Doing everything you can to make sure that your fleet operates safely and does all that it can to avoid accidents isn’t just good business. It’s the law. From OSHA to the DOT and FMCSA, there are numerous federal and state agencies that work to make sure fleets protect their employees and the general public. Smart Fleet Managers develop effective safety programs that keep their team ahead of the curve.
What are the keys to an effective fleet safety program? There have been a lot of good books written on the subject, so it’s impossible to cover all of the details in an article like this. But like any big and complex challenge, the best way to get started is to break it down into manageable chunks. The five elements we cover in this article give you a guide to setting up the safety program your fleet needs.
There are direct and indirect costs to your fleet if your safety program isn’t on point. Whether it be financial costs like higher insurance premiums and fines or opportunity costs like difficulties recruiting good drivers and keeping good customers—those costs add up. Making safety a priority isn’t just the best way to grow your business, it’s how you make sure that you’re protecting what you grow.
What Are the Elements of an Effective Fleet Safety Program?
Any time you have aspirations for your business, the surest way to achieve your goals is to make a plan, get the whole team on board, and then implement, monitor, and refine your plan until you’re seeing the results you’d hoped for. It’s no different for safety. A safety program should aim to create a new culture within your organization and it should provide guidelines, incentives, and recognition for everything that goes into creating and maintaining that culture.
Element #1: A Plan
The goal of your safety program should be to foster company culture and an everyday environment that places a premium on safety. Safety rules can tell people on your team what they can and cannot do, but rules to do enough to get team members to adopt a safety-first attitude. When your team has a safety attitude, they’re more likely to go above and beyond the rules to do what’s right.
Your safety plan should cover all areas of your business and make everyone on the team equally responsible for safety. It’s not enough for everybody to buy-in to doing the right thing themselves. They need to understand that sometimes safety means worrying about what other people are doing.
To make a plan, you’ll need to do a thorough audit of your current safety program and identify all of the areas where you need to do more or do better. Your plan for getting better should be clear about what needs to be done and who is responsible for doing it. You should communicate the plan to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities.
The best safety plans provide guidelines for what happens when things go wrong. Does your safety plan go beyond preventing accidents to provide team members with guidelines for reporting and responding to accidents when they happen? Does your plan ensure that you learn from each incident and get better over time?
Element #2: Your Team
A plan to build and maintain an effective safety program is just a starting point. Once you know what your plan is, you need to set it in motion and keep it running like a well-oiled machine. To get there, you’ll need to be a leader for your team. You’ll also need to do a good job of recruiting, screening, and hiring team members. You’ll have to monitor the program, incentivize participation, and reward success.
No safety program can succeed unless it gets the support it needs from the fleet manager and other senior team members. It’s important to lead by example and practice what you preach. It’s just as important to make sure that everyone knows that you’ll have their backs when they have tough choices to make and they choose safety over faster or easier options.
You’ll have an easier time growing a safety culture if your plan can focus on positive reinforcement when team members do the right thing. Punishing people for breaking the rules might help you maintain minimum standards but it won’t motivate people to go above and beyond. To get your fleet’s program to that point, you’ll need to recruit team members who share the commitment to safety.
Monitoring your safety program is a great way to promote the benefits of a safety culture for everyone in the organization. Monitoring should work hand-in-hand with rewards and recognitions. If hitting your team’s safety targets leads to more profitable operations, the team should share in the rewards.
Element #3: The Office
The office might not be the first spot in your business that you think of when you think of an effective safety program. After all, you’ve got drivers and equipment out on the highways. You might have a shop where team members use potentially dangerous tools to do potentially dangerous work. But the office is the nerve center of your fleet. It has to be an equal part of your safety program.
The first way that your office staff plays a role in your safety program is by helping to develop the policies that provide the guidelines. But policies are only as good as the practices that they promote. Do your dispatchers ever pressure drivers to bend or break the rules on hours of service?
The office is where training new team members gets started. If your office staff hasn’t bought into the safety culture, new hires will pick up on that.
Element #4: The Shop
Leadership and culture are important parts of your safety program, but they can only set expectations for the people who dig in and get their hands dirty. A fleet’s shop area is responsible for getting work done safely. But just as important, the work that your shop does plays a huge role in determining whether your drivers can be safe out on the roads.
It’s important to take advantage of all the tools you need to monitor performance and behavior in your fleet’s shop. You need to make sure that all of the work being done there is being done safely. You also need to make sure that all of the work that it takes to make your equipment safe for the highway gets approved, scheduled and performed.
Shop employees who work safely and coach colleagues to do the same are vital assets. Shop employees who never cut corners or bow to pressure are the firewall that protects your fleet from preventable accidents and incidents.
Element #5: The Highway
For the trucking industry, highway safety is the most visible aspect of their safety program. The conversation about nuclear verdicts that has been front-and-center in the industry this year is one way that economic and legal forces are being used to punish fleets for failing to maintain safe operations.
Nuclear verdicts are a complicated subject that we can’t go into in detail in this article. They serve as a warning to fleets. When you consider what the “worst-case” scenario is, you know what a safety program is worth.
Recruiting, screening, hiring, and training safe drivers is important. Monitoring driver performance and behavior is important. Doing what it takes to field a fleet of safe equipment is important. But it takes a whole team to put all of the pieces in place to make sure that your drivers are set up for success. Promoting a safety culture and rewarding participation is a great way to grow an effective fleet safety program.
How Can FleetPal Help Fleet Managers Achieve an Effective Safety Program?
Your approach to fleet maintenance management impacts every other aspect of your safety program. Policies, procedures, processes, and performance in the area of maintenance bring every element of your safety program together. The product of that interaction should be safe equipment, safe drivers, and safe shop practices. But how can you keep track of it all?
Fleet Managers who use FleetPal get the software tools they need to set-up a maintenance program and put it in motion. It helps them monitor results and track performance. It’s the best way to make sure maintenance contributes value to your fleet’s safety program. Give us a call or schedule a demonstration to find out how we can help your fleet.