As a boy, William “Billy” Roach dreamed of helping others. His father, an army drill sergeant, encouraged him to serve his community. By age 12, the younger Roach knew he wanted a career where he could make a difference in the lives of others.
All these years later, Roach is doing just that as a talented driver coach for the City of Mobile Fire-Rescue Department, where he serves as Fire Service District Chief and Health and Safety Officer. In the two years Roach has been the driver coach, he has used the DriveCam video telematics program to improve the department’s driving so notably that his efforts earned him the honor of being named Lytx Coach of the Year for 2017.
Backed by Roach’s coaching expertise, the City of Mobile fire division has not had a single near-collision since September 2016. Roach has had 100 percent coaching effectiveness in that period. In fact, in the last 15 months, Roach’s coaching effectiveness has never dropped below 94 percent for the month. Just as importantly, since Roach began coaching in July of 2015, collisions for the City of Mobile as a whole have declined 41 percent.
Keep It Positive
In the past, the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department’s fleet coaching sessions tended to focus on the deficiencies of the firemen at the wheel. Roach vowed to adopt a more positive method.
“I have given the team opportunities to win,” Roach says. “I worked with them to let them know what the DriveCam program is all about. I showed them the videos, let them see how the event recorder operates, and even encouraged them to let the camera work to their advantage by triggering it manually. They got real comfortable ‘pushing the blue button,’ as we called it. It was a totally different approach, but it obviously worked.”
When Roach sits down with one of his people for a driver coaching session, he strives for common ground. “My leadership approach is driven by a sincere belief that we have similar goals and objectives,” Roach says. “Development of common ground is essential to establishing a positive relationship.”
His approach has created lasting change in the City of Mobile Fire-Rescue Department. Before long, Roach’s men began trusting him—and just as importantly, they began changing their behavior. What may have begun as people driving aggressively or taking their eyes off the road is now a team of highly aware and skilled drivers with very few coachable incidents.
“In 2015, we were getting quite a few driving events where they were triggering the event recorders,” Roach says. “Now they aren’t being activated nearly as much as they were before. The people in my department are driving slower; they’re driving safer.”
10 Minutes of Coaching Time Can Help Save a Life
By showing his people that their driving behavior was not as safe as it could be, Roach showed them that just a few seconds of inattention could put them in a wreck. So it’s not an overstatement to say that 10 minutes of driver coaching time can help save a life, Roach says.
“When we don’t coach drivers for a behavior that needs to be corrected, your drivers may eventually get in a wreck and lives could be lost,” Roach reasons. “Statistically, we’re pretty sure we’ve averted a major accident.”
The Secret to His Success
The improvements the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department has seen with the DriveCam program have a lot to do with the bond of trust between Roach and his people. Roach also has taken a proactive approach to driver coaching, addressing small problematic behaviors before they become bigger.
But for Roach, the bottom line is this: “My guys know that I’m out to try to help them,” he says. “I’m not trying to tell them what to do. I just want them to understand that if they can’t make it to the emergency call because they got into an accident, they’re not helping anybody.”