Driver training isn’t just for new hires or risky drivers. Every driver benefits from constant refreshers, regardless of their experience level or if they have a squeaky-clean record. A proactive fleet safety training program is a proven strategy to better protect your greatest asset – your employees – as well as your company as a whole. According to SambaSafety insights, fleets that train monthly have 50% fewer violations than those that train twice a year.
How? It ensures safety is top-of-mind at all times, instilling greater confidence behind the wheel and increasing driver satisfaction in their role. As driver retention rates and the ongoing driver shortage continue to affect fleets across all industries, it’s critical to ensure that your drivers are qualified and prepared for whatever dangers they may face out on the road.
Below, we dive into a few reasons why incorporating driver safety training for employees should be more than a simple onboarding task for management to check off, as well as three critical training topics for drivers that fleets need to implement to ensure their driver training program is comprehensive and effective.
3 Reasons Why Frequent Company Driver Training Is Not Just a “Nice to Have”
The Growing Risks of the Road
At one point in the past few decades, motor vehicle fatalities were in a steady decline. However, the past few years tell a different story. Even though Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, a total of 38,824 people died in motor vehicle crashes – a 7% increase in deaths from 2019.
In the first six months of 2021, an estimated 20,160 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, an alarming increase of 18.4% from 2020. This is the largest number of projected fatalities for January to June since 2006. The concerning trends also continued into 2022, as fatal crashes increased by 16% in May 2022 from May 2020.
In recent news, we have seen these numbers shift slightly in the right direction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 31,785 people died in traffic crashes throughout the first nine months of 2022. This is a 0.2% decrease as compared to the 31,850 estimated fatalities during the same timeframe in 2021. When it comes to really making an impact on the safety of our highways and roads, the nation still has a long way to go.
94% of crashes are caused by human error. In 45% of fatal crashes that occurred in 2020, drivers of passenger vehicles were engaged in at least one of the following risky behaviors:
- Alcohol impairment
- Not wearing a seat belt
Distracted driving has increased as well, averaging nine deaths and over 1,000 injuries each day.
The major takeaway here is that while risky driving behavior is increasing, it’s also preventable. While companies can’t control the weather or the behavior of other drivers sharing the road, they can work to sharpen their own fleet’s skills to reduce the likelihood of human error.
The Forgetting Curve
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, researched why we forget what we learn and how to prevent it. From his findings, he created the Forgetting Curve – a visual representation of the way that learned information fades over time.
Ebbinghaus found that if we learn something new, but then make no attempt to relearn that information, we remember less and less of it as time goes on. A few important takeaways from his research include:
- The biggest drop in retention happens soon after learning.
- It’s easier to remember things that have meaning.
- The way something is presented affects learning.
This is why even the most seasoned of drivers require consistent refreshers on fundamental skills. Regular fleet driver training improves driver knowledge, retention and focus, working to flatten the Forgetting Curve.
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3 Critical Topics to Include in Your Fleet’s Driver Training Program
Distracted Driving Training
Because it’s so easy to lose focus while behind the wheel, distracted driving is vastly underreported. Distracted driving is separated into four categories:
- Visual – anything that takes your eyes away from the road
- Auditory – noises that affect your ability to hear and take away your attention from the road
- Manual – removing your hand(s) from the wheel to accomplish other tasks
- Cognitive – something that takes your focus off driving
Whether a driver is using a cell phone, talking to a passenger, eating, making minor in-car adjustments or even driving fatigued, every second their eyes are off the road puts themselves and others on the road in danger. If a driver is traveling at a speed of 60 mph, their vehicle travels more than the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool every two seconds. Checking a text message, adjusting a mirror, glancing at the GPS or grabbing something from below can cause a major incident at that distance.
It’s critical to provide fleet distracted driving training, both proactively and as a remediation tool to correct poor driving behavior. This training should cover the nature of distractions, their impact and how simple practices can help employee drivers avoid them. Highlighting this issue on a regular basis will make it a conscious and habitual response amongst your drivers.
Want to dive deeper into strategies for combatting distracted driving? Watch our free webinar!
Defensive Driver Training
Fleet defensive driving training is another aspect of your training program that can and should be covered year-round.
