Winter brings a number of different challenges for drivers, from fewer hours of daylight to unpredictable weather patterns. That makes it a great time to instill drivers with safety tips and refresher driver training programs.
Since winter is accompanied by the holiday season, it’s a busier time for virtually every industry. Whether your drivers are pharmaceutical reps driving to appointments, long-haul truckers or delivery drivers who are trying to keep up with online shopping purchases, it’s harder to work in some of those much-needed training reminders.
Identifying the Hazards of Winter
The challenge with winter driving is that there are so many ways it can be more dangerous than other times of the year. Weather is, of course, the most obvious threat when discussing winter.
Nearly 1 million people are injured in weather-related crashes every year and about 6,000 of those result in deaths. When drivers don’t adjust their driving habits to accommodate changing or deteriorating weather conditions, it becomes dangerous for everyone on the road around them.
Blowing in along with those wintry conditions is an uptick in traffic. More people are behind the wheel as the holiday season gets underway, and that means more distracted and drunk drivers.
The holidays also mean more drivers are traveling unfamiliar roads and might make sudden stops or other abrupt moves. With more people traveling on roads they aren’t familiar with, the likelihood for crashes goes up and the need for greater alertness of surrounding drivers increases.
Drivers who work long hours are fighting fatigue as well as weather and traffic. In recent years, delivery drivers with carriers with major logistics companies have found themselves facing more challenges to meet demand — particularly once Cyber Monday arrives. The longer hours alone pose a safety issue, since drowsy drivers contribute to a growing number of crashes.
Managing Driver Safety During the Holidays
For fleet safety managers, the holidays create a special set of challenges. It’s important that drivers are able to meet their job requirements, but it’s also critical that they’re able to do it safely.
Since the long days and the demands of the job make it difficult to find time for behind-the-wheel driver training, it can take a bit of creativity to discover ways to keep your fleet drivers safe and make sure they’re following best practices. Here are three ways to manage driver safety during the holidays.
No. 1: Commit to A Culture of Driver Safety
Every professional driver should understand that safety is the No. 1 goal of their job. To do that, they need to know that your company lives and breathes a culture of driver safety, and that there are consequences for not following company policy.
Make sure your safe driving policies are written down and clearly spelled out, covering everything from cell phone use to speeding to seat belt use. In addition to being clear about your expectations, you should also be clear on the consequences.
Drivers need to know that you’re serious about safety and that violations will result in punishment. When drivers know that unsafe driving practices won’t be tolerated, they are more likely to comply.
Winter is a great time of year to remind drivers about your safe driving policies and possibly even introduce a safe driving incentive program to reward drivers who achieve certain goals or milestones.
No. 2: Talk About It Daily
Morning meetings (or at the beginning of a shift) are the perfect opportunity to bring up driver safety reminders. Safety simply cannot be overemphasized at any time of the year, and that is particularly true during the holiday season.
Giving daily reminders, whether they’re based on recent incidents or whatever weather concerns drivers might be facing that day, makes sure they’re going out onto the road with safety top of mind. Posters in common areas like hallways and the breakroom are another good way to reinforce that message.
You can also use this time to acknowledge drivers who are doing a great job and maintaining a good safety record. Positive reinforcement can go a long way toward getting all drivers on board with safety.
Finally, have dispatchers get involved in the safety message as well; provide dispatchers with safety reminders that they can share with drivers during the day.
No. 3: Implement E-Learning Options
With limited time during the holiday season, this is a great opportunity to utilize E-Learning options. Selecting specific topics that you want drivers to brush up on based on their individual needs is one approach, or you can introduce one topic each week for all drivers to learn from.
Because time is such a concern, Smith System has introduced a series of short refresher training modules, all of which are three to seven minutes long. The Arrive Alive Safety Series includes 12 E-Learning modules and each one reinforces the safe driving principles taught in The Smith5Keys®.
Since each courseis brief, they can be viewed quickly as part of a daily standup meeting, or used as part of a larger training initiative. Among the titles that specifically can help with driving issues commonly seen during the winter are Foul Weather Driving, Emotions and Driving, Avoiding Distractions and Drowsy Driving.
When used as part of an overall safety initiative, E-Learning can help reduce crash-related costs, which cost employers $56.7 billion in 2017, according to the 2018 Driver Safety Risk Report.
Keep Your Drivers Safe This Holiday Season
With more distractions, heavier workloads and more congested roads during the holiday season, professional drivers who spend much of their day behind the wheel have greater challenges to maintain safety.
Providing your drivers with the tools they need to learn best driving practices and reinforcing your culture of safety on a daily basis can help ensure that they remain crash-free and return home safely.