Creating a driver safety culture

 Monitor safe driving of your fleet vehicles with GPS

While you didn't get into your business to operate a small fleet of vehicles, your employees rely on them to get to the job site and do what they do best. Owners and managers who take safety seriously, comply with OSHA and other regulations, teach best practices and impart their safety culture oftentimes do not extend that out to one of the more dangerous aspects of the job: getting there.

Not getting into the specifics, auto accidents are nothing you want to experience with one of your drivers in one of your branded trucks or vans. Getting calls from other motorists about excessive speed or dangerous behavior about one of your drivers is not the image of professionalism you want to convey to the public. So how do you bridge the gap between safety on the job site and safe driving?

First, you should treat driving as part of your general safety culture. Just like violations on the job can be measured in terms of accidents, procedures not being followed or complaints, so can driving behavior. And by using a system to objectively score drivers, you can monitor and provide feedback to cut down on the likelihood of getting complaints about your drivers and promote a healthy safety culture in your organization.

Step 1: Safety Policy
Create the necessary documents that clearly explain what your expectations are for your drivers and how their performance will be evaluated. This doesn't have to be a novel, but a simple set of rules and guidelines about acceptable behavior that will be taken just as seriously as it would in other areas of your business.

Step 2: The Scorecard
Use data sources such as complaints, traffic infractions, accidents, damage to vehicles, GPS safety data and maintenance repair costs to score the drivers. Find what metrics are most relevant to you business, do your trucks come back with bumper damage from drivings not paying attention or following a car too closely? How about excessive brake pad wear due to a lead foot?

Step 3: Reinforcement
No one wants to be on the bottom of the performance list and generally people want to see how they are doing against their peers. Hold monthly safety meetings, post the scorecard results, share best practices among drivers, hold contests that reward good behavior. These activities will reinforce that your safety policy is to be taken seriously.

Finally, don't let your policy become static. If you set out to achieve certain goals and meet them, re-evaluate and adjust your strategy as needed to keep it relevant and to set higher goals for your team to meet.

When you switch from AOBRD to ELD

Many fleet owners are in the same position, the setup they have been using for years is not going to be legal after the end of next year and are looking at what their options are. Making the change from older style AOBRD to the new ELD may seem like a leap, but most people find it is more of a step if you know what the changes mean for your drivers.

The differences between the systems are fewer than you might imagine and it really is the details that can cause most of your pains.

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Find a registered ELD

Manufacturers of ELD systems will be listed on the FMCSA site and indicate they are self-certified as being compliant with the law. There is some limited oversight to ensure these devices are working as they should, however, the responsibility lies with the manufacturer. So choosing a less expensive solution might save a few dollars, it could cause you headaches down the road if it doesn't work like you think it will.

Investigate product support

Usually, a good indicator of how good a product will be to use and live with can be determined by the support offered by the manufacturer. Make sure these line up with your expectations. Do you need a 24x7 number you can call or are you more of a do-it-yourselfer? What training is offered for your drivers? How are you going to get this information to your drivers and keep them informed of changes in the law? If you can check off the boxes that make you feel comfortable using the equipment every day, that is a good indication of a fit.

Train yourself and your drivers

Regardless of what the vendor offers you in terms of training, your drivers will be looking to you when there is an issue. Learning the subtle differences between the old and new system will help get everyone up to speed quicker rather than having drivers try to figure it out for themselves.

Drivers need to know:

  • What system they are using (ELD or AOBRD)
  • How to use the system
  • How to transfer logs (eRODS) during an inspection
    • Local Transfer (USB cable, Bluetooth, etc.)
    • Web Services (Wirelessly)
  • Have the proper documentation requirements
    • AOBRD - Quick Reference Card
    • ELD - Full User Manual
    • Backup paper logs

Set your policies

After you have a plan in place, you will want to set up your drivers in the new system and need to be aware of the new duty status options for Yard Moves (YM) and Personal Conveyance (PC), which need to be enabled by you in order for drivers to take advantage of them.

Yard Moves

Allows drivers to select this while they are on private property and will automatically switch to driving after 20MPH or if the truck leaves its geofence and this varies by the ELD manufacturer as to which method they use.

