According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. With all those drivers on the road, crashes are inevitable. That’s why comprehensive fleet safety and driver improvement programs are essential for fleets of all sizes. Many companies are turning to simulation technology as a way to improve driver performance and save money in the process.
Rethinking Driver Development
Safety doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes time, effort, and capital to build a quality fleet safety program. U.S. Xpress operates one of the largest fleets in the U.S. As the company’s VP of Talent Management, Ralph Romero oversees a staff of more than 50 development experts and analysts who implement the company’s continuing education initiatives for all employees.
Simulation allows you to train drivers safely during the Covid crisis.
The learning experiences for their drivers focuses on four aspects for driver improvement: knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes. U.S. Xpress leverages various resources to help close gaps in knowledge and skills for their drivers, including proprietary eLearning modules, simulator courses, driving ranges, and commentary driving. “Safety is a big component of our core competency model for our drivers,” said Romero.
Fleet Safety is an Investment
A cost/benefit analysis is essential to help ensure shareholder return. In addition to the investment in truck simulators, Romero said the Professional Driver continuing education initiatives had to factor in other costs, such as manhours, class capacities, class frequencies, and equipment and infrastructure needs.
“ When evaluating our education and training program, it was clear we needed simulators to address some of our learning needs.”
- Ralph Romero, U.S. Xpress
“We constructed a very conservative return on investment model based on the metrics we were trying to impact,” said Romero. “When evaluating our education and training program, it was clear we needed simulators to address some of our learning needs.” Since U.S. Xpress updated its safety initiatives, including the addition of Virage Simulation’s VS600M Truck Driving Simulators, the company has seen a 20 percent decrease in preventable accidents, and a 7 percent improvement in driver retention. Other Virage customers have seen similar results. An energy company that uses both a Virage car and truck simulator as part of their driving safety program experienced a 39 percent reduction in preventable motor vehicle accidents.
Proactive vs Reactive
In his role as a Risk Management Services Manager for Nationwide Insurance, Phillip Wigginton has seen the full spectrum of fleet safety programs – from minimal efforts to comprehensive training. “A lot of companies do a great job with their fleet safety initiatives, while others take a ‘we’ll worry about that when it happens’ attitude,” he said.
Wigginton says top safety professionals take a proactive approach to driver training. He sees a strong safety culture as a constant in the best fleet safety programs. Romero at US Xpress agrees. “Step one is to build a cross-functional team including experts in safety, learning and development, and data analytics, as well as professional drivers.” Once the team is in place, they can then formulate and execute their Professional Driver continuing education plan.
Data Drives the Training
Data collection is a key component of a quality fleet safety program. Wigginton sees both telematics data and video telematics as essential tools in the fleet safety manager’s toolbox. “Modern telematics gives companies detailed information on a driver’s weaknesses so they can be addressed,” he said.
U.S. Xpress followed a similar path in developing its continuing education program. “Our Professional Driver Development strategies were aligned to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and our KPIs were aligned to Driver Core Competencies,” Romero noted. “Our Driver Core Competencies were then weighted by internal data, and our internal data told us what to focus on.”
The company is now able to address complex issues their drivers face every day, such as visual awareness, space management, and situational awareness in a defined, observable, and uniform way.
Why Simulation Matters
Romero at U.S. Xpress identified their Virage VS600M truck driving simulators as key components in their driver training programs. “We knew there were several competencies that would be very difficult to observe, coach, and measure at the scale we’re operating,” said Romero. He said that simulation has allowed U.S. Xpress to focus on key areas, like distracted driving, that they would not otherwise be able to impact due to operational constraints.
Romero noted that it’s important to have set goals in mind when using driving simulators. “Technology alone won’t improve performance without a clearly defined strategy and outcomes,” he said. “You have to craft a strategic plan with specific outcomes in mind and KPIs to attain.”
It All Comes Together
Wigginton says the single greatest benefit of a quality safety program is the increase in the company’s overall performance. “Fewer violations and fewer accidents are a direct reflection on the company’s commitment to succeed,” Wigginton stated.
Romero said U.S. Xpress’s continuing education initiatives are geared toward one goal in mind – employee success. “We want to see our employees thrive in their careers,” he said. “Safe practices are one of many facets in our Driver Core Competency model that has led to that outcome.”
So whether you’re starting a new safe driving initiative, or revamping your current fleet safety program, your company can also benefit from simulation. Contact Virage if you’d like to learn more about how we can elevate your fleet safety program to the next level.