Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Building a Safety Culture for Company Drivers

July 2010, by Cindy Brauer - Also by this author

Redalieu and Lee Miller, fleet services manager, head the fleet safety committee, which meets every 2-3 months. A cornerstone of the company's fleet safety program, the committee includes corporate and Boehringer Ingelheim subsidiary representatives from HR, legal, and sales, said Miller.

The committee oversees the safety program, including accident review.
Other program elements include an online driver training program that last year was incorporated into the company's overall learning management system. The process is entirely automated, a key advantage, said Miller.

"Fleet doesn't have to do the manually-intensive tracking and record checking," she explained.

Recently, the fleet safety program was enhanced with a new component, the Commentary Drive program, said Miller.

"District managers, as part of their job requirements, ride along with sales force and company drivers to review driver behavior and performance and vehicle condition and maintenance," said Miller. The review is documented as part of the electronic sales report.

District managers received training, which included a workbook and an in-depth review of driver performance and vehicle maintenance, while attending a sales meeting, Miller added.

The challenge was to communicate the importance of safety training - to convince a sales management concerned with time taken away from the core function of sales, Redalieu said.

However, he said, as a company committed to the health and well-being of its employees, Boehringer Ingelheim's senior vice president of sales recognized how critically important this training was for his sales team's  commitment to safety.

"He took ownership of the issue and became an advocate for safety, demonstrating the company's commitment not only with time, but also resources," said Redalieu.

The Commentary Drive program has led to a significant drop in preventable accidents, according to Redalieu.

Another important factor in promoting a safety culture is clearly defined policies and procedures, leading to accountability, said Miller.

"Clear corporate expectations regarding safety must be constantly refined and communicated," Miller explained. "Employees must learn how to incorporate safety behaviors into their day-to-day activities, how to report accidents, and understand what their responsibilities are."

Importantly, Miller and Redalieu have been given time at national sales meetings to present their message, "precious time at a meeting where the CEO only gets a few minutes on the agenda," said Redalieu.

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