Leadership's Role In Addressing Driver Distractions

Leadership's Role In Addressing Driver Distractions

Distractions, both inside the cab and out, are competing for the driver’s attention behind the wheel and increasing the risk of a crash. These distractions, in turn, expose motor carriers to potentially catastrophic losses involving personnel, equipment, revenue, and third-party liability claims. According to a 2015 survey by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), distractions are one of the top ten industry issues that concern motor carriers. The question many trucking leaders are asking is how to manage this risk effectively and reduce the company’s exposure. Since drivers have a great deal of autonomy and supervising them is a challenge, this should not deter motor carriers. There are proactive measures that can be taken to reduce or prevent future losses, but it requires a commitment by senior leadership to address this issue.

Establish a Distrction-Free Culture

Senior leadership is responsible for establishing company values and defining policies and procedures that integrate safety into everyone’s job. Creating a culture where everyone is involved in loss prevention efforts is called systemic safety. If one cog fails to do its part, the entire system might break down and result in a loss.

Provide Training

Distracted driving is a hazard that must be continually addressed, so a “one and done” approach to training will not suffice. For an issue this important, leadership should spearhead a company-wide initiative to train
all workers on this hazard regularly, including new employee orientation. In addition, encourage employees to take a pledge to avoid distracted driving at all times.

Hold Workers Accountable

Policies must be written down, communicated to employees, acknowledged in writing, and then enforced to be effective. Start by consulting legal counsel before implementing a distracted driving policy and devise ways to monitor and enforce it. Some proactive measures may include installing in-cab cameras as well as monitoring MVRs and SMS results for violations related to distractions, such as talking on a cell phone while driving or driving while fatigued. For dispatchers, ensure they are adhering to the company’s call-in schedule and not calling drivers excessively or creating stress with poor communication techniques. This, too, can be a distraction.    

Measure Performance

The only way to know if the company’s loss prevention efforts are successful is to set goals and measure performance. This may include monitoring SMS for distracted driving citations (cell phone use, fatigue, etc.) and investigating crashes and near misses to determine if distraction was a factor. Likewise, try periodic surveys of drivers entering and exiting the terminal to see how many are talking or texting on the phone while they drive. This could be a great way to get someone on probation or job restriction involved in safety efforts.


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The information in this article is provided as a courtesy of Great West Casualty Company and is part of the Value-Driven® Company program. Value-Driven Company was created to help educate and inform insureds so they can make better decisions, build a culture that values safety, and manage risk more effectively. To see what additional resources Great West Casualty Company can provide for its insureds, please click below to find an agent.

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