Like so many occupational safety issues, many car accidents are preventable. If you play a role in your company’s commitment to safety, you can take simple steps to reinforce company vehicle safety.
It’s about much more than the bottom line. You just might save a life.
Most Americans don’t go a single day without getting behind the wheel. Whether you’re picking up the kids at school, making a quick run to the store or commuting to work, you get in the car every day and assume you’re being a safe, responsible driver.
However, when your employees are operating a company fleet vehicle or driving on official business, that assumption can open the door to potential safety incidents and legal liability. Like any other skill, safe driving is something you must practice and hone as the roads become more crowded and distractions can come from anywhere.
If you want to protect your company, your vehicles and – most importantly – your employees, you should routinely communicate your company vehicle safety procedures. Also, take every opportunity to share relevant data and lessons learned so they can understand and avoid repeating others’ mistakes.
What company vehicle safety training do your employees need?
Before you begin working with your employees on safe driving practices, you first need to gather empirical data on the kind of driving conditions they face on a regular basis. Through interviews, surveys and safety incident reports and near misses, you decide if you need to focus on some or all the following:
- Distracted driving
- Operating a vehicle in difficult weather conditions
- Driving long distances for business
- Product transport and delivery
- The differences between rural and city driving
- Traveling through areas where crime is a concern
- The size of the vehicle being operated
Each of these subjects requires specific training, clearly defined rules and regulations. Meet with your driving employees regularly to give them a refresher and update them on new developments.
What must you do on day one for new employees?
Your vehicle safety team should compile a standard checklist that will be applied uniformly to all new employees. Here are some helpful additions to that list:
- What training must be provided before someone can drive a company car?
- Does an employee need to acquire a new type of license, depending on the type of vehicle?
- How does the employee driving a company vehicle impact the company’s policy on substance use? (As times and laws change, you must update your policy to weigh in on the use of substances that may now be legal.)
As the employer, you must also do your due diligence:
- Complete a driving background check of any employee who might be driving on company business.
- Secure photocopies of each new worker’s driver’s license and insurance (verifying that both are current). It is wise to make a calendar reminder in each employee’s file when their driver’s license is set to expire so you can follow up and ensure they have renewed it on time.
As part of their initial onboarding:
- Provide employees with a copy of the company vehicle policy as part of the employee handbook.
- Ensure potential consequences for breaking the policies are understood.
- Have all employees sign and date a form confirming they read and will abide by the policy.
What is at stake when it comes to company vehicle safety?
Because driving is an integral part of many Americans’ lives, employees may shudder at the thought of attending a company vehicle safety meeting or class. It’s your job to quickly and simply explain why these classes matter.
And they do matter.
Inform your employees that a single moment of carelessness or inattentiveness behind the wheel can mean the difference between a normal day and an irreversible tragedy. This isn’t just about keeping your job or protecting the company’s reputation, this is about safety. Like all safety-related matters on the job, a mistake can lead to serious injury or even death.
How often should you meet with employees who drive for work?
You should meet with your employees regularly to address driving safety. For larger companies, that may mean at least once a quarter. A smaller company may need to meet at less regular intervals.
Map out what subjects you plan to address each meeting and communicate that plan in advance. It reinforces to your workforce that you put thought into each session, and they should, too.
Deliver safety trainings in advance of upcoming challenges. For instance, July and August are the ideal months to begin addressing driving in inclement winter weather – before temperatures drop and the snow and rain come more frequently.
At the beginning of each year, go over distracted driving. This is a subject that cannot be reinforced enough.
- Implement a zero tolerance policy for using a mobile device while operating a company car.
- Reinforce that zero tolerance means zero tolerance. There are no exceptions.
- Encourage employees to adopt this practice in their personal lives.
What if employees fear they’ll be blamed and punished for an accident?
During your company car use policy meetings, ensure employees understand the point of all vehicle safety rules is to keep them and others safe, not to catch and punish someone breaking the rules.
Accidents will happen, and when they do, your employees should know the steps they should take.
These accidents are also incredibly useful resources for future training sessions. Some accidents may result from unforeseen actions, and now that you have that knowledge, you can impart it to the rest of the workforce, so they can take steps to avoid such an accident in the future.
However, if an accident is determined to be the employee’s fault – and especially if the employee was clearly disregarding one or more company driving rules – your official policy should identify the consequences. They must be enforced equally.
What should you do if a car accident occurs in a company vehicle?
If an accident happens, you should instruct employees to:
- Seek immediate medical attention if they are injured
- See if people in other affected vehicles (if any) need medical attention
- Notify the police so they can file an official report
- Report it to the office immediately so you can inform the insurance company
- Have the employee undergo a drug test within 24 hours
- Speak with all employees involved
- Communicate with all other employees the nature of the accident and any lessons learned
Company cars or personal vehicles
If your organization has the resources, it’s recommended that employees use company cars and trucks when conducting business. There are several reasons this will increase your safety standards:
- Employees driving a company vehicle, especially one with a sign or logo, tend to drive more conscientiously as they are obviously representing your organization while on the road.
- You can ensure that your fleet of vehicles is being properly maintained and serviced. You have no such assurances on an employee’s personal vehicle. A routinely serviced company car or truck will have properly inflated tires and is less likely to have mechanical issues, which increases the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle.
- You can install monitors on company vehicles to help bring awareness to risk factors (e.g. braking hard or speeding) that the driver may exhibit.
If there is a reason your employees need to use their personal vehicle, your company policies should still clearly communicate what the rules are for this.
There are many pitfalls that could plague you, as an employer, when it comes to company vehicle safety. But with the proper policies in place, you set your employees up for success. There are many instances in HR just like this. Don’t get caught flat footed. Download and read our complimentary e-book: 7 most frequent HR mistakes and how to avoid them.