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Driving Behavior and Fleet Safety Culture

By Brad Penneau January 19, 2021

Safe workers are more likely to be productive and happy workers. But when employees interact as frequently with the public at large as a fleet driver does, the need for good driving habits and a focus on driver safety becomes much more important. For companies that deploy fleets, driver safety is a matter of public responsibility. Simply instructing drivers to “drive safely” is great, but is it effective? It’s better to narrow your focus to the driver level and instill good driving habits that can add up to big results.

Before you can instill good habits, let's first understand what is poor and risky driving behavior Vs. good driving behavior.

Examples of unsafe driving behavior

Unsafe driving behaviors endanger the lives of everyone on the road - including the person engaging them, other drivers, and pedestrians. A few examples include:

  1. Speeding. Speeding accounts for 26% of all traffic fatalities in the United States (NHTSA)
  2. Failing to wear a seat belt. Almost half of all driver fatalities are due to speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt (NHTSA)
  3. Tailgating or following another driver too closely.
  4. Improper lane change or failure to use signals when changing lanes.
  5. Failing to yield to traffic or pedestrians who have the right of way.

Examples of aggressive driving behavior

Aggressive driving takes the above mentioned unsafe behaviors to the next level. Aggressive and unsafe driving behaviors put the lives of everyone on the road at risk and often result in fatalities. Examples include:

  1. Running red lights.
  2. Weaving in and out of traffic.
  3. Cutting of another driver and then slamming on your brakes.
  4. Blocking other vehicles attempting to pass or change lanes.
  5. Using bright headlights to purposely cause aggravation for other drivers.

Examples of safe driving behavior

Engaging in safe driving behavior is the best way to prevent motor vehicle accidents, injury, and even death. While some of the behaviors listed below may sound like common sense, it’s easy to forget the importance of practicing them.

  1. Limit distractions from cell phones, other passengers, loud music or anything else that may take your attention away from driving.
  2. Never drive while tired or under the influence. Fatigued and drowsy driving is a common cause of accidents associated with injury and death.
  3. Use your mirrors before changing lanes or backing up. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times so that you can prevent collisions.
  4. Obey traffic laws - abide by posted speed limits, use your turn signals, and observe traffic signs.
  5. Keep yourself at least 3-5 seconds in distance behind the car in front of you to prevent accidents.

Knowing the key behaviors that contribute to accidents is key to preventing drivers from engaging in them. Next, you can establish a group of metrics to measure driver performance and improve driver and fleet safety.

Establish KPIs that measure driver performance

Developing standards for measuring driver performance is the first step to changing your safety culture, driver by driver. There are hundreds of metrics that you can monitor and then report on from the individual driver level all the way throughout your organization. The bigger challenge is knowing which metrics promote safe drivers and driving behavior to reduce the risk of traffic accidents for your drivers.

The CSA program BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) are a good starting point in establishing driving performance KPIs, and can be further customized to suit your specific fleet's operations. If you operate an over the road trucking fleet, you might want to focus on HOS factors, or if you are in the plumbing and electrical service provider, you should consider more field service specific KPIs

After deciding what driver safety metrics are important to the fleet and what you will be measuring, it's time to establish a policy around driver management performance. A policy that uses the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time-bound) technique can help to positively influence driving style and traffic safety across your fleet of vehicles. More about SMART KPIs to track in your fleet.

Coach safer driving with driver behavior management tools

A complete fleet management solution can give you data that is focused on drivers and human factors, not just on vehicles. Knowing that Driver Smith tends to speed a lot is much more powerful than knowing that Vehicle 100 has exceeded the speed limit repeatedly. You can turn that focused information into a coachable driver safety moment, creating awareness of risky driving behaviors and helping to curb dangerous and wasteful behaviors like speeding, quick starts, hard braking and harsh cornering. This boosts driver safety and return on investment and has the added benefit of pleasing customers who are no longer affected by the drivers’ bad habits. And going beyond coaching safer driving habits, you can use the data to help incentivize drivers with safe-driving targets that come with rewards for meeting them.

Find the right solution for your business with our free Fleet Management Buyer’s Guide.

Data from driver management software can be used to help prevent motor vehicle crashes, which lowers the cost of repairs due to accidents, helps prevent injuries and fatalities, improves fuel efficiency, and can reduce insurance premiums.

Prevent distracted driving

Distracted driving kills 9 people and injures more than 1,000 each day (NHTSA) - accounting for nine percent of all fatal crashes in the nation. Examples of distracted driving include using a cell phone or device, putting on makeup, having earbuds in, eating and more. Using cell phones and text messaging are particularly dangerous because it takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an extended period of time. It’s difficult to know exactly what happens pre-crash, was the driver distracted? Did another vehicle slam on their breaks? Did a pedestrian take an illegal crossing?

When large trucks are involved in a crash, more than eight percent of them end in a fatality due to the size of the vehicles and speed they tend to travel. Now, thanks to fleet dashcams, it’s often easier to understand the context of a truck crash. Fleet dashcams capture the moments before a crash occurs. This visual data often demonstrates who was responsible in the case of a collison. Fleet dashcams also provide insight into driver behavior. Was the driver engaging in harsh acceleration prior to a crash or had they been abiding by safe driving guidelines? With fleet cams and driver behavior monitoring software it’s easier to understand the context of an accident. Having this data can help fleet managers and drivers reduce crashes and fatalities by creating accountability and establishing a sense of safety culture.

A driver who is eating while driving because he’s too busy to stop for lunch pays the price in reaction time, endangering himself and those around him. Tests have shown that texting and reading electronic devices while driving can worsen reaction times more than driving impaired. Even talking on a cell phone can have a huge effect on reaction time. Take action to eliminate these distractions by preparing your drivers. Give them the time to have a safe break for lunch that doesn’t pin them behind the wheel.

Gain driving behavior transparency with fleet tracking software

It used to be that when a driver left the yard, the honor system kicked in. There was no way to really tell if a driver was abusing the availability of the vehicle to run personal errands, do side jobs or goof off. And the longer a vehicle is in the field, the higher the possibility of a lapse in road safety. With the benefit of telematics technology, you can monitor all of the comings and goings of the vehicles in near real-time, helping to make everyone safe.

You can put safety at the top of your to-do list by looking past the big picture and taking a more focused approach.

  • No two people are exactly alike, and neither are drivers. Help improve safety driver-by-driver with specific data about the driving habits of your fleet.
  • Big, sweeping change is hard to achieve and even harder to sustain. Small acts, on the other hand, can add up to big change. Take a similar approach to build a safety culture one driver at a time.
  • Your fleet is the most visible representation of your company in the community. Helping ensure the safety of your drivers extends to the community where they work and works to protect your company’s image at the same time.

By including driver behavior monitoring in your fleet management solution, you’ll be on the way to building a successful driver safety culture across your whole fleet.

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: Performance & Coaching, Safety, Team Management, Training

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