Safety starts with driver selection

ONE of the unique features of commercial and heavy vehicle fleet operators is that their income-generating assets require operators. Put simply, trucks can’t drive themselves (yet).

Many fleet operators will say it’s hard to find ‘good’ drivers and therefore are willing to cut corners. Choosing the wrong employee in any company is a mistake. Choosing the wrong driver in a fleet situation is a disaster waiting to happen.

It would probably better to leave the vehicle in the yard than to employ a driver who shouldn’t be on the road. Quite aside from causing damage to company and third-party property, poor drivers pose a serious danger to themselves, the public and your company’s reputation.

Identifying and recruiting quality employees is a key area of risk management in commercial and heavy motor vehicle fleets. In addition to the usual selection criteria (e.g. employment history, competency and experience), the driving skills and history of an prospective employee must be taken into consideration.

Most policies provide broad and generous cover for all drivers, with few, if any restrictions. However, clients and brokers must be aware of any conditions (e.g. minimum driver age, minimum experience and/or exclusions) that may have been imposed if the insured has a poor loss history or is in a high risk sector.

While many clients claim to employ ‘only drivers aged at least 25 years, have at least two years’ driving experience and no accidents or conviction’, the reality is that most professional drivers have some blemishes on their driving records.

It is strongly recommended that prospective employees complete a driver’s declaration and obtain a print-out of their licence history. These declarations are readily available from most fleet insurers and provide a legally-binding account of the driver’s accident and insurance record. Not surprisingly, many drivers treat these forms more seriously than their job application itself.

State traffic authorities can provide detailed licence records, including the date of issue, licence classes and previous driving offences, convictions and penalties, for a small fee. All prospective employees should provide these records prior to an offer of employment and then annually.

With the completed driver’s declaration and licence history in hand, the fleet owner can then make a better decision about the candidate’s suitability for employment and potential risk to the fleet’s insurance policy.

Common sense must prevail, as many drivers have had incidents in the past, which must be weighed up with the importance and demands of the driving role.

For example, a plumber’s apprentice who occasionally drives a medium rigid vehicle may pose less risk than a driver of B double doing long-haul work. Likewise, a previous loss of licence due to a minor camera offence during a double demerit period might be viewed differently to a more serious offences, such as drink/drug, reckless or furious driving.

Some good rules of thumb are to only select drivers who have:

  • At least two years’ driving experience in class or within the lower licence class
  • Lost no more than 8 demerit points during the past three years
  • Committed no serious driving or criminal offences in the past five years, and
  • Recorded two or less at-fault accidents during the past five years.

Most fleet insurers and brokers are happy, and generally encourage, an opportunity to assist clients with driver selection. Brokers can also provide access to specialist service providers, such as driver training or risk management programs.

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