The only acceptable number of accidents is zero. Everyone on the road deserves to safely return home to their families. Anyone who’s completed any of our driver training knows that safety is freedom from risk. However, we’ll never be able to be 100% free from risk because we are human.
In order to mitigate risk, we need to change the behaviors that cause these accidents. Unfortunately, The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that our behaviors are getting worse on the road. In 2017 we had more than 40,000 deaths from car accidents for the second year in a row, with another 4.5 million people injured from accidents. NSC President Deborah Hersman has called for a “full court press” on safety because “complacency is killing us."
The numbers don’t lie: people make preventable mistakes on the road everyday. Why do we do this if we know if we know we shouldn’t? People take risks if they feel there’s a reward on the other side.
Texting, finding the right song, eating or drinking while driving are all risky behaviors that provide gratification. Our brain gets a little hit of dopamine when we read that risk, find that song or chomp into that burger. The frequency of the behaviors increases as we get away with it. These risks are all preventable but it requires is drivers to buy into changing their behavior.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to your drivers and the general public to declare that zero accidents is the only acceptable number. Safety is more than checking pre-hire driving records, passing a road test, and watching some videos. Safety is an active process and has to be maintained indefinitely. Your mission is to build a safety culture.
So how do you create a safety culture? You start by setting the bar high. Publicly declare daily that the only acceptable number of accidents is zero. When new drivers go through orientation, they need to quickly learn that safety is the top priority, and not just the poster they walk by every day. Drivers will know you’re serious when it’s the first thing out of the Big Boss’s mouth and it’s repeated throughout operations - not just the lone Safety Guy in the corner.
Safety starts on day one and never stops being the top priority - even when your top customer has to get it there tomorrow. Here are just three simple steps to build and maintain a successful safety culture:
1. Monthly Safety Campaigns
Create a year long safety campaign focusing on one behavior for each month. Start by identifying your top loss leaders (backing is likely number one) and work your way down. A blended approach of online learning, classroom sessions, and behind-the-wheel is the most effective approach. Include completing self-directed training as a reward and incidents as a consequence on your driver scorecard. Keep your drivers engaged and thinking about safety by directly tying their bonuses to the proper behaviors.
2. Implement a Train-the-Trainer Model
The highest level of learning is teaching. A great career path for your senior drivers is to provide the ability to become a Driver Trainer. This creates internal ambassadors of safety in your fleet. Peer leadership is a powerful tool in building your safety culture.
3. Establish a Driver Certification Program
There are great drivers who have no interest in training and that’s okay, not everyone is a great teacher or wants to be a teacher. Providing them an option to improve their craft is a career advancement opportunity for them, and creates more internal ambassadors of safety within your fleet.
Safety is an active process that requires the right kind of education and training tied to career advanced to truly blossom. Make it clear that zero accidents is the only acceptable number. Build a culture where safety is always on people’s minds and is taken as seriously as it should be.