Polish the crystal ball

by Rick Geller

It is easy to understand why fleets want to re-train drivers in the wake of a crash.

Certainly, managers want to correct any of the bad habits that led to the incident in the first place.

Safety should be a priority at every company.

The problem with this reactive approach is that the damage has already been done. Business has been disrupted, property has been destroyed, and people have been hurt.

A more effective High-Risk Driver Intervention Strategy will identify the worst habits of all, correct these issues, and avoid a crash before it happens – and you don’t need a crystal ball to make that possible.

Indeed, by comparing your employee records to the experience of other fleets, you can identify the high-risk drivers who present the greatest likelihood of a crash, and intervene before an incident ever occurs.

Consider the valuable research that allows you to predict these situations.

According to the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 28% of truck drivers have recorded some form of violation in the past year.

That statistic is particularly troubling when you consider the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study that makes a clear connection between each type of violation and the likelihood of a crash.

For example, drivers who are cited for reckless driving are 325% more likely to be involved in a crash in the next year; speeders are 56% more likely to bend steel, break glass or crack fiberglass during the same time period.

Every violation is a cause for concern, whether it involves the first speeding ticket or a motorist’s complaint about an erratic lane change.

Even an Electronic Control Module can offer some insight into a driver’s troublesome habits. After all, fuel economy will certainly suffer if a driver has a lead foot, and an excessive number of hard braking events will identify someone who tends to tailgate.

By using the industry statistics, however, you can identify the specific actions that present the biggest likelihood of a future incident, and make these a priority of your intervention program.

Your insurance company’s safety advisor can also use these statistics to calculate the financial impact of the future crashes, and generate a figure that can be used to justify any related training investments.

The true financial impact of these crashes might shock many fleet managers.

Simple math tells us that a fleet with an operating ratio in the neighborhood of 2% will need to raise an extra $1.25 million in revenue to recover a mere $25,000 in collision-related costs. To put it another way, a relatively small crash may require every employee in a small fleet to work several months without realizing any profit.

You can’t afford to overlook the opportunity to avoid an incident like this.

If an existing employee or a potential hire has a speeding ticket, it is important to recognize that this person may be falling into the “high-risk” category of drivers. A detailed over-the-road evaluation is vital to determine the nature of the problem as well as any issues with the related attitudes.

Even your best drivers can fall into bad habits, but there is an important distinction between this group and the high-risk drivers. The best drivers or job candidates will be visibly upset by the first blemish that appears on a clean abstract, and they will embrace any opportunity to improve their skills to ensure that such incidents never happen again, in contrast to drivers who blame everyone except themselves.

These are the individuals who will try to justify a speeding ticket by complaining that police officers were sitting at the bottom of the hill, and will avoid telling you about such violations as long as possible.

In the words of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies: “90% of the time, high-risk drivers think they are very good drivers.”

But you know better, and you can do something about it.

This is the time to intervene in their bad habits and poor attitudes, and prevent the crashes that are coming.

– Rick Geller is national manager of safety and training services for Markel Insurance Company of Canada and has more than 25 years experience providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to info@markel.ca. Markel Safety and Training Services offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers.

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