Keeping Tabs

Designing a comprehensive driver supervision program.

Editor's note: This article continues the driver safety series that appeared in the April, June and September issues. Previous articles focused on driver selection, screening, and orientation and training.

The fourth key to driver safety, supervision, relates to the measures that a waste company takes to verify that its employees are driving defensively and following established safety rules.

Most waste companies give a potential hire a short road test before sending that person out alone in a truck. However, drivers are well aware that they need to drive as safely as possible while being observed during a road test. Thus, such a test does not always paint a true picture of how that person will operate a truck when he or she thinks that no one is watching. Therefore, a supervision program is the only way that a waste company can ensure that its vehicles are being operated safely once they leave the yard.

A variety of methods can be used in an effective supervision program, including clandestine road observations, global positioning system (GPS) technology, and feedback from customers and the general public.

A driver road observation program begins with developing a checklist-style form of the driving skills and habits to be evaluated. These items should include skills such as following distance, speed, lane positioning, right and left turns, and backing.

Again, while supervisors can use this checklist to evaluate a driver during a ride-along, the best observations are made when the driver is not aware of being observed. Both good and bad behavior should be documented, and the results should be reviewed with the driver soon after the observation takes place.

GPS technology allows supervisors and safety managers to remotely monitor drivers, tracking the exact locations of vehicles, which can have a positive impact on productivity as well as safety. Furthermore, many systems can relay exception reports to management based on parameters such as speed, hard stops and excessive idle time. As with road observation reports, when questionable driving behavior is identified using GPS, the incident should be documented and reviewed with the driver. The mere fact that a vehicle is monitored by GPS is often enough to encourage many drivers to operate their trucks more responsibly.

The final aspect of supervision involves using the “eyes of the community.” Most waste companies have their name and phone number boldly displayed on their trucks, and some firms have gone a step further by subscribing to a phone service, which gives motorists a toll-free number and code to call regarding a driver's on-road behavior. While comments from customers or the general public can sometimes provide useful information, they should not be relied upon as the sole method of monitoring drivers' on-road behavior. Many people will not take the time to report even the most egregious driving they observe, while others may call to complain about issues unrelated to driving safety. However, when legitimate safety concerns are identified through community feedback, the incident should be documented, and the driver should be given a chance to respond.
Bruce A. Hooker
R.F. Mattei & Associates of CA Insurance Services
Sacramento, Calif.