, or both.

Many carriers now have onboard information systems that warn the driver when he’s approaching his hourly limits, but the agency is not requiring that capability in its proposal.

The devices won’t have to print out the log, but may have that feature as an option. They will have to produce a graph grid of a driver’s daily duty status, either on a digital display unit or on a printout. This is the first time the agency has proposed using a printer, and it’s looking for comments on the costs and benefits of that approach.

If your fleet may be subject to this proposal, and you’re not sure where to start to learn about your options, costs and benefits.  SafetyFirst can help.  We work with multiple hardware providers and have found a wide range in costs for similar systems.

Depending on your fleet’s specific operations, you may want to install a more robust offering at higher cost, but for many fleets a basic, proven system is also available that increases productivity, reduces fuel costs, addresses key safety issues and handles the compliance portion in an easy to understand interface.

http://www.geotab.com/gps-fleet-management-solutions/compliance.aspx

http://www.safetyfirst.com/gps-telematics.php

TeleMatics

Is Red Light Running A Serious Problem?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms that road deaths soared during 1Q2012 (by 13.5%) (see our article) and it is doubtless that some portion of these fatalities occurred at traffic light controlled intersections.

According to a recent article published at EHS Today, red light running is a serious concern.  The “Safer Roads Report 2012” summarizes data collected from 1,240 red-light safety cameras in 18 states and 142 municipalities with a total population of over 18 million.  Some of the key findings included:

  • Over 2.34 million red-light violations were observed in 2011.
  • The most violations, 30.7%, occurred in the afternoon from 1-5 p.m.
  • The fewest violations, 9.75%, occurred late night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Greater likelihood of finding a red-light violator on a Friday (16%) than on a Sunday (12%).
  • Christmas had a 40% lower violation rate than the average day while June 3 earned the prize for the worst day for red-light running
  • In terms of major travel periods, Memorial Day Weekend ranked the highest, with over 27% more red-light runners than on the average weekend; Independence Day, Labor Day and Halloween were right up there as well.

The NCSR report references a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistic in which intersection-related vehicle accidents were responsible for more than 8,500 deaths in 2011.

All the data point to a clear conclusion:  the odds of encountering a red-light violator are significant.  Automated enforcement alone will not eliminate the behavior of being in a hurry or racing to beat a “yellow light”.  All drivers need to modify their habits to respect traffic signals, and be on the look out for red-light violators.

This is the subject of two brand-new interactive training modules introduced by SafetyFirst for it’s enhanced service clients.  Presently available in English or Spanish, the training can be assigned through our website or when an online-MOR (Motorist Observation Report) recommends specific training modules from our growing library of titles.

In addition to the new, interactive training modules, we have published multiple “Ten-Minute Training Topic” packages for the benefit of client drivers and their supervisors.

If you’d like more information about our training packages, enhanced safety hotline program, MVR profiling or other services, please contact us (1-888-603-6987 toll-free)

Driver Safety Hotline Benefits Your Drivers

It is uncontested that 80% of all commercial drivers drive consistently well, but a small percentage have “bad habits” that contribute to the vast majority of crashes and “near-misses”. 

How do you identify these drivers so that you can effectively help them drive better tomorrow so that they:

  • Do go home to their families each night
  • Do make their deliveries on time
  • Do receive positive training, not punishment
  • Do understand that safety is serious at your firm
  • Do help protect the company’s image
  • Don’t have to sit through depositions
  • Don’t get hurt or killed
  • Don’t get a moving violation (with the out-of-pocket fines!)
  • Don’t have their personal insurance rates jump (due to the moving violation)
  • Don’t reduce their “employability” due to tickets or accidents

Historically, there were two options available to safety managers to identify drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a crash:  Motor Vehicle Reports (profiling based on past tickets – and provided electronically by our E-DriverFile System) and Crash Reports. 

Over time, these approaches were supplemented by tachographs (speed recorders) and “black boxes” which tell us about location, speed, hard braking, etc.  Each of these processes tells you about problems after they’ve already manifested themselves — so called “lagging indicators of performance”. 

You see, to wait until a driver has already gotten a ticket, or has shown up on telematics data reports as an “exceptional exception” adds a delay that increases the odds of a crash happening before you have time to intervene.

Another way to identify these “at-risk” drivers is with a simple, low-cost, turn-key solution.  Our hotline program spots those drivers, who, if their behaviors were ignored, would end up with a violation or crash event. 

Here’s the process:

  1. We send you a report about specific incidents.  We also send Training Materials tied to the specifics of the incident.
  2. You talk with your driver – not to fix blame, but to help them fix any underlying safety problems.  Additionally to help them understand that the goal is safety – to avoid injury no matter who or what was the cause of the reported incident.  We also train your supervisors on HOW to COACH affected drivers for positive outcomes!
  3. You send us the completed report and we provide a monthly recap of progress and patterns in activity.
  4. We send a monthly training package to help ALL of your drivers with safety.

That’s it.  It is very simple and highly effective. Plus, it’s designed to boost the results from your existing safety practices at a very low cost (less than $15-$17 per vehicle per year).

