Setting up a Driver Safety Program – Interview with Balfour Beatty PLC, Part 3

This is the third in a series of three interviews I conducted with James Burrows of Balfour Beatty PLC. In part three, James discusses selecting training interventions to reduce identified risks and geting senior management buy in to fleet safety programmes, as well as Balfour Beatty’s future plans in the area of driver safety.

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

Neil – We often say that the Driver Risk Index™ report is an intervention itself, but the heart of it the risk assessment – whatever risk assessment you use – is the objective of  identifying driver risk. Can we talk a little about interventions and the type of intervention approach that you’ve adopted?

James – We monitor collisions quite closely because we leaped in with the Balfour Beatty insurance department so we do keep a close eye on those and just by rolling out the Driver Risk Index we saw a drop in collision rates and that was with doing no kind of intervention wha soever. So you are looking at the monthly-monthly collisions  drops every time we rolled out the Driver Risk Index, so all we typically do is we follow that up quite quickly with intervention training. We started life out basing all the intervention training around the driver simulator that we purchased three years ago and that had significant results and we saw a 40% reduction in collisions based on that type of training. I think we’ve evolved over the years and now we’ve developed quite a suite of courses that do range from one to one on-road coaching, simulator coaching, workshop based assessments and we’ve seen different levels of collision reductions.

The highest we’ve achieved has been no more than six people on a course and typically on that course we’ll do base checks like vehicle checks, eyesight checks, driver license checks as a starting point. W e’ll involve a lot of awareness raising and showing people the consequences of when it goes wrong but we’ll also show them the benefits of when it goes right, so things like saving fuel, getting home on time and all the rest of it and then we tie it in with typical behavioural coaching slots around the Driver Risk Index™ reports, so that sometimes helps to be one to one level but sometimes it helps to be in a group environment where people can just share information and also talk about typical scenarios that unfold in front of them on the road.  And you can get people to put themselves in the shoes of the person next to them because typical on one hand you will have an aggressive driver and on the other hand you will have an unconfident driver and you can get them to talk to each other, understand each other’s view so it sometimes does help to get that interaction going.

So in answer to your question we’ve now got a suite of products typically for a high risk driver they’ll go through a full day course and that involves a practical element either on roads or using simulator based scenarios. For the medium risk we’ll put them through an interactive workshop so no more than twelve people on it, and for the low risk we either tie them in with the medium risk group or we put them through a presentation that gets across the general road safety type themes.

Neil – DriverMetrics® and Cranfield University were involved in developing the scenarios for the simulator that corresponds to the factors in the Driver Risk Index™. Is that the same in your other interventions that there’s a direct route back to the Driver Risk Index™ in terms of dealing with risk?”

James – There is a direct route as you mentioned there, the simulator scenarios are all very much based around the output of the Driver Risk Index™. Now our trainers have been through the Cranfield University coaching course that ties in with the Driver Risk Index™ so everything that we do on the back of that ties in very much so with the findings or what we’ve identified in the process has been at risk, so yes I’d say it’s very much the Driver Risk Index™ forms the foundation to the whole program, from there we develop courses and coaching sessions around those findings.”

Neil – You rolled your risk management program out in a very large business into many subsidiary parts of the business, how did you share the benefits or encourage your colleagues to buy into this at a reasonably senior level, to buy in to driver risk management?”

James – I think you’ve got a few challenges really first of all it’s to understand what it is that’s driving them, so it depends whether you’re talking to the HR director obviously they’re concerned about the people, you want the safety guy as well he or she is concerned about the people and getting them home safely, the financial director all about the money so looking at savings, always helps tying it into corporate manslaughter acts as well;  if you’ve got a pre-prepared business case when you look at the types of collision savings we’ve made obviously it ticks the box on all three front looking at the savings of cost, savings of lives potentially and things like the fuel benefits and collision reductions all tie into that, so it’s always you’ve got to understand what that individual’s after, what are they looking for, what’s driving, excuse the pun, the project.

