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Keeping Driver Safety and Training Top of Mind for Contractor Owners and Employees

May 20, 2024
None of us want or need a traffic accident to be our wakeup call.

As a plumbing or mechanical contactor business owner, you are focused on a safe workplace / workspace and want to ensure your employees are as safe as possible when servicing the community. Plus, you want to keep your liability risks as low as possible. 

Depending on how large your company’s service area is, driving to jobs could be a few miles or 50 miles or more for your employees. While they are on the road, they may come across some dangerous driving situations. Also, it is easy for us to become complacent regarding driving and safety. We are all so accustomed to our own driving style that we may be taking some unnecessary driving risks, and we don’t even realize this until an accident happens. None of us want or need a traffic accident to be our wakeup call. 

Resources to Stay Safe Behind the Wheel  

The Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Association shares information on a regular basis with its members about the importance of driver safety. The association supports various distracted driving awareness initiatives, such as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month every April by the National Safety Council (NSC). 

Although it is past April, if you are a member of the NSC you can still obtain tips and best practices to implement at your company. Also, June is National Safety Month and weekly safety topics include Roadway Safety, Safety Engagement, and more.     

Also, PHCC Corporate partner Federated Insurance offers DriveSAFE Telematics to association members. The Federated DriveSAFE program leverages technology to give plumbing contractors consistent feedback about their driving habits, enabling your employees to stay safe on the road every day. The feedback will make your employees more aware of their driving habits and can help decrease accidents, injuries, litigation, reputational damage, and many expenses associated with a crash. 

The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) also offers members resources for safe driving. The association offers many articles and videos on driver safety best practices—from how to limit drivers’ distractions to protecting your business from risky drivers. With these resources, you will learn the importance of a fleet management system. 

Accountability

Fleet management systems can help reduce your exposure to negligent entrustment, which can stem from employees driving company-owned vehicles, their personal vehicles, or other vehicles on company business. Negligent entrustment is a legal concept that holds someone responsible for entrusting another person with a dangerous object, such as a vehicle or firearm, that causes harm to a third party.

According to the article Protect Your Business from Risky Drivers, your fleet management program must be followed and documented, and management must be held accountable for implementing the fleet management program. 

The areas your company’s fleet management program should focus on include:

·      Driver selection procedures that include review of employee motor vehicle records.

·      New employee orientation and training.

·      Ongoing driver training on safe driving behaviors.

·      Post-incident or post-accident review and training.

·      An enforced policy limiting driver distractions, such as cell phone usage and texting.

·      A drug and alcohol testing program.

·      Adherence to local, state, and federal laws.

·      An enforced disciplinary procedure for violations, which includes reviewing of driving privileges.

·      Reviewing motor vehicle records for all drivers on an annual basis; and removing the employee from driving positions if he or she develops an unacceptable driving record.

Building a Safe Driving Culture

There are many telematics companies to pick from that focus on driver training and safety. For example, with GeoTab you can set up a fleet safety program. Beyond keeping your employees safe, a well-executed fleet safety program can greatly reduce costs associated with accidents. The GeoTab solution is just one part of the program—a culture of safety needs to be promoted amongst company employees and they need to have the attitude that safety comes first. 

In the Geotab blog How to build a fleet safety program—A step-by-step guide, it is suggested that companies set up a Safety Council as a best practice. The safety council can meet on a regular basis to analyze all collisions—both preventable and unpreventable—as well as all exceptions outlined in the fleet safety policy.  

Driver coaching and telematics can help you identify at-risk drivers that you can then work with, according to Mix by PowerFleet. You can assign your employees a safety score and rank them based on events that you define, like speeding, harsh braking, and more. This enables you to identify high-risk drivers and provide them with the coaching they need to improve their driving skills.

Telematics apps, such as MyMiX, track driver performance and give them access to the results, so they can see if they have improved or not. This app can motivate drivers to improve because they can see their scores and compare them to their previous results. They are also ranked against other drivers, which can promote a competitive spirit. This can motivate employees to build better habits and improve scores.

Employee attitudes are most important when it comes to driving and safety, according to Kenny L. Calkins, president and owner of Cloverdale Plumbing, Boise, Idaho. “We do a drivers check before hiring someone and our insurance also monitors them, along with GPS. We let them know when we see problems and we work with them to fix driving issues. Driving school for our employees is not necessary since it’s more about their attitude than anything else.”

Candace Roulo, a graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences, is a technical writer covering topics in the mechanical contracting, manufacturing and supply chain industries.

About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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