If you are willing to invest about one minute per day (30 minutes a month) to coach and counsel drivers on their performance before they get a ticket or get hurt, then why not check out the program, it’s ease of use, it’s simplicity and it’s effectiveness?

Please let us show you our new DRIVER COACHING PROGRAM for supervisors — it can help you leverage your Safety Hotline Reports, your TELEMATICS Data, and even your VIDEO recordings. 

While other vendors tell you to coach your drivers we explain HOW to coach your drivers for better results!  Want to preview our program?  Give us a call at 1-888-603-6987

Driver Safety Incentive Programs

Love them or hate them, incentive programs generate an emotional response from most safety professionals. 

On the plus side, incentives can influence behavior and I’ve met fleet safety teams who wouldn’t consider a safety program complete unless it specifically included an incentive plan.  On the flip side, I’ve heard from safety professionals who suggest that incentives can become perceived as an entitlement and their ability to influence (or reward) safe behaviors may be viewed by top management as a wasted resource with little or no measurable result. 

Naturally, there are many arguments and case studies that could be cited to build the case for or against incentive programs.  I’m not actually interested in taking sides to defend or attack the benefits (real or perceived) of incentive programs, but I do get asked about them frequently.  While I’m the first to admit that I’m not an expert on incentives, I’d like to share my observations based on my experiences with policyholders whom I’ve worked with during my insurance career.

Several critical questions have to be asked when someone is interested in launching an incentive program:

  1. What’s the goal? (or “What are we trying to affect/change by implementing an incentive plan?”) AND is the goal clearly/precisely communicated to everyone who has an interest in the program?
  2. Why isn’t the goal being met now? (If the goal isn’t being met because of a correctable non-performance situation, why not address the root causes before developing an incentive plan?)
  3. What’s the status/effectiveness of your communications plan?  Do the drivers understand what you need to achieve and are they on board with attaining those results?  (See our two part article on Driver Communications Plans @ https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com)
  4. Have the drivers been involved in figuring out what types of incentive(s) would work? (What’s going to attract and hold their attention?  You’ll get different results from and have different responsibilities from cash (taxes), paid leave (HR), vendor based programs, etc.)
  5. What’s the budget?
  6.  What’s the timeframe — is this a one year plan, three year plan, or an open-ended plan?
  7. How will you know the plan is working (producing results)? (What and how will you measure to determine success?)
  8. What are the possible side effects (i.e. unreported damage, phantom collisions, any other unintended consequences, etc.)?

Once these questions have been addressed in earnest, then the real work begins in setting up a program and administering the performance data, the awards, and any legal issues (i.e. tax withholdings, reporting requirements, etc.)  Of chief concern is designating a coordinator to be the primary point of contact on the program.  This coordinator must have top management’s support and be a leader – someone who’ll be able to look anyone in the eye and deliver a calm, reasoned answer to any question about the program details.

If you’ve determined that an incentive plan is needed to achieve specific goals, there are many resources available to help set up the mechanics of a program.  These range from “do it yourself” (DIY) plans to fully supported and administered vendor-based programs.  It is well beyond the scope of a blog article to spell out all the details you’d need to consider; however, we’ve provided a small sampling of links to some of these resources at the end of this article, and we have a relationship with a full service vendor in case you need that type of support or don’t want to do it yourself.

Summary

Without a doubt, incentive programs can play a productive and rewarding (pun intended) part of any driver safety program when specific goals are defined and the program is carefully measured along the way.  Incentive programs are specifically mentioned in ANSI Z15 and by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and many other agencies that deal with driver safety (to be clear, incentive programs are not part of the FMCSRs, but position papers have been provided on this topic showing support and providing advice about them).

We’re not taking sides in the debate about incentive programs.  We just feel that it is vital to have a very detailed game plan in place before starting an incentive program.  Preplanning helps minimize the potential that the plan will either fail outright or become a source of frustration for both drivers and managers. 

What has been your direct experience with incentive programs?  Has your firm implemented one with specific results?  If you didn’t get the results you wanted, did your team perform a post-mortem to learn lessons from the program’s failure?  Similarly, have you been able to document great results from an incentive program?  If so, what did you set out to accomplish and what advice would you provide to other safety professionals who are still sitting on the fence?  Please feel free to add your comments here are our blog site or through the SafetyFirst Client Networking Group on Linked In.com

Sample Resources (we’re not responsible for the content at the other end of these links):

Exceeding the Speed Limit

Sometimes it seems like “exceeding the posted speed limit” doesn’t get as much attention as other safety issues like drunk driving or “texting” on a cell phone while driving, but it is just as lethal.  According to National Safety Council; “Exceeding the posted speed limit or driving at an unsafe speed was the most common error in fatal accidents.” (http://www.nsc.org/safety_road/DriverSafety/Pages/Speeding.aspx)

Speeding is the most commonly cited factor in deaths from collisions where there was some form of “improper driving” assessed by the team investigating and reporting the crash.  This is also confirmed in the most recent Large Truck Crash Causation Study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/facts-research/LTCO2009/LTCO2009.aspx):  “The top two driver-related factors for large trucks and passenger vehicles in fatal crashes were the same: driving too fast…and failure to keep in proper lane.”

