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Driver Coaching 101: Tips and tricks

By Brad Penneau November 18, 2020

Do you know what a “life coach” is? They are sort of a therapist, mentor, consultant or counselor all rolled into one, and their job is to help someone grow personally, professionally, and/or emotionally.

Of course, not everyone needs a dedicated life coach – most of us just need someone help us decide whether a certain shirt goes with a pair of pants, or whether to see the latest “X-Men” movie in theaters or wait for a Red Box rental.

But the “coach” part is really what’s key. Sometimes it’s useful to have an outside voice to tell us what to do and how to do it – including at work.

Anyone who manages other employees should take the attitude that they are a coach, not a dictator. When done the right way, telling people what to do doesn’t come off as a command – it instead seems like valuable advice that can help them perform their jobs better and make their lives easier.

Safety training for drivers

Safety training is non-negotiable for anyone supervising drivers, and managers should have the mentality that they are coaches who have to help drivers to be more aware of their surroundings and driving behavior to protect their own safety and the safety of people around them.

So how do you get through to drivers and ensure that they consider your advice “coaching” and not “yelling”? 

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Create a safety culture. When safety is embedded in your culture and everyone participates in it, you’re less likely to have outliars who disobey safety directives. Culture starts at the top: Ensure that managers and bosses walk their talk and don’t use their higher status as a way to slack on safety.

Begin at the beginning. Even during potential employee interviews, emphasize how important safety is to the company. Feel free to ask employees about their views on safety (maybe even before you mention it’s a company focus) to help ensure you hire the right people. Then, during new employee orientation, address the important of driving safety and ensure that all on-boarding employees are given any collateral detailing safety protocol.

Continued emphasis on safety training

Keep it coming. Ongoing training is critical – don’t drop the ball after orientation. Here are a few ways to keep delivering the safety message:

Videos: Workers’ comp insurance carriers, employer insurance carriers and other organizations offer driver training videos (so you don’t have to go all Scorcese, because they’re already ready to go).

  • Staff meetings: Make driver safety topics a routine agenda item during your regular meetings. Drivers can share stories of near or actual incidents and what they learned. Open it up to discussion: What could have been done to prevent the incident? How could the driver have improved his or her reaction or response?
  • Printed collateral: Post informational flyers around the office. Don’t use too many words – the important thing is to make the flyers highly visible. You can add “ask so-and-so if you have any questions” in smaller print at the bottom, but easily digestible statements are the name of the game otherwise – people should be able to see and read the info even if they’re walking quickly past it.
  • Reminder emails: Send out periodic reminders to drivers about road safety tips and policies.
  • Community involvement: Form a Safety Committee and ensure driver safety never falls off the agenda. Discuss any reported vehicle incidents and have committee members contribute to training topic ideas.

And don’t forget that GPS vehicle tracking helps reinforce any safety program and training by giving managers full visibility to what’s going on in the field, letting them coach in real time if they see safety violations.

Brad Penneau

With a career in transportation safety spanning 30 years, Penneau’s experience includes progressively responsible safety, regulatory compliance, and training in (and in support of) the trucking industry.

Tags: Team Management, Training

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