Fleet Management, Fleet Safety, Safety

Tools of the Road: 5 Tips to Create a Driver Coaching and Safety Program that Works

July 2, 2019

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When it comes to driver safety, there’s a lot on the line for fleet managers.

According to a study from the FMCSA, 87% of crashes by a commercial motor vehicle are caused by “driver errors” like distracted driving, tailgating, or speeding. In spite of these staggering statistics, the FMCSA reports that only 42% of companies have driver safety programs in place. Why the low adoption rate? Without the right tools, getting an effective program up and running can feel like a daunting task:

  • Without clear visibility into driver activity, there’s a lot of guesswork involved

  • Many training resources, such as online courses, are outdated and generic

  • If you're concerned about driver retention, adding driver safety training can feel like a big risk.

The good news: If you’re looking for increased visibility into your fleet and a more effective way to make sure drivers are safely operating vehicles, dash cams and fleet management software can help you make this important task a completely manageable one. And once you have the tools, an effective driving safety program is really about a company culture shift. It needs to proactively address dangerous behaviors, reward positive driving skills, and build a relationship between drivers and fleet managers that everyone can feel good about.

Although it requires time and commitment from fleet managers and drivers alike, the payoff is well worth the effort. On average, a motor vehicle accident with no injuries can cost a company $16,500. If there is an injury, that could increase to $74,000. Many Samsara customers have found that camera-based driver safety programs result in 50% fewer accidents and 60% lower costs.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when setting up and maintaining a driver safety program.

1. Coach your drivers when—and where—they need it most

If you don’t have full visibility into driver behavior on the road, it's difficult to address safety concerns proactively. Dash cameras give you more control over your fleet by providing video evidence that you can use for more effective driver coaching. By equipping your fleet with dash cams, you’ll be able to easily identify behaviors like cell phone use, fatigue, seatbelt use, tailgating, harsh braking or acceleration, and traffic violations.

But in certain instances, risky behaviors can’t wait until the driver is off the road. That’s why Samsara’s AI dash cams are equipped with an in-cab speaker that triggers a voice command to the driver when a harsh behavior—like sudden braking or accelerating—is detected. Fleet managers are also automatically alerted so they can get in touch with the driver in real-time to better understand the situation and decide on the best course of action—whether that’s suggesting the driver take a break to combat fatigue or reinforcing the risks of driving above the legal speed limit.

Dash cam footage is also a great jumping off point for coaching sessions. If you’re still unsure where to start, Samsara’s coaching tools can help you identify coachable incidents and provide you with relevant feedback for drivers. Samsara coaching workflows specify events that require coaching and make it easy to assign a safety manager to an event. And because Samsara AI dash cams automatically detect and tag harsh incidents, fleet managers can easily access footage instead of manually sifting through hours of recorded video. Tagged footage is automatically stored in the fleet manager’s safety inbox for quick retrieval and review.

When an event is marked as ‘Needs Coaching,’ a coaching script will populate below the comments section in the Samsara dashboard. Not only do coaching scripts help start a dialogue about safety, but scripts tailored to common driving violations like ‘mobile usage’ or ‘harsh braking’ provide consistency in feedback so drivers receive objective coaching conversations.

To take the guesswork out of coaching, use Samsara to create a coaching framework everyone feels good about. Consider these best practices for positive coaching communication:

Once a driver and fleet manager meet about a particular incident, fleet managers can mark the event as ‘Coached’ so sessions can be properly archived while helping managers see who still requires a review.

2. Encourage friendly competition

Friendly competition can go a long way in keeping safety top-of-mind for your drivers. Plus, it’s a great way to show that your whole company values their well-being. Consider incorporating driver gamification into your training approach. With the Samsara Driver App, you can award points to drivers for staying within the speed limit or braking gently. When they’re off the road, drivers can check the mobile app to see how safety scores, number of harsh events, or speeding incidents compare to other drivers in the fleet.

Depending on your goals, you can create a company-wide leaderboard or divide it into regions or teams. It resets each week so drivers get a new chance to make it to the top of the ranks. You can even take driver gamification one step further by offering incentives like gift cards or meals to say “thank you” for a job well done.

Beyond physical incentives, consider getting your strongest drivers to lead a defensive driving course. Encourage them to share what they’ve learned about safe driving, their own success stories, and lessons learned while working to improve their own performance.

3. Use a variety of training approaches

A safer fleet doesn’t happen overnight. It happens through regular coaching on defensive driving and a company-wide commitment to safety. The training needs of your fleet will likely vary from person to person depending on level of experience, current performance, and learning style, so it’s important to strike a balance between team trainings and one-on-one coaching.

For example, you might host routine company-wide safety seminars that serve as an introduction for new drivers who join your fleet and a refresher for veteran drivers. To apply the lessons learned in a real-world setting, you might schedule behind-the-wheel activities that give drivers an opportunity to ask any questions in a more personal setting and focus on specific areas of improvement.

The best driver safety program is one that drivers remember when they need it most. For more effective and eye-opening defensive training sessions, Samsara customer Simco Logistics uses dash cam footage to teach lessons about behaviors like distracted driving and tailgating. Compared to generic motor vehicle training videos, these recordings show drivers examples from their own fleet. And they work: in one year, Simco Logistics had a 75% reduction of harsh driving events.

For more tips on change management, check out our step-by-step guide to building a successful fleet safety program, which includes best practices for getting driver buy-in, coaching drivers, and more.

4. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes

Your drivers have a strict schedule to stick to, so it’s important that your driver safety program works seamlessly with their existing routine. Focus on creating a program that’s simple, straightforward, and gives them actionable steps to be successful in their day-to-day job. Consider implementing a training schedule or providing ample opportunities for drivers to understand safety best practices on topics like traffic safety through various formats like workshops or one-on-one meetings.

Make time for driver feedback, too. Inviting your drivers to share suggestions and ideas for program improvements will show them they have a stake in the business—which will, in turn, lead to greater engagement. This can ultimately help boost driver retention, an increasing challenge for many fleets in the trucking industry.

5. Define what success looks like

How do you know if your driver safety program is working? Measuring success can be daunting, especially in a way that feels scalable across an entire fleet. Luckily, fleet management systems make it easier to unpack the data so you can accurately benchmark drivers and track their improvement over time. Samsara gathers data and houses it in a centralized location so you can focus your time on what matters most, like building relationships with drivers and coaching them on safer habits.

Samsara helps you quickly understand answers to questions that might otherwise feel time-consuming. Have records of harsh braking decreased since you introduced a new training program? Are your drivers spending less time driving above the speed limit? Samsara driver scorecards and trend reports make all of this easy to view. Learn more in our guide to measuring ROI from your safety program.

Your safety driving program doesn’t have to be built on guesswork and outdated, generic resources. Putting the time and attention into promoting safe driving practices—paired with Samsara’s connected sensors and software—will pay off in driver well-being, company reputation, and cost savings.

To learn more about Samsara's coaching tools, reach out today for a free demo or free trial.

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