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Creating a Safety Culture for Your Fleet: 3 Top Strategies

October 25, 2018

Trucking is a high risk occupation. Fleet managers and owner-operators seeking to increase their fleet’s safety, retain more drivers, and lower insurance costs need to go beyond compliance in order to create an effective safety culture. To think outside the box regarding driver and vehicle safety, smaller fleets can benefit from lessons learned from larger fleets, for which there is usually more actionable safety data.

Three Top Strategies to Create a Safety Culture

1) Driver Retention

Fleet managers and owner-operators understand that the highest risk of an accident for a new driver is within the first six months. For this reason alone, retaining drivers is one of the best strategies for creating a more robust safety culture for your fleet.

According to a recent article in Fleet Owner, Bison Transport used a 16-year process to lower turnover and dramatically reduce insurance losses. Garth Pitzel, Bison’s director of safety and driver development, emphasizes that nothing has had a greater impact on Bison’s safety culture than driver retention:

“It is the single most important item in my job. Because do you want a driver whose strengths and weaknesses you know? Or do you want to keep replacing them with new drivers who are complete unknowns?”

2) Empower Drivers to Make Their Own Decisions

At the heart of Bison Transport’s broad cultural overhaul is giving drivers the right to decide for themselves. Everyone from drivers to the back office is responsible for performing their tasks safely. If they cannot, they reserve the authority to stop that particular work. “Everyone is accountable for getting everyone home safely,” said Pitzel.

3) Use Video Technology and Video-Based Coaching

Video technology is an important tool that allows trucking companies to strengthen their safety culture, reduce their insurance liability, and protect their employees, profits, and brand. According to a recent article in Forbes, thanks to advances in video-based coaching some trucking firms are now installing cameras to promote driver safety and finding that their drivers actually like it.

Ward Transport has experienced widespread driver acceptance while using Netradyne, a camera and AI-based analytics system, to improve driver safety. Within only two months after implementing the Netradyne system stop sign events had decreased 60 percent for their drivers and Ward Transport now was in possession of a valuable data set they could use to renegotiate their insurance with an eye toward lower rates.

Video Technology in Action

Here’s how it works: “The camera, attached to the truck’s windshield, has cameras that face to the left and right, face forward, and face the driver. The cameras have a high enough resolution that in the event of an incident, reflected images picked up from the mirrors attached to the side of the truck can in many instances be viewed to determine what happened beside the vehicle.” One factor that increased driver acceptance was that the inward facing camera that could view the driver was disabled and even capped so that drivers knew they were not being secretly recorded.

Not only have recordings from the fleet’s video equipment already helped insurance claims go away, but Netradyne’s incorporation of positive reinforcement into its video safety program has led to positive competition among drivers. (For example, if a driver slows his or her speed to let a car safely merge onto the Interstate, this gets counted as a positive driving behavior.)

Ward Transport driver Dean White now has a sunny view of the technology: “I’ve only been doing this for two years. There are many things I need to learn. I never turn down coaching. It makes me better. Having a camera in there, if I roll through a stop sign, I get reminded.”

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