Special Topics in Safety Management

7 Keys to a Successful Fleet Safety Program

Attendees at the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Safety 2008 conference got the inside story on how one company has dramatically reduced its vehicle accident rates – and insurance costs .

It is harder to ensure the safety of workers who drive as part of their job responsibilities than it is for workers under direct supervision. If you doubt that assertion, take a look at Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, which show that occupational vehicle accidents account for one of every four worker fatalities nationwide.

[This week (October 6-10) is Drive Safely to Work Week. And, while the theme is geared more to the general commuting of your workforce, it is as good a time as any to tackle the sticky subject of fleet safety.]

Despite the fatality statistics, there is progress in addressing this problem. Arthur “Skip” Thomas of the Lockton Companies and Kurt Narron of Rural/Metro Companies told attendees at the ASSE Safety 2008 conference in Las Vegas how they developed a highly effective fleet safety program for emergency response vehicle drivers.

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An article on our sister website HR.BLR.com shows that the results were impressive: Narron’s company reduced its vehicle accident rate from 58 incidents per 100 vehicles in 2002 to 7 incidents per 100 vehicles in 2007. The company also reduced its accident insurance costs from $45 million in 2002 to $22 million in 2007. Rural/Metro makes over 3 million emergency transport trips per year.

Steps to a Successful Fleet Safety Program

Thomas and Narron outlined seven steps they took to create and implement the fleet safety program at Rural/Metro.

Step 1–Identify the costs of current conditions.

  • Determine accident rates per number of vehicles or per number of emergency transports and compare against the industry rates, or over time.

  • Determine cumulative costs of accidents within the fleet (lost work time, insurance, legal assistance) per year.

Step 2–Determine the criteria for making program implementation decisions. Evaluate:

  • Return on investment (ROI) over a specified time period

  • Ability to apply industry or other best practices to their business

  • Level of management support

Step 3–Form an Internal Fleet Safety and Health Advisory Group.
The advisory group identified specific fleet problems, recommended solutions and best practices, and helped communicate the program to drivers. The group included vehicle drivers, dispatchers, field operators, supervisors, and area managers. The membership represented every job position in the company that interacted with or influenced the activities of fleet drivers.

Step 4–Develop a standardized fleet training program.
Most states only require that emergency response drivers have a driver’s license, so there were no compliance incentives for additional driver training. So Rural/Metro set up the following training program structure to address the accident problems:

  • A 12-hour driver program that includes classes, a skills course, and on-road driver observation

  • Immediate training for new hires and a phase-in program for existing drivers

  • A train-the-trainer program

The program designers used ROI evaluations to monitor the effect of training on accident insurance costs. They were able to put 10,000 drivers through the program over 3 years.

Step 5–Identify technology to monitor causes of accidents, monitor trends in accident rates before and after training, compile data for program ROI calculations, and help assess liability in collisions.
Rural/Metro initially installed DriveCam® monitoring systems in several vehicles as a pilot program. They started in an area where drivers were most skeptical of “Big Brother” driver monitoring technology. Within 4 hours of installing one of the devices, a response vehicle driver was involved in an accident and the monitor showed that he had done everything properly to prevent the accident and was exonerated. The experience helped speed the acceptance of the devices within the driver pool. For that and other reasons, the DriveCam is now accepted by the entire driver workforce at Rural/Metro, said Thomas and Narron.

Step 6–Institute a refresher training program.
Refresher training was added on the basis of DriveCam data, evolving best practices, and situation and behavior data. Training lasts about 1 hour to 1.5 hours, and includes video footage. Program designers found that drivers learn more effectively from video than from text.

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Step 7–Enhance the motor vehicle record (MVR) program.
The driving records of all drivers were evaluated. When the fleet safety program was started, drivers with poor records were put into a “probation” program where they were given training and 3 years of continuous improvement to clear their records. Union management did not object, corporate management supported the effort, and many drivers improved and kept their jobs. The MVR program included an appeal process.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll focus on the OSHA and Department of Transportation (DOT) division of responsibilities for trucker safety – where one leaves off and the other begins.