Q&A with Jim Noble

Senior Vice President, Risk Engineering

Submit questions for Jim to Fleet@eDriving.com.

Q: How can I keep drivers safe who share pool vehicles?
A: Many companies are increasing the number of vehicles they currently lease to try to prevent, where possible, more than one employee having to use the same vehicle. If this is an option for your company, it might be a sensible decision to make. However, it may not be possible to have a vehicle for each driver; in this case ensure that each driver sanitizes the vehicle before they use it, and again when they finish using it. Then, the next driver or occupant should do the same. It’s a good idea to incorporate this into your driver policy/ vehicle checks during the COVID-19 pandemic to clarify that it is a mandatory company requirement.

Q: My employees travel to jobs in teams of two. What steps should I take to keep them safe?
A: As a temporary measure arrange for drivers to travel in separate vehicles, if possible. If that’s not possible, provide guidance to employees about how to keep as much distance as they can between themselves, such as one traveling in the rear of the vehicle if possible. If that’s not possible (i.e. in vans), advise drivers to sit as far apart as they can and to avoid touching the same surfaces. They should follow the recommended vehicle sanitization steps and wash hands frequently. Also, drivers traveling in the same vehicle should always wear a mask.

Q: How do I ensure that drivers sanitize their vehicle regularly?
A: First, provide very thorough instructions for sanitizing the vehicle. A few companies have brought in professionals to teach their driver how to properly sanitize the vehicle. I recommend incorporating vehicle sanitization requirements into drivers’ daily vehicle checks, for the time being. This means including disinfection of the vehicle in your written driver safety policy, and communicating the updated policy with all at-work drivers.

Q: Do I need to change any policies regarding authorized family use of company vehicles?
A: During the COVID-19 pandemic, a sensible option for fleet, safety and risk managers is to restrict family authorization to limit the number of people using the same vehicle.

Q: How can I protect employees who need to interact with customers/ members of the public?
A: Communicate with all employees the importance of social distancing, as well as hygiene/ sanitization precautions. It’s recommended that you conduct knowledge checks to ensure employees fully understand what is expected of them. Make sure employees know where they are going and who they need to speak to, as well as any other expectations.  If possible, call before arriving.  Ask questions about if anyone has been sick or exposed to anyone who has been sick. Ensure that no questions remain unanswered, such as what do they need to do on arrival at their destination and what protective equipment they might need. Of course, it’s also important to make sure they have the necessary protective equipment, including overalls, masks, gloves, wipes and hand sanitizer.

Q: Should I keep up communications with drivers about non-coronavirus related topics at this time?
A: Definitely! While it’s understandable and sensible that your safety communications focus mainly on COVID-19 at present, it’s important to continue issuing safety messaging about other driver risk factors, including speeding, distraction, fatigue and impairment. In fact, some of these issues are more prevalent than ever at this time (such as drivers potentially being tempted to drive faster on quiet roads and many people feeling more tired than usual due to added pressures at work and home) and, with health care resources already stretched beyond recognition, it’s important to do everything you can to help drivers stay safe on the road.

Q: Many of my employees who usually drive for work are currently home-based. Should I still provide driver safety communications to them, and how do I prepare them for getting back on the road?
A: Many people who usually spend hours on the road for work, such as sales reps, are now working from home. But that certainly doesn’t mean you should forget about them, in terms of safety communications. Stay in regular contact, such as via video calls, to keep them updated on company activities and to ‘check in’ on how they are doing. Regular communication, including the driver safety tips you would usually issue to employees, will help retain engagement and avoid them feeling “out of the loop”. Now is also a great time to issue online training modules to reinforce your policies and safety messaging, and to make sure their knowledge, skills and attitude are refreshed before they get back on the road.

Q: Should I continue to enforce existing policies at this time, such as mobile phone bans, or should such policies be relaxed during the current pandemic?
A: I would definitely continue to enforce such policies, and communicate with drivers about why the policies are so important. There is more temptation than ever right now for drivers to be distracted, but no matter what the reason for distraction, it’s never a risk worth taking. Our health care system is already under extreme pressure; we need to do all we can to help prevent road collisions that could further increase the burden.

Q: What steps should I be taking when recruiting temporary drivers?
A: Firstly, maintain all your hiring/retention criteria. Because you may have a great need for temp or contract drivers, do not succumb to the temptation to relax your standards because you think these drivers will only be with you for a short time. Secondly, since many of these drivers have not done this type of work before, take the time to on-board them properly. Make sure they know how to safely operate the type of vehicle you use including being familiar with the controls. Also, thorough safety training such as defensive driving basics is a must. These drivers will be operating unfamiliar equipment, on unfamiliar roads doing an unfamiliar job. It is critical they are well grounded in defensive driving skills, behaviors and attitudes.

Q: How do I deal with crashes/incidents when most of my staff who normally deal with this are working from home?
A: This often catches employers off guard. So, plan accordingly. Who will the driver call to report a crash or get assistance? It must be a manned phone. How will that information cascade through the organization, and who is responsible for making sure nothing “falls through the cracks”? In short, take your normal procedures and break them into smaller pieces that each WFH staff member is responsible for.