How Can Fleet Leaders Create and Enforce Safety Culture?
By Jasmine Glasheen
The Covid pandemic put fleet safety at front and center of the consumer zeitgeist of 2020. Nonessential business has resumed across the U.S., which means fleet leaders are hashing out what the “next normal” is going to look like for their business. The smart fleet management market is poised to grow by $153.63 billion between 2020 and 2024, with some variance for the impact of Covid-19. But as the demand for last mile delivery continues to grow, expectations for fleet safety are also on the rise. Suddenly, everyone from product manufacturers and the CDC, to the end consumer has a guideline about how fleet agencies should operate––and whether they should be operating at all.
Although Edelman found that 75 percent of consumers feel CEOs should be conservative in resuming normal operations post-Covid, the demand for last mile delivery has never been stronger. Let’s explore how fleet agencies can ease back into operations without compromising the health and safety of staff.
Guidelines for Returning to the Field
Fleet leaders are grappling with growing demand for deliveries, as well as maintenance and delivery backlogs from shutdowns. A May census found that ecommerce sales had already climbed by 14.5 percent YOY, and this doesn’t even include the full breadth of coronavirus’ impact on U.S. deliveries. The U.S. Navy recently had to call in 1,629 reservists to shipyards to fill maintenance backlogs on aircraft and submarine carriers.
Phil Moser, Associate Director of Global Driver Safety at Syneos Health says that where the drivers are located will determine their timelines for returning to the field.
“Organizations are going to have to follow CDC guidelines and the regulations that have been put in place by the various states,” he says. “Also, the condition of the employee needs to be considered. Does the employee have any conditions that would make them at higher risk? Is there a medical condition or is the employee pregnant?”
Terry Winslow, President of The CEI Group, says that fleets can resume operations without compromising the health and safety of their staff by social distancing, the use of PPE equipment and adding protective efforts for high-touch situations such as pumping fuel.
“Contact-Free Repairs are one option to ensure fleets are ready to return to work without compromising anyone’s health,” he adds. “Photo-based estimating removes a trip to the shop, while saving time, and estimates are completed remotely. Vehicle drop offs and enhanced vehicle cleaning services before and after repairs, and rental transfers limit contact further and maintain social distancing measures. Vehicle repairs cannot always wait, and repair shops will see a massive increase in volume, so we encourage our fleets to repair now with these measures.”
Technology’s Role in Future Fleet Safety Procedures
Fleet organizations also have a responsibility to share CDC and government updates. Technology plays a key role in the execution of fleet safety procedures. Phil Moser feels that virtual training will temporarily take the place of in-person training in fleet agencies.
Kathi Croze, Senior Consultant, Mercury Associates, Inc., is looking forward to how technology will impact future fleet safety protocols. Croze says that Covid-related technology may include new ways to disinfect fleet vehicles.
“Today,” she says, “there are automated/touchless aerosol systems that can be used to disinfect surfaces. Depending on the manufacturer, these items can be identified as sub-micron aerosol system or electrostatic sprayer. Many devices are hand-held, which would be the most convenient for disinfecting vehicles. Another disinfecting method is by using UV light.”
However, Croze also has some cautionary words for fleet leaders. She suggests checking with auto manufacturers about how these products may affect the materials (plastics, cloth, leather, etc.) on the interior of vehicles before implementing a disinfecting solution.
“Leaders should carefully scrutinize the impact of new technology on driver behavior,” Croze says. “For example, backup cameras have actually caused more backing up incidents because drivers are only relying on the camera and not turning their heads for a broader view of what is behind them. Likewise, drivers should not rely on new technology to be 100 percent effective in removing Covid risk.”
Winslow says that technology already facilitates contact-free claims processing, and that these processes will become even more automated and nuanced over time to increase ease of use, efficiency, and effectiveness.
He adds, “Telematics could eventually be implemented in a manner that automatically ties crash data directly into an FNOL to provide liability information, as well as details that can help remediation efforts. Today, estimates can be completed with photo-based estimating technology that limits contact while reducing repair downtime.”
Enforcing Fleet Safety Protocols
It’s no secret that fleet agencies are facing a driver shortage, which has been exacerbated by the Covid crisis. Yet fleet leaders are also responsible for holding their employees to unparalleled sanitization standards. So, how can fleet managers reconcile the need for driver adherence to safety protocols and the need to retain new recruits?
Phil Moser weighs in:
“Driver accountability is an absolute necessity with every fleet. Good and safe driving also need recognition. If the only time drivers hear from safety is when they have done something wrong, a toxic environment is created.”
“I continuously send the message that safety is not a punitive measure,” he continues. “The reason for the safety initiatives that have been put in place is to assist the drivers with achieving their most important daily goal – going home safely at the end of the day.”
Janis Christensen, CAFM, Managing Director at Mercury Associates, Inc. says that every organization should have a written driver fleet safety policy with an acceptance and compliance signature by the driver.
“This policy should be updated with a Covid policy statement and new Covid-related safety procedures,” she says. “Training programs should include participation of remote employees through online technology and sharing of information via company-wide portals.”
She suggests individual or team awards to incentivize drivers to aim for safety compliance.
“Fleet leaders should make sure the award is incentive enough for the type of driver. For example: a sales driver may not deem a $25 or $50 gift/restaurant certificate incentive enough. However, an hourly paid driver may look at it as an opportunity to treat his/her significant other to a better dinner than they might otherwise be able to afford.”
However, Christensen cautions that positive reinforcement alone isn’t enough. “Ignoring infractions places the organization in legal jeopardy in terms of negligence entrustment.”
“Non-compliance penalties should be identified in the fleet safety manual,” she continues. “A point system is a good method of tracking compliance. The more points received within a given period of time, the greater the penalty.”
Terry Winslow adds that field managers can be actively involved in daily routines to ensure high standards are maintained even as social norms relax.
He says, “Safety policies and procedures must adapt to current events, which now means an added layer of safety for driver health must be planned for and enforced.”
Final Thoughts on Fleet Safety
It’s never been more important, or more challenging, to enact safety protocols in the fleet industry. However, three key tenets can ensure fleet safety during and beyond this pandemic: 1) Communication, 2) Incentivization, and 3) Enforcement.
Kathi Croze, Senior Consultant, Mercury Associates, Inc. says that safety policies should include the requirement for annual driver motor vehicle record checks (MVRs) or driver continuous monitoring program to ensure individual accountability. Croze includes MVR records in the point system where points are assigned to violations. This extends to Covid-related safety precautions.
Croze says, “Third party safety providers and fleet management companies should be required to add Covid-related driver training to existing training programs
Moser stresses the importance of collision analysis. His team at Syneos Health has a branch devotes to analyzing and reviewing individual collisions. However, he is more focused on education than enforcing punitive measures for infractions.
“Whenever it is determined that there is a learning moment from that crash,” Moser says, “the driver receives training that is specific to the collision. The idea behind this is – You can’t take something as negative a crash and make it positive, but it is a lost opportunity if you don’t learn from it.”
Winslow’s team at CEI, on the other hand, provides free resources to help fleet managers communicate and enforce fleet safety protocols as the situation develops:
“CEI continues to update the CEInetwork.com free online Covid resource page to help companies and other organizations stay up-to-date on fleet safety- and collision management-related fleet news, trends, support and recommendations.”
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