Safety Director Tips: Getting Drivers to Take Safety Training

A frequent question we receive from clients is: “How do I get my drivers to take their PRO-TREAD lessons?” The most basic answer to safety training means setting a policy and sticking with it. But in a people-driven culture (if you’ll excuse the pun), things never seem quite so black-and-white. Broadly speaking, there are three methods with which fleets report success to motivate drivers to train: reward, discipline and social pressure. The best results tend to come from a combination.

Safety Director Tips

We get similar questions from clients frequently, and we often ask other clients for answers. This series of articles tries to capture some of the thoughtful questions and smart answers we’ve heard over the years.

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The Carrot: Reward Drivers for Training

Rewarding drivers to take safety training can take several forms. Some fleets pay drivers on an hourly basis for time spent taking the training. Since most Pro-TREAD lessons take less than an hour to complete, a full hour of pay is a good deal.

Another form of reward is part of a safety bonus. These programs tend to give “points” to reinforce the behavior that is good for the fleet and the driver. For example, a driver may get a monthly bonus for:

  • Completing all vehicle inspections
  • Finishing a PRO-TREAD training class
  • Avoiding any moving violations
  • Not having any collisions
  • Driving above a certain MPG
  • Below a certain number of hard-braking events (as measured by safety equipment such as DriveCam or GreenRoads)

Because you likely don’t have the time to manage a program like that, there are third-party driver incentive companies that will administrate it for you such as Perks, CA Short and Prime Inc. PRO-TREAD can integrate with any incentive program like this.

Simpler rewards can be giving first choice of routes, shifts, or trucks to those who complete training first. A manager can sort the list of those who’ve completed training of a certain module by completion date. At one of our largest fleets, this simple reward system has created a very, very competitive culture that leads to some drivers emailing us asking when new lessons will be posted.

FleetOwner offered six tips for creating a driver recognition program.

(July 2014 update: Read about driver incentive plan ideas we’ve collected from our clients. )

The Stick: Consequences for Missing Training

The flip side of rewarding a driver for taking training is creating consequences for those who miss an assigned lesson in timely manner. Assigning a specific lesson and setting a deadline is critical — without establishing expectations, any discipline will seem arbitrary and will hurt morale.

In the broadest terms, many fleets set training as a condition of employment. More plainly, the driver takes the lesson or they’re fired. Other fleets will withhold loads until the training is complete. Yet another method is to give the driver a choice: take the training online in under an hour, or attend a three-hour safety meeting over the weekend.

Social Pressure: Making Training Normal

You can offer safety bonuses or threaten drivers with older trucks, but if after new employee orientation the driver hears that “no one around here pays much attention to training,” your safety program is sunk. The carrot-and-stick approach to training will go a long way to encouraging drivers to take training in a timely manner.

Another way to set yourself up for success is to make sure senior drivers buy in to the training program. Whether it’s introducing new technology, best practices or training initiatives, companies have found positive results by recruiting their more experienced drivers to test out the new initiative. As a manager, you’ll need to listen to their feedback and do what you can to act on it. Their participation will help other drivers feel comfortable and confident.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there are two types of drivers who need training: those who don’t know how to do something right and those who choose not to do it right. The carrot-and-stick approach works well for those who don’t know how to do something. The social approach is important to fix those who through attitude, habit or laziness choose to put the fleet at risk.

Combination: The Best of All Three

Training has been shown to reduce crashes, warehouse injuries, moving violations, and inspection violations. So investing time to get your drivers on-board with training will pay for the fleet. And a company culture that puts value on drivers’ time (a 30-minute online lesson compared to a three-hour safety meeting on a Saturday) tends to have better morale.

Using a combination of these methods means:

  • Constantly explaining the benefits of the rewards
  • Setting clear expectations that make it easy to avoid consequences
  • Heaping praise on those who “do the little things right.”

Rewards, discipline and social pressure can work together to make PRO-TREAD training and safety the new normal.

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