I interviewed Kevin Day, Driver Training Manager at West Midlands Fire Service at the recent International Conference on Driver Behaviour in Paris. West Midlands Fire Service are one of the largest UK services and Kevin talks about his experiences of implementing a behavioural approach to risk assessment and driver training. You can also listen to the interview.
Neil – Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about West Midlands Fire Service in terms of your fleet and the driver training operation that you have there.
Kevin – Personnel-wise we’ve got around about two thousand people in the brigade, frontline appliances around about sixty to sixty-five, and then we’ve got cars, up to about eighty different people responding in cars as well.
Neil – So it’s one of the largest fire services in the UK?
Kevin – It’s one of the largest ones now.
Neil – Could you tell us why did you you decided to go down the behavioural route in terms of assessing driver risk and driver coaching?
Kevin – Some number of years ago we heard Dr Lisa Dorn speaking at a national bluelight users conference and she was talking about the Driver Risk Index, following that we spoke to Lisa and several visits to ourselves as well, to the brigade to talk about us using it, our emergency fire appliance drivers, also an extension of the old-fashioned purely practical driver training. It was thought to be a good idea.
Neil – So really there’s two stages, there’s the EFADRI assessment itself and then there’s what you did to your training in terms of transforming your training. In terms of the EFADRI, how did it go about in terms of the research, research was all conducted at West Midlands Fire Service?
Kevin – Yes it was all conducted at what was then called the training centre, Julie Gandolfi attended the centre, interviewed fifty current EFAD drivers, emergency fire appliance drivers, different genders, quite a broad spectrum and age range as well, from around about twenty-two all the way up to about fifty-two, something like that. Obviously a lot of experience with some, very little experience with others, and Julie asked a set pattern of questions to everybody, no names were involved, it was all recorded and she then had to transcribe that and we also sent out questionnaires to about two hundred and fifty, something like that, EFAD drivers at the time we had quite a good response with that with the returns we had around about two-thirds of the forms returned, and that formed the basis of the information that the University required to start EFADRI.
Neil – What sort of issues did you find that were important in assessing EFAD driver’s risk, were there any particular issues that came out?
Kevin -Initially we thought it was all about attitude, their attitude towards other road users, whether people would get out of the way when they’re driving to incidents, whether our drivers would get annoyed or irritated and start responding in the wrong sort of way towards that. We were interested to see what the outcomes of the EFADRI would be, it’s been very interesting over the last few years that we’ve used it now, we’ve been using it as you said earlier since about 2006, I think we started using it. The way we’ve changed the course, the course has also changed since then, we now do a two week course which includes bluelight training as well, and we’ve been using the EFADRI on the initial courses which is the two week course, we’ve also been using it on refresher courses which come about every three years.
Neil – So how does it work, the driver is sent an EFADRI password in advance of the course?
Kevin – Today we’ve been doing it through the course, when they attend the training centre for the course. On the refresher course it’s up ‘till now anyway the first thing they’ve done when they’ve attended the course, and with the initial trainees it’s been during the second week of their course, once they’ve started actual blue light training, so we’re about to change the way we use it now to see if the feedback will be any different, because we use it during the training course, we may not be getting with all the people the true reflective response with the report, so we’re thinking now we’ll send it to them about three months after the initial course when they’ve been driving to incidents. For about three to four months, then we’ll see what the results are like, we have changed some of the things in the way we deliver the training. We talk a lot more now about behavioural and attitudinal aspects which we didn’t used to do before, so it’s made the course far more varied than it used to be.
Neil – How do the drivers react to doing an EFADRI, is it a positive experience for them?
Kevin – It is mostly nowadays, it was quite a lot of apprehension to begin with, it’s psychological and they seemed to think it was sort of pie in the sky stuff, some of them didn’t believe that it could be of any help to the actual driver training, but once you read the report which they don’t always agree with when they see their own report, once you read it and the instructors read it and go through it with them and explain what the report actually means then it’s generally positive then.
Neil – What about your driver trainers, how do they react to this transition from, I suppose a skills based approach to a skills plus behaviour?
Kevin – That was positive, all the instructors were positive, they wanted to be involved with it from the beginning, those that were there. There’s four of us still there and we were there right at the beginning of all this, and we’ve seen the progression of the EFADRI and we’ve also seen the progression of the way we’re doing the courses. We’ve also attended courses as instructors at the University so we know we’re getting more out, we know a lot more about what we’re talking about.
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