Personal Conveyance

When enabled, this status allows the driver to move the truck to a safe area if they run out of driving hours, even while ladened as long as it doesn't advance the load. So yes, they can park at the next rest stop and don't need to stop in the middle of the road if they are out of hours if PC is used and a note is made on their logs.

PC can also be used if a safety officer instructs the driver to move the truck while in Sleeper Berth (SB) without breaking SB, again add a remark to your log indicating what happened.

Malfunctions

Another change from AOBRD systems is how malfunctions are handled, if there are too many connection issues between the ELD and the truck's engine computer, it will warn you about the malfunction. If enough malfunctions are generated, this will cause the ELD to no longer function as it should and needs to be addressed within 8 days. This means you should think about what your plan is when an ELD stops functioning normally. Sometimes it is handy to have a spare unit or two for such an occasion while the malfunctioning unit is sent back for repair.

If the driver is having issues with their ELD, it is a good idea to develop a procedure how to continue driving without the ELD. This means re-creating the previous 8 days worth of logs and can be done on paper or by having someone in your office send the driver digital files (PDFs) of the previous logs and continue to use paper logs until the ELD is repaired or replaced.

Setup Exempt Drivers

With ELD, every time the truck is moved it needs to be associated with a driver so it can be attached to their logs. This might mean you will want to set up a few exempt drivers like mechanics and technicians that need to move the truck when it is around the shop. Adding these ELD-exempt drivers and having them login when they are moving the truck will eliminate unclaimed record issues.

Audits with eRODS

The way you transfer data under ELD is a little different during an audit. All the eRODS data will be transferred digitally directly to the DOT, similar to the roadside inspection method for all data required. Sometimes this can be done by the fleet administrator, however, the ELD vendor might have to help get the data to the DOT eRODS system.

Final Thoughts

The right mindset can help when you are making the move from AOBRD to ELD. Try to view it as an opportunity to improve your operations versus a challenge. The new technology required in ELD means you can get more out of your system than just hours of service compliance. Many systems allow for things like pro-active maintenance, real-time location, and dispatch of drivers, safety scorecards to spot potential issues and routing and navigation. Using these systems to your advantage to reduce downtime and have your drivers spend less time filling out paperwork. So when you are looking at and ELD system for your fleet, ask the manufacturer what else they can do to help your operations besides the logs.

If you would like to learn more about what you need to do to upgrade to an ELD system, get in touch with us and a specailist will call you back to answer any qustions you have.

Creating a solid vehicle policy

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We often hear about clients and other small businesses allowing employees to take vehicles home for personal use. Jane needs a van to move some boxes this weekend, Frank wants to grab something at the home improvement store and wants to borrow a pickup, etc. Some employers also allow their team to commute with the vehicles if they live closer to the job-site than the office it saves everyone time and fuel.

Regardless of whether you allow personal use of your vehicles after hours, it is important to craft a clear vehicle policy for your staff to follow. We have found this to reduce the number of issues that come up when you have a fleet.

Crafting your policy

This doesn't have to be complicated or arcane, start by outlining a few primary questions that anyone using a company vehicle needs to know about.

Topics

Restrictions
- What purpose vehicles can be used for
- The process for getting a vehicle to use
Safety
- Rules about driving safety, speed limits, tickets
- What to do in case of an accident
Maintenance
- How to check and report maintenance issues with the vehicle
- Who is responsible for the regular maintenance
Fuel
- How fuel should be purchased and when
- Record keeping of fuel receipts

Other thoughts

If you allow employees to use company vehicles longer term like for commuting or other use, know that it will be harder to have an effective vehicle policy. And if there are enough exemptions made to allow personal use of the vehicle, it can make it harder for other employees to know what the rules are and for managers to know how to enforce the rules.

Generally speaking, keeping your vehicle policy as simple as possible while letting your employees do their jobs unencumbered will allow everyone to function without the need for micro-managing.

Enforcement

Keeping everyone accountable is the glue that makes policies effectively at their job which is to reduce chaos. Make sure you have assigned people to monitor the vehicles and spell out what the consequences are for not following the rules. The last thing you want is one of your vehicles with a beautiful new wrap with your logo on it giving you the wrong kind of PR.

Communication

Finally, policies should be clearly accessible to employees, print them out and post them in the break room, have drivers sign off on the page before handing them the keys and add them to your employee handbook.