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Today’s Driver Safety Challenges and the Pharmaceutical Industry

March 25, 2019


The more time drivers spend behind the wheel, the greater the chance that they will have a crash. As roads become busier and drivers are logging more miles overall, knowing how to avoid a crash and manage changing environments becomes increasingly important.

That’s particularly true for pharmaceutical sales reps, who spend more time behind the wheel than the average driver and may face additional challenges of time and job demands.

One study published in the journal Occupational Medicine looked specifically at the health issues facing pharmaceutical sales representatives. The study concluded that due to some of their specific job challenges, these drivers are at a greater risk for crashes than the general population.

The study found that pharmaceutical drivers in a company vehicle had a 49% greater chance of being involved in a crash. The study concluded that proper training — which includes learning more effective driving habits — helps reduce the number of crashes each year.

Part of the increased risk for crashes comes from the higher-than-average number of miles driven. While the typical driver in the U.S. logs between 12,000 and 15,000 miles a year, pharmaceutical fleet drivers often put in an additional 8,000 to 10,000 miles behind the wheel. Each additional mile increases their odds of having a crash — particularly if they aren’t equipped with the proper driving skills.


The study also noted that certain factors repeatedly contribute to crashes for pharmaceutical fleet drivers, particularly:

  • Risk-taking or aggressive driving
  • Stress (either on the job or in their personal lives)
  • Use of medications such as antidepressants, pain relievers and antihistamines

Of course, common threats for all drivers also include distractions both inside and outside the vehicle, fatigue and changing weather conditions.

The Right Rx for Pharmaceutical Drivers

Like many other occupations, pharmaceutical sales reps are, first and foremost, focused on specific tasks beyond driving. In their case, those tasks are to make sales calls and meet with prospective customers. Driving is merely part of the job to allow that to happen.

Their busy schedules and time pressures often lead pharmaceutical reps to multitask when behind the wheel, creating unsafe driving habits and increasing the risk of a crash. The study found that most crashes were attributed to driver behavior rather than time pressures or other outside factors.

Creating Safer Drivers

Driving behavior doesn’t change overnight and, without the proper tools and training, drivers will default to old habits. Creating greater safety behind the wheel begins with driver safety training that identifies and addresses individual behaviors that lead to unsafe driving.

For example, the study on pharmaceutical workers found distinct differences between the behaviors of older and younger drivers. Mature drivers are less likely to take risks behind the wheel. Women and men handle driving conditions differently, with men having a greater number of crashes and also having more severe crashes than women.

Addressing individual driving habits helps drivers recognize and correct risky behavior they may not even realize could put themselves and other drivers at risk.

While any kind of additional driver training is going to have some benefit, there’s no substitute for advanced behind-the-wheel training. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), implementing a good driver training program is an effective way to reduce the number of employee-involved crashes.

Not only do such programs save lives, but they also protect companies from financial hardships caused by the direct cost of the crash as well as any third-party lawsuits or medical payments associated with it. The cost of a single nonfatal on-the-job crash costs companies an average of $65,000, while fatal crashes cost more than 10 times that amount, according to the CDC Foundation.

What to Look for in a Driver Training Program

While there are many options for driver training, it’s best to look at companies that have worked with industries similar to yours. They’ll know some of the specific challenges facing your industry and have solutions to help drivers overcome those challenges.

Other things to look for in a driver training program are:

  • Testimonials. What do other companies they’ve worked with have to say? What kind of results have they seen?
  • Instructor and materials. What training or certifications does the person providing the training have? What materials do they use to reinforce the training?
  • Hands-on. While e-learning or video courses can help drivers understand specific driving challenges, there’s no substitute for practicing new driving skills with a qualified instructor.
  • Follow-up training. Follow-up and refresher training is the hallmark of every good driver training program, even if it’s a video or E-Learning course. Different drivers have different problem areas, and follow-up training can help them address their shortcomings.

Nothing can take the place of great driver training, and nothing is as important for pharmaceutical fleet drivers to have the right tools to manage the conditions on the road around them. Investing in driver safety is one of the most important things you can do to protect your drivers, your customers and your company assets.

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