‘It Takes a Village’ To Build a Strong Safety Culture

Est. 4 min read

Machine Learning Helps Make Smarter Faster Decisions, but Doesn’t Replace Authentic Conversations and Relationships

We sat down with Alicia Echols, Director of Safety & Compliance at Bennett Heavy & Specialized, LLC along with Paul Schmitz, Director of Safety at Wayne Transports, Inc. during a TCA-hosted webinar Making Risk Reduction a Fleet Wide Initiative. I asked what both leaders are doing to lean into developing a strong safety culture and what the culture does to reduce risk and keep drivers safe. Here are the highlights:

Successful safety and risk programs need leadership support, investment, and focus.

‘It starts at the top and then we build a fleet-wide mindset that every conversation every person has in the fleet can impact safety,’ said Echols. She continued to share why fostering a culture where safety is a top priority ensures that everyone, from leadership to operations, to drivers are committed to reducing risk and staying safe. 

Smart technology investments can help safety teams prioritize their time and resources.

It’s estimated commercial auto trucks produce billions of data points every day with interconnected technologies like telematics. It’s frequently then, on safety and risk teams to determine the best way to analyze, react and make recommendations related to the information being collected. 

Increasingly fleet technology solutions, like Idelic’s Safety Suite, are using Machine Learning (ML) to analyze vast sets of data from multiple systems to identify patterns in driver behavior that may predict potential future crashes. ‘Idelic’s Safety Suite allows us to be less reactive and instead proactive in our approach to safety,’ said Schmitz. ‘Using data isn’t the same as more data, if we aren’t careful, we’ll get lost in it. Idelic’s Driver Watch List actually has me spending less time in the data because it quickly shows us not just who we should be coaching but most importantly the why.’

Technology is great, but it should complement, not replace human conversations and relationships.

Technology alone isn’t enough to create a culture of safety. It’s also essential to provide transparency across the fleet, according to Schmitz. “We want drivers to see what we (leadership) see, and help them have that “critical moment of self-reflection.” Echols agreed and commented that often drivers know the right behavior and know where they made a mistake.

Related to using Professional Development Plans (PDPs) and other coaching tools, Echols commented, ‘If someone called me up and said, hey I have some great suggestions on how to be more efficient in your job?’ I’d say yes!” She continued to reflect that having an authentic two-way conversation when providing feedback to drivers makes all the difference in their responses.

In summary, building a strong safety culture that supports a fleet’s risk reduction goals is no easy task.According to Echols and Schmitz, areas to focus on include creating leadership buy-in, maintaining open communication and feedback loops, and investing in technology that improves efficiency and data-driven decision-making. Above all else, focus on human connections and relationships that unite everyone around a common goal and authentic care for each other. Echols had the last word. ‘Robots aren’t taking over yet.‘

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