Driving is often seen as a consequence of a job, rather than an important safety-critical aspect. Van drivers are not only at much higher risk of being involved in an incident than car drivers but are often a moving billboard for the company they represent; and we all know that brand protection is important in the same way that customer service and quality control are; driving round in beat up vans just won’t do.
So, how can we cultivate a healthy culture? How can we help van drivers to treat driving as a professional aspect of their job? Here is my formula:
Education x Empowerment ÷ Incident Investigation
Education x Empowerment
In terms of education, we need to make sure that our drivers know what they need to know (about driving vans), but also know the company’s expectations of them – which, of course, is safety first.
Education needs to be paired with empowerment to result in any meaningful influence over safety culture. Empowerment can be found in high quality driver coaching but is also found in two other key areas; leadership and consultation.
Consultation with the driver population is required to truly understand the challenges faced followed by collaboration to build the processes and procedures that mitigate risks and improve efficiency (it should also influence the content of your driver training). Engaging drivers in this way has the potential to deliver outstanding results. The difference is:
Set and enforce rules arbitrarily: Lots of effort, unhappy drivers, employee turn-over.
Develop rules through collaboration allied to self-monitoring and peer-monitoring: Reduced enforcement effort, happy drivers, better retention.
Leadership, as we all know, starts with leading by example. A manager that calls drivers while driving and expects the call to be taken, not only unpins your mobile phone policy, but erodes all safety values that the driver has developed.