10 ways for fleets to improve, foster safety culture

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Fleets with excellent safety standards don’t overpay for insurance and are an underwriter’s dream. Other carriers can learn from these organizations, and bring their drivers home safe, prevent losses, and downtime.

Two judges from last year’s Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) Fleet Safety Awards program shared their observations on the safest fleets in North America, during a webinar organized by the TCA on Sept. 29.

Jeff Davis, vice-president of safety, Napa River Insurance Services said a strong safety culture permeates through these organizations while John Simms, senior risk advisor, HNI said companies that made employees feel like they were part of a family – being involved and contributing to it – saw better safety results.

(Photo: iStock)

The safety professionals listed their top 10 takeaways from award-winning fleets …

1. Winning is vital

Winning this contest isn’t everything, it’s the only thing for the top fleets, Simms said. They always look to improve, and the goal is to get back on stage to collect the trophy every year.

They are never happy to maintain success and strive for improvement, Davis added. All involved in bringing that success are recognized.

2. Proactivity/embracing technology

They are not reactionary and use available tools to identify and fix issues before they become safety failures, Davis said.

Simms noted that technology is embraced, and data is used to enhance safety but not at the expense of human capital.

3. Brand recognition/quality of life

Simms observed that winners were stalwarts in communities and giving back is common. Their brand is held in high esteem, which makes them an employer of choice and able to attract the best talent.

Davis said care for the team’s quality of life boosts safe performance and operational success. The predictability of home time is more important than the amount of time at home. Drivers need to be home when it matters to them.

4. Empowerment

They hire the right people for the job, and letting them run with it is key, Davis said, adding that it fosters creativity and true ownership.

Simms said drivers are coached not to take risks and can shut down in unsafe conditions. They are never challenged on that decision and are rewarded for it.

5. Staying ahead of bad stuff

Health and wellness programs offer drivers resources to stay healthy on the road and at home. Families get involved in the safety culture, Simms said. Programs allow over-the-road drivers to stay connected with their kids.

They stay current with safety tech and leverage tools to get the highest return on investment, Davis noted. There are processes to quickly address safety failures that lead to accidents and when a loss takes place, the response is quick.

6. Peer recognition

Educational opportunities that create greater self-worth are continually provided. Davis said training after a crash is promoted as a positive opportunity.

Simms said fun competitions based off seasonal events like the World Series and Super Bowl help keep drivers focused on improving mutual key performance indicators. Employees feed off peer recognition, he added.

7. Giving back

Open doors and accessibility are not written policies but a way of life, Simms said. Open communication and intertwining safety in day-to-day communication is critical.

Davis observed that charitable operations benefit the community but also bring the company together as they share a common goal.

8. Home is where the heart is

Providing a home to drivers and all other employees benefits retention and overall safety results, Davis said. Companies provide resources for families when drivers are out on the road.

It is about getting everyone involved, said David Heller, senior vice-president of safety and government affairs, TCA, who moderated the discussion.

Successful and safe fleets have a waiting list of job applicants, Simms observed. Their hiring standards are carved in stone and non-negotiable. Onboarding support staff have the power to tell driver they are not ready and can send them home.

9. All crashes are a big deal

Safe fleets don’t have a lot of crashes and when they do, they takes steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again, Simms noted. Technology is used to investigate the cause of each incident regardless of severity, as well as near-misses. Once identified, steps are taken to avoid these actions, correct behaviors and share results with the entire fleet.

Davis highlighted incentive programs that foster a competitive spirit within the organization. Changes are implemented so the programs stay fresh and do not become part of an expected benefit.

10. It takes effort from all

Successful fleets involve everyone in the organization, giving people ownership in their role, Davis said.

Simms added that personal attributes contribute to an “uncompromising safety culture.” Value priorities are principles that provide employees with a way of knowing what they must do and what type of person they must be so they can live, work and thrive in the best and safest environment possible.

TCA members can submit applications for the National Fleet Safety Awards from Oct. 5-Oct. 20. Grand prize winners will be announced at TCA’s annual convention March 4-7, 2023.

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Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca

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