Driver training tips to reduce liability costs and protect your fleet
Road traffic accidents occur every day and account for more than 1.2 million deaths annually. Many of these accidents are avoidable and you can help to protect your fleet with the right preventive measures in place.
In fleets, these measures span across different areas such as having the right technological tools and maintenance policies. These are both important, but even with the best vehicles and equipment, accidents can still occur if the drivers of these vehicles are not properly trained to avoid them.
Training drivers is an ongoing process throughout the entire period of their work as a part of your fleet. It is in your company’s best interest to make sure drivers are properly trained to drive safely, comply with regulatory guidelines, and perform their jobs well. This will save you sizeable liability costs and promote safety within your fleet.
Whether you conduct in-house training or outsource to a 3rd party it’s essential to have a training checklist with everything that you expect your drivers to gain from their training. The following tips will help you ensure that drivers get the most out of their training.
Create a Comprehensive Safety Policy
A comprehensive safety policy sets strict guidelines that ensure the safety of your drivers as well as other road users they may meet. It has to be as specific as possible, as a lot of rules can get lost in the grey areas. It should be clear that these are rules that must be followed, rather than mere suggestions. When creating a comprehensive safety policy for your fleet, you should ensure that:
Every fleet driver has a copy of the safety policy, studies it, and signs it.
Safety tests are carried out at the end of different levels of training to ensure that drivers have studied the policy.
The policies are unique to your fleet and account for those unique and constant your fleet faces.
The policy shows drivers how to prepare for unpredictable events, identify these issues as they occur, and respond properly. This involves running through a checklist of possible events such as:
- Vehicle issues
- Environmental changes
- Threats from other drivers
Typically, the policy should cover all possible road events culled from past road data, which can be recorded by fleet management applications like Driveri.
Implement Proper Vehicle Training
For fleets to operate optimally, vehicles must always be in great working condition. Although the auto mechanic is responsible for serious maintenance and repairs, company drivers are also required to take care of the vehicles they drive.
From cleanliness to carrying out routine checks, drivers must understand the importance of keeping their vehicles in great condition. First, when vehicles constantly develop faults due to poor maintenance, the cost of repair increases and indirectly affects their earning potential.
Second, in several companies, drivers are fined for vehicle negligence. Training combined with strict vehicle policies that come with consequences for neglect is a good way to ensure that fleet vehicles are taken care of.
One common issue drivers face on the road is that of unprecedented vehicle problems. Even with stellar maintenance practices, vehicles can develop faults. A core aspect of driver training should involve preparing drivers for this situation.
Usually, automated fleet management systems, especially those based on artificial intelligence, detect faults and recommend the best solution. And the driving data gathered by systems like Driveri can be incorporated into training programs to help identify problem areas. Despite the presence of such software, drivers must know the vehicle inside and out. At the end of the training, each driver should know how to do any of the following:
- Identify the source of any issues that arise. For example, a driver should know what could be causing overheating or issues with hydraulics.
- Assess the damage to know how bad it is and when to request for extra help.
- Carry out basic maintenance on the vehicle such as an oil change, tire change, or tightening loose screws.
- Operate the vehicle in extreme weather such as snow or rain under different road conditions including potholes and speed limits.
- Stay up-to-date on further vehicle training and reminders.
Implement Technology to Protect Drivers
You can train your drivers to do everything from looking out for safety hazards to handling problems properly, but at the end of the day they still need help. As much as drivers can move the vehicles from one location to another, there are many risks that they may not be prepared for.
There are also issues that they may be unable to detect on the road, or sticky situations that they may not have solutions for. In cases like this, drivers are protected by the right technological tools.
The best driver safety tools, including Driveri, have built-in risk analysis software combined with data collection and analytics, GPS trackers, sensors, cameras, and communications systems. In many cases, these components are combined with artificial intelligence which serves as an onboard coach for the driver.
Artificial Intelligence systems geared towards fleet management and driver safety are becoming increasingly popular. Most of them aim to simplify the processes of collecting road data, monitoring drivers and navigating road risks; however, they are new technologies and drivers may need the training to become accustomed to using them.
Implementing this type of technology is great for your fleet – but if your drivers do not know how to use it, then the purpose is defeated. While diversifying your fleet technology, this is something you should consider.
As a part of their training, drivers should learn how to use and operate any technological tools used by the fleet. They should ideally be able to access and understand how to read the data collected by such tools as well as give valid feedback on how well they work.
The technological training material should be easy to understand and well formatted for quick learning. You should also have regularly updated onboarding documents available for periods when drivers have issues with their technological tools, even after training. These documents can also serve as manuals for newly hired drivers who have never used the tool before.
