September 2012, Business Fleet - Feature
10 Steps to Building a Safe Fleet
Ask any fleet about safety and it will undoubtedly top the priority list. Here are 10 steps to creating a safety culture.
Thanks to a combination of advanced materials, technologies and shifts in attitudes, the roads are safer than ever. However, these factors can only go so far.
“A well-managed safety program helps control expenses, prevents lost productivity from vehicle downtime and bodily injuries — or worse — and reduces or even prevents substantial settlements and penalties from negligent entrustment and vicarious liability,” says Randy Shadley, account manager and fleet safety specialist for Corporate Claims Management (CCM).
While there are many ways a fleet can build a safety program, here are 10 steps that can form its core:
No. 1: Management Must Buy In to Policies
Since a safety program may mean making fundamental changes to the way drivers are managed, it is imperative to have management buy-in from the start, according to Shadley. “The policy should make drivers aware that, because safety is important to the company, their continued employment depends on maintaining an acceptable record and meeting all program requirements,” he says.
Brian Kinniry, manager of risk and safety solutions for the collision management company CEI Group, echoes Shadley, emphasizing the active involvement of top management.
“Everyone throughout the organization needs to know that safety is a strategically important objective from the very top and why,” Kinniry says. “That’s something that can only be articulated by the most senior officer.”
Allison Lanzilotta, VP of business development for Fleet Response, an accident and claims management company, says the first step should be forming a safety committee. This committee should review existing policies, determine if all elements are common practice, uniformly enforced by management and followed by drivers. She recommends the committee include various departments, such as human resources, sales and risk management.
No. 2: Set Driver Standards
At the same time the safety policy is developed, drivers must become involved. “If [drivers] see safety as a regular part of corporate communications and goals, they are more likely to be knowledgeable about and adhere to the fleet safety policy,” Lanzilotta says.
Shadley recommends implementing driver agreements and setting driver standards. “Key driver expectations from your safety policy should be included in driver agreements,” he says, adding that a file of each agreement should be kept.
The standards used should lay out the criteria for an acceptable driving record, as well as the consequences of not living up to the policy.
Shadley reminds fleet owners that legal precedence exists and holds employers responsible for the actions of their drivers — and having a valid driver’s license is not a sufficient defense. “In other words, business drivers and their employers are held to a higher standard than the general public,” he says.
No. 3: Screen Drivers
Kinniry recommends that fleets review MVR reports for every potential hire, and then review hired drivers’ reports at least once a year. He says he has even seen a growing number of fleets collect MVRs twice a year, giving them more opportunities to change driver behavior and better manage risk.
Fleets must follow proper procedures when ordering MVRs because authorizations must be obtained from drivers. “We’ve seen fleets that assumed their MVR providers were securing drivers’ signatures when, in fact, they weren’t,” says Kinniry, adding that this can be cause for a lawsuit.
In addition, Shadley notes that employers must follow the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act before taking any “negative employment action” if the MVR was obtained through a paid, commercial source.
No. 4: Monitor Drivers
Other methods are available to keep an eye on fleet drivers, such as tools like the “1-800 How’s My Driving?” program and GPS/telematics software that monitors driver behavior.
“An important point to remember is that any time you discover a driver with a possible issue, you must take appropriate action,” Shadley says. “It is no better, and is sometimes even worse, to have cause for suspicion and do nothing than it is to not even check in the first place.”
By collecting this data, fleet managers will be able to identify problem drivers and take swift, corrective action. “Partner with your accident management provider and/or vendors to produce data to identify your problem drivers and overall fleet safety issues — for instance, your top preventable accident reasons,” Lanzilotta says. “By doing this, you will be able to target this group of drivers and create a more comprehensive safety program that will address their driving habits as well as other fleet safety issues.”