‘Arrive alive’ must be more than a catchy line

Effective fleet management must include a driver training program

The number 1 cause of death for people aged four to 34 is an incident involving an automobile.

Transport Canada statistics establish, on average, 3,000 people die per year in automobile incidents either as a driver, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist. Both British Columbia and Alberta’s average fatality rate is around 400 per year.

As a society, we tolerate these numbers because we consider them accidents and often blame the road (“killer highway”) or the environment (“black ice”). I have been involved in collision reconstruction for more than 36 years and can count on one hand the number of incidents that would be classified as non-preventable — almost all motor vehicle incidents have an element of driver error.

Fatigue is a major contributing factor in incidents. Workers are often involved in significant physical activity and the last part of their day is spent driving home or back to the camp when they are very tired.

Inattention also plays a big role. We tend to drive unconsciously because we find it easy to do. In reality, driving is a very complex task that should have our undivided attention. About 90 per cent of the driving process is visual. We need to be looking in the right place at the right time for the right thing. Many young drivers are killed or seriously injured because their first experience at a driving task leads to a loss of control and the collision is the result of a situation they were not prepared for.

In the oil and gas industry, the driving done at work can be in poor conditions due to weather and travelling on resource roads, which are shared with heavy commercial traffic.

Fleet management can be a very costly process and there is a significant investment in the vehicles and equipment used by an organization — but effective fleet management is a must. Currently, regulations and compliance under the National Safety Code (NSC) require organizations to manage their company’s on-road safety performance. Insurance premiums are established based on an organization’s incident/claims history. Organizations that have fleets must be able to acquire fleet insurance and must maintain their safety certificate under the NSC to conduct business.

Every organization also needs to have a driver training program that is sustainable and meets its needs based on root cause analysis.

Behavioural model

The training program needs to be sustainable and one of the best ways to do this is by using “the behavioural change model.” Most people who drive believe they are good drivers and that they will never be involved in a motor vehicle incident. Step one of the model is to create awareness of the risks and the causes. This needs to involve all employees within the organization. The awareness process needs to be built into orientation and it should be ongoing to evolve with changing activities. The second part is assessment, which will often begin during the awareness process as individuals start to self assess their driving ability. Others will have to be assessed based on past performance considering violations, complaints and incidents. Employees should have an actual driving assessment or review done at least every three years. This can often be done internally during actual operations so that it does not take resources and equipment away from the operation. This process can be valuable in determining who needs training first and in what area.

The third part is motivation, which needs to involve all levels within the organization. Driving safety needs to be a value that is supported by senior and middle management. Everyone needs to see driver training as a value and not a punishment for poor performance. Forcing someone to take a defensive driving course because he backed into a fixed object is not motivating.

Once the first three elements are in place, the organization then needs to begin the action portion, which is the actual delivery of training. Driver training needs to be specific to the needs of the organization. Regardless of whether you deliver the training internally or contract an outside provider, make sure you have the training customized to meet your specific needs. Delivering a defensive driving course when backing up is your issue is a good example of what not to do.

Most individuals go through the licensing and training process around the age of 16 when they first obtain their driver’s licence. Very few people take any additional driver training courses, during the rest of

their driving careers, even though there will be many changes involving technology and techniques.

Finally, the most important component is the support of the training program and the employees who are taking the training. The long-term objective is to change the behaviour of the employees to improve their driving skills and to focus their attention on the art of driving (conscious, task specific) rather than the act of driving (unconscious, inattention).

As the training program is rolled out, fleet managers will begin to see a significant return on investment as incidents are reduced. Driver training will also improve maintenance, vehicle replacement and fuel costs over time.

Organizations must ensure workers understand best practices for workplace driving and are motivated to follow them for the right reason — safety.
Grant Aune is the president and CEO of Advantage Fleet Services, headquartered in Chilliwack, B.C. For more information, visit www.advantagefleet.com or call 1-(866)-433-2374.

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2014 issue of Canadian Oil & Gas Safety