Managers Must ‘Lead’, Not Just Manage, to Drive Down Risk

Originally published in Fleet Management Weekly 05/07/2019

By Ed Dubens, CEO & Founder, eDriving

The week of 6-9 May 2019 was the Fifth United Nations Global Road Safety Week (UNGRSW), the focus of which is on leadership for road safety. The theme acknowledges that stronger leadership is needed to advance road safety in countries and communities worldwide. And, while it is targeted primarily at civil society organizations and policy-makers in charge of road safety, the Week provides the perfect opportunity to highlight the key role of leadership in workplace driver safety.

For the last three years, approximately 40,000 people have died in road traffic collisions annually in the USA. Before 2016, the number of annual deaths had not reached 40,000 since 2007. We know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States; and we know that some form of driver error is at the root of 94% of crashes (Source: NHTSA).

Leaders can help to put a stop to the increasing number of fatalities on the roads by “inspiring” employees driving for work purposes to change their attitudes, overwrite “at-risk” behaviors and evolve new safer habits. But who are the leaders that can help to reduce driver risk?

Managing drivers is different from leading drivers; managers “manage” the activities of drivers on a day-to-day basis; dealing with practicalities and solving problems. Leaders take personal responsibility for helping ensure their drivers make it home safely every day to their loved ones and communities. As the late Canadian Astronaut and Author, Chris Hadfield said: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine”.

Leadership is about inspiring and guiding individuals, about being a role model for people to aspire to, and about focusing on next steps, not just what is happening in the present. This is why leadership commitment is at the heart of every successful fleet risk management program and why an effective leader will successfully guide drivers towards safer behaviors; towards making changes themselves and allowing them to “own” their progress.

How? One way is to #SpeakUp for road safety, something that’s encouraged by UNGRSW. If organizational leaders talk about safe driving and make it clear that it’s a company priority and strategic imperative, employees are much more likely to prioritize safety too. Why would a driver take notice of a road safety program if it didn’t apply to their organization’s leadership? They wouldn’t. Why would a driver take notice of a road safety program if it wasn’t viewed as important to their organization’s leadership? They wouldn’t.

Being a role model is another tactic of successful leaders. Whether that starts with management commitment not to dial into conference calls while driving (if it’s ok for a manager to do it, why not everyone else!) or a commitment not to call employees while they are on the road (a distracted driving ban will never be a success while managers think it’s OK to call employees because “it’s urgent”), it’s important that managers are seen to put safety first.

Another way to inspire is through education; critical to helping drivers understand the need to improve their attitudes and behaviors. American lawyer and Republican Wendell Willkie described education as “the mother of leadership”.

An organization that works towards a crash-free culture® is one that rejects the notion that crashes, injuries and deaths are an inevitable part of driving for work. And an effective leader will not only inspire drivers to put safety first but will also inspire others to become leaders for safety too.

About eDriving
eDriving helps organizations to reduce collisions, injuries, license violations and total cost of ownership through a patented closed-loop driver behavior-based safety program that reduces collisions by up to 67% and provides ROI of 20-40%. Mentor by eDriving’s comprehensive system provides behavioral insights and actionable intelligence to help organizations build a total view of driver risk within a company-wide crash-free culture to ensure that all drivers return home safely to their loved ones at the end of each day.

eDriving is the risk management partner of choice for many of the world’s largest and safest fleets, having served over one million drivers in 45 languages and 96 countries over its 23 years in the industry. eDriving’s program has been recognized through 70+ client and partner awards around the world.

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