Effectively influencing driver safety performance
Stuart Gemmell, risk control manager, Gallagher Bassett International Limited

Driving as a requirement for work still produces more death and injury than any other work activity. Many factors affect the way drivers choose to drive and to what degree they pay attention to road traffic law and company safety policy on driving. We often focus on enhancing driving skills through on road training or use of online resources, yet in many cases organisations do not realise their desired objectives of minimising avoidable collisions. Why? Because skill is generally not the issue, it is influence and capability to apply known skills. This session will highlight where we need to focus attention in order to effect real change in safety performance – effectively influencing driver behaviour.

Companies can spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on driver training and have little impact on collision and accident rates because the fundamentals of driver behaviour are not being addressed, according to Stuart Gemmell, risk control manager at Gallagher Bassett International Limited.

Gemmell, who will deliver a plenary session on effectively influencing driver safety performance at this year’s Commercial Fleet Van & Truck event at Millbrook Proving Ground on 20 September, will draw on the company’s data which shows how driver behaviour is changed through other influences and practices.

He said: “We work with companies who can spend around £100,000 a year on in-vehicle driver skills training yet this fails to have a positive effect on collision rates.
“That’s not to say driver skills training doesn’t have its place, particularly as a refresher or when new, inexperienced drivers are employed, but it has little effect in influencing  driver safety behaviour; that’s achieved much more subtly by raising self-awareness, it is also cheaper.”

Driver behaviour is influenced by a range of factors including stress levels, which could be work induced or personal, or simply because someone is running late. Cameras linked to vehicle telematics are useful for identifying risky driving, for example, rapid acceleration and harsh braking, thereby using the technology proactively as opposed to just reactively, which is far more likely.

“It’s not about punishing people, though,” Gemmell said. “It’s a question of raising the issues with a driver, once they are aware of their behaviour behind the wheel, it usually changes.”
Gemmell employs a number of specially designed and academically evidenced psychological and human-factors based driver behaviour models to encourage drivers to evaluate their driving. Tackled appropriately through line management feedback, it influences behaviour behind the wheel for the better. It then has a knock-on effect; on the company’s safety record as drivers have fewer accidents whilst the number of speeding tickets issued and red light violations also drops.
He added: “We know most violations occur when drivers are under pressure, which can be self-inflicted or perceived to be imposed by the organisation so how drivers are managed is extremely important. We steer away from blame and look at ways in which line managers can influence driver behaviour for the better. We have found improving collision rates isn’t down to individual driving skills but rather, raising driver self-awareness. Driver skills training is important, but the emphasis should be on what happens afterwards.”