Most fleet safety programs have the basics down. Accountability? Check. Safety culture? Check. Driver coaching? Ditto.
Even so, there’s no guarantee that you’ve tamed risk by incorporating best practices into your fleet safety program. There are still plenty of ways things can go sideways, and Del Lisk, vice president of safety at Lytx, has seen them all. These are the most common missteps Lisk has seen in the field (along with ways to avoid them):
Listen to the Silence
Most managers sincerely believe the accountability metrics are both clear and realistic. But here’s the rub: They sometimes forget to check with front-line workers to see if that belief is widely shared. In the absence of feedback, managers often assume, and reasonably so, that everyone’s on board. But silence also can mean that drivers are reluctant to rock the boat or appear clueless. Or, worse, they think the goals are so unrealistic that they don’t even bother to ask for clarification.
TRY: Meet informally with drivers you can trust to be straight with you and get their take. Or solicit anonymous feedback. Also, make sure you have an objective way to track your metrics, Lisk advised. Read on to see why this is important.
Sweat the small stuff, because it could turn into big stuff.
Time. It’s the rarest of commodities for safety managers. And if transgressions are seen as minor, discipline can sometimes fall through the cracks to save time. But ignoring unsafe habits today can sometimes lead to a big collision tomorrow.
TRY: This is where having objective metrics and video feedback really helps. Safety-driven video telematics can quickly generate reports and notifications on potentially unsafe events and provide video to use for coaching drivers, making the task of holding drivers accountable potentially much easier and faster for time-starved managers.
Driver Coaches Avoid Having “The Talk.”
This is one of the toughest tasks of a manager, especially if it falls to a driver coach who has to confront a fellow driver. “It’s hard,” Lisk said. “But one of the biggest errors a safety manager can make is that they avoid having that difficult discussion. I see it happen all the time.”
TRY: Make it quick. Coaching doesn’t have to be painfully drawn out to be effective. A 3-minute coaching session can work just as well. If you’re squeamish about confrontation, here’s a guide to conquering the difficult conversation.
Being a Cop Instead of a Coach.
Speaking of coaching, coaches sometimes fall into the trap of focusing on the violation rather than guiding the driver with suggestions on ways to develop their safe driving skills.
TRY: Watch the event video with the driver and ask him or her to point out what they could do differently. Most drivers are far more critical of themselves than coaches. With that out of the way, you can move on to providing constructive suggestions for how the driver can improve.
Culture is Given Lip Service.
If safety culture is just paid lip service and there’s no genuine commitment, your safety messages are likely to fall on deaf ears, undermining your hard work, Lisk said. If executives prioritize profit, efficiency, and cost above all else, there’s little room left for safety.
TRY: Make it easier for top-level executives to buy into safety by sharing ROI analyses demonstrating that your safety programs are worth the investment in time and resources. Include indirect benefits, such as driver retention, brand value, and customer confidence.
Safety Programs Exist in Silos.
Breaking down silos can get messy, for sure. But the resulting efficiencies and improvements in common key performance indicators is often worth the effort, Lisk said.
TRY: Use your fleet management solution to identify one KPI and see how it can be improved across all safety efforts. For example, if your data indicates that cell phone use is a big issue, make sure there’s a clear policy on cell phones, one that’s tied to the company’s accountability and incentives systems. Then link up video telematics to gather data on cell phone use to better understand the risk and identify drivers who need coaching.
Check training programs to see if new drivers are trained on cell phone procedures during their onboarding, and whether there are scripts for coaching veteran drivers. Follow up with operations to ensure they have safe, effective ways to communicate with drivers that don’t require them to use their phones while driving. Focusing efforts on one KPI can create a path toward deeper integrations.
Data is Collected But Nothing is Done with It.
“This is extremely common,” Lisk said. “People don’t use the data and create new learnings to transform the business.” If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Businesses are straining under an avalanche of data. And, unless you’re a data scientist, it’s not always clear what should be done with those terabytes of information to extract the golden nuggets of insight promised to be hiding within.
TRY: You don’t need a doctorate in data science to make use of safety telematics. Read this three-part guide, chock full of actionable advice from Eddie Garza, safety manager for LeFleur Transportation, to get started.