Any company that hires drivers has many different safety considerations. Regardless of whether those drivers are piloting heavy haul vehicles or four-door sedans, the core concern of the company is the same: how to create a culture of safe driving.
Driver safety affects every aspect of a company’s operations, whether they realize it or not, says Brendan T. Monaghan, J.D., Vice President of BXS Insurance in Little Rock, AR. The way a company is perceived as a whole is often shaped by how the public views their drivers, and that can have a direct impact on the bottom line.
“For example, a lot of company cars are wrapped these days, so you can see their logo, [and] it becomes a billboard on wheels for the company,” Monaghan says. “That’s great, except when it’s better for the cars not to be noticed. When you have drivers behind the wheel who are behaving irresponsibly and not being good drivers, then it becomes a liability for people to know who they work for, because it can affect whether or not someone will do business with you.
Monaghan says that very reason is one argument for companies to consider behind-the-wheel training for every driver.
Understanding the Risks of Driver Behavior
As an insurance professional, Monaghan deals with risk and loss every day. Some companies may decide to invest in driver training to improve their insurance rates, but he says that insurance is probably the last reason companies should consider a driver training program.
“Insurance underlies everything, but it is not the one and only solution to driver mistakes,” he says. “Insurance is basically the way you transfer any remaining risk that you don’t want to manage to a third party after you have mitigated the risk in all the other ways you can. Driver training is a big part of the way that you mitigate your risk.
Since driver behavior is human behavior, it’s subject to errors and oversight. Monaghan points out that most crashes happen because of human error, not because of mechanical problems or things like a blown tire.
“We recognize that those situations do occur, but even then, if the driver has proper training, they are going to have a better understanding of how to manage that environment. They might understand things like how to maintain a proper following distance or something else that would help mitigate the severity of that accident.”
Creating a Safe Driving Culture
From an insurer’s perspective, driver safety training is part of an overall culture that supports safety before, during and after a driver is behind the wheel.
Monaghan identifies three components of a culture of driving safety, which begins with proper vehicle maintenance. Ensuring that vehicles are well maintained and given safety inspections and walkarounds before being driven helps ensure that drivers will get safely to and from their destinations.
A second important factor, he says, is making sure that the right driver is behind the wheel.
“You have to know who it is that you’re trusting your vehicle to,” he says. “Regardless of what type of vehicle it is, it’s an expensive piece of equipment, and you want to make sure that the person who’s driving it is going to be trustworthy and careful.”
In addition to properly maintaining vehicles and having the right drivers behind the wheel, he says that investing in effective training gives companies an extra edge.
“You want to enable drivers to be the best that they can be.”
When employers commit to that kind of thinking, it positively affects the company’s revenue. It means not having incident claims filed, and having satisfied customers because drivers show up on time.
“It’s something that ties in with the organization as a whole,” says Monaghan. “We all want to work for companies that we can be proud of. Providing driver training is one component of a broader safety philosophy that will enable businesses to take it to the next level.”
Is Driver Training Right For Your Company?
Driver training programs are diverse. They can target specific skill sets, such as improving areas like close quarter maneuvering or backing, or they can address a broader range of driving habits. While any type of additional instruction is going to be helpful, behind-the-wheel training that also offers classroom instruction is the most effective way to improve driver behavior.
Monaghan concludes that while driver training isn’t mandatory, it does set a certain standard for companies and speaks to the mindset of the operation.
“It’s all about the culture you’re looking to build as a business owner,” he says. “If you’re looking to build best-in-class operations, then you have to look at what others are doing and hold yourself to a higher standard. In this current climate, with such a driver shortage, you want to be able to attract the very best talent.
Being a company that provides driver training and looks at how to improve safety behind the wheel shows a genuine concern for the driver, the customers and the company.
“Every business has to decide what’s right for them and whether or not driver training fits in with their company mindset,” Monaghan says. However, he notes, the cost of a program shouldn’t be the determining factor as to whether or not the company participates.
“Any time you’re talking about something that is safety related, it’s not about the cost of the program,” he says. “What you have to look at is the cost that is associated with avoiding just one devastating event. Can a company get by without driver training? They might be able to, but the bigger question is, is that the business decision that you want to make? The thing to look at is how expensive would it be if you have one, two or maybe more incidents that driver training could help you avoid?”
Weighing those odds and costs can help business owners decide how important driver training is for their fleet.
“If you know for a fact that none of your drivers will have any accidents, then you don’t need driver training,” Monaghan says. “But in that case, you don’t need insurance, either.”