For fleet managers, improving driver safety involves providing training on the best behind-the-wheel behaviors as well as empowering drivers to practice those behaviors. A key component of that practice is the ride along that gives fleet managers or supervisors an in-person chance to assess and correct any issues, leading to safer and more efficient fleets.
Conducting a manager ride along requires a consistent, proven approach. It should work as part of an overall safety program that includes all the elements of the driver safety excellence hierarchy: self-awareness, decision-making skills, situation awareness and competent vehicle control.
Ideally, what drivers do during a ride-along should represent the culmination of steps taken by the fleet to create a culture of safety and excellence in driving.
Fleets Must Take the Lead on Improving Driver Safety
Fleets must lead when it comes to the issue of safety. It starts before the fleet even hires a driver. Managers should conduct due diligence to ensure that every driver they hire has what it takes to develop strong behind-the-wheel performance. This may require a ride-along before hiring to assess each driver’s capabilities.
It’s also important to have written, clear policies that set the standards for what the fleet expects from each driver. These policies should cover all aspects of driving, including the consequences for moving violations, poor driving behaviors, distracted driving and other issues. It should also make clear how the company rewards good behavior.
Fleets also should take a proactive approach with fleet drivers, offering them strong training programs that allow them to continuously develop their skills. Managers can then assess each driver’s performance and provide feedback on areas that need improvement. This feedback also should include recognition for areas where a driver excels.
The Importance of the Manager Ride-Along
It’s only possible to truly assess a driver’s performance through in-person experience. By riding in the vehicle, a manager can determine everything from how well a driver practices safe driving habits to their ability to use ADAS features.
A ride-along does not have to become a tension-filled exercise in micromanagement. Rather, managers should seek to make the event as relaxed as possible. That way, they can better assess how safely the driver operates when no one else is around. This includes close observation on such issues as knowing where to look and how to maintain safe driving speeds that allow drivers time to make quick adjustments to avoid hazards.
Tips for a Manager Ride-Along
As they observe the driver behind the wheel, managers should look for signs that offer insight into how safe the driver operates a vehicle.
Situational awareness. This involves continuously scanning the driving environment, evaluating what they see for potential hazards, and executing a plan to avoid hazards and crashes.
Steering. Are the driver’s hands at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions on the wheel?
Braking. Drivers should not make sudden stops and should hold some braking power in reserve in case of emergency.
Safe distance. Drivers should maintain a safe cushion away from other drivers.
Parking skills. Drivers should park safely and also choose spots that limit the need to put their vehicle in reverse.
Risky behaviors. A main component of any manager ride-along is to watch for risky driving behaviors, including sudden accelerations, sudden braking, speeding, failure to yield, etc.
A manager ride-along is an important tool to use for improving driver safety in commercial fleets. By giving drivers proper training and observing how they put it to use behind the wheel, managers take an important step toward better managing risk and keeping their employees safe.