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6 steps to an effective driver safety program in transport

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Small and medium transport companies are seeing growth, driver retention and financial benefits from making driver safety a priority.

Those were the lessons shared by Tracie Dickenson, director of Daryl Dickenson Transport during a National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) webinar.

Daryl Dickenson Transport (DDT), a Teletrac Navman customer, has 30 fleet vehicles and 50 workers that are mostly involved in carrying steel on interstate hauls.

According to Dickenson, a workplace incident was a wake-up call for DDT to consider how it should improve safety for its workers.

“We contacted a small business advisor at WHSQ (Workplace Health and Safety Queensland) and appointed a safety compliance officer to involve the workers in devising its safety program,” said Tracie in the webinar.

“Then we formalised an induction process for new employees and created a safety manual.” Prior to the incident, Tracie said her managers and workers were treated as though they knew what to do correctly. “But that’s not always the case. We needed to show them with an induction program and a documented safety manual.”

No transport company can afford to have either its fleet or workers out of action due to preventable incidents. Here are 6 tips on building an effective fleet safety program for your business.

1. Get management involved to help make transport driver safety a priority

Where does a transport company start in tackling driver safety? It wasn’t easy getting a safety program started, says Tracie. Naturally, there was resistance. Unless Tracie could get more people than just herself to prioritise safety, the project would never get off the ground.

“Safety culture starts at the top,” she said. “The first step must be to get buy-in from management and the owner.”

The next step was to make managers realise that they are part of the chain of responsibility for their workers – and by extension the reputation of the transport and logistics brand. Managers need the information and tools to help spread the culture.

Tracie said that most companies only see logistics as their remit, but they are now starting to consider safety as a primary business function, and are looking for more information.

“The more I started networking and joining associations to get information around transport safety, the more I realised everyone has the same needs,” she said.

“Large transport companies such as Linfox and Toll are all willing to share safety outcomes with subject matter experts. Nothing is sacred, all safety incidents and outcomes are openly shared.”

2. Employees are needed to transform safety culture on the ground

The next step was getting employee buy-in through listening sessions and updated communications.

“It’s crucial to give them the input and involvement,” Tracie said. “If drivers have a safety problem, ask them what they think the solution is.”

Employee listening sessions helped produce the DDT Driver Policy and Procedures Manual - a handbook used for all employee inductions.

“Keep it as a live document that is constantly updated as needed.”

DDT also used an email newsletter to keep not just employees updated with safety procedures, but also their families, so that they could push the importance of safety to their loved ones.

It also used its fleet management system to send regular alerts to reinforce safety messages around seatbelts, pre-checks, and other safety tips.

“It all helps reinforce the culture around safety and keeps it in their mind that we take their safety seriously,” Tracie said.

Tips for avoiding workplace complacency

  • Consciously build a workplace safety culture
  • Create a safety manual
  • Develop an induction process for new employees
  • Re-induct all employees every 12 months with updated findings included in your safety manual
  • Use all communications channels to ensure workers are alerted about best practise on personal protective equipment, load restraints, pre-checks etc.

3. Transport safety tools that put money back in your pocket

Making safety a priority in any transport company naturally involves an investment. The objective driving the investment is to make your workers safer. A safe workplace is a happy and productive one. But while the monetary returns are not always immediately obvious, DDT found some surprising and unexpected operational cost savings after installing GPS Fleet Tracking.

“We installed a GPS system as an educational tool for monitoring and training to help understand some things,” Tracie said.

The results it revealed were startling:

  • Prolonged idling
  • Harsh braking
  • Excessive speed
  • Over revving during gear changes

DDT wasn’t looking to come down hard on individual drivers. Getting the big picture helped shape policies and procedures that would create a safety culture and cost savings.

Drivers in hot areas in Queensland were understandably using air conditioning. However, the use of air conditioning while parked created excessive idling and added significant fuel costs.

High revving during a gear change was also putting strain on gear boxes, while harsh braking added to maintenance costs.

All small things, but they were adding up to big costs. Since they were behavioural in nature, training was used to help change driver habits, creating savings that were reinvested into better working conditions.

4. A carrot rather than stick approach to create a safer culture

The driver resistance to this technology would be familiar to most transport and logistics managers. Calls of Big Brother, concerns about job security, and a general negative attitude around GPS presence and use. Bringing everyone along for the journey means giving them the right information - and some incentives.

DDT created a scorecard system for drivers to accrue points for behaviours aligned with safety priorities, which helped to get them on board.

“It was important to create an incentives program for the drivers as a way to get them actively engaged in the safe practises within the Driver’s Manual,” said Tracie.

“The drivers are really into it and often call in to get the status of their points.”

5. Return on investment for making driver safety a priority

The initial leap of faith that DDT made to improve driver safety outcomes has delivered surprising benefits, including:

  • Lowered WorkCover premiums
  • Lowered equipment insurance premiums
  • Lowered claims from drivers due to greater awareness from education
  • Increased employee retention
  • Industry awards and brand reputation
  • Operational cost savings

“We found that over time we’ve become an employer of choice, where drivers might initially leave for more money, but end up coming back because they feel more valued and appreciated,” Tracie said.

DDT has also scooped up a range of industry safety awards from trucking associations, creating tremendous marketing opportunities to spread brand awareness and generate further business opportunities.

6. Keys to transport safety success

Tracie says networking with other companies and industry associations was key to developing a safety framework for its drivers.

“Take employees on a journey with you, and create a manual that is relevant to the drivers and your business,” she said.

“Plan a staged implementation – do one thing at a time rather than trying to do it all at once. Finally, don’t give up! It will become clear that your company just wants people to get home safely.”


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