Coach Your Way to Safer Drivers: How Construction Fleets Can Take a Play From Sports

Developing a strong and proactive safety culture inclusive of coaching strategies creates conscientious drivers dedicated to truly improving their driving.
By Jason Palmer
April 8, 2020

Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report. Of the most dangerous occupations, truck transportation and construction rank in the top five. Given the dangers, including the risk of on-the-job fatalities, it is key to take action to ensure the safety of drivers, operators and construction sites. The benefits of driver coaching are measurable and should not be overlooked by safety-focused construction managers.

Not only does coaching improve safety, it also gives managers the opportunity to strengthen relationships with drivers and avoid major expenses associated with dangerous driving. The best video-based safety programs—those with a fully managed service—streamline the process of identifying risky driving habits through triggers and observations, prioritize incidents by level of severity and provide recommended coaching workflows. Managers can leverage these insights to effectively coach their workers and proactively mitigate risk of injury or collision. In fact, this type of coaching for construction fleets is the same concept professional sports teams use—regularly turning to game films to prepare to face the next opponent. Coaches, in professional sports and in construction fleets, use this footage to help players and drivers understand what they did well and where they need improvement.

How to Coach Drivers

Everyone has been coached at some point in their life, but when dealing with safety in a work environment, managers should embrace proven best practices. Construction sites are rife with inherent dangers: uneven driving surfaces, lack of signage, heavy equipment and distraction-inducing loud noises. While technology offers part of the solution, incorporating coaching is the only way to reap the full benefits of a video-safety program, as measured by real safety improvements.

To be successful, managers must recognize their own coaching style and how it may be perceived by employees. The most effective coaches organize specifics, including examples, ideas and feedback, prior to the meeting, optimizing the value of coaching sessions. The graphic below depicts the three KPIs essential to an effective coaching program.

While video-based safety technology objectively captures incidents on the road, the importance of a one-on-one discussion with the driver to gain greater perspective on what transpired cannot be overstated. Constructive conversations regarding best practices ensure the coach provides the driver with the best training and tools to improve.

After an incident, the manager should quickly schedule a conversation with the driver. Instead of criticizing, effective coaches often allow drivers to reflect on what can be improved. Having the ability to replay a video can be eye-opening, as many drivers overlook the ways they put themselves and others in danger. Technology also allows managers to recognize drivers’ success. If a driver reacts perfectly to a risk on the road, it is important to acknowledge and encourage these habits.

Video can also be used to coach other on-site workers, such as spotters, to ensure standard operating procedures (SOPs) are followed. Fleets that deploy multiple cameras and extended recording capability benefit from 360-degree visibility around the vehicle and additional video capture. This allows construction managers to have eyes not just on the driver, but also on the entire worksite.

Managers must remind drivers that they are serving as “coaches” not “cops,” and their purpose is to help—not punish—drivers. When discussing safety scores, it is important to disclose the scoring criteria and offer tangible examples of how to improve scores. Ensuring transparency helps drivers understand the program, leading them to trust their coaches and know the exact ways they can improve their driving.

The most effective way to instill safe driving habits is by incorporating technology, expert review and coaching. To identify risky trends or specific drivers in need of additional training, construction managers can pair video recordings with advanced analytics to know who and what to prioritize when coaching. Doing so saves managers time because they can home in on the riskiest of drivers and habits rather than conducting generic safety courses for every driver.

The Benefits of Coaching

Beyond having safer drivers and construction sites, a proactive approach to safety can save money and improve the bottom line. Through coaching, managers ensure SOPs are being followed, reducing workers’ compensation claims. Additionally, managers who invest in this technology and coach their drivers to safer habits often see decreased insurance premiums. With the strict budgets prevalent in the construction industry, it is very important that managers mitigate risky habits that could lead to additional unplanned expenses.

Developing a strong and proactive safety culture inclusive of coaching creates conscientious drivers dedicated to truly improving their driving. By introducing a safety technology, coaches can lean into the data and quickly identify risky trends and drivers to prioritize. The benefits are clear: enhanced safety, stronger relationships and decreased cost. By investing in technology and recognizing the importance of individualized coaching, construction fleets set themselves up for the win.

by Jason Palmer
Jason Palmer is COO of SmartDrive Systems, a leading provider of video-based safety and transportation intelligence. As an expert in fleet safety and risk mitigation, Jason helps fleets in a variety of industries, including construction, identify and eliminate the riskiest driving habits through the use of technology and effective coaching.

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