A recent article in Fleet Owner magazine on improving driver behaviour makes for interesting reading and contains lesson that can be applied in just about any organisation. A blend of training and technology has been behind a successful drive to counter ‘distracted driving’, which is said to account for up to two-thirds of fatal crashes.
Thanks to technology, but also the fostering of a ‘safety culture’; testing or dialling while at the wheel has fallen to number 7 in the list of most common risky behaviours among drivers at Central Oregon Truck Company (COTC). Just 12 months ago it was number 1. Much of this has been down to the use of in-cab videos of incidents to teach drivers.
For the past 2 years, the company has operated a strict policy on distracted driving for its 300 drivers – three strikes and you’re out. Using a handheld phone while driving means a warning and automatic retraining.
Despite an approach that might be deemed as draconian by some – or perhaps because of it? – the company attracts very positive reviews from drivers and has been a permanent fixture on the CarriersEdge annual Top 20 Best Fleets To Drive For.
The company has worked to impress on its drivers how dangerous it is to multitask at the wheel, using online courses that show how easily the mind is distracted when focusing on more than one task at a time. Drivers participating in the test cannot fail to recognise how their reflexes are slower when driving and using a phone at the same time – a valuable learning for many, who prior to undergoing the exercise believe that they are well capable of safely multitasking in this way.
COTC’s Brad Aimone refers to distracted driving as “the new drunk driving”. Indeed, according to the Transportation Research Lab, drivers using a handheld phone while driving can exhibit greater delayed response times and stopping distances than those under the influence of alcohol.
A US report also found that over 65% of fleets improved the safety of their drivers through a combination of at least one advanced safety technology and a stronger safety culture. Companies surveyed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) sought improvements in “hiring safe drivers, training current and new drivers to safely operate trucks, developing proactive management programs to encourage safe driving, building strong safety cultures to support safety, improving driver scheduling to reduce fatigue, equipping trucks with technologies designed to assist the driver, and ensuring the trucks are in good working condition through vehicle maintenance.”
Increasingly, the role of telematics in these programmes is a central one.