Keeping Your Drivers & Others Safe on the Road
by Darin Douglas, CEO, Lowe Roofing, Inc., & president, Merge 3 Technology, Inc.
(Editor’s Note: Darin Douglas began roofing in 1997 after graduating from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. Lowe Roofing, Inc., is a family-owned roofing company that has been in operation since 1975 in South Dakota and Wyoming. Merge 3 Technology, Inc., helps contractors track and control their safety processes and efforts on a daily basis. Douglas also served on the WSRCA Board of Directors for nine years and was the chair of the Safety and Health Committee and Low-Slope Committee.)
The task of getting team members and materials to and from projects often requires the use of a vehicle. Cars, pick-up trucks, platform trucks, dump trucks, and cranes all require operation on the open road. Driver safety could mean life or death for your team members, as well as others on the road. Make sure your team has been trained before they hit the road and that company vehicles are in safe running condition when used.
The first item in making sure your drivers are safe is making sure your vehicles are reliable. Weekly or daily walk-arounds are a must to make sure proper maintenance is being done to keep your vehicles in running shape. Provide your team with an inspection checklist they can complete and a log that shows specific areas of the vehicle are checked and cleared for use. Areas to look at are things like working headlights, turn signals, windshield wipers, rearview and side mirrors, back-up alarms, tires, and anything else that can affect the driver when operating the vehicle in and around other cars and people. Monthly inspections should entail a more in-depth look into your vehicle to make sure all is running correctly. These inspections should include things like the brakes, oil, hydraulics, attachment points, clutch, wheels, belts, batteries, and safety guards. When your team members are driving your vehicles, they need to be confident that they are in a safe running condition. Breaking down on the side of the road is a very unsafe situation.
Now that the vehicle has been cleared for use, making sure you have an appropriately trained and licensed driver behind the wheel is a must. According to the National Safety Council, every day at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes. This means that every time your drivers are on the road, they need to be on point and as safe as possible. Start by developing a well-defined safe driving policy within your company. Your insurance company will have numerous resources to help you build your policy as will trade associations and local county and city governments. Include various team members in the policy-making process via your company safety committee and management participation is a must.
Some policy basics would be along the lines of: company vehicles are only to be operated by properly licensed and approved team members; company vehicles are to be used only for their intended and designed use; all accidents and or tickets are to be report immediately to the home office; drivers and passengers operating or riding in a company vehicle must wear seat belts; and team members shall not operate a company vehicle when his/her abilities to do so have been impaired, such as fatigue, illness, injury, prescription medications, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Obviously, there will be much more to include but make sure the policy spells out your company expectations and the discipline that comes with breaking policy.
Cell phone use when in and or operating a company vehicle should be spelled out in detail within your policy. Texting while driving has become a significant problem, with studies showing an estimated 25% of all accidents involve a driver talking or texting on the phone. There are three kinds of distractions when driving: manual distraction, which is anything that takes your hands of the wheel during operation; visual distraction, which takes the operator’s eyes off the road; and cognitive distraction, which is anything that pulls the operator’s mind away from driving. Composing a text covers all of these distractions, and studies have shown voice to text is more distracting than manually typing out a text.
The hazard of driving doesn’t just rear its head when driving on the clock. Your team members drive to and from the home office every day for work and often their personal time will be spent driving children and loved ones around. A good company safety policy followed by solid, consistent training will help your team members drive safely on the job and off. In turn, they will pass those lessons along to their family and friends, making the roads a little safer for everyone.