Choose Wisely

It is estimated that 70 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by driver error as opposed to mechanical problems with the vehicle. Some put this figure closer to 90 percent. While vehicle maintenance is certainly an important part of any safety program, it is clear that drivers are the key to preventing vehicle accidents.

To minimize vehicle accidents, a waste company must have safe drivers. A team of safe drivers is created through:

  1. Selection
  2. Screening
  3. Orientation and Initial Training
  4. Supervision
  5. Education and Ongoing Training
  6. Retention

Many managers consider driver selection to be key, as success will come much easier if the right people are hired in the first place. Selection is all about hiring drivers who are going to make good employees and operate the vehicles in a safe manner. The process begins with establishing hiring criteria.

The criteria that a waste company develops should represent a checklist of the minimum standards a prospective driver must meet. While there is no crystal ball to determine how a driver will perform from a safety standpoint after he or she is hired, factors such as age, truck driving experience, moving violations and at-fault accidents have statistically been shown to be good predictors of future safety performance.

However, a more quantitative approach to the driver selection/hiring process comes from using a matrix that assigns point values to the above factors, allowing a relative score to be determined for each applicant.

The maturity (age) of a driver has long been used by insurance providers and vehicle rental companies to determine acceptability and premiums. While chronological age is not always the sole factor that determines emotional maturity, overwhelming statistical evidence shows that drivers under 25 years of age have higher rates of both risk taking behavior and at-fault accidents. Studies showing decreased reaction time and increased accidents for drivers over age 65 are far less compelling, but are worth considering.

When it comes to prior truck driving experience, most waste companies don't want to put “rookies” behind the wheel. Conversely, many waste firms worry about poor driving habits that an experienced driver may have learned while working for another company. However, safely operating a waste truck is a special skill that is not learned overnight, and studies show that inexperienced drivers have more accidents.

An applicant's motor vehicle record (MVR) allows the waste company to look at prior moving violations and, in most cases, accidents involving the applicant. While one minor moving violation should not disqualify a candidate, a clear pattern of minor violations should raise red flags. Drivers with major violations, such as driving while intoxicated, should be avoided entirely, as many insurance carriers will not cover them.

As with moving violations, the nature and circumstances of each accident should be evaluated. Again, one minor accident may not indicate a problem driver, but beware a pattern of at-fault accidents.

Editor's Note: This article is the first in a series by the author on creating safe drivers.

Bruce A. Hooker
R.F. Mattei & Associates of CA Insurance Services
Sacramento, Calif.

Sample Driver Evaluation Matrix

Under 1 year = 3 pts 21 to 24 = 5 pts 3 or more = 12 pts 2 or more = 12 pts
1 to 3 years = 2 pts 25 to 29 = 3 pts 2 = 6 pts 1 = 6 pts
Over 3 years = 1 pt 30 to 65 = 2 pts 1 = 4 pts 0 = 2 pts
Over 65 = 3 pts 0 = 2 pts
36 month evaluation period for moving violations and accidents
12 Points or Fewer: Ideal 13-16 Points: Borderline Over 16 Points: Unacceptable