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Loss Control & Risk Management

The Importance of Commercial Driver Supervision Programs

The realization that driver selection and training is vitally important to the successful operation of a motor vehicle fleet becomes obvious when the issue of driver supervision is addressed. The inherent nature of a fleet operation leaves drivers under their own supervision for a substantial portion of the workday. Also, as drivers deal with many facets of the operation, they frequently receive instructions on performing their job from a number of people. All supervisors must be aware of the job tasks assigned by other supervisors and must coordinate their instructions accordingly. Drivers must know who their immediate supervisor is and how to contact that person.

One of the critical elements for a successful driver supervision program is the establishment of specific guidelines for job performance, including evaluation criteria, incentives, and disciplinary procedures. These guidelines must be clearly understood by both supervisors and drivers, and applied equally to all drivers. A number of techniques for monitoring and enhancing driver performance are explained in this report. The management of each fleet must tailor its own program to suit the company's particular needs.

Hours of Service and Driver Fatigue

Every company having employees who drive, either full-time or part-time, needs to assure that driver supervisors are aware of the effects of fatigue and that work hours are established accordingly. The rationale for restricting a driver's hours of work is based on the concept that the longer a driver works, the more fatigued the driver becomes, and thus more susceptible to being involved in an accident. The nature of the work performed by the driver, in addition to driving, also must be taken into consideration when evaluating the potential for the driver to suffer from fatigue.

Driver fatigue can be avoided by regulating work/rest cycles and limiting the number of hours a driver works. Particular attention should be focused on hours of service if accident records indicate a frequency of accidents that may be fatigue related, such as run-off-the-road, rear-end, and single-vehicle accidents.

Many drivers are required by law to limit their driving time. To verify compliance with these regulations, drivers may be required either to complete a driver's record of duty status (log) or to use an automatic on-board recording device. Comparison of the record of duty status with other documentation of the trip, such as fuel receipts, toll receipts, road observation, meal receipts, motel receipts, accident reports, and road call receipts can prove helpful in determining the accuracy of entries.

Routing and Scheduling Your Commercial Fleet

Most supervisors will have a fairly good idea of the factors, such as route or area the vehicle will be using, number of miles for the trip, average time required to complete the trip, loading arrangements, etc., associated with a trip. These items can be supervised to a limited degree through random checks to verify that the driver is actually following the prescribed schedule.

Establish Vehicle Location Check Procedures

Depending on type of operation or commodity value, the supervisor may wish to establish certain procedures for verifying the location of the vehicle. This may include two-way radio or telephone contact, designated check-in stations (the arrival and departure times may be recorded by requiring the driver to punch a time clock, where available, or by making an entry in a log book kept at a check-in station), or by employing global positioning systems (GPS) that track the exact location of the vehicle.

Vehicle tracking systems providing a link between a dispatcher and an on-board vehicle computer are being used on a limited basis. Most of the systems automatically transmit vehicle location information back to a dispatcher on a periodic basis. While some of the systems are land based, especially within "city limits," most transmit information via satellite. Some of these systems allow for direct communications between the driver and the dispatcher.

Commercial Vehicle Trip Recorders

Trip recording devices can aid in the supervision of drivers by providing management with very accurate, objective vehicle operating data. Advising drivers as to how the system works and how management plans to use the information generated will help to foster driver acceptance of the system. Confronting drivers every time the system indicates a violation of company policy and establishing a policy that tampering with the device will result in dismissal will add much weight to the program.

The simplest trip recorder, sometimes referred to as a "stop and go" recorder, is a device which monitors the vehicle's movement in relation to time and records the information on a pressure sensitive chart. This information is used to compute working time, detect unauthorized stops, analyze routing, improve scheduling, and reduce unnecessary overtime.

The next generation of trip recorder is the tachograph. Information is recorded using a pressure-sensitive chart that is driven by a clock mechanism. Basic models record speed, stop- and go-periods, engine idling, and total distance traveled. Advanced units include information on engine RPM, lugging, over-revving, and coasting.

