As a safety manager, you can make it part of your job to demonstrate the value of safety training as a way of improving overall fleet performance, efficiency, and profits – not just safety compliance. Bringing everyone on board with the importance of safety as a central aspect of performance, and not just an annoying checkbox, is an important part of providing company-wide leadership through your safety-oriented role.
Think about it this way. Every chance you get to engage with a driver, you should show them that they are in charge of their own success, and that success is absolutely achievable. If you approach every training or coaching opportunity from this perspective, you will improve driver retention and reduce recruitment and training costs. What fleet owner isn’t going to see the value in better retention and reduced costs?
Technology & Compliance Can Lead to Loss of Motivation
When I first started driving, I used my intelligence to solve problems and run as efficiently as possible. I knew how to use a pay phone and a map book to track down someone at my delivery location and nail down a delivery time. I also knew how to find my own freight if I didn’t have a load lined up. I knew how to do proper time management and trip planning to get the best results for myself and the company. In those days, drivers understood how to run most major functions of the company, and these skills meant that I was a high value driver for the company.
In today’s trucking industry, safety technology, ELDs, and other mandates can make our job as safety managers feel like that of a mall cop or regulation enforcement officer. If we aren’t careful, we can become accident or incident “first responders” – crisis managers instead of safety managers.
When that happens, we find ourselves caught between a company that resents having to enforce the rules, and drivers who resent being called out for doing what they think is necessary to get the job done.
What Can You Do Right Now to Empower Your Drivers & Improve Performance?
Give your drivers the ability to make decisions about their work:
- When is the weather too bad to drive? Whenever a driver says it is. Don’t guilt them into driving if they have concerns.
- Pre- and Post-Trip Inspections – Look into your procedures. When drivers write something up, are they confident that it will be fixed correctly?
Prove to your drivers you care about their health and happiness:
- Post articles and information about nutrition, the impact of long haul driving, and how to create a healthy work/life balance. They will care more about what they are doing for you when they are on the road.
- Set aside specific time for “non-confrontational/non-performance evaluation” discussion. Ask your drivers about what’s going on with their family and at home. If there is something simple you or the company can do, like give the wife a ride to work or visit a loved one who is unwell, find a way to do it or get someone to help.
Find a company-wide focus that improves not just safety, but a key performance indicator:
- What’s your optimum performance speed over the road? Your telematics system can tell you how close every driver is to maintaining it. Start a contest and post results for drivers who achieve the goal! Leave the drivers off that don’t make it. They will work harder to get their name on the board next time.
- Hard braking and sudden stops are like leaving fuel on the pavement. This one is so easy, and can lead to a quick retraining about using other ways to manage exit ramps, as well as getting up to speed and merging and speeding events. Give a reward or a notice each week to the driver that uses the brakes the least.
Leadership Is About the Big Picture
The best way to lead and demonstrate your personal value and the value of your work to the company is to realize that you can have a positive impact on every department and every employee – from drivers and dispatch to operations and upper management. If something you are doing is causing friction, you need to stop and find another way, OR you need to convince your team of the benefit that something like improved driver attitude or more consistent speed control can make to each department in the fleet.