Effective Driver Training

By Eric Wokas, Risk Control Consultant

Commercial vehicle fleets, whether large or small, can benefit from implementing fleet safety programs to keep their drivers safe and prevent crashes while on the road.  Reducing the number and frequency of accidents will have a positive impact on a company’s profits and drivers’ safety.

Driver safety programs can be efficiently implemented at a reasonable cost through multiple resources such as newsletters, online training, safety meetings, telematics and motor vehicle record (MVR) reviews. However you must manage and communicate program goals to shift attitudes and in turn, behavior.

Key components of an effective safety program are timeliness and repetitiveness. This is not an investment that is one-and-done. Ongoing reminders, as well as an occasional refresher course go a long way toward making driver safety a priority.

Here are some topics that should be included in every safety training program:

Dealing with Driver Fatigue: Every driver has experienced the toll that extended driving time takes on performance and alertness. Fleet drivers who drive long hours are well aware that fatigue can be fatal. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established that after seven hours of driving, the frequency of accidents increases dramatically.

Some precautions that a driver can take to mitigate fatigue include the following:

  • Avoid driving a vehicle when ill, tired or when driving capacity is not 100 percent.
  • Avoid drug and alcohol use at all times. Keep in mind prescription medications can impair one’s ability to drive safely.
  • Fatigue comes on quickly. Drivers need to get off the road as soon as they notice drowsiness or sleepiness and rest until they feel they can safely be on the road again.

Backing a Vehicle: This can be a slow, tedious, and often dangerous procedure. Avoid backing a vehicle whenever possible. When parking find a spot that allows you to pull out going forward.

Courteous and Defensive Driving:  Good drivers understand the importance of demonstrating courtesy and a defensive-driving attitude. They know giving a little ground and yielding the right of way, even when it belongs to you, is important in avoiding accidents. Bullheadedness and a “me-first attitude” have no place in safe driving.

Defensive driving is about being proactive on the road by identifying conditions that could lead to accidents. A driver needs to accurately anticipate the outcome of traffic situations, road conditions, and other elements and actively apply defensive driving techniques.

Roads and Weather: Adverse weather conditions (snow, ice, wind, rain etc.) can create double trouble. When driving under normal circumstances, steep hills, curves, and traffic congestion bring enough difficulties. Wet roads and high winds introduce another set of dangerous situations.  Proper vehicle maintenance is a key component of fleet safety program under any conditions. In adverse weather, a poorly maintained vehicle can be a death trap.

The Three-Point Rule: Minor injuries can cost the driver and the company a lot in terms of lost income and downtime. Drivers need to get in and out of tractor cabs or trucks. In many cases they also mount and dismount trailers. There are plenty of opportunities for possible injury. Safety precautions require the use of the “three-point rule”. Three of your four limbs need to be in contact with the vehicle at all times. Two feet and an arm or two arms and a foot are the basics of this rule. This improves stability and support, reducing the risk of slipping or falling.

This is just a sample of what a comprehensive driver safety program should include. JGS provides a full suite of services to assist your company in implementing an effective driver training program. Get in touch with us today for a personalized strategic plan.