Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com.

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com. 

Ensuring driving safety through the reduction in the number of crashes is a prime goal of any safety policy. Fleet managers share how they are making their fleet safer every day.

Driver accountability is a key to success in accident management.

“To help hold drivers more accountable for their driving practices, I provide an update of our company car policy, which includes an acknowledgement page to sign and return, which says they have read, understand, and agree with the Safety Driving Rules and Guidelines, outlined in the policy as well as the clearly defined actions that will be taken for violating the policy. I regularly review the policy to make sure it stays current and provides transparency to our drivers,” said Yolanda Johnson, HR Operations fleet manager for UCB, Inc., which operates a fleet of approximately 700 vehicles, mainly sedans and SUVs.

In addition to the driver policy, to further ensure driver accountability, UCB instituted a $250 or $500 deductible for at-fault accidents, depending on the incident. To arrive at the predetermined deductible, Johnson worked with Corporate Insurance.

At a Glance

Fleet managers are increasingly focusing on safety, through such measures as:

  • Focusing on accountability and continued driver training.
  • Running annual motor vehicle reports (MVRs).
  • Performing ride alongs with drivers.
  • Ensuring consistent communication of policy across the board. 

“If a driver, or spouse of a driver, is in an accident that is ruled ‘preventable’ or that they were ‘at-fault’, they pay the $250 or $500 amount,” Johnson said.

Drivers are offered the opportunity to appeal the decision and provide any additional documentation for review and reconsideration. These drivers are also provided additional online training opportunities.

“In my opinion, this has made our drivers more aware of the importance of driver safety and demonstrates UCB’s commitment to safety by addressing these accidents one by one. The number of ‘at-fault’ accidents have even gone as low as zero for a few months,” Johnson said.

One concern is whether drivers just aren’t reporting incidents. “Per our policy, there is a penalty for non-reporting so sooner or later the vehicle will be assessed and you will still be held accountable. Also, that is not the culture of our company or our drivers,” Johnson said.

Johnson has also implemented online safety training for all fleet drivers and added additional, individual training based on accidents and violations. She worked with her company’s fleet management company to implement driver performance risk ratings and regularly assesses the needs of drivers as well as conducts annual motor vehicle report (MVR) reviews for all fleet drivers.

“This has resulted in an annual crash-rate decrease from 17.8 percent in 2012 to 11.8 percent in 2015, and a crash per million miles decrease from 7 percent to 5 percent, or a 29-percent improvement,” according to Johnson.

Johnson also performs annual MVR reviews to obtain and maintain an awareness of the performance of all the company’s drivers and to see where the risks lie.

“The goal is to use this as an opportunity to provide additional training to drivers and initiate corrective action where needed to lower and/or eliminate repeat incidents. It holds everyone accountable: the driver, fleet manager, and company,” Johnson said.

In the end, it all comes back to engagement. “I would advise to engage all key stakeholders in any discussions early. Change is inevitable, but not always easy to accept. Discuss ideas with your leadership team to gain support early on in the process and make sure your legal team is engaged. Once you have the green light, communicate upcoming changes early and frequently to the drivers. Provide as much information on the change as possible and be prepared for questions that may come your way. Also, provide drivers the opportunity to give feedback,” Johnson said.

Saint-Gobain Keeps Drivers and Safety No. 1

MVRs to stay current with the company’s drivers’ motor vehicle records.

“This, in turn, points us in the right direction with our safety modules based on needs that we can learn through the MVR process (such as speeding violations, red light camera violations),” said Mark Williams, fleet and travel manager for Saint-Gobain, which operates about 1,200 vehicles, mostly SUV, sedans, and light-duty pickup trucks.

Overall, the fleet’s collision rates have dropped year-over-year since the company instituted a program of three safety modules.

“We are at 4.56 crashes per million miles, which is well below the industry standard. I feel that even if a driver remembers just one point from a training it helps bring back those common sense things from when we learned how to drive,” Williams said. “One item I always think of when driving is on a training module that talked about safe following distances, recommending one car length per 10 miles of speed. I rarely see people on the highway following that point, and I mostly see rear-end collisions on my way to and from work.”

