- By Valerie Weadock
- Dec 01, 2003
EVEN in the worst of weather, Santa can depend on Rudolph to deliver him and
his famous bag of goodies to millions of rooftops, safe and sound. But with a
shortage of flying reindeer and magical sleighs, ensuring your employees and/or
products are safely transported can be more daunting than sliding down a
An estimated 3 percent of the vehicles on U.S. highways are licensed for
commercial use; yet, these vehicles will be involved in more than 40 percent of
all fatal traffic accidents this year, according to the National Transportation
Safety Board. Annually, the National Association of Insurance and Financial
Advisors says 66 percent of company vehicles are the subject of insurance
claims, and 83 percent of commercial drivers are involved in aggressive driving
In addition to tangible losses, businesses also must deal with bad PR when an
employee driving a vehicle that prominently displays a company's name cuts off,
tailgates, or otherwise angers another motorist.
Beyond the Sticker
They can't accompany drivers on the road, so many
companies have given the public responsibility for monitoring and reporting poor
driving behaviors through the use of decal systems. The decal provides motorists
with a phone number or Web site where they can report an incident with a company
vehicle. While these systems can help you to identify problematic behaviors,
Smith System takes the process one step further with its Web-based SmithSAFE
program. By integrating monitoring and training components, SmithSAFE is
designed not only to identify, but also to change poor driving behaviors.
As with similar programs, you begin SmithSAFE by placing decals on your fleet
vehicles. The decals provide motorists with a phone number to call to report
driving behavior, both good and bad, and an identification number specific to
that vehicle. Operators trained to gather facts (ID number, incident, location,
weather, etc.) from even the most irate of drivers answer the calls. This
information is then entered into a database.
After each call, a SmithSAFE administrator verifies the motorist's story and
correlates the call with a specific customer vehicle. The administrator then
e-mails or faxes the company a Motor Vehicle Observation Report (MOR), which
details the call and recommends countermeasures for the driver. In addition to
MORs, customers also receive monthly reports on drivers with repeat complaints,
call frequency, management response analysis, zero activity, and the percentage
of reports returned. Reports include information for the current period, the
previous period, the same period during the prior year, and historical data.
They can be accessed anytime via the Internet and can be sorted for specific
locations or regions and for specific users.
Steering in the Right Direction
Program statistics predict that 80
percent of your drivers will never receive a call. And while you may be tempted
to terminate those drivers who do receive complaints, don't just yet--they're
not necessarily a lost cause. According to Smith System, 10 percent of the
drivers in the SmithSAFE program receive one call and never receive another. An
additional 10 percent of drivers receive repetitive calls, reflecting unsafe
behavior or attitudes, which Smith System says can be resolved with simple
Realizing you're not a counselor, the program does it for you. Each MOR
includes recommended countermeasures for the type of behavior observed. For
example, if a motorist reported your employee was tailgating him/her, the report
would have a "tailgating" link, which you could click on for information on how
to counsel your driver about this behavior.
If even with help your counseling skills are lacking, the reports also
recommend other countermeasures ranging from videos and computer-based training
to on-the-road training. Conveniently, these additional materials and services
are available through Smith System; however, depending on the package, they may
be at additional charge to the SmithSAFE program.
Because driver counseling and training is such an integral component of the
program, each incident report includes a dropdown menu to record the action or
countermeasure taken. Additional fields allow for notes on the driver's
reaction. When a supervisor indicates countermeasures have been taken, the
system records the incident as resolved, which is reflected in one of the
monthly e-mail reports.
In the spirit of positive reinforcement, the SmithSAFE program also records
the complimentary calls your drivers receive and acknowledges them with a
Through a combination of training, monitoring,
reporting, and intervention, the SmithSAFE program appears to be one of the more
proactive approaches to fleet monitoring available. It can help to save lives
and money, including the costs of employee turnover. "It's truly a complete
picture," says Frank Powers, vice president strategic projects and marketing for
If you're still not convinced, the program includes one more component to
help you make up your mind: a guarantee. If you don't experience a 10 percent
reduction in collisions in the first year, Smith System will give you your money
back. With commercial vehicle collisions costing employers more than $50 billion
each year, a 10 percent savings might not get you a flying reindeer, but it
could buy lots of presents.
This article originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.