Developing an Effective Retention Strategy for Your Company | Part One: Make Safety Culture a Priority

Safety Culture

September 3, 2020


Establishing an effective safety culture not only lowers corporate liability, it can reduce the number of accidents on our highways, save lives, and contribute to a solid retention strategy.

So, what characteristics does a safe fleet exhibit? From hiring drivers that take a carrier’s best practices seriously to maintaining effective lines of communication between dispatchers and drivers, there are countless ways carriers can successfully reinforce a culture of safety.

Here are just a few for you to consider:

They Hire Drivers Who Have Proven They Take Safety Seriously

Yes, our industry is facing a driver shortage, and yes, it can be a day-to-day challenge, ensuring you hit the hiring targets your carrier enforces.

But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on safety – which should take priority the moment a potential driver goes into the hiring pipeline.

If you’re looking to hire someone, they should have a proven history of safety; one that demonstrates their respect for the road. Any accidents or infractions should be noted, addressed, and considered before any job offer goes out, and the onboarding process begins.

If the driver has exhibited a blatant disregard for rules and regulations in the past, it’s an obvious indication that they don’t belong on your fleet.

It’s crucial to take the time to gather comprehensive employment records and drug and alcohol reports. Failure to take these critical pre-hire steps (or dismissing their importance altogether) before onboarding a driver increases your fleet’s liability, and this could cost you – big time.

They Inform Drivers About Their Safety Culture and Policies During Orientation

Thorough driver training helps ensure you’re setting your company up for success and provides a valuable opportunity for leaders to communicate their safety vision to recruits. “It’s important for leaders to communicate the safety vision of the company to new hires because orientation is where you make your first impression,” says Lucas Mowrey, safety director for Grand Island Express. “By doing this, it makes them aware of what the company culture is along with what the values of the company are.”

At Grand Island Express, new hires are aware of top-down expectations from day one, explains Mowrey.

“The example that comes to mind is that our owner informs new drivers that he does not want them driving in unsafe weather conditions by telling them, ‘There is no load so important that it can’t be delivered safely.’ Therefore, drivers know that when it comes from that level, a dispatcher would never ask them to keep driving when the driver feels unsafe.”

Driver training and orientation is also a chance for owners and managers alike to clearly communicate their expectations and outline the safety policies and procedures that keep everyone on the road safe.

Be sure to include a thorough review of all company safety policies during the orientation process and properly document any safety-related training. Should the need ever arise, it’s essential to prove that your carrier took all the steps needed to make safety a no. 1 priority.

Leaders Need to Lead the Way

Safety culture needs to come from the top, no exceptions. After all, if managers and owners aren’t taking it seriously, why should anyone else?

Those at the top of the corporate ladder need to be engaged in every step of the process, and make it clear that safety counts for everyone – from safety supervisors, to managers, to drivers.

It comes down to this: while safety is everyone’s responsibility, it’s the job of those in leadership positions to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how committed they are to safety to achieve optimal results.

They should not only know regulatory and compliance regulations like the back of their hands, but they must also care about them – and make that clear to everyone else within the company.

They Utilize Technology

We might be a little bit biased, but technology can – and does – have a positive impact on fleet safety. From the moment a potential driver applies to your company and throughout their entire time with your fleet, technology can alter driver behaviour and improve overall driver safety.

Let’s take a look at the hiring process, for starters. Here at TruckRight, our Applicant Tracking System will allow your company to identify candidates with a safe driving history – as well as the ones that don’t – so you can hire the best drivers out there.

When it comes time to onboard a new driver, tech can continue to work in your favour; it ensures all the DOT-required forms are completed and will promptly alert you (and the new driver) if anything is missing.

And the power of tech doesn’t stop there. Online training and education can help ensure your drivers are up to speed with the tools and information they need to navigate the roads safely. Ignite e-learning, for example, empowers you and your employees to conduct training from anywhere – no classroom needed. Its wide variety of courses, which cover everything from safety to compliance to professional development, can slash violation rates, keep you compliant, and above all, ensure everyone stays safe.

You can even upload your own content, easily manage user accounts, digitally assign courses, and effectively report on progress. You can also analyze trends by terminal, manager or individual driver, and take advantage of scenario-based knowledge testing.

At Grand Island Express, technology is used in several different aspects of training and driver development, explains Mowrey. “We use a driving simulator for ongoing and remedial training. This allows us to work on problem areas for drivers without risk to company equipment. We also use onboard cameras with artificial intelligence to reinforce positive driving habits and to coach on areas needing development. Also, we have implemented a collision mitigation and adaptive cruise in 95% of our company trucks and will be 100% in the next two years. The investments we have made into these technologies reinforce our safety vision, culture, and values.”

Safety is an Ongoing Process

Every year, there are thousands of preventable injuries and deaths that occur on our highways, simply because effective safety measures were not made a priority.

Don’t discount the importance of a robust safety program…and watch as other carriers look to you as an example.

Stay tuned next week for the second installment of our Retention Strategy blog series. In the next article, we’ll examine why drivers leave in the first place…and how to prevent this from happening at your company.