Targeting Your Driver Training

In this article, Mark Edwards looks at the basics of how your driver risk management can be targeted for maximum effect and compliance and minimum cost.

In over 30 years of involvement in all things driving and attempting to change the face of driver and road user safety, there has been one undeniable constant. That is, that with regard to changing driver behaviours for the better, the 'system' moves exceedingly slowly. When you think about it, it's really quite an odd thing. After all, driving tends to be a major focus of bar room chit chat and whenever there's a radio phone in on the subject, everyone wants to have their two-penny worth.

However, the simple fact is that legislative, political, administrative and social mores with regard to road safety evolution are probably about 20 years behind the realities of what can be done now and, it has to be said, it is the vehicle manufacturers who have likely done more than any other body to improve road user safety.

Time and time again in research aimed at finding out what irks drivers most about others' behaviour, the very things drivers complain about are the things they do to others. Everyone hates tailgating but almost every driver has had a (at least) near miss because he or she was following too closely.

People bemoan other road users for their signalling (or lack of it) but give not a conscious thought to their own.

And why is it that when rural dwellers call on the authorities to lower the speed limit through their village, the first people who fall foul of the new limit's enforcement are invariably those very same villagers?

I could go off on one here about hypocrisy and lack of understanding between road users but that's probably best left for the time being…

My point is this. Now that there is ever more need and more online opportunities to target drivers who would benefit from practical training without necessarily resorting to a fleet-wide training programme, the time has never been better to gauge the true training needs of drivers.

In the old days, most relatively competent (and experienced) drivers could (and were expected to be able to) hop from one type of vehicle or driving environment to another as the needs of their employment dictated. Car to van? No problem. Car to van with trailer? No problem. Van to 7.5 tonne truck? No problem. Truck to off-road 4x4? Easy.

And, if a driver fell off the road because they didn't deal with a skid early enough or they rammed someone from behind because they were travelling too closely, well they were just 'unlucky'. Not 'incompetent' or 'insufficiently trained'.

Whilst some things in driving change exceedingly slowly, some things in society move with more alacrity. And whilst we might like to think that a driving licence bestows upon its user the competence and ability to pilot any vehicle to which they are legally entitled - it doesn't.

Now more than ever it's incumbent on employers and managers to ensure that they provide training for drivers as their and their work's needs change and evolve. And of course these responsibilities are enshrined both in common sense and in law. As importantly, in these times, the money saved through having less crashes or from improved fuel efficiency can make huge differences to your bottom line.

The new breeds of online profiling, e-learning and reporting functions give those responsible the opportunity to focus on drivers' individual training needs and select for them the widest range of more specialised training interventions.

So, if the MD has a driver does that driver have the knowledge and training to keep them both out of trouble?

Has the guy you are going to ask to use the minibus next week ever actually driven one before?

The young sales rep, taking his first company car - has he ever driven anything over 1 litre?

The engineer who'll have to go off-road at any time - does he/she know how to handle the vehicle you'll give them?

The negotiator who'll being changing her patch to one of the less savoury parts of the city - is she anxious of lone driving there?

How about those four drivers who had quite bad crashes last year? Have you offered them any sort of post-incident intervention? Investigation? Confidence building?

Nobody seems to understand what their latest cars' active safety systems are or how they work?

If we have to clear out the remote store, who'll drive the Land Rover and trailer?

Four American employees are coming to work in the UK for two years - what do you need to do?

And why have three of your drivers had to take time off work thanks to 'whiplash', after being rear-ended at roundabouts?

Why is there so much difference between Janet and John's fuel costs, when they do similar mileages in similar driving environments?

These types of questions and considerations are not difficult to make but those with almost any degree of responsibility for other drivers do need to make them.

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