How can HR practitioners ensure employee driving standards meet corporate safety criteria? Beverley Wise, Sales Director UKI at Webfleet, looks at how to best deliver sustained behavioural change.
Road safety is an issue that continues to be propelled into the spotlight, with recent campaigns driving renewed interest in the area.
Earlier last year, an inquiry was launched to scrutinise the government’s approach to road safety, in response to concerns from the Transport Committee that progress had levelled off in recent years.
At the same time, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) published a refreshed road safety statement and outlined a two-year action plan to address road safety issues.
The statement outlined the need to improve driving standards amongst those who drive or ride professionally or as part of their job, citing the fact that around one in three of all injury collisions on the road involve people ‘at work’ at the time.
As road safety continues to climb up the political agenda, it would be remiss of companies to not take a similarly proactive and cautious approach to driver safety – and aim to not only meet but surpass corporate safety standards.
But how can HR practitioners help keep their drivers stay safe and compliant, build road safety into the company’s health and safety objectives, and effect real change through road risk management?
Cultivating a safe working environment
For many companies, defined road safety policies are often lacking or deemed low priority, as driving is still not seen as a core business function.
But the consistently high number of incidents involving drivers at work only serves to highlight the need for a cultural shift and for improved driving to be incorporated into wider worker health and safety arrangements.
An employer has a duty of care to all staff and work-related road safety should be afforded the same level of scrutiny and enforcement as other areas of employee safety – and HRs should not settle for on an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach.
Simple measures can be introduced, including a ‘driving for work’ policy, ongoing risk assessments, driver health assessments and regular vehicle checks.
But road safety should not be a mere ‘tick-box’ exercise, used by companies to fulfil legal requirements.
Striving to raise standards should be a key driver of a company’s road safety policy and employee buy-in and effective behavioural changes are critical to the success of this.
The culture around driving standards needs to be challenged and a positive approach to road safety needs to be woven into the fabric of the business, if company-wide co-operation is to be gained and for a commitment to road safety is to filter down the ranks.
Intervention may be met with some resistance at first, but through effective communication and a collaborative approach, drivers will likely see the benefits of safer driving and understand HRs role in ensuring a safe and compliant workforce – whether that be office-based or out on the road.
Caring to coaching
In order for effective change to be made, areas of risk need to be identified, on an individual and whole fleet basis.
Telematics can provide companies with a wealth of data that can provide the insights needed to establish driver behaviour and risk ratings, by monitoring performance standards and incidents out on the field, such as speeding or harsh braking.
But risk data is redundant if it is not used to take action.
Once an issue has been identified, remedial training should be an automatic follow-up, such as enrolment on an e-learning course, in-car training sessions and workshops.
Every incident should trigger a root cause analysis, which will not only allow for driver learnings, but also underline the company’s commitment to improving standards.
HRs need to be mindful of their approach to driver training, and how this fits with their long-term objectives.
One-off or ad hoc driver training sessions are not an effective way of bringing about sustained behavioural changes, as drivers quickly fall back into old habits.
For long-term change to occur, coaching needs to be prolonged and tailored to tackle individual habits and break the well-established pattern of unsafe practices.
Drivers need to understand the importance of their actions on the road and the implications of unsafe, inconsiderate or reckless driving styles.
In order to keep optimum driving style at the forefront of drivers’ minds, feedback and advice needs to be consistent.
With telematics, direct feedback can be provided pre-trip, post-trip, as well as during. Pre-trip, drivers can receive tips on driving safely and efficiently, during the trip they can be provided with predictive driving advice and feedback on their driving style and after the trip, they can access a summary of their performance.
As well as empowering drivers, by giving them the right tools and guidance to alter and have control over their own driving style, the data can be used to create easy-to-read charts for managers.
These charts give companies a comprehensive overview of the fleet population, allowing them to identify negative trends and creating opportunities for early intervention.
This data can also inform driver-focused internal communications, with targeted messaging and advice created around common safety concerns, such as distracted driving and fatigue at the wheel, as well as those specific to the company’s unique driver population, be it speeding or seatbelt use.
Improving driver behaviour requires employee buy-in, and in order to achieve effective employee engagement, the approach must be positive, not punitive.
In order to boost engagement, HRs should look at incorporating improved driver behaviour into wider professional development plans, offering incentives for hitting pre-agreed performance targets.
Although these can be financially focused, such as prizes or rewards, it could be as simple as additional time off or recognition through internal communications.
Gamification is another route that companies can take to improve positive behavioural modifications.
Gamification taps into the popularity of gaming and can be a powerful way to incentivise through healthy competition. It uses typical gaming mechanisms – such as point-scoring – to encourage participation, motivating employees in a way they are most receptive to, such as the feeling of community, the social element, the rewards, the competition, or the ability to measure small successes.
The aim with gamification is to hold employees’ attention by embedding opportunities to ‘win’, so they make significant changes to their behaviour over a prolonged period.
Using data, such as driving scores provided by telematics, HRs can create league tables, with prizes provided for the top performers or most improved.
As well as creating a sense of comradery amongst drivers, gamification reinforces the collaborative approach to safety, giving them a sense of control over their own successes and goals.
The potential benefits to adopting a best practice approach to driver behaviour, underpinned by telematics, can be significant and by taking proactive steps to driver safety, companies can not only ensure a safer workforce but realise reductions in at-fault accidents, fuel spend and vehicle downtime.
By fulfilling – and surpassing – their duty as a responsible company will also help boost brand reputation and employee loyalty. An opportunity too great for HRs to miss.