Top performing fleets don’t get to the top by accident. Over time, they’ve developed ways to consistently reduce collisions, operate more efficiently and motivate their employees to excel. At the annual Lytx User Group Conference in March, we were fortunate to be able to host a panel of safety executives from high performing fleets.
Our speakers included Jose Ortega of Foster Poultry Farms, Michael Miller of Dean Foods Co., and Lev Pobirsky of Pepsi National Brands—all of whom shared their most valuable tips. Here’s a recap of their expert advice.
Coach drivers daily. At Foster Poultry Farms, driver coaching is woven into the company’s daily routines. Rather than use coaching as a quarterly exercise, Foster sends coaching messages to its 600-plus drivers continuously, Ortega said. At Pepsi, driver coaching helped reduce collisions by 30 percent in the company’s first year of using the DriveCam program, Pobirsky said.
Be honest about the intent of your safety programs. Transparency of intent is critical to getting buy-in from drivers and frontline managers, according to Ortega. All three speakers agreed that safety technologies should be deployed as a tool for improving driver skills and behaviors, not as a punitive program for drivers. “Make your safety efforts about improving the safety, lives, and families of drivers rather than about disciplining employees,” said Miller, who rewrote the guiding principles for Dean Foods’ safety mission around “putting people first.”
Corporate Vehicle Safety Manager
Foster Poultry Farms
Fleet Size: 435 Vehicles
Fun Fact: Foster Poultry Farms produces 100 million pounds of corn dogs a year and processes 2 million chickens a day.
Reward drivers and coaches. Pobirsky adapted a system of rewards he learned as a U.S. Marine infantryman, coming up with Pepsi Challenge Coins that managers can use to recognize employees who embody the company’s safety principles. The coins can be exchanged for prizes every trimester. More importantly, a system of recognition can boost driver retention. Ortega of Foster Poultry Farms agrees. “Recognize your drivers and coaches often,” Ortega said. “A little goes a long way.”
Empower frontline managers. Safety programs are only as good as the managers who run them. At Pepsi, Pobirsky runs a safety department of one, himself. Without a battalion of safety professionals at his command, Pobirsky has had to recruit frontline managers in operations, human resources, unions, and elsewhere. That involved giving managers tools to improve safety while also enhancing productivity, reducing turnover and improving the company’s bottom line—metrics that other Pepsi executives care about.
DriveCam’s analytics and video reporting proved especially useful in that regard. “We exonerated six drivers in a nine-month period, and our driver coaching program reduced collisions 30 percent in the first year,” said Pobirsky, who credits frontline managers’ diligence in using “video and hard data to drive positive change” through proactive coaching.
Hold managers accountable. With power comes responsibility. Make sure managers know what their key performance indicators are.
Director, Environment, Health & Safety
Pepsi National Brands
Fleet Size: 750 Vehicles
Fun Fact: Pepsi sodas come in 130 flavors, including Fire, Ice Cream, Cucumber and Mojito.
Dean Foods uses DriveCam’s coaching effectiveness score – based upon the number of times previously coached behaviors are repeated by the coached drivers within a specific time frame — to evaluate managers and supervisors. The company encourages managers to build 60 to 90 minutes a week into their schedules to review each week’s batch of DriveCam videos, which have been curated to show notable incidents. Here, Miller discovered something unexpected. The company’s operations department was using the videos to train new managers, in addition to coaching drivers.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. All three speakers emphasized the need to clearly communicate with employees, especially when rolling out new safety programs. “We had orientations, FAQs, Q&A sessions, one-on-one meetings, you name it,” Pobirsky said. “The goal at all of these meetings was to leave no stone unturned. When we walked out, we made sure we answered every question. That made for some long, painful meetings.” But those meetings paid off through improved safety scores, he said.
Dean Foods, for example, spent a year developing its communication plan before it rolled out the DriveCam program. The communication aspect was so important that the company has a policy of never installing DriveCam into a vehicle until managers have talked to and trained the driver on the equipment.
VP of Environment, Health & Safety
Dean Foods Co.
Fleet Size: 5,200 Vehicles
Fun Fact Dean Foods, the nation's eighth-largest food and beverage company, spends $35 million a year to replace missing milk crates.
Create a safety culture. Each company approaches this in its own way. Dean Foods painted safety maxims on the driver-side doors of its fleet. Foster Poultry Farms acknowledges its safest drivers and issues safety commendation certificates signed by the company’s chief executive. Pepsi’s Challenge Coins have become badges of honor. While their tactics may be different, the common thread is culture.
“Safety is a lifestyle,” Miller said. “Not just an activity.”