It is one thing to create a fleet safety policy that looks good on paper. It’s entirely another to enforce that policy to keep safety top-of-mind with drivers on a day-to-day basis. 

“One of the problems we’ve seen is that a fleet will roll out a new safety policy and get drivers to sign that they received it, then the policy never sees the light of day until there’s an incident,” said Art Liggio, president, Driving Dynamics, a Newark, Del.-based driver safety and risk management firm for corporate fleets. “That policy should be a living document, where it’s consistently reinforced throughout the year with all stakeholders to help keep incidents from occurring in the first place.”

Aggressive driving behaviors can be expensive to commercial fleets, resulting in higher fuel costs, fines from traffic violations, vehicle repair and replacement costs, increased workers’ compensation claims, and lost productivity. Then there’s the potential loss of revenue from any public relations fallout when a branded vehicle is involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death. So, how can fleets more effectively promote driver safety across their organization to reduce accidents and other vehicular incidents that eat into an organization’s bottom line? Here are four strategies.

Strategy 1: Explain What’s in it For Drivers

Motivate drivers by outlining why the program is important.

“Ultimately, drivers want to know what’s in it for them,” Liggio said. “Most of the time drivers view a new policy rollout as another chore. You really want them to understand and internalize that safety is for their benefit, with a message along the lines of, ‘This policy exists to help protect you from getting into a crash, so that you get home to your families safe and sound, each and every day.’ ” 

Ted Lewin, senior manager of risk management services at Wheels Inc., a fleet management company headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., also recommended keeping the message positive.

“You want to communicate something like, ‘In the interest of keeping our employees safe on the road and protecting the company, we will be adopting the following program and here’s why,’ ” he said.

But, drivers also need to understand how their behavior impacts their organization, and, ultimately, their job security.

“The message you want to get across is that the employees are a family working together for a common goal to produce value for their clients. It should be emphasized that the company wants its clients to know that the products and services the drivers deliver to them are delivered in a safe and responsible manner. So, when you’re behind the wheel, you’re a very big piece of our advertising message to our public and our clients,” Liggio recommended.

Strategy 2: Ensure Drivers Understand the Policy

The safety policy shouldn’t simply be enacted without explanation. Employees must thoroughly understand all of its various pieces and the ramifications of not following it.

“You can’t just dump the policy in drivers’ laps. There needs to be a sign-off,” said Lewin of Wheels. “That fleet policy sign-off could be handled in a couple different ways. One is just that — sign it — where any authorized driver needs to sign that they’ve read and understood the fleet policy. The second way is more customized and usually more effective, where there’s a quiz involved, ensuring the driver knows exactly what’s in the policy.”

But, sign-offs shouldn’t just be at initial rollout of the policy said Lewin.

“A lot of our clients will have their drivers reread and re-sign the policy annually to reinforce the driver’s safety awareness and account for any updates that may have been made to the policy during the year,” Lewin said.

Strategy 3: Personalize the Policy

One useful tool to reinforcing (and enforcing) the safety policy is a personalized online “driver dashboard” for each driver, said Brian Kinniry, manager of risk and safety services for The CEI Group Inc., a provider of technology-enhanced vehicle accident, driver safety, and fleet risk management services.

“The driver is able to go onto his or her online dashboard at any time and review the fleet policy, check out their driving event history, and know exactly what’s required of them when they have an incident,” Kinniry said. “This way, if they had a traffic camera violation or a speeding violation, or an accident, they would be directed to go onto their webpage and learn more about what the policy says about those incidents and find out what the next steps should be.”

Strategy 4: Promote Safety with Engaging Messages for Drivers

With the overwhelming amounts of data bombarding drivers on the job and at home, it’s easy for important messages — such as those in driver safety policies — to be ignored. Instead, engaging drivers with an ongoing set of bite-sized messages will keep them engaged, invested, and compliant with the fleet safety policy. 

“In addition to having driver read and sign off on the policy once a year, we work with fleets to produce two- to three-minute safety awareness videos. They’re like short infomercials or news clips that focus on a particular safety issue the fleet may be experiencing, and because they’re more visual than text-based, they have more impact,” said Kinniry of CEI.

According to Liggio of Driving Dynamics, a shift in driver demographics has created the need for shorter, more frequent reinforcement of safety messages.

“You’re dealing with much younger, newer drivers. They’re wired differently. You can’t sit them behind the computer for 45 minutes at a time; they’ll get bored in three to four minutes. What’s happening with the safety messaging is that it’s really starting to mirror the demographics of the driver population,” he observed.

Kinniry recommended keeping safety relevant by crafting messages based on the fleet’s actual performance data.

“Perhaps you’re seeing an upward trend in certain accident types or traffic camera violations or unauthorized personal use. Use that data to create messages that address those issues. It could be that drivers aren’t aware of what the policy says about those types of events,” he said. 

Lewin said that an increasing number of Wheels clients are using online interactive games to engage and educate their drivers on key components of their safety policies.

“It’s designed to be a competition, with points earned for completing certain modules and getting questions correct on policy quizzes. And, you can set that competition up among entire groups within the fleet. At the end of the competition period, they can earn awards. It’s a great way to incentivize safety,” he said.

Fleets should also consider sending out short messages, via email and social media channels, on timely and appropriate safety topics, Lewin advised.

“Your ongoing communications could be just a snippet as simple as, ‘Hey, make sure your tires are properly inflated.’ Or, ‘Make sure your windshield wipers are in good order and that you have plenty of washer fluid.’ Or, ‘Here are safety tips on winter driving,’ ” Lewin said. “This is just basic stuff that a lot of people may not be cognizant of without a friendly reminder. It’s constant safety reminders that we want to get in front of the driver — to keep it in the forefront. You talk to any psychologist, and they’ll tell you that intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful reinforcement.”

The Bottom Line

When it comes to promoting your fleet safety policy, it’s all about marketing.

“You really have to market safety to your driver population,” Liggio said. “What’s in it for them? What’s the value? Then decide on the communication tools. And, it has to be ongoing effort. Proctor and Gamble doesn’t advertise toothpaste once a year. They’re doing it all the time — and they sell a lot of toothpaste to their customers. You want to sell a lot of safety to your drivers.”  

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