When your company talks about “safety,” how far does it go? Are you giving tips with a sermon, or is safety engrained in your company culture?
While “safety” covers a wide range of topics, the driver’s right to decide whether to drive under adverse conditions may be buried under other policies. Drivers are on the front lines and see safety risk right up close, and they are often best equipped to make decisions about the safety of a trip. As a result, there is a compelling argument in favor of empowering drivers to decide when it’s safe to drive, and the benefits can be substantial.
For many years, drivers faced pressure and even unofficial disciplinary action for refusing to drive under adverse conditions, contributing to the industry’s high turnover rate. The driver knew better than a dispatcher who was often hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away, but was required to go against his better judgment just to keep his job. Drivers who went out in spite of bad conditions may not have been fired, but risked being late with a load, and possible injury or worse. Accidents and other driver injuries raise insurance rates each time a crash happens. Right To Decide, on the other hand, changes the mindset that the load goes, no matter what.
Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a company that decided to go “all-in” by making the driver’s Right to Decide a cornerstone of their safety policy. By giving drivers the ultimate authority to decide about whether a load is safe to transport, Bison has the highest safety rating awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Naming their safety program “You’re Safe With Me,” the company earned the designation as “North America’s Safest Fleet,” and have repeatedly won the Truckload Carriers Association National Fleet Safety Award and Grand Prize.
Bison began its increased emphasis on safety after a 1993 US DOT audit finding that woke up owner Duncan Jessiman to truly changing the culture and putting safety at the forefront. Investments in driver skill development, updated technologies, and driver simulation labs, and an emphasis on continuous improvements at all levels means that drivers are better equipped, better trained and better able to handle anything that crosses their path.
Skill improvement, mandatory training, driver feedback and other safety-related programs have helped Bison reduce their insurance costs by more than 25%. Bison’s YouTube channel contains 23 playlists of driver education in short, professionally produced videos on different driver-related subjects. Four videos in the Right to Decide playlist encourage drivers to halt a trip due to weather, fatigue, equipment problems or other impediment. Cash and other awards give incentive to adherence to safety practices, and help drivers understand that safety is for their benefit, too. Bison’s Safe Driving Rewards Program (SDRP) has awarded over $25 million in rewards to its participating drivers since the program’s inception in 2005, and the company’s driver turnover rate is about 20.5%.
Bison’s safety manager Stephanie Fensom says that RTD has been in place for over 10 years, and they invest millions every year in company safety. Key to Bison’s strategy is the importance of treating professional drivers as professionals. Dispatchers and other in-office staffers can’t always know if everything is right for the driver to make that trip, and the drivers are the ones who will see if the conditions aren’t ideal. “We need to trust them, respect them, support them and give them the power to make that decision,” Stephanie says. “If they’re pressured into making the wrong decision, they will.”
Empowering drivers with the Right To Decide gives them an investment in their own safety as well as your company’s. They’re not just going down the checklist before they start driving. They understand that making a command decision on potentially hazardous conditions is a responsibility that’s part of their job. Given the power to make the final decisions, drivers become more engaged, which leads to safer driving, and as a result also reduces time lost to injuries, health insurance costs, worker’s compensation, and other associated costs from a crash.
Right To Decide policies are a win-win situation for both drivers and fleets. How much can your company save and improve by giving your drivers the Right to Decide? It may be time to find out.