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How to Curb Employees’ Bad Driving

Delivery driver sits in driver's seat, checks address on envelope to be delivered

More than half of drivers admit to engaging in risky behavior, a AAA survey found, making it incumbent upon organizations to try to keep their employees safe when they are behind the wheel.

“Drivers tell us it’s getting worse out there,” said Bob Gerlach, vice president of global health and safety for UPS. “Traffic is much more aggressive lately.”

The company, which typically has about 100,000 drivers on the road, plus even more during the holiday season, prioritizes driver training and safety, telling drivers, “ ‘Eyes on the road, mind on the road,’ ” Gerlach said. “You don’t want to become involved in somebody else’s mistake.”

And mistakes can easily occur when drivers are distracted or driving dangerously.

The survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found almost 25 percent of drivers surveyed admitted to excessive speeding and almost 35 percent said they were distracted or driving aggressively in the previous 30 days. Small percentages admitted to engaging in all three behaviors: speeding, aggressive driving and distracted driving, or to being impaired.

“This is probably an underestimate of what people are actually doing,” said Rebecca Steinbach, a senior researcher with the foundation.

“It only takes one bad decision to fatally injure someone,” Steinbach said, noting that although a driver may feel confident about their driving abilities, “fellow drivers might not be so conscientious.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates more than 30,400 people died in motor vehicle crashes during the first nine months of 2023, down about 4.5 percent from 2022.

2021 marked the first year that fatalities topped 30,000 for the first nine months of the year, and they have yet to fall to pre-pandemic levels.

In 2021, the most recent year for which full NHTSA data is available, 1.7 million crashes involving injuries occurred, while 4.3 million more involved property damage only.

To help hone its drivers’ road safety skills in 2023, UPS provided more driving and delivery simulators around the country. The company gives classroom training and hands-on training, while its simulators use virtual reality to mimic driving experiences before drivers hit the road.

“Our greatest investment is our human capital,” Gerlach said. “They are an asset of the organization, so we protect the asset.”

Safety and training are also priorities for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, one of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage distributors. The company has about 3,000 drivers with commercial driver’s licenses and about 9,000 more in sales and merchandising who use their own vehicle or a company-owned vehicle, said Kay Yoder, vice president environmental, health, safety, security and business continuity.

 “It’s our responsibility to prepare our drivers and only put safe drivers on the road,” Yoder said.

That can be a protection not only for the driver and other motorists, but also for the organization.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers can face “liability created by an employee who engages in inappropriate driving conduct that causes injury to a third party,” said Daniel Kaplan, partner at law firm Foley & Lardner.

If an employee causes an accident that leads to injuries or property damage and the aggrieved party seeks compensation, their employer might be viewed as the one having “deep pockets,” Kaplan said, and the plaintiffs may try for a big settlement.

And if an employee is injured, it could result in a workers’ compensation claim or a potential violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s general duty clause to keep workplaces safe.

Kaplan advises his clients to review the driving record of everyone who drives for work and recommends implementing a safe driving policy. That includes spelling out conduct that is prohibited, such as driving under the influence or using a cell phone while driving.

The National Safety Council (NSC) offers a Safe Driving Toolkit for human resource professionals with information on distracted driving, impairment and fatigue, and how to implement a safety policy.

The council also offers defensive driving courses and is about to launch a fleet safety program for employees who drive passenger cars, said Ryan Pietzsch, program technical consultant, driver safety, education and training at the NSC.

Pietzsch describes it as a sort of “refresher training to knock out bad habits.”

He also recommends that HR professionals check to make sure that anyone driving for the company has a valid driver’s license, that they are qualified to drive the type of vehicle they plan to operate, and that this information is documented to protect the employer.

Celebrating Safety

Both UPS and Southern Glazer’s celebrate the accomplishments of their safe drivers.

UPS has established a Circle of Honor, which recognizes drivers who have at least 25 years of accident-free driving. More than 10,000 drivers across four continents are part of the circle.

Southern Glazer’s Elite Safe Driver Program recognizes drivers who have gone at least five years without a preventable collision.

Safe drivers receive a ring, which Yoder said resembles a Super Bowl ring, and drivers receive a diamond for each additional year of safe driving. They can receive a maximum of 13 diamonds, and for every year of safe driving after that they are awarded $1,000. Currently the company has more than 1,300 drivers in the program, Yoder said.

She said honoring safe driving is important because “drivers are really the backbone of the organization.”

Susan Ladika is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.


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