The Unique Challenge of Driver Behavior in the Delivery Services Industry
There are nearly 1.5 million people who are employed as driver/sales workers and light truck or delivery service drivers. These individuals drive on behalf of their company to deliver goods and services on a daily basis.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these two industries are projected to grow collectively by only 2 percent1 between 2018 and 2028. While more light truck or delivery service drivers will be needed to meet the demands of e-commerce growth, driver growth is expected to decline as more individuals opt for self-employment or independent contractor roles with smartphone-based delivery opportunities.
Even though these industry projections may not drastically change the number of employed drivers over the next decade, delivery services companies are increasingly focused on driver safety measures, and are proactively employing solutions to protect their business, brand, employee retention, and communities.
Joe O’Toole, VP of Sales with SambaSafety, facilitated a roundtable discussion on the importance of understanding driver behavior, the vast selection of technology solutions for companies with employee drivers, and the business opportunities available when ensuring employee safety and its broader impact. The panelists included Cox Communications Director of Safety and Risk Management, Ted Merriam; and current Safety Pro President, and former Vice President of Risk and Safety for DS Services Inc., Michael (Mike) Belcher.
The discussion began by focusing on the overall task of managing drivers in intensive service delivery organizations, and how teams work with field organizations to accomplish safety goals and initiatives.
Both Ted and Michael agreed that there has to be a multifaceted approach, instead of relying on a single solution.
Ted: We ultimately employ four to five solutions to help us accomplish our goals. We look at efficiency, administrative burden, and ease of use; it needs to be established, effective for the operation, and be a leader in the space, which is one of the reasons we use SambaSafety.
Mike: What I look for is an optimal mix of resources. We’re all being asked to do more with less. It comes down to fleet safety and keeping qualified drivers on road, keeping them properly trained, and actively monitoring them to support and encourage safe behavior behind the wheel. It’s a holistic approach of providing the right kind of environment and a strong safety culture that shows that drivers are valued, appreciated, and that the employer cares and wants them to get home safe every day.
Selecting the Right Technology Solutions
Driver safety technology has evolved quickly over the past few decades, leaving employers with uncountable options to choose from, creating the challenge of utilizing the right solution mix that will make the greatest positive impact to the business.
Joe: How do you determine the types of technologies that are implemented to improve employee and community safety?
Ted: The challenge now is to keep up with the technology options out there; the marketplace is full of vendors offering different levels of support. We look at engineering controls we can build into the vehicles, and the types of drivers behind the wheel. We want to understand driver history and current driver behavior, and we can do so with continuous monitoring and telematics. It will never be about not having technologies to choose from, but it’s about choosing the right ones.
Mike: We’re hearing more and more from safety professionals that they are inundated with information and data. Technology is more accessible and cheaper, but they’re wondering how to make heads and tails of the data they’re receiving. It’s important for a system to be intuitive and make sense, and for it to be one that someone can easily get their head around and put to use.
Driver retention is a constant challenge for employers of both regulated and non-regulated drivers due to a variety of factors, including emerging contract driver market opportunities, employee relations efforts, and proactive initiatives to ensure employee and contracted drivers have scores that are within a company’s safety policy.
Joe: Continuous monitoring of past driver behavior is paramount in understanding the condition of a fleet and who is behind wheel. When your fleet spans multiple states, how do you uniformly give feedback on a scoring methodology as point systems differentiate state by state?
Ted: Different states have different point systems, and to try to follow or grade a driver’s behavior on the west coast and bring action with that if there is an activity, we also want to make sure we’re doing the same following and grading for drivers on the east coast. The advantage of using SambaSafety is the standardized point system. Regardless of state points, we use the SambaSafety point system, so that ADV codes can measure on the exact same level Virginia to California, which allows us to set strict action levels for certain point levels.
It’s critical to know when a driver is exposing risk to business. Because we can set standardize points and implement them against our policy, we can engage HR teams and employee relations teams, and talk about behavior on and off job.
There’s only one person who can control future risk values of future violations, and it’s not the employers, it’s the person who owns that MVR.
Violation is the result of behavior; it’s about being proactive before risky behavior turns into an accident. Having this information allows both the employer and the driver to be proactive.
Mike: The key to driver retention is important in what employers do today. Constant feedback is key. Drivers want to know the rules of engagement, but also want to know what the score is.
The idea is to retrain and provide assistance. People react positively when both employer and employee can work on an intervention program.
This type of technology has come lightyears. When I first found out about continuous monitoring I was elated. The system provides data at your fingertips in a format where we can work with HR and the frontline and determine exactly where risk is – we can take action on drivers with MVR citations on the verge of disqualification, or someone with larger violations. If we can find out up front, we can help the drivers. It’s good for the organization, good for employee engagement, and drives accident and claim(s) rates down.
With heightened social awareness and company scrutinization, any incident can be immediately identified and magnified across social networks, peer review platforms, and/or the media. Many companies are acutely aware of keeping their brand in a positive light, and they may do so by taking proactive measures to strengthen an organization’s safety culture.
Joe: How has the use of continuous mounting helped with brand protection?
Mike: Brand is everything right now. Safety and sustainability are getting more press than ever, and investors are looking at brand reputation. Employee engagement is tied closely with the number of safety incidents. According to a Gallup Survey2, employers who score in top quartile have 70 percent fewer safety incidents. A good, holistic program goes a long way to making sure a company is protecting its brand.
Ted: Brand is critical right now, especially in the highly competitive environment for both customers and employees. If you have several vehicles with a logo on the side, those are rolling billboards. How well those vehicles seem to be operating is potentially reflective from a customer standpoint on how well the business is being run or the quality level of services provided.
Claims information is an additional data element employers may use to gauge an effective driver safety policy. Based on the results and trends, companies can take initiatives or adjust current policies to improve company-wide safety and the bottom line simultaneously.
Joe: How do you integrate claims data into the metrics SambaSafety provides and the other technologies you use to improve on overall safety?
Ted: It’s not a one-tool solution. Between telematics, continuous driver monitoring, a good onboarding processes, driver training, and engineering, we’re trying to take advantage of everything we can. In this approach, we have seen positive results; we believe this is the responsible approach to driver behavior, and we’re going to keep doing it.
Mike: I recently had a good experience with an insurance renewal. I presented the underwriter with a solid management system when it came to fleet safety, which included telematics and continuous monitoring. I was pleased to renew at favorable rates, especially in today’s environment. A good safety program can go a long way in keeping loss ratios down.
A Holistic Approach to Driver Safety
Current and emerging technology solutions can be useful tools to build, augment, or improve a company safety policy, especially with a focus on driver safety and retention.
A consolidated driver score based on a variety of inputs, including continuous monitoring, claims data, telematics, training, and other information sources is key in fully understanding driver behavior, and subsequently identifying areas for proactive initiatives. Not only can this impact driver retention, employee relations, and company brand, but also ultimately ensures the company is an actionable leader in driver safety for employees on and off the job, and for their communities.