How to Keep Your Employees Safe on the Road

Straight country road with trees on the side, summer

Motor vehicle incidents are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the United States. Anyone who operates a motor vehicle as part of his or her job is at risk of being involved in a roadway crash. You can help your employees stay safe by creating a motor vehicle safety program, which will help to protect workers on and off the job.

Every 12 minutes someone dies in a motor vehicle crash, every 10 seconds an injury occurs and every five seconds a crash occurs. Many of these incidents occur during the workday or during the commute to and from work. Employers bear the cost for injuries that occur both on and off the job. By implementing a driver safety program in the workplace, you can greatly reduce the risks faced by your employees and their families while at the same time protect your company’s bottom line.

Safe Driving Program

Every employer, large or small, that permits their employees to drive company vehicles or requires them to drive as part of their job should create and implement a driver safety program.
The purpose of creating a driver safety program is as follows:

  • To save lives and to reduce the risk of life-altering injuries within your workforce;
  • To protect your organization’s human and financial resources; and
  • To guard against potential company and personal liabilities associated with crashes involving employees driving company vehicles or on company business.

Workplace driver safety programs not only make good business sense, but also are a good employee relations tool demonstrating that employers care about their employees. The program should establish company driving policies and requirements for those employees who drive on company business. The program must be designed to change driver attitudes, improve behavior and improve driving skills. By instructing your employees in basic safe driving practices and then rewarding safety-conscious behavior, you can prevent vehicle crashes and help your employees and their families avoid tragedy.

OSHA has worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) to develop a guideline to use to create a safe driving program for their companies. The publication represents a joint effort to reduce motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries in the nation’s workforce.

Among other things, the booklet outlines 10 steps for building a driver safety program in your workplace. These steps will be useful to any organization regardless of the size of the organization, type of traffic encountered, number of vehicles involved or whether employees drive company or personal vehicles for work purposes. Also included are real-life examples of successful safety programs, key traffic safety issues to address in the workplace, instructions for calculating your organization’s loss from motor vehicle crashes and a list of resources to help you fine-tune your program.

NETS’ 10-Step Program to Minimize Crash Risk

NETS created the following 10-step program guidelines for what an employer can do to improve traffic safety performance and minimize the risk of motor vehicle crashes. Following these steps helps to ensure that you hire capable drivers, only allow eligible drivers to drive on company business, train them, supervise them and maintain company vehicles properly. Adherence to these 10 steps can also help to keep your motor vehicle insurance costs as low as possible.

These steps are from the NETS Traffic Safety Primer: A Guidebook for Employers:

Step 1: Senior Management Commitment and Employee Involvement

The safety of an organization’s employees as they drive for work and to and from work is so important that it requires the attention of top-level management. Senior management can provide leadership, set policies and allocate resources (staff and budget) to create a safety culture. Actively encouraging employee participation and involvement at all levels of the organization is a good practice and will help the effort to succeed. Workers and their representatives must be involved in the initial planning phase.

Step 2: Written Policies and Procedures

A written statement emphasizing the commitment to reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries is essential to a successful program. Create a clear, comprehensive and enforceable set of traffic safety policies and communicate them to all employees. These are the cornerstones of an effective driver safety program. Post them throughout the workplace, distribute copies periodically and discuss the policies at company meetings. Offer incentives for sticking to the rules and point out the consequences of disregarding them. This booklet provides sample policies that can be adapted for use by your company.

Step 3: Driver Agreements

Establish a contract with all employees who drive for work purposes, whether they drive assigned company vehicles or drive their personal vehicles. By signing an agreement, the driver acknowledges awareness and understanding of the organization’s traffic safety policies, procedures and expectations regarding driver performance, vehicle maintenance and reporting of moving violations.

Step 4: Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Checks

Check the driving records of all employees who drive for work purposes. You must screen out drivers who have poor driving records since they are most likely to cause problems in the future. The MVR should be reviewed periodically to ensure that the driver maintains a good driving record. Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work and provide training where indicated.

Step 5: Crash Reporting and Investigation

Establish and enforce a crash reporting and investigation process. All crashes, regardless of severity, should be reported to the employee’s supervisor as soon as feasible after the incident. Company traffic safety policies and procedures should clearly guide drivers through their responsibilities in a crash situation. All crashes should be reviewed to determine their cause and whether or not the incidents were preventable. Understanding the root causes of crashes and why they are happening, regardless of fault, forms the basis for eliminating them in the future.

Step 6: Vehicle Selection, Maintenance and Inspection

Selecting, properly maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles is an important part of preventing crashes and related losses. Vehicles should be on a routine preventive maintenance schedule for servicing and checking safety-related equipment. Regular maintenance should be done at specific mileage intervals consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations. A mechanic should do a thorough inspection of each vehicle at least annually with documented results placed in the vehicle’s file.

Personal vehicles used for company business are not necessarily subject to the same criteria and are generally the responsibility of the owner. However, personal vehicles used on company business should be maintained in a manner that provides the employee with maximum safety and reflects positively on the company.

Step 7: Disciplinary Action System

Develop a strategy to determine the course of action after the occurrence of a moving violation and/or “preventable” crash. There are a variety of corrective action programs available; the majority of these are based on a system that assigns points for moving violations. The system should provide for progressive discipline if a driver begins to develop a pattern of repeated traffic violations and/or preventable crashes. The system should describe what specific action(s) will be taken if a driver accumulates a certain number of violations or preventable crashes in any pre-defined period.

Step 8: Reward/Incentive Program

Develop and implement a driver reward/incentive program to make safe driving an integral part of your business culture. Safe driving behaviors contribute directly to the bottom line and should be recognized as such. Positive results are realized when driving performance is incorporated into the overall evaluation of job performance. Reward/incentive programs typically involve recognition, monetary rewards, special privileges or the use of incentives to motivate the achievement of a predetermined goal or to increase participation in a program or event.

Step 9: Driver Training and Communication

Provide continuous driver safety training and communication. Even experienced drivers benefit from periodic training and reminders of safe driving practices and skills. It is easy to become complacent and not think about the consequences of our driving habits.

Step 10: Regulatory Compliance

Ensure adherence to highway safety regulations. It is important to clearly establish which, if any, local, state and/or federal regulations govern your vehicles and/or drivers. These regulations may involve, but may not necessarily be limited to the:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)
  • National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Employment Standards Administration (ESA)

This booklet Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes can be downloaded from OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.

In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has also created a fact sheet that recommends ways employers can keep workers safe when driving or riding in a motor vehicle on the job. It outlines components of a successful motor vehicle safety program. It ends with a checklist that employers can use to implement the recommendations or to audit existing driver safety programs. This fact sheet, “Preventing Work-Related Motor Vehicle Crashes,” can be downloaded from NIOSH at www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2015-111/.

George Kennedy is NUCA’s Vice President of Safety.