Improving fleet and driver safety

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Betty Norman, BSN, MBA, CPHRM
Betty Norman, BSN, MBA, CPHRM
When you hear the word “fleet,” you might think of hundreds of school buses or thousands of trucks or vans. But organizations of all sizes own vehicles that help support their business operations. Fleets can be as large as thousands of trucks or as small as one van. They can include personal passenger vehicles used by staff or a pool of vans used to transport residents of senior living facilities. 

Whatever type of fleet your facility has, maintaining safety practices are paramount to keeping your residents and employees safe, while tamping down insurance and personnel costs.

Why fleet safety?

In addition to tragic injuries to employees or residents, accidents involving a vehicle from your facility can have a huge financial impact on your organization. Transportation incidents are the leading cause of occupational deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Plus, the National Council on Compensation Insurance found motor vehicle accidents cause the most costly lost-time workers' compensation injury claims.

A vehicle fleet safety program may decrease the likelihood of serious vehicle accidents and regulatory fines, while demonstrating social responsibility. So what does a fleet safety program look like at a senior living organization? The essential elements are careful hiring practices, regular training and close monitoring.

Hiring practices

Your first line of defense is hiring safe drivers, and a person's driving history is the most accurate predictor of future performance. Start by examining an applicant's Motor Vehicle Record. The MVR can be compared against your organizational standards to determine whether the applicant's record is acceptable. A common set of organizational MVR standards are:

•   No more than three moving violations or more than one chargeable accident during the past 36 months

•   No major convictions (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, etc.) within the past seven years

•   No license suspensions or revocations within the past seven years

However, the MVR should not be your only hiring criteria. Other key factors in the driver selection and assessment process include:

•      Examining background and skills related to driving

•      Checking references

•      Verifying the applicant's license is current and appropriate for the vehicle they will be operating

•      Completing medical exams if required by law in your state

•      A written driver's test

•      Road testing for those operating trucks or other specialty vehicles

•      Required minimum driving experience for specific vehicles

Plus, your organization may be subject to U.S. Department of Transportation standards and Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations.

Drivers who work with elders also should have certain “soft” skills, such enthusiasm for working with people with limited mobility or cognitive impairments. Assess interviewees' experience with elders in the interview process.

Training and monitoring

A comprehensive driver-training program begins as soon as someone is hired. The goal of such a program is to improve the skills of new drivers while familiarizing them with your organization's driver and fleet safety policies, equipment and procedures. Driver safety training may cover the following topics:

•      Vehicle operations and maintenance

•      Training on defensive, incident-free driving

•      Procedures for daily vehicle safety checks

•      Emergency procedures

 

Checklists for general and job-specific orientation will assist supervisors and ensure drivers receive thorough, consistent training. Continue to monitor drivers' performance, even after training is complete. Your system for assessing the ongoing performance of drivers can include:

•      Annual review of the driver's MVR

•      Comparison of the number of avoidable/total accidents and moving violations against established standards

•      Assessment and authorization of employees who will operate pool vehicles

•      Periodic on-the-road observations to evaluate driver skills

 

Even if drivers are performing well, ongoing training reinforces positive behaviors and strengthens skills. For senior living facilities, this training can include everything from defensive driving to tips for working with elders.

If an employee is showing poor performance or is involved in multiple accidents, make sure you gather full police reports and document information on his/her driving behavior. Maintain records of any communication/counseling with the employee. Evaluate his or her continued ability to drive safely and consider enrolling them in refresher training.

An ongoing process

Fleet safety is not a set program, but an ongoing process involving hiring, training and vehicle maintenance. Even if you have a program in place, now is the time to review against regulations. Talk to your insurance provider if you have any questions.

Betty Norman, BSN, MBA, CPHRM, is risk control director at Glatfelter Healthcare Practice, part of Glatfelter Program Managers, a strategic business unit dedicated to Glatfelter Insurance Group's program business.

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