Train Contempt Out of Your Drivers
BY Ric Newell
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One of the biggest challenges professional drivers face is a condition I call “Road Contempt.” Because many drivers use the same roads day in and day out, they get to the point where they can drive that road blindfolded. There is a reason why most wrecks occur a short distance from home. The better we know the road, the less attention many of us pay to it.
I would encourage your company to take a long look at the demographics of the drivers that have had preventable wrecks over the past two or three years. It’s possible you might discover that your “best” drivers are making the most mistakes. A recent Pew study simply points out that it is easier to “convince” young drivers than it is to “change” experienced drivers. One of the things I constantly harp is that a skilled driver who drives unsafely is still an unsafe driver. Here are a couple of recommendations I would make concerning your training sessions and safety meetings.
First, make certain your new hires understand the difference between being a good driver and a safe driver. Pound home how important it is to develop proper safety habits at the beginning of their careers. Don’t allow a new driver on the road until you are convinced his or her attitude about safety matches your company’s commitment to zero preventable wrecks.
This is the hard part; if you do not believe a new driver is going to drive safely then let him or her go before the preventable wreck occurs.
Second, it is possible your most dangerous drivers are the ones who have had the most time to develop bad habits. If you discover that your biggest problem is your experienced drivers, then you must develop training procedures that address the problem. This means that you can’t continue with the same old insurance classes, skill-based driver training, and online webinars that haven’t worked in the past. If you have offered training to your drivers, and they are still having problems, there is a good chance the problem is not your drivers—it’s your training.
If you are a new driver just entering the industry then you must develop good safety habits now. A safe driver is more apt to stay employed in the transportation construction industry than an unsafe driver. If you learn that now, there is a good chance you will stay uninjured and gainfully employed. On the other hand, if you are an experienced driver who has had a preventable wreck or is consistently having close calls, it is imperative that you take a look at your driving safety skills. Don’t attempt to place the blame on tight schedules, faulty equipment or the “nobody’s perfect” excuse. If you are a skilled and experienced driver then you must prove it every day by getting your load delivered safely, or by showing up safely to complete whatever project you have been assigned.
Professional drivers should always focus on the driving task and be ready for the unexpected, even on familiar roads. Driving is a dangerous activity and a wreck can occur anywhere. Overconfidence leads to a lack of awareness and that will lead to silly incidents that cost your company both capital and productivity.
Ric Newell has worked in industry for over 50 years. He has a license to teach Texas Defensive Driving and has developed the Wreckstopper training. For more information, contact (800) 259-6209 or firstname.lastname@example.org.