Setting up a Driver Safety Program – Interview with Balfour Beatty PLC, Part 2

This is the second in a series of three interviews I conducted with James Burrows of Balfour Beatty PLC. In part two, James discusses establishing a driver safety strategy and the first stage of the process:  assessing driver risk.

You can also listen to the full interview on the Fleet Safety Podcast.

Neil – Perhaps you could talk us through how you went about establishing the driver risk management process from the ground up because it really was a new initiative that you were leading. Could you talk us through that?

James – I personally went through probably about fifteen different risk assessments some of which we were already conducting within Balfour Beatty group, some we just found on the market place, went through them all in depth and sampled probably two or three in detail in terms of the back-end analysis as well. What we found was that there wasn’t anything really in the market that ticked our box exactly other than the Driver Risk Index™ and I think the reason for that is it was ahead of the game; it looks at behaviours and the situational risk that drivers are exposed to and tying the two together.

Now I guess where we were in this was that we’ve got a lot of vehicles out there and we make the vehicles as safe as we can but in actual fact it’s the grey matter that drives people and it’s that where it all goes wrong so a lot of our instances were happening because people were doing something they shouldn’t have been even though they knew they should have been driving within those boundaries that they’d been taught in the test. So it was this behavioural aspect that’s  influenced by a lot of things, so it wasn’t necessarily us going in there to drive or train them to a level, it was more us influencing their behaviours, so we went for a more coaching approach – which the driver risk index feeds into, so it wasn’t just the detail out the back of the Driver Risk Index, it was more so the management information that was provided that allowed us to tailor a driving training program on the back of the information we’d received and really drill down into the specific risks identified.

Neil –  Have you got any hints and tricks on getting the Driver Risk Index™ implemented within a business?

James – Instead of the big-bang approach we decided to first implement the scheme to a couple of hundred people. Initially we just sent out the link to the Driver Risk Index™ and offered  a paper based version as well. I wouldn’t say it failed miserably, but we had a bit of feedback initially, so what I would suggest is that you use the communication channels beforehand, tell people it’s coming, avoid the use of the word assessment’ or ‘test’; anything that could have a negative connotation kind of avoid, so what we did is we spoke about zero-harm and about safety and we were interested in getting people home at night and we wanted to make sure that we could do everything we could to make sure that happened and then people get more engaged within that program so that was the first stage before you roll out.

Once you’ve rolled out obviously you’ve got to provide the support mechanism and make sure everyone’s comfortable and make sure the technical side of things are all there as well, so just an internal problem we had was with IT so we had to make sure we had access to the website and it’s not blocked through any firewalls so just a few teething problems we experienced but it was really quickly resolved. What then happens typically is you get 50-60% of people through the driver risk index and then you have to mop up and really kind of remind people they’ve got to go through it, so if they don’t do it when they first see the email come through you have to give them that little push and we’ve done that and we normally assign someone in the business responsible and that normally works quite quickly, so we’ve had over a thousand drivers through and we’ve had 99% of people through in a week provided you’ve got that person responsible and it’s being pushed through and you’ve communicated it right then the chances are you’ll get them through quite quickly.

So at that stage once you’ve got all of the drivers in the system, it becomes very, very easy and the functionality of the management information system allows you to drill down from a holistic fleet risk right down to the individual risk as well, so we use that to prioritise as to who we are going to put through an intervention first of all and that’s typically high risk drivers and then we can look at the highest of the high risk drivers as well through the system and not only that, we look at the types of risk they are exposed to so we understand what part of the business they’re from, if they’re from the rail side of the business we know the types of risk they’re exposed to, the vehicle they drive.  So we build all of that situational risk that tied in with the Driver Risk Index™  giving us that extra ability to appreciate the behavioural risks that driver’s exposed to, So it could be for example aggression and then we’ll know the typical things they experience on the road and we can start to tailor the course around their needs, and it works quite well if you’ve got two or three on the course as well because what that means it that you get a bit of interaction going and people learn from one another as opposed to just the one to one that we have done a bit of in the past.

Neil – What’s your view on the relative merits of drivers to receiving their profile report by email or for the report just to go to the driver trainer and the manager? Is it favoured that the report is sent out to drivers or do you prefer to save the report for managers and driver trainers?”

James – It’s a bit of both actually.  First of all it’s good to have instantaneous feedback so once the driver’s completed the  Driver Risk Index™. it’s good for them to see the report, quite often they agree with it and say ‘actually yeah that models my behaviour perfectly’. There are occasions where drivers dispute that risk profile and say ‘well actually I don’t think that quite fits the bill’ but what we’ve found even in that scenario, once you start to talk to them they do start to understand a little bit more and actually can fit that to their behaviour pattern. So I would definitely recommend the report goes to the individual driver and then certainly it pays off to give the trainer a copy as well, so before any course we deliver we make sure the trainer’s got a copy just at hand so that they can go through on a one to one level the types of risk exposure that driver faces, so I’d definitely recommend that it goes to the driver and to the trainer as well.

Part 3