Plus the prime times for fleet safety training
by Marty Lyons

Driving safely for homecare and hospice workers means they arrive at the patient’s residence safely and on time so they can provide the vital care the patient needs.

Safe driving not only keeps your drivers productive, but also saves money and upholds your company’s reputation. Company vehicles are traveling billboards, and anything that happens on the road is a direct representation of your business and your brand. Problem driving and a bad safety record can be a marketing nightmare.

In addition to your company’s policy around vehicle use, safety needs to be reinforced throughout the year—not just one safety week during the year. With consistent messaging and complete buy-in, a culture of safety can be successfully implemented and drivers kept productive and safe.

Here are a few items to keep in mind when reviewing and setting your company’s vehicle policy around safe driving.

1) Safe driving starts with a well-maintained vehicle.

Proper periodic maintenance is less expensive than the costly repairs as a result of putting off vehicle maintenance. A policy that clearly states driver responsibilities for properly maintaining the vehicle is critical. Improper maintenance can lead to accidents or unexpected and costly breakdowns, which take your caregivers off the road and take away their ability to provide care. Compared to reimbursing a driver for using his or her own vehicle, a company vehicle allows you to better control maintenance. Downtime for a driver is not good for the company, for the driver or for their patients.

2) Keep distractions to a minimum.

Getting drivers to focus on the road can be a challenge. Consider all the things a driver could be doing instead of focusing on the road—changing radio stations in the car or on their phone, using a navigation system or map app, making phone calls, texts, updating Facebook, sending Facebook messages, checking emails—the list goes on. A recent study by Zendrive found that drivers used their mobile phone during 88 percent of trips. Make sure drivers understand the risks—driving while distracted is worse than driving while intoxicated. In California, simply holding a cellphone while driving is illegal, however laws vary widely from state to state. Fourteen states prohibit drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving, and all are primary enforcement laws. Forty-six states currently ban texting while driving. The Governors Highway Safety Association provides information on laws in most states. All good vehicle policies today address distracted driving in one way or another—from banning cellphone use in the company car altogether, or pointing out the risk and making sure the driver understands that the call/text/email can wait until they have stopped.

3) Consider a telematics program to ensure and monitor safe driving behaviors.

A telematics device is not seen as much these days as Big Brother watching but as a necessary tool to keep your most valuable asset safe. A case study presented by Azuga showed that for one company, the implementation of a telematics program showed a 27 percent decrease in speeding and a 41 percent reduction in hard braking events. The data can be used to gamify safety and turn it into a healthy competition, using safety scores. Awards can be given for the top safety score, reinforcing safety awareness and a culture of safety.

4) Safety is not only a program and policy, but is part of your culture.

Safe driving is about common sense and keeping your drivers safe, however, as the workday unfolds and gets busier and busier, safety sometimes moves to the back of the line. A culture of safety starts with communication (safety slogans, contests or newsletters), is included in your vehicle policy, includes the selection of vehicle type and equipment, includes recognition for safe driving (not just punishment for poor behavior), and is embraced by all levels of the organization.

5) Pull driver history reports as part of your new-hire process.

The first step in making sure that your employees drive safely is to hire safe-driving employees. It is better to try and identify bad behavior before it causes as accident. There are two things to keep in mind when it comes to driving records. First, ensure employee privacy is protected. Many state and federal laws restrict how companies can obtain, store, share and discard confidential information such as driving records. Understanding and complying with these laws is tricky so it is best to involve your HR and legal department when setting up a policy around driving records. The primary law governing a company fleet manager’s ability to pull and use an employee’s MVRs is the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) of 1994. This law restricts state DMVs from providing personally identifiable driver records without the company obtaining the driver’s expressed written consent. Second, make sure to have a policy in place to act on items you find in these driving records—failure to act when you have a driver with issues can be worse than not knowing about the issues. You may also consider pulling a driver’s MVR annually, as many fleets do.

6) Consider safety training.

Training can include either classroom, online or behind the wheel exercises. Training has been shown to reduce at-fault accidents and cut down on the leading cause of death in the workplace. According to the December 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistic Report, transportation incidents accounted for 40 percent of workplace fatalities.

7) Take it from the top.

Safety training sends the message that you are a company with a commitment to fleet safety, and you have made a commitment to having safe and respectful drivers on the road.

Three Prime Times for Efficient Fleet Safety Training

  • Upon hiring—make sure your new hires are driving safely the moment they hit the road. Even if they have previous driving experience, you don’t know the past policies they might still be following under new employment with you. You also want to make sure all your drivers are well-versed in your company-specific policies.
  • Once a year after hiring—drivers may start out great but slip into unsafe habits over time. A yearly reminder will encourage drivers to keep up the safe driving protocol they already know and demonstrate your company's commitment to safety.
  • For specific circumstances—if there is going to be an MVR review change, or if one of your drivers has a near-miss or an actual collision, you should schedule another training as soon as possible. This training should focus on the specific circumstance that elicited the training.

Keeping your drivers safe is not just about reducing the cost or downtime of accidents, it is about creating a culture within the company, where everyone values safety and protecting the company’s most valuable asset—your employees.