As new technologies, the increase in distracted driving and other potentially adverse conditions weave their way into everyday life, companies must implement a driver training program that emphasizes modern defensive driving skills. Each time a driver gets behind the wheel, they need to be aware of the dangers that surround them, as well as how to anticipate and respond to them appropriately. Their ability to make the right decisions at the right time is critical.
At SambaSafety, we’ve developed seven fundamentals of fleet defensive driver training that we believe are crucial for every driver to review on a frequent basis.
Despite the improvements in safety, comfort and technology that may lead a driver to believe they don’t need to be 100% focused on the road, drivers must understand their proper use and the potential dangers that they can create.
It must be second nature for drivers to use their turn signal, lights, horn, speed and other cues to ensure the vehicles around them know what they intend to do before making any maneuver. SambaSafety insights have found that drivers who receive violations for not using their turn signal increase their chances of being involved in a crash within the next year by almost 113%!
Being fatigued has a serious impact on a driver’s reaction time, ability to read conditions, inhibitions, level of distraction and ability to avoid mistakes made by others. By identifying the early signs of driver fatigue, employees will have a better understanding of when it’s time to stop and take a break – before it affects their ability to drive safely.
If drivers can maintain proper space, they better protect themselves, their vehicles and can eliminate the likelihood of future collisions. They’ll have more time to adjust to sudden changes in the flow of traffic, weather conditions, objects on the road, reckless drivers and much more.
The number of hazards on the road is growing quickly. Distracted drivers, low clearances, merging lanes, cyclists, pedestrians, changing weather and dangerous road conditions are just some of the many hazards drivers must be confident in identifying and appropriately reacting to.
Speed management is more than just obeying the speed limit – drivers need to operate vehicles at a speed that allows them to handle any situation. They must be able to see everything that’s going on around them, with enough time left over to make adjustments if needed.
Essential planning requires the understanding and successful implementation of the other six fundamentals of distracted driving. Anytime a driver gets behind the wheel, they need to have a plan. This proactive mindset will help eliminate many of the issues that arise throughout the trip.
To discover more fleet defensive driving strategies, get a copy of our free guide!
Winter Driving Safety Training
How much did your fleet spend on weather-related incidents last winter season? The average cost of a single fleet vehicle crash is $70,000. When you factor in that icy pavement causes over 150,000 annual crashes, the numbers add up fast.
While not an issue year-round, winter weather presents a huge risk to fleet safety. This alongside the rise in risky driving behavior creates a higher likelihood of employee-involved crashes. Your drivers must be assigned proactive training to help them avoid driving hazards and added stress that are more common throughout the winter months.
These courses can include:
Avoiding Roadside Collisions
This training must cover strategies for avoiding collisions and stops, how to correctly and safely place warning devices, as well as how to properly handle being stopped on the roadway and driving in reduced visibility.
As we mentioned above, fatigue management is a critical fleet defensive driving skill. Driver fatigue is especially heightened during the winter months, with longer hours due to holiday traffic and traveling through dangerous weather conditions.
Installing Tire Chains
Drivers should be well versed on the steps that need to be taken to install and use tire chains safely, including chain selection, when to use chains, how to remove them and the state regulations that surround them.
There are different hazards to be aware of at night, including increased fatigue and reduced visibility. Drivers should take a closer look at some of the challenges associated with night driving and how they can deal with these conditions.
Rear-End Collision Avoidance
Rear-end collisions can be some of the worst-case scenario crashes, especially when a large commercial vehicle is involved. Drivers should know how to properly manage the space in front of their vehicle and how to avoid rear-end collisions in harsher weather conditions.
This course should look at the causes of most skids, the different types of skids, how to recover from a skid and most importantly, how to avoid them.
Of course, other defensive driving courses such as speed management, essential planning and effective communication will also come in handy as drivers navigate harsher weather conditions – so many of these skills will effectively overlap – helping you establish a more comprehensive driver training program.
Explore our library of winter driving safety resources, including a free training guide.
Dive Deeper into Fleet Defensive Driving Training
Whether your drivers operate light or heavy-duty vehicles, or if driving is their main or incidental job duty, they are each at risk when they get behind the wheel. In order to combat these dangers, companies must do everything in their power to ensure that safety is top of mind throughout their entire fleet.
Looking to implement ongoing training for your fleet, but unsure where to start? Download our guide and discover how your team can establish a year-long driver training program that includes many of the critical topics covered above.