Believe it or not, nearly half of workplace deaths occur in transportation-related mishaps. Financial losses come to an estimated $60 billion a year in direct accident costs and lost productivity. The loss of life is, of course, beyond measure. According to OSHA and two partner organizations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), businesses could avoid much of this carnage by following a 10-point pathway to workplace driver safety:
1. Management Involvement. Workplace road safety starts at the top. The program needs unequivocal management support in both policy-setting and allocating resources. But make sure that workers are involved in the decision-making process.
2. Written Policies/Procedures. Implement and enforce a strict, no illegal drugs or alcohol policy during duty hours (which includes all breaks and on-call periods). Set a policy on personal seat-belt use, distracted driving (including use of cell phones while driving), and use of personal vehicles for work.
3. Driver agreements. Have a written contract with each of your drivers which states that they understand and will follow all relevant policies and laws. With this document in hand, no one can later say, “They didn’t tell me that.”
4. Driver record checks. Driving records are public information, and it’s easy to get each prospective driver’s record of motor vehicle convictions and accidents. Screen out those with poor records or certain serious violations (such as reckless driving) before hire; and then institute a point system on those you do employ. DS Waters, a drinking water distributor, uses such a system with its 3,000 drivers, working in 40 states. Point totals are checked at 6, 12, and 36 months after hire. Drivers who come up short are taken off the road.
5. Reporting Policy. Make it clear that even a minor fender-bender must be reported to a supervisor immediately. However, looking at accident reports to find bad driving patterns isn’t enough: Scrutinize your drivers’ total behavior, even using in-cab video to study it. People take calculated risks and don’t have accidents. Accidents are poor indicators-because most people get away with risky behavior.
6. The vehicle element. Road safety has three components: The driver, driving conditions, and the vehicle itself. Purchasing vehicles with “best-in-class” DOT safety ratings and then implement the makers’ preventive maintenance schedule. Supplement this with a complete mechanical inspection at least annually, and keep all maintenance records on file. Insist that personal vehicles used for business be carefully maintained.
7. Discipline. Create a structured program of disciplinary actions based on a pattern of violations or incidents, with clearly stated penalties. Some companies use a point system for this.
8. Rewards. The other side of the disciplinary coin is to reward safe driving by building driving safety into the overall job performance evaluation, with rewards or incentives.
9. Compliance. Be sure that all drivers know the law, as spelled out by various agencies, including NHTSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates commercial trucking, the DOT, and other agencies.
10. Training. Because it’s a skill so commonly used, most people think they already know how to drive safely. A solid defensive driving training program, supplemented by constant reminders, can show how much they have yet to learn.