Any good fleet safety director can tell you all about the cause-effect relationship between high driver turnover and increased accident rates. Experience has demonstrated it over and over again and research has provided the numbers to prove it. There is a less well-documented corollary, however: good safety programs can also reduce driver turnover. Just ask Dean Newell, vp-safety and training for Arkansas-based Maverick Transportation, for instance.
Founded in 1980, Maverick is comprised of three separate entities: Maverick Transportation, Maverick Logistics and Maverick Truck & Trailer Sales. Collectively, the group operates about 1,500 power units, each equipped with some of the most sophisticated safety equipment available, including collision warning systems, lane departure warning systems and roll stability control systems -- backed up with plenty of training and retraining.
“We do it because it is the right thing to do,” says Dean Newell. “It is a good feeling to be able to say to drivers and their families, ‘we are putting you in a safe truck.’ We have invested millions of dollars in an effort to make Maverick trucks among the safest on the road and our 72 driver trainers give students packets to share with their families that explain the safety measures we are taking. Safety equipment stays on a truck when it is sold to an owner-operator as a used truck, too.”
Both driver turnover rates and accident rates at Maverick validate the company’s investment in safety. “This year, we are tracking to a 70-75% turnover rate across all three businesses,” says Newell. “We keep accident rate data too, of course. For example, the year we installed lane departure warning systems, we had 23 unintentional lane departure incidents. Now that figure is down to five incidents. Our driver turnover numbers speak for themselves; they are well below the industry average for long-haul carriers.”
Good equipment is only half the story, however. Maverick also has an on-going safety-training program. “You can’t just put safety equipment on your trucks and expect it to get the job done,” Newell cautions. “It takes lots of training and brush-up training, as well. We bring drivers back in for regular safety training and also send out safety tips every week. In addition, we have a mobile training simulator plus computerized training we developed in-house to augment classroom and on-highway training.
“Most drivers like the training; they really appreciate it,” he adds. “We monitor the top ten percent and the bottom ten percent of our driver pool every month. Then we recognize and reward the top ten percent and work with the bottom group.”
“I know some fleets say they can’t cost-justify advanced safety systems, but we have been able to see the bottom line benefits,” Newell notes. “You have to take a comprehensive look at ROI, at tangible and less-tangible benefits. We look at the reduction in accidents and the cost of those accidents, for instance, and what it costs us whenever a truck has to sit idle for accident-related repairs. Then there are worker’s compensation costs and insurance costs.
“Finally, when we are considering a new safety device or program, we also ask ourselves these two questions: Would it make me a better driver? Is it the right thing to do?”