Despite advances in vehicle safety technology and increased driver safety awareness, vehicle collisions remain the leading cause of on the job fatalities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 report, work injuries involving transportation incidents accounted for 40 percent of all work-related fatalities. For human services organizations, this exposure also presents significant liability where consumers and members of the public are injured as well.
Every nonprofit that operates vehicles should have a fleet safety program. Four basic elements of a fleet safety program are Driver Selection & Qualification, Driver Training, Accident Reporting & Investigation and Driver Monitoring.
Driver Selection and Qualification
One of the first parts to a fleet safety program is Driver Selection and Qualification. Pre-hire and annual MVR (Motor Vehicle Records) reports are pulled to determine eligibility to drive based on defined criteria. For more information on criteria refer to Berkley Human Services Authorized Driver MVR Policy. While many Credit Reporting Agencies provide this service, you may also be able to sign up directly through your states Department of Motor Vehicles. While insurance brokers may offer to do this screening, Berkley Human Services recommends that the organization employing the drivers take ownership of this process as they are the ones ultimately liable for negligent hiring and retention.
Driver qualification isn’t just part of the new hire process. Once a driver has been authorized to drive, it should be their responsibility to notify their supervisor of any violations or accidents (except parking violations) immediately if it may affect their eligibility based on the criteria established. Ongoing qualification also needs to be done by reviewing the driving record periodically. Most organizations do this annually by requesting a new MVR. Many states also offer an Employer Notification Service which provides notification of a change in the driver record when it occurs. This can be very helpful where drivers may not report violations. It also reduces costs as only the MVR’s with a hit need to be pulled. As MVR’s may affect employment decisions, any process must be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Another important part of driver qualification is a pre-placement road test. This should be done by a qualified manager in a vehicle similar to the one used on the job. Ideally, it should be done on a preset route with adequate length (at least 10 minutes) and documented using a road test checklist. If a candidate does not pass the road test, they should not be placed in a position where driving is required until deficiencies are addressed.
The second part to a fleet safety program is Driver Training. An internet search will provide a wide variety of driver training resources which vary in time and delivery method such as classroom, DVD, online courses, and streaming content that can be accessed with cell phones and other mobile devices. Choosing the right training program is based on a variety of factors such as the extent of the driving required, loss experience, age and tenure of the drivers, time available and access to the training platform.
Regardless of the training format used, keep in mind that even the best course may not have a sustained impact on changing driver behavior. To that end, programs that go beyond presentation of safe driving principles to provide interactive behind the wheel coaching are most effective.
Accident Reporting and Investigation
The third part to a fleet safety program is Accident Reporting and Investigation. When collisions do happen, they need to be reported and investigated in a timely manner. Each company vehicle should include ‘glove box kit’ which includes an accident report form. Use of this form should be included in driver training. All accidents should be reported to the insurance company so that the adjusters can gather and documenting facts in a timely manner which can be critical in defense of a claim.
Internal investigation should also include determination of preventability and corrective action if necessary. In this context, preventability is not only based on the police report and if the driver was cited. The National Safety Council defines a preventable accident as one where “the driver in question failed to exercise every reasonable precaution to prevent the accident.” Likewise, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations define a preventable accident as “an accident (1) that involved a commercial motor vehicle, and (2) that could have been averted but for an act, or failure to act, by the motor carrier or driver.” (49 CFR 385.3). Preventable accidents should also be part of the ongoing driver qualification process.
The fourth and final part of a fleet safety program is Driver Monitoring. Telematics is a relatively new technology to monitor driver behavior. By equipping vehicles with devices using GPS or wireless networks, data can be captured in real time giving information on speed, acceleration, braking, cornering, etc. Another feature is geofencing to track vehicle use in restricted areas. This information is used to address specific events and establish driver patterns which can be used to identify coaching opportunities. Some systems also provide integration with cell phone lockdown technology. There are also a number of ‘apps’ that can be downloaded onto cell phones to track driving performance. Using the cell phone’s technology, similar telematics information can be obtained and evaluated with a safe driver score.
While technology can provide a lot of valuable information, there are limitations. It can only monitor the vehicle, not the driver. It cannot tell when a driver failed to yield the right of way, ran a stop light, cut someone off, exhibited road rage, or is distracted. These behaviors can be monitored by using a 1-800 driving service or in vehicle cameras. Berkley Human Services offers the SafetyFirst 1-800 Driver Monitoring service free of charge for qualifying policy holders.
In conclusion, the potential for vehicle collisions cannot be totally eliminated. By having in place and following a fleet safety program, this risk can be minimized by hiring good drivers. The importance of an effective driver selection and qualification process cannot be overstated. Still, there is much more to a fleet safety program than a written policy and annual MVR’s checks. Take the time to review your fleet safety program and make improvements where needed.