18 Feb Flexible Driver Safety Training Programs Offer High Value to Contract Delivery Services
By most measures, home delivery services are the fastest-growing segment of the transportation industry. This trend has put Fleet Response’s flexibility to the test to design safety programs that meet the unique needs of final-mile delivery contractors. Here are two examples.
In 2018, Amazon ordered 20,000 Sprinter vans, which would be leased to the independent contractors that comprise its delivery fleet. By the end of 2019, according to media reports, these delivery services had at least 30,000 vehicles on America’s roads. Many of these companies were startups, and they hired a lot of people who didn’t have previous commercial driving experience. The result was heavy wear and tear on equipment, and proliferation of accident and property damage claims.
“Owners were calling us to say they couldn’t get insurance unless they reduced the number of accidents,” says Jerry Veres, Certified Director of Safety at Fleet Response. “They’re hiring car drivers and putting them behind the wheel of a Sprinter van. It’s not that much bigger, but it’s very different. They were making all sorts of damage claims, and their coverage was getting dropped.”
Fleet Response developed a customized safety program that’s easy for these emerging businesses to implement while addressing the issue of insurability. The program focuses on driving, parking, and managing intersections. Veres says it emphasizes six core skills that do the most to deter accidents and damage: watching the road ahead, use of mirrors, selecting lanes, safe following distance, backing up, and choosing where to park.
All of the driver training is provided online and can be completed in about two hours, so it’s fast and affordable. In-person training is provided to the delivery company’s safety personnel, typically people who are new in that role.
“We don’t want to give drivers an online safety program and have them tossed into a truck without the proper supervision,” Veres says. “We train multiple people directly to be responsible for making safety part of the culture. They get everything that’s presented to the driver through our online training, and we work with them to make sure they know what to follow up on.”
As with all Fleet Response programs, the service includes online tools for tracking each driver’s progress and results, and for compliance with accident reporting regulations. The program has improved the insurability of companies that use it. Now, Veres says a handful of insurance companies are getting behind the program by subsidizing its cost to the contractor.
“Many of these transportation companies didn’t even exist two years ago, and it’s not an easy business,” Veres says. “They’re working on everything including cost structures, regulatory compliance, efficiency, legal exposures. Even the smallest accidents affect all of that. Our job is to help them put safe drivers on the road. The value in that is clear to them.” [Related article: 5 Meaningful Safety Data Points to Measure]
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According to the American Trucking Association, nearly 60,000 driving jobs went unfilled in 2019, and the shortage of drivers is expected to reach 160,000 over the coming decade. This is a costly problem for the independent delivery contractors at one of North America’s largest motor carriers.
The contractors were encouraged to hire applicants with at least a year of commercial driving experience, but because of the driver shortage, they often had to consider candidates who couldn’t meet that standard. New drivers were required to take a nine-day training course, which meant two weeks on the payroll before even getting a chance to prove they could do the job.
“I kept hearing from our clients that they couldn’t pick the candidates they wanted,” says Veres, who joined Fleet Response in 2015, after 19 years at FedEx Ground, including a decade in corporate safety. “They were telling me, ‘I really want to hire this guy, but I don’t want to spend nine days of training just to find out if he’s going to work out.”
As a certified safety training provider for the motor carrier, Fleet Response rebuilt the program for new drivers. The old program trained across a range of vehicles, from cargo vans to step vans to 26-foot straight trucks. However, new drivers typically start in the smallest of these, and only some of them ever go on to drive the larger trucks.
The new program provides training only for cargo vans, so it can be completed in four days. That makes it less expensive to hire the most promising candidates – even if they’re short on commercial driving experience. New hires complete online training at home, followed by practice time on a closed driving course and their road test. Then they’re able to move directly to three days of live route training, rather than three days in an unmarked vehicle as required under the old program.
“With our online training, new drivers get on the road sooner,” Veres says. “Later, if the owner wants to move an employee into a larger vehicle, he can choose to give them the additional training they need.”
After reviewing 18 months of data, Veres says the motor carrier found that cargo van drivers trained under the new program are performing better, not only compared to those trained the old way, but also compared to those who bypassed the new-driver training because of their experience.
“It’s allowing contractors to hire the people they want,” Veres says. “When they have the right people, everything runs better.”
To discuss the unique safety training needs in your fleet, contact Jodie Varner, Vice President of Client Engagement at Fleet Response, firstname.lastname@example.org.