The Man Who Takes Driver Safety to Heart
Doug Hager came up in trucking in 1983. Back then, if a driver broke down, truckers stopped to help. They let each other merge, waved as they passed, and gave colleagues a head’s up over the CB. Not anymore.
“Now you can’t get anybody to help you,” Hager said. “Drivers—commercial and otherwise—have changed. Everybody’s texting and driving. I see men shaving at the wheel or moms driving with their knees. It’s not safe.”
In this distracted environment, Hager has emerged as a shining star among drivers, striving to succeed where others have failed. His efforts in fleet driver safety have earned him respect and praise at American Central Transport (ACT), where he hasn’t had to be coached on a single DriveCam event since he joined the Kansas City, Mo.-based organization two years ago.
How rare is his achievement? Hager is the only ACT driver to go two consecutive years without a coachable event since ACT implemented the Lytx Driver Safety Program in 2014. “It’s an incredible accomplishment,” said Hager’s coach, ACT Risk Management Specialist Dave Olmsted. A coachable event is any DriveCam event rooted in unsafe driving behavior, such as improper lane changes or following too closely.
Hager’s achievement is all the more incredible considering he’s an over-the-road trucker who’s driven more than 258,000 miles in the last two years. Hager has succeeded in fleet driver safety through his own exceptional awareness and patience (he’s never had a collision, even in a car). But he’s also a product of ACT’s strong safety culture, and that has made all the difference.
A Fleet Safety Program That Motivates Everyone
At ACT, safety is a core value. That means that whether you’re a driver, a manager, or any other staffer, “you take personal ownership of safety and realize that you’re part of the safety culture mix,” Olmsted said. “Here, safety is everyone’s responsibility.”
ACT Director of Risk Management Brandon Leininger sends out a letter to drivers every quarter emphasizing a different safety theme. The department displays large banners promoting safety campaigns throughout the office; shares its safety messaging on social media; and sends correspondence home to inspire drivers’ families to be safety minded.
“I view other drivers like they’re my own family, and that inspires me to drive more carefully.”
—ACT driver Doug Hager
“All of these efforts have helped create safer drivers in our fleet,” said Leininger. “We take care to share our safety messaging over several channels. When safety is the foundation of your culture, it reaches into every corner of the organization and makes a lasting impression on employees.”
It certainly has made an impression on Hager. On the road, he remembers a safety message from ACT: “I view other drivers like they’re my own family, and that inspires me to drive more carefully,” Hager said.
Safety technology is a key contributor to ACT’s safety culture. The Driver Safety Program specifically has sharpened Hager’s level of awareness. “The video event recorder reminds to me to arrive home safely every day,” he said. “By increasing awareness and changing unsafe habits, the Driver Safety Program helps create safer drivers. It’s a very effective tool, and I think every fleet should have it.”
Not only does recognizing drivers for their achievements help improve safety culture, it also helps improve driver retention. During the current driver shortage, many fleet managers are looking for new truck driver retention ideas. Recognizing drivers for positive performance is one of several strategies that can be used to keep drivers engaged.
“When safety is the foundation of your culture, it reaches into every corner of the organization and makes a lasting impression on employees.”
— ACT Director of Risk Management Brandon Leininger
Always striving for continuous improvement, Hager brings ACT’s safety culture to life through Smith System safe driving principles. He glances at his mirrors every five to eight seconds and tries to stay three semi-lengths from the vehicle in front of him. He also slows down at yellow lights, approaches intersections with caution, and above all else, keeps his cell phone out of sight.
“Doug is a great example of a guy who treats safety like a journey,” said Olmsted, who gives Hager the “zero” mark when he sees him, for zero coachable events. “You should never feel like you’ve arrived at your final destination. You should always strive to continuously improve, or you’ll become vulnerable. After two years, Doug is still improving, and it sets him apart.”
A Vehicle Safety Program Policy Focused on Reward
Recently, ACT honored Hager for going two years without a DriveCam coachable event. They presented him with an honorary certificate, merchandise from the ACT company store, and other items. The event was captured on video and shared on ACT’s social media.
“The award ceremony means a lot to me,” Hager said. “I got the DriveCam award and a Safe Driver of the Fleet award in 2017. It’s the most recognition I’ve ever received in a job.”
ACT makes a habit of recognizing employees for a job well done. On the second Tuesday of every month during the summer (May to August), they host a barbecue for drivers. And once a month they honor drivers with no coachable events with reward points that can be accumulated and redeemed on merchandise ranging from seat covers to electronics.
“There’s a constant flow of recognition,” Olmsted said. “Drivers come in here and they get a pat on the back, they get barbecue, they get personal recognition. What impact does that have? It makes them happier employees. It allows them to embrace the company. When we as employees can embrace our employers, we’re dedicated and driven.”
Case in point: Doug Hager, who watched the video of his award ceremony again last night. “It brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “Because I’ve never been recognized in any job like I have in this one. It proves to me how much ACT appreciates their drivers, and it makes me want to do my best work for them.”
How do you incentivize your drivers to drive safely? These seven steps can get you off to a great start.