Send Out Reminders Frequently
Similar to how you would treat any other company-wide announcement, memos and email reminders should be sent to drivers. Reminders keep them updated on their:
- Fleet training programs and schedules
- Policy updates
- Road safety tips
- Meeting schedules
- Required certifications
- Changing road conditions
- Performance assessments
There are many easy ways to send out reminders, especially in large fleets. You can schedule reminders on applications like Calendly, workspaces like Slack and Asana or fleet management platforms. Whichever you opt for, your aim should be to keep drivers updated without spamming them with notifications. The following tips should help you create the perfect reminders:
- Schedule reminders at the beginning of the month via Google Calendar, Calendly, or any other e-communication platform. This automates the process and sends out reminders on the scheduled days without any interference.
- Keep it simple and deliver only the necessary details.
- Depending on your work culture, you may keep it formal or friendly.
- Add incentives for attendance or consequences for not showing up.
Communicate with Fleet Drivers Regularly
Formulating a good training plan requires you to understand your drivers and which aspects of their jobs they have the most issues with. This involves communicating with them and leaving those two-way lines of communication open.
Effective communication helps you to streamline each driver’s training course, which in turn saves you money. Apart from using communication as a means to collect information relevant to training material, you can use it as a way to collect feedback. You should be willing to understand which parts of the training they find overwhelming and which parts are easier to grasp.
Communication is a necessary component for driver training because it helps you to do any of the following things:
- Drivers are mostly out on the road even during training periods, so as the fleet manager, you typically communicate with them via phone calls or in-vehicle communication devices. For example, the Driveri Mobile App can provide real-time performance updates to drivers as they’re on the road. Although this is a good way to communicate, it is important to strive for face-to-face communication when possible. This way, you can read body language and nuances are not lost in translation.
- Listen to understand, and not just to respond when drivers communicate with you during these meetings. As a tip, you should repeat back what your driver has said so that they can confirm if you’ve heard them correctly.
- Stay calm even when confronted with complaints from emotional or overwhelmed drivers.
- Ask questions instead of making assumptions. This shows that you are willing to engage with drivers and you truly care about their experiences. Ensure that these questions are not antagonizing or accusatory. For example, starting a question with “why did you…?” immediately puts a driver on the defensive and this is not what you are trying to achieve.
- Communication is a two-way street, so ensure that you answer any questions your drivers may ask honestly and do not dismiss them.
- Encourage your drivers however you can to keep them focused and boost their morale during training.
- If you tell your drivers that you will resolve a complaint, then you should. This builds trust over time and allows them to open up more, leading to total transparency within your fleet. This is valuable for any fleet manager.
- Hold regular meetings and open discussions for drivers to speak freely, make complaints, talk about their experiences, and receive insight. Allow drivers to choose the topics they would like to speak about before each meeting. This sets the tone for them to open up.
- Remind them of the safety and maintenance rules and update them on the fleet performance.
Hold Drivers Accountable
The fleet manager is tasked with ensuring that drivers are properly trained regarding safety, maintenance, and regulatory compliance. There should be policies showing the rules for each of these areas and how to avoid breaking them. After being trained, a good way to enforce these rules and save the company liability costs is to ensure that there are consequences for breaking them.
Drivers should be held accountable for wrong and illegal actions. There should be specific consequences for actions like:
- Reckless driving and endangerment of other road users
- Intentional risky driving behaviors
- Not complying with company policy
- Vehicle negligence
Policies should boldly state that the driver “understands and agrees” with the driving rules outlined as well as the consequences of breaking them. This statement should be signed and filed for future use and revisited every time the policy is reviewed.
To balance these consequences out, you could opt to offer incentives for good behavior. Drivers could earn points, praise, positions on a leaderboard, bonuses and other rewards for maintaining a great work performance.
For example, Driveri has a GreenZone system in which drivers’ performance can be updated in real-time and displayed at the company headquarters. This may motivate drivers to do better.
However, you may also decide not to do this because it should be the driver’s duty to comply with all rules. Whatever you decide to go with depends on preference.
Driver training is important for fleets to perform well and avoid accidents. While it may seem obvious, many companies fail to train their drivers on important safety hazards, or even maintenance practices. A survey by transport charity Brake showed that 28% of the fleets they interviewed do not offer drivers any speed training.
Although necessary, training should not be rushed. For the best results, your fleet training schedule should be deliberate and cover every key aspect of the driver’s job including road performance, vehicle maintenance, compliance, and the use of technological tools. During the process, you should be patient, transparent, encouraging, yet firm. Let your drivers know that training is mandatory and should be taken seriously.