It was a challenge initially to get buy in from them, but what we’ve done slowly but surely is to develop a robust program that does mitigate risk and we’re seeing real, real strong cases where we’ve saved a lot of money and we’ve pulled those cases together, presented them in a case study and now it almost sells itself, so we are in quite a strong position now and it’s almost people are coming to us to say ‘can you help out, we know what you can do, we’ve got a problem’, and people are now starting to realise that they do actually have a problem whereas before we were budgeting to spend ‘X’ amount of pounds on bent metal, now it’s not quite as acceptable obviously we are in a tough time so what we are looking to do is to cut back on costs and the amount we’ve spent on damage on vehicles in the tangible element alone is significant, so the more we can chip at that the better. It has been a challenge and we’ve had big companies roll out so a part of Beatty group has got two thousand plus drivers that have put people through the Driver Risk Index™ , it was a challenge and I guess the biggest thing for them was that they wanted a program to save them lots of money but they didn’t want to spend any money. Therefore, it was that educational process to say basically you get out what you put in, so if you don’t want to put them through the full program you aren’t going to get the results that we’ve seen in other areas and in the end they’ve gone for the full program, looking at full day courses for high risk drivers, developing bespoke courses for their program and they’ve seen the dividends, so it does certainly work –  we just have to get the right people on board.

Neil – How do you measure the effectiveness?

James –  We constantly look at the collisions so every month we’ll take a snapshot of how many collisions we’ve had and that’s across not just Balfour Beatty plants and fleet services but across all of our Beatty operating companies and you can certainly see who’s using the program and who isn’t, so that’s a good one for us. What we’re starting to do is to get closer to the fuel monitoring stage, so we do add in now a bit of safe and fuel efficient type course literature and practical scenarios as well so we are starting to monitor fuel usage a little bit more closely and the other one is driver feedback, we’ve got kind of an internal mission statement and that is we aim to achieve a network or create a network of safety ambassadors who share our passion towards zero-harm and what that means is that we don’t want to just tell someone how to hold the steering wheel or how to drive safely to get home that night, we want them to actually sell that message when they get back so they sell that message to their friends, their family, to their colleagues and we get an awful lot of real good feedback that we use on the programs, and often it’s about not what they’ve done to change their behaviour but what they’ve done to change other people’s behaviour as well and they’re the real good ones that we like to hear.

Neil – So what are Balfour Beatty’s plans for the future in terms of employee driver safety?

James – We’ve got quite a lot of plans, we’re still weak in a few areas, so one area in which we are weak is they grey fleet so we need to bolster that side of things and we are going to use the Driver Risk Index™ to do that now we’ve got a specific grey fleet version. We’re looking to go international as well so most of our energy has been focused on the UK market, we need to push that out externally to the other countries and we’ve started doing that using samples of the Driver Risk Index™ and we know that there’s a lot more to follow so that’s looking quite strong now. In terms of hugE developments we’re looking to tie everything we’re doing into vehicle telematics, we’ve just signed up with a supplier to do that so that’s going to be pushed out in the very near future. Finally we’ve got the simulator side which started out as the car simulator, which was all tied into the Cranfield program, now we’ve purchased a mobile simulator and a further static simulator which is based on a truck chassis so we are looking to tailor the development there to the truck driver market so it’s almost differentiating ourselves and re-inventing ourselves on the truck driver market, where as before we have been concentrating on drivers, now we’re going to pigeon hole different areas of the business looking at different risk categories, so you have got a specific risk for those people who drive heavy goods vehicles and once again there’s a Truck/LGV version of the Driver Risk Index™  that we’ll be looking to use for that.

Neil – Have you got any parting words or advice for others seeking to  establish an occupational driver safety program ?

James – For me it would be to have a good look round, have a look round at the products, try them, test them before you make any decisions. It would be to avoid some of the products that almost appear as eye-candy, the ones that look nice, often they don’t have the substance behind them so I know for a fact that the Cranfield University drive risk index has got a lot of support and evidence to suggest that it’s the best on the market and something that looks at behaviour is absolutely fundamental for me, there’s a lot of products that look at people’s knowledge or their situation but it’s not that that causes collisions, it’s their behaviours behind the wheel, so certainly have a look at something that touches on the behavioural side.

 Moving on from the assessment tool that you use , I would certainly advise that you get buy in from the senior team and to do that you need to have a good understanding first of all otherwise they’ll pick holes in the business case, so get their buy in by touching on the different areas potential improvement and finally it’s just to get that support from the chief executive or from the managing director, and when I say support I don’t just mean they’re just ‘yes go ahead and do it’ it’s actually getting him or her to champion the initiative or to really drive it forward himself or herself which is key really for me, it needs that support if it’s going to go anywhere.