Having enough drivers will move the freight down the road. But having only quality drivers — those least at risk of having an accident — will get the job done safely and ultimately at lower cost to himself or herself, the employer and the shipper.

According to Peter Vandyne, technical director of transportation for Liberty Mutual Group, the insurance firm's latest Truckers Survey [on auto liability] shows the crash frequency rate measured in crashes with costs over $1,000 was higher for 2005 than for the past two years.

More telling, Vandyne reveals that overall driver quality — measured as the percent of drivers with clear driving records (three years for moving violations, five years for major violations) — went down.

“Truckers with the best results have high quality drivers, establish performance expectations, closely monitor driver performance and place value on maintaining a good safety record,” states Vandyne. “We continue to see a small number of companies with exceptional driver quality achieve excellent results with average programs due to [their] high driver quality.”

Liberty Mutual polled over 200 trucking operations insured by its Business Market unit. Total miles for those with auto coverage exceeded 2,000,000,000. According to Vandyne, based on a review of crash rates per million miles and customer survey responses, Liberty Mutual has identified four key areas of high-performing fleet programs. Here they are with recommended best practices associated with each:

SELECTION

  • 60% or more drivers have clear driving records
  • Six months or longer probation for new drivers
  • Longer probation based on driving records
  • Road tests of two hours or longer
  • More extensive road tests based on driving records


MANAGEMENT

  • Measures crash rates, fuel mileage, off-route miles, operating costs and crash rates by driver manager

  • Names and phones numbers on trailers or toll free monitoring

  • Makes road observations

  • Uses GPS to monitor speed, hours of service and on time departure

  • System to identify drivers most in need of training or management attention

  • Perceives selection as the strongest part of their safety program



POLICIES

  • Governors set below 68 miles per hour


TRAINING

  • Provides in-vehicle training for new drivers
  • Uses skid-pan training


On the one hand, says Vandyne, carriers are “having trouble finding quality drivers but when you get to 60% or 70% clear driving records, you can get good results even with an average [safety] program.”

Vandyne also suggests considering the quality of drivers “who move around a lot [between employers] as well as newer drivers.

“Bear in mind, too, whenever the economy picks up there's more freight and more competition for the same pool of drivers,” he continues. “But if you can't get the best drivers what you can do is better manage them.”

Certainly, hiring the best drivers is the surest path to reducing liability risks on the road. Short of that, it only makes sense to keep a watch on every driver and to let them know you are watching — and why.

For more information, contact Krista Olsen via email at krista.olsen@libertymutual.com.