Driver distraction is a major concern for motor carriers because it is a common factor associated with serious losses. Vehicle crashes are the obvious exposure, but whenever a driver gets pulled over for a distraction-related violation, that constitutes a business interruption. This in turn can equate to late deliveries, lost revenue, increased expenses, and poor public image based on SMS results.
Operations personnel play a critical role in preventing driver distractions. Communication is one of the seven elements of safety management, and since operations staff have the most direct contact with drivers, they can train drivers on the dangers of distracted driving, monitor compliance, and ensure the actions of the operations staff do not contribute to the problem.
New employee orientation and ongoing safety training should include the topic of distracted driving. If the company has a distracted driving policy, all drivers, dispatchers, and driver managers should be trained on and acknowledge in writing that they will adhere to the policy. Also, the training should cover the three types of distractions (mental, visual, and manual) and how to avoid them. More information on each of these three types of distractions can be found in the Value-Driven® Driving video series.
SCREENING AND RETENTION
Road testing a driver applicant is the first opportunity an evaluator has to observe a driver’s habits and determine how prone he/she is to allowing distractions inside the cab. Did he/she put their phone away before driving away? One tip is to have someone from the company call the driver’s cell phone while out on the road test to see if the driver answers it or lets the call go to voicemail. Another idea is to monitor SMS for violations, like talking/texting on a cell phone or driving while fatigued. These are just a couple of warning signs that a driver could be exhibiting risky behavior.
It is important to establish clear call-in procedures, times, and places for drivers and operations personnel to communicate with each other. Drivers should never talk or text on their phone while driving. Instruct drivers to forward all calls to voicemail before leaving and put their phone out of sight until their next stop. At that time, they can check messages and return calls. Likewise, operations staff (and family members) should not put the driver in a position to violate this procedure. Off-schedule calls should be treated as an emergency and alert the driver to find a safe place to pull over and call in. To abuse this for non-emergency reasons can only add stress to the driver, which is another form of distraction. Stick to the schedule and let the driver focus on driving.
CALL TO ACTION
- Create distracted driving training for new employee orientation and ongoing training
- Observe driver applicants’ tendencies to talk/text while driving during a road test
- Implement a call-in schedule for drivers and operations staff to reduce distractions
Reposted with permission from Great West Casualty Company.