Every fleet needs to learn from its mistakes. A collision can be reviewed to discover gaps in driver training, and an unexpected fine can lead to changes in the files that are used to comply with diff...
Every fleet needs to learn from its mistakes. A collision can be reviewed to discover gaps in driver training, and an unexpected fine can lead to changes in the files that are used to comply with different regulations.
The problem is that this can be an expensive learning process.
If a fleet is basing every decision on personal experience, it also needs to recognize that some of the damage has already been done. Fines need to be paid and destruction needs to be repaired, regardless of the actions that are taken to keep history from repeating itself.
In addition to that, this approach offers little insight into the best practices of the trucking industry, which could be used to improve efficiencies and reduce operating costs.
So where is a fleet supposed to turn for guidance?
Insurers are certainly in a position to offer some insight. Traditionally, insurance personnel will visit fleets on a regular basis to ensure that various aspects of the business comply with the standards outlined in their insurance policies.
Through a combination of engineering, education and enforcement, these advisors are able to focus on processes that need to be improved, educate staff about the changes that can be realized, and establish the steps that ensure that changes are made.
There are limits to these reports, however. Insurance companies have traditionally viewed their findings as internal documents, so the feedback is often linked to specific recommendations and a couple of lines to explain the rationale behind each point. In contrast, an effective benchmarking strategy will combine information from multiple sources, giving a fleet the opportunity to select the best possible business strategies.
Consider the potential differences in driver selection criteria as an example of what can be achieved when a fleet is aware of the steps that are taken by other carriers. At the most basic level, a fleet will compare its actions to its personal experience.
A better approach would combine the internal experience with the industry knowledge available from groups such as the Ontario Trucking Association or the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council. The best practices of all will combine these industry-accepted practices with behavioural testing that offers extra insight into the mindset of a potential job candidate.
The impact of an approach that learns from the best practices of other companies cannot be overstated. By choosing the best possible drivers, recruiting managers will affect everything from the number of insurance claims to recruiting costs and maintenance needs. (Poor drivers are undeniably rougher on equipment).
They will also be likely to see improvements in everything from fuel economy to customer relationships.
Maintenance practices can be compared in a similar fashion. A basic approach to preventive maintenance programs, for example, will focus on a fleet’s own history with the equipment, while a better approach will adjust schedules based on manufacturer recommendations.The best approach of all will reflect the unique use of the equipment.
Regardless of the initiative that is involved, benchmarks also need to be based on fleet size because of the different operating realities that will always exist.
For example, a fleet with fewer than 20 power units may not focus on documentation as much as a medium-sized fleet with a dedicated safety manager.
The largest fleets of all may simply be looking for validation that they are taking steps in the right direction. Enlightened approaches in the near future will emphasize a fleet’s total approach to compliance, drivers, equipment, cargo and safety – comparing every activity to the basic, better and best business practices that have been observed in the business.A true commitment to safety involves much more than meeting regulatory requirements, after all. It involves a dedication to moving forward and embracing the better or best practices that have been tried and tested by similar operations. Safety should always be seen as a journey, with benchmarks used to measure any progress along the way.
– This month’s expert is Rick Geller, national manager of safety and training services for Markel Insurance Company of Canada. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.Markel Safety and Training Services, a division of Markel Insurance Company of Canada, offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers.
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