According to the Wall Street Journal, the commercial truck driving career path is appearing more and more unattractive to new entrants each passing year. Teamsters have to make do with poor work conditions, they are denied restroom access at loading docks, have few healthy eating options, and they work in unnatural conditions where they are denied much human contact.
While it is true that businesses need to treat their drivers better than they do today, there’s a lot of work of a different kind to do, as well.
Commercial drivers represent the businesses that employ them
Rudeness, aggressive driving, road rage and other signs poor road behavior may be bad enough in a private vehicle. When an employee demonstrates poor behavior while in control of a vehicle carrying the company name, though, it can bring serious disrepute to the good business name.
Poor driving habits can be bad publicity in other ways
It isn’t just aggressive driving that can bring disrepute to a company. Incompetent driving can do much the same. The driver who hasn’t quite mastered yielding, switching lanes or using indicators, can inspire a great deal of scorn in anyone who witnesses such a display. If the company’s name is on the vehicle, the scorn will naturally transfer to the company, as well.
The costs involved can be a serious problem, too
Whether of the aggressive kind or the incompetent kind, poor driving commercial driving skills usually drive up costs for employers. Not only are accidents more likely, lawsuits and higher insurance premiums are a possibility, as well. Increased maintenance costs are most overlooked part of poor driver skill and attitude. Drivers who do not truly understand the rules of the road or of their vehicles are far more likely to use poor technique. Hard acceleration, hard braking and swerving can all tell on a vehicle’s serviceable life.
So what do you do as business owner?
At some businesses, the idea of paying attention to better driver behavior often seems too expensive. Rather than invest in training, management simply removes every sign of the company name from the company vehicle fleet. While this would take care of the image problem, it wouldn’t do much for the other challenges involved. It would be a much better idea to invest in safety.
Turning to telematics
Telematics devices, when installed in vehicles, connect to the engine management system to tap all kinds of information about the health of the vehicle in general, and the manner in which it is driven. Most modern units also come equipped with GPS and other technologies that allow them to relay information back to the employer about driving style — acceleration habits, speed habits, braking and other driving parameters.
Investing in driver training
Driver training involves not just training for better driving skills, but also for a better attitude overall. Employees who suffer from anger problems, attention deficit or other disorders and conditions can receive help. It can be an extended commitment on the part of both the company and the driver.
Invest in driver training for specific situations
From driving in harsh weather conditions to taking curves, checking for blind spots and recognizing when one is drowsy, it takes more than simple training to be a safe driver; it takes repeated training. Long-term training makes for habit formation. It’s important to make sure that the driver training program selected offers specific training courses for every risk-prone situation in foreseen, and follows up with refresher courses.
Accessorizing for safety
Commercial vehicles often carry bumper stickers that ask other drivers to report any poor driving that they may witness. While it’s easy to believe that other drivers would only report poor driving; this hasn’t proven to be true, according to research done by call centers handling such calls. Reportedly, at least 10% of all calls received aim to compliment commercial drivers for their sensitive driving. It’s a clear indicator of how hiring drivers with good skills can reflect well on the company.
Safety truck accessories are an important add-on. They can include much more than bumper stickers promoting safety. Sensors, warning lights, and safety inspection tools, among other things, can be important contributors to the overall level of safety achieved.