4 Essentials in Training Drivers to Reduce Accident Risk

After 48 years in the transportation industry, Sandy McClure has earned his stripes – and gained a whole lot of wisdom. From loading trucks while in college, to becoming a driver and then a manager in a 22-year career with UPS, followed by 24 years with Fed Ex Ground in corporate safety and as independent contractor liaison, this man has been around the block a few times.


Sandy considers his current role as Director of Safety with Fleet Response a fun job he enjoys, and one where he loves sharing what’s he’s learned – because he loves people. “To be able to help someone, to bring value, and advise someone. That’s what I strive to do each day. That’s why I wanted to be part of a company that focused on that. Fleet Response strives to make life better for people. And what else is there in life?”


But if you’re looking for a “magic pill” to improve driver safety, Sandy is the first to tell you: it doesn’t exist. “Safety doesn’t come naturally to any of us. It must be purpose-driven, intentional, and constantly practiced. There is no magic pill to fix your safety woes. There’s a combination of many things an employer can do,” says Sandy.  The most important is to engage, educate, and train your employees to change their safety behaviors. Most drivers think they are already experts. Somehow, you have to come alongside them and convince them that there is always room to improve when it comes to being safe.”


If it sounds like there some psychology involved here – you’re right. That’s the foundation behind practical tools and driver training. Discover the insights and expertise Sandy shares in four essentials for building a strong safety culture and avoid accidents with well-trained drivers in your own organization.

#1 – Tell a Compelling Story

Sandy helps companies find ways to communicate with employees about why it’s critical to change their safety behaviors. “One of the best ways to do that is to tell a very compelling story,” says Sandy. “This captures the employees’ attention – not giving the same safety message they receive day in and day out, month after month. That goes in one ear and out the other. If you can find a compelling story to associate with the safety concern or topic of discussion, you can capture their imagination. They will learn something from that.”

Sandy finds that this personal engagement – maybe a story from the employer or trainer about a personal injury they’ve had, a vehicle accident they may have witnessed or read about that was deeply affecting – can engage a conversation and change minds, hearts and behaviors.

“I often tell employers this quote by Benjamin Franklin: ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ That’s it. Make sure you bring your employees into the equation. Every employee, from the top to the bottom, has to be engaged in safety. Give them a platform to talk about safety and tell their story.”

Sandy mentions his own personal example of NASA’s space shuttle Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986. Whether you remember that fateful day or just read about it, most people know of the incident. “What really affected me, was the fact that it was something as small as leaking O-rings that caused this disaster. Because of those O-rings not performing correctly in the cold weather, the shuttle exploded and seven lives were lost. For many years, I have worn a black O-ring on my right ring finger, just to remind me to pay attention to the small details that could become a major catastrophe.”

Over they years, Sandy has learned that to engage and involve drivers in safety training, they must know and believe it is a life and death situation every day they are behind the wheel or loading or unloading a truck.

“They can have injuries that can cripple them for life or even kill them. It takes constant awareness. Training must be purpose-driven and intentional. You must constantly remind the employee that the most important package on that vehicle is themselves. Getting back home safely to their families is the most important thing. Their life is more important than any package.”

#2 – Start a Safety Compliance Program

There are many different types of commercial motor vehicle drivers on the road, from those who have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and drive a tractor trailer to those who have a regular driver license and deliver in smaller vehicles to medium light trucks as the “final mile” drivers delivering directly to a customer’s door. Fleet Response creates programs to train employers with all types of drivers.

Many independent contractors employ drivers but do not have the expertise to create a strong and effective safety program. This situation has become critical due to the explosive growth of e-commerce and package delivery. The face of the transportation industry has changed dramatically, with drivers delivering packages seven days a week.

“There’s a shortage of people out there who are qualified to meet the required commercial driving standards,” explains Sandy. “That’s where Fleet Response comes in. We help companies to qualify and approve their own drivers, because safety has to be first, above everything else. If you’re not safe out there, you’re not going to be able to run a very effective safe delivery operation.”

Fleet Response has put together a comprehensive Safety Compliance Program to help a business safely operate their fleet. It provides a toolbox to help a business know exactly what needs to be done – with safety policies, hazardous materials training, guidelines for accidents and more.

“When I sell this program, I sell myself and my years of experience,” says Sandy. “I come alongside and help them use our tools effectively to create a sustainable safety program. I work with them as a safety advisor, to cure their safety issues and concerns. They can contact me 24/7 and I get back as soon as possible, because their safety concerns are my concern’s.”

While not all safety compliance training is required by law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all transportation employers be knowledgeable of compliance and regulations. This can also be critical in controlling costs while protecting lives and their business. Some companies that contract independent transportation companies to deliver their customers’ products may require they have a Qualified Safety Program that meets their specifications.  

“If the Independent contractor’s driver has a preventable accident and the driver is not compliant according to the qualified safety program, this could adversely affect their insurance, increase their cost and risk, and ultimately jeopardize their business. So that really hits their bottom line,” says Sandy. “That is why we want to help them decrease risk by becoming safety professionals themselves. I can’t train all their drivers, but I can show them how to train their own safety trainers to be more effective in training safe drivers.”

#3 – Offer Professional Driver Training

Fleet Response also offers a Graduated Qualification Program to help train and qualify drivers with no commercial driving experience. After a four-hour web-based driver training course and several days of behind-the-wheel training, they earn an L10 certification and are qualified to drive for the employer in a smaller vehicle (less than 10,001 pounds “gross vehicle weight rating” or GVWR). With further training, they can graduate to driving larger vehicles with additional training to earn L20 certification (for a vehicle less than 23,001 pounds GVWR) and then L30 certification (for vehicles less than 26,001 pounds GVWR). All this can be done in less than a month.

“The success of our program is in the engagement and involvement, online and in behind-the-wheel training on obstacle courses,” says Sandy. “Oftentimes, the success is greater for a person with no commercial driving experience at all! They often don’t have the ‘know it all’ attitude of people who’ve been in the truck driving industry for a long time, with set ways in their delivery and poor driving habits, which could take well over a month to break those unsafe habits – and then we can train in the proper ways.”

Fleet Response provides safety professional training tools employers can use to help train safe drivers who understand the importance of safety and embrace the training.

#4 – Evaluate Training Outcomes and Make Adjustments

Fleet Response encourages companies to benchmark their safety programs, to review what is working well and what is not. They should be willing to make immediate adjustments as needed.

“Employers need to become safety experts themselves,” reflects Sandy. “I want to create a lot of  ‘mini me’s’ and work myself out of a job by teaching them all I know. This is the only way to change their employees’ unsafe behaviors – by being involved themselves. Everybody from the top down must be an expert in safety to build a culture of sustainable success.”

Why Fleet Response?

Sandy enjoys his work with Fleet Response and considers it a vital role. “Our company manages accident claims and they are customer-driven and focused on creating a great customer experience. One of the reasons I wanted to work for Fleet Response is because they value people. With them, it’s all about their employees and their customer client base – and making people’s lives better. What could matter more?”

To discuss the unique safety training needs in your fleet, contact Jeff Fender, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Fleet Response, contact@fleetresponse.com