Saint-Gobain also IDs high-risk drivers through MVRs and accident rates.

“We can customize the training based on deficiencies if necessary. Savings have resulted from reducing our accident rate, for sure. But, ultimately, keeping people safe is the No. 1 requirement. This really starts with safe vehicles that can perform the duties our drivers have to get done. So, we ensure there is no overloading of small vehicles with sales displays. We want to provide the proper vehicle right up front,” Williams said.
In addition, Saint-Gobain puts out a newsletter and likes to focus on successes, so drivers know what management asks them to do is important and valued.

“Last year, we had a 20-percent reduction in our collision rate and, although you can never hit that mark every year, we keep to the program and continue to keep our drivers as the No. 1 priority,” Williams said.

Ensuring Policy Adherence Provides Results

With a focus on safety, communication, and a creative Commentary Drive Program, Sanofi is making an impact on accident reductions in its fleet operations.

“In the past three years we implemented some changes to our Commentary Drive Program, where managers discuss safe driving behaviors with field sales employees during routine ride-alongs,” said Thomas Cosentino, director, Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) for Sanofi, which operates approximately 4,500 vehicles, mostly Chevrolet Equinox compact SUVs.

According to Cosentino, the Commentary Drive Program requires managers perform one comprehensive commentary drive annually with brief, quarterly follow ups with all their employees. This is done during a routine ride along, as part of the coaching process.

“At the start of the drive, the manager reviews the condition of the vehicle, checks the maintenance history, ensures all documentation is in order, and checks tire pressure. Then, during the ride along, six items are observed in four main areas of driving: concentration, speed and following distance, eco-driving, and parking and backing,” Cosentino explained.

During quarterly follow-ups, managers rate drivers as “excellent,” “good, but needs improvement,” or “training needed” in one or more of five categories: safe following distance, speed adapted to driving conditions, vehicle maintenance, no distractions, and eco-driving technique.

After the ride along, the manager reviews the information with the employee and makes recommendations to help the driver improve.

“Positive reinforcement is encouraged. My most frequent response to push back from managers is to tell them, ‘You are sitting in the passenger seat, you know what makes you uncomfortable and when a driver is not compliant with the law. It’s your job to coach them the same as you do for other areas of the business,’ ” Cosentino said.

Sanofi instituted this program to provide a consistent format across the organization and streamline quarterly follow-ups on the Commentary Drives. Sanofi’s global road safety representatives provided input from around the world to develop the Commentary Drive Program for all the field sales employees.

In the past three years, Sanofi has experienced some additional accident-management-related challenges involving cell-phone use while driving.

“I believe our greatest challenge with accident prevention is convincing drivers not to use a cell phone while driving, even though our policy expressly prohibits the use of cell phones, even hands-free,” Cosentino said. “Distractions are a leading cause of accidents and convincing drivers that driving is not ‘down time,’ and they must be fully engaged while operating a vehicle is a challenge.”

Sanofi has had a no cell-phone use while driving policy, including hands-free, for about seven years.

“We communicate the policy to all new employees as they are hired; we communicate it to existing employees routinely; and every three years we have all employees electronically sign that they have read, understand, and will comply with our policy,” Cosentino said. “In addition, we have them take a training course that reviews and documents — through testing — that they understand the entire policy, including the no cell-phone portion.”

According to Cosentino, Sanofi depends on its managers to communicate and enforce the company’s policies during its routine ride alongs. If a citation for cell-phone use, or distracted driving, is issued, the employee is classified as a “high-risk” driver in the company’s risk assessment system. And, if an employee is involved in a crash and it is identified he or she was using a cell- phone, the case is turned over to Sanofi’s HR Compliance Group, which may result in disciplinary action, up to termination.

In the end, accident reduction and prevention is the goal.

“I attribute our ongoing reduction to a strong policy and visible commitment by our management, right down to the first line manager in the expectation of safe driving behavior by our employees,” Cosentino said.

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