Interestingly, only 12% of fatal crashes where speeding was the principal factor occurred on interstate highways – speeding in your home town, going 45 in a 25 zone, etc. were more likely to lead to a fatality than exceeding the limit on a limited access highway.  This is likely due to many factors:  the relative absence of pedestrians and bicycles on highways; the road design of rural highways and county roads; sharper curves, poor illumination and oncoming traffic that is not separated by a barrier or median strip.

Speed increases the potential of having a crash for two specific reasons:

  1. As a vehicle travels faster, more time is needed to safely complete any turn, swerve or stop.  (You need more time)
  2. Additionally, greater speed significantly reduces the time available to view and judge the situation, and decide what action to take. (You have less time)

Speeding also raises the chances of severe injuries or death during the crash.  The amount of energy that is released at the moment of impact is directly related to your vehicle’s speed.  Speeding increases the crash energy by the square of the speeds involved. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “when impact speed increases from 40 to 60 mph (a 50 percent increase), the energy that needs to be managed increases by 125 percent.” (http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/speed_limits.html)

Simply put, the faster you go, your injuries will be more extensive and the more likely it becomes that seatbelts, airbags, antilock brakes, traction control systems or other safety devices will not be effective enough to save your life.

There are other consequences to speeding that can affect drivers, too.  Most states add extra penalties (points, fines) for speeding violations that are more than 15 miles per hour above the posted limit.   

This type of violation (excessive speed) is perceived as a major violation by most employers and insurance carriers and could affect future employment prospects or increases in personal insurance costs.

If you need additional information about speeding, this month’s SafetyFirst Ten-Minute Training Topic covered this in more detail.  Also, you can check out NHTSA’s tool box on speeding — http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/speed/toolkit/  This offers materials in both English and Spanish and it’s a free resource!

Do It Yourself (DIY) Hotlines

Frequently, companies read about the many success stories of “How’s My Driving?” hotlines and decide to try and run their own hotline. It’s not an unreasonable argument to make:

  • The company phone number (main switchboard) is probably already stenciled on their vehicles
  • The company already gets the ‘occasional’ call from an upset motorist.
  • Taking advantage of the current switchboard staff will save money over paying a third party firm to answer the phone.

Unfortunately, the best intentions and the most sincere efforts don’t always translate into results that match those published by fleets using a third-party fleet safety hotline program. Why? Your efforts necessarily focus on the administration of the program:

  • dealing with incomplete calls,
  • off-hours voicemails,
  • transcribing reports,
  • getting the report to the right manager for follow up,
  • tracking to confirm that training was provided to the affected driver,
  • filing the completed report to defend against possible “negligent entrustment” claims, etc.

If you let us handle the administration (what we are efficient at handling since it is our company’s specialty), you can focus all of your energy on training drivers and coaching them to replace bad habits with better ones.

That’s what gets the results you’ve seen and/or heard about!

Here’s a summary of points to consider:

  • We use properly designed decals with lettering large enough to read at a reasonable distance.
  • Our operators are professionally trained to politely interrogate the caller to confirm details and defuse emotions. They answer calls 24 hours-a-day, 365 days a year.
  • Our operators handle calls about safe driving issues only (no other types of calls come into our call center). Your staff would probably be very happy to give up dealing with irate callers or unfounded calls, and will be able to focus on their regular job duties,
  • We legally record calls from motorists enabling you to verify details as needed,
  • We organize all incident reports and records in a sophisticated, but easy to use, database that can provide very detailed management reports to further help you improve safety results.
  • We are an unbiased, neutral party – we don’t have any temptation to “take sides” or “spin” the handling of any report based on who was driving at the time of the incident.
  • We send training materials along with the report to help your manager and driver focus on safety practices, not arguments about pointless details.
  • Since this is the focus of our business (safety and call taking) we’re very efficient and can provide additional insights about driver safety issues (we work with 4,000 other fleets who have the same types of concerns about safe driving as your team).
  • Many insurance providers pay for our program because we’ve demonstrated our results – they don’t pay your expenses to maintain your internal program.
  • All of the published results studies that we’ve seen were based on using a third-party service – NOT an internal program.
  • We automatically include training documents with the individual reports, and again on a monthly basis to help your drivers improve their habits (it moves the report process from arguing about the details to discussing safety issues instead).
  • Many of our loyal clients switched from an internal (DIY) hotline and saw immediate improvement in results (and they still have their number on their trucks, but motorists happily identify our sticker and call us for road observation reports).
  • Our program is less expensive on a per truck basis than a new set of wiper blades – why be pennywise and pound foolish?
  • The “expense” of our program is offset by the end of the first month in most cases.
  • http://www.safetyfirst.com/services_hotline.html provides a direct link to our Driver Safety Hotline overview.

A third-party, professional service provides an early warning system to help drivers identify and replace bad habits. The upside is that they could avoid: tickets, fines, collisions, injuries, and worse. 

Trying to save a buck or two shifts your DIY program from results to administration, headaches, incomplete (inactionable) reports, and continued loss activity.  Trust SafetyFirst to run the program for you so that you can spend your time helping your drivers drive the best that they can!