On-board computerized systems that electronically monitor driver and equipment performance are the latest entry in trip recording devices. Not only can these units provide the same information as tachographs, but, by using numerous vehicle sensors, they can provide information on engine oil pressure, temperature, fuel flow, refrigeration temperatures, power take-off operation, lift gate usage, and bulk material flow into and out of tankers. In addition, the driver can interact with the system and record data, such as State line crossings and hours of service entries. At the conclusion of the desired period of recording, the stored data is transferred to the company's computer for the preparation of detailed reports.

Beyond improved labor productivity, fuel savings, and operations improvement, tachographs and on-board computers can provide valuable information in accident investigation.

Coaching Commercial Drivers and Road Supervision

Research has shown that 95 percent of vehicle crashes are due to driver error and 5 percent are mechanically related. Even good drivers can develop bad habits, so the ongoing coaching of drivers is very important to companies that are operating vehicles. For the most part, little on-the-road supervision is done by management once a driver has completed the hiring process.

Supervision of operations through the use of a road observation system allows for the direct observation of the actions of drivers, as well as general observation of the condition of vehicles and, when performed by the motor carrier itself, helps to identify road conditions likely to affect operations or cause undue hazards. Road observation can be performed through periodic check rides with the driver or through the use of a road patrol system.

Besides being performed directly by the motor carrier, road patrols can be conducted through cooperative efforts with other motor carriers, either individually or through State trucking associations, or by contracting this service with outside organizations. Road observation should not be solely a negative form of supervision, but should expose both favorable and unfavorable results.

Road patrol should be performed only when the observer is sure that this activity will not create a hazard to others on the highway. The vehicle identification, location, time, road conditions, condition of the unit, operation of the unit, and any information pertinent to a fair evaluation should be recorded, and the observation should be of sufficient duration to provide an accurate analysis (generally 3-5 miles in rural areas and less in urban areas). Stopping vehicles en route should be done only when hazardous conditions of the vehicle are likely to cause an accident.

Report forms should be prepared and submitted within 24 hours of the observation to aid identification of the driver. The results should be communicated to the driver irrespective of whether they were good or bad. In the event of a serious violation, a meeting with the driver should be held as soon as possible to make the driver aware of the problem and to provide driver training.

Through the use of “How’s My Driving” programs, the public can be used to add insight/data to the driver supervision task. Managed by either the fleet operator or a third-party vendor, the use of telephone reporting of a driver’s behavior by the public has shown increasing value. Generally, such programs use a toll-free number prominently displayed on a decal on the vehicle to provide the public with on-the-spot information to report dangerous or commendable driver behavior.

In general, over 90 percent of public reports are complaints about poor driving, 5 percent are calls to report a crash or spill, and approximately 3 percent cite compliments about drivers. The proper handling of reports is critical to a program showing a positive bottom-line result. Reports must be sent to supervisors and action taken expeditiously, while the incident is fresh in the driver’s mind. Actions taken with drivers should be recorded on the report and returned to a data center to “close” the report.

Negative reports should trigger driver improvement efforts. Following–up on reports with drivers and using the opportunity to coach drivers for better performance, rather than using the program for strictly disciplinary purposes, can enhance the performance of drivers. Some third-party vendors also provide materials to help in the coaching of drivers for enhanced performance.

For additional information, see Commercial Vehicle Reports CV-30-01, Road Observation and CV-30-02, ‘How’s My Driving’ Programs.

Commercial Driver Incentive Programs

Some drivers will perform expertly for wages alone or the self-satisfaction in accomplishing a task, while others may require additional forms of motivation. One motivation technique that has met with success in the motor carrier industry is the incentive program. Incentive programs can be used for accident-free driving, fuel-efficient driving, or whatever else is suitable for a particular operation.

These programs can provide many different types of awards (e.g., safety pins, patches, belt buckles, etc.) and may provide a substantial return on investment if they are administered properly and stimulate the driver's interest. The quality of the reward should relate to the length of time and effort required to meet the required goal.

To be successful, an incentive program must have clearly defined goals and written rules and procedures that are understood by both drivers and supervisors. Complete and accurate records must be maintained. Awards should be made promptly, preferably by top management, and before fellow employees.

For more information on commercial vehicles and protecting your business, check out the American Family Insurance Loss Control Resource Center.

COPYRIGHT ©2011, ISO Services, Inc.

The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services Properties, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.

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Related Topics: Auto Fleet Safety , Protecting Your Business , Safety Programs