Delivery Vans: How to keep your drivers safe

Delivery vans play a crucial role in our economy. Every day, they zigzag through streets, lanes and boulevards to drop off mail, packages, groceries, and more. Unfortunately, both time pressure and road hazards seem to be part and parcel of an office on four wheels. As a fleet manager, you can take the wheel to reduce those risks and protect your drivers’ safety.

    Safety of vans

    Crashes with commercial vans tend to be more lethal for the other vehicles involved, according to the independent non-profit Euro NCAP, which rates the safety of cars. However, vans often lack the state-of-the-art safety features found in those other vehicles.

    While fleet managers don’t have influences the designs of van models, they can create a safe work environment to avoid accidents.

    How to create a safe driving ecosystem

    First and foremost, caring for your drivers’ safety and well-being (on and off the road) is simply the right, human thing to do. But moral values aside, prioritizing their safety will also keep your business operational and minimize crash-related expenses, fines and losses. Investing in a safe driving environment is a must, and here’s how you get started:

    1. Establish a code of conduct

      Set clear rules on what your drivers should and shouldn’t do while driving. That includes the obvious don’ts (no texting, drinking, exceeding the speed limit, etc.), but also regulations for local route knowledge: to what extent should your employees be familiar with their delivery territory?

      Don’t penalize late deliveries beyond your drivers’ control (e.g., due to harsh weather conditions) – that will only cause stress and daredevil driving.

      Smooth communication will make sure that everyone understands their role, responsibilities, emergency procedures, and how to act accordingly (and what will happen if they don’t). Share your policies with new hires before their first day, so that they are familiar in advance.

    2. Invest in visibility

      According to scientific research, white and yellow vehicles are least likely to get involved in an accident. Why? Because these colors are most visible in traffic. If possible, stick to those shades when assembling your fleet, and invest in dark (yet reflective) signage to pair visibility with brand awareness.

      Looking to add another splash of color and boost safety at the same time? Equip your drivers with neon safety vests. During daylight hours, the human eye is most sensitive to light with a wavelength of 555 nanometers, or a bright yellow-green – so no need to argue over which color you should pick.

    3. Maintain your fleet

      Regular maintenance reduces the number of accidents due to mechanical issues. Usual suspects include the tires, brakes, and engine problems. Make sure you carefully keep track of each vehicle’s condition, and frequently check components such as blinkers and headlights – every van should be 100% reliable.

      Pay special attention to the tires. Well-maintained tires are safer, easier to maneuver, and less prone to slipping. Ask your drivers to inspect them regularly (pressure, tread depth, valve caps, etc.) and to report problems immediately. A regular bath doesn’t hurt either: washing tires makes damages and punctures more visible.

      Last but not least, equip each van with blind spot detection, fire extinguishers, first-aid and reflector kits, front and rear parking sensors, and door locks.

    4. Encourage a healthy lifestyle

      No, you can’t control your drivers’ private life. However, you can emphasize which lifestyle choices affect safety in the workplace. Delivery drivers need to keep a close eye on the road at all times – and you’re able to help sharpen that concentration.

      Encourage them to eat nutritious foods, be physically active, drink lots of water, avoid drugs, and practice self-care. Most importantly, recommend at least 7 hours of sleep every night – driver fatigue can be deadly.

    5. Make the job itself as safe as possible

      'It’s impossible to predict every road obstacle, but you can increase your drivers’ overall safety with the right equipment.' Specific tools (e.g., carts) help them lift heavy items and prevent strain or injury. Provide a flashlight for deliveries in dimly-lit areas (e.g., backdoors) and consider route optimization software.

      If your delivery routes cross areas with high crime rates, implement extra safety measures. Keep detailed records of all deliveries, encourage card payments to limit cash and use GPS systems to quickly locate accidents or obstructions due to road maintenance.

    6. Provide Driver Safety Training

      Safety training enables your drivers to put your code of conduct into practice, boosts hazard awareness, and decreases the risk of traffic violations and collisions. Their sensible behavior will also reflect positively on your company – especially if its name happens to be painted in big, glossy letters on every van in your fleet.

      Such courses will likely feature at least the following guidelines:

      - Always focus on the road and your surroundings;

      - Respect the speed limit, and reduce your speed in bad weather/road conditions and on sharp bends;

      - Don’t overload the van;

      - Don’t change lanes constantly, and drive in the center of your lane;

      - Take note of all possible blind spots;

      - Regularly check your mirrors to see what is happening behind you;

      - Sit straight, with both hands on the steering wheel;

      - When you spot a hazard, try not to brake suddenly, but slow down instead.

    What to do when others drive aggressively

    Even if you’ve created the safest driving ecosystem possible, remind yourself that not everyone drives as responsibly as your excellently instructed staff. The best way to respond to such road rage? It should be your drivers’ daily mantra: keep your distance, don’t engage, and definitely don’t copy the other motorist’s behavior.

    Since road rage is, sadly, a persistent problem of our time, you may consider enrolling your drivers in a special road rage course. Even if your employees represent the pinnacle of defensive driving, such a training could come in handy. Your staff will learn more about how to deal with aggression and threatening maneuvers, how to anticipate violent behavior, and how to keep themselves and others calm in stressful situations.

    Incentive programs

    At the end of the day, every single person in traffic – whichever vehicle they use – contributes to road safety . Establishing a code of conduct and penalizing violation is, therefore, far from enough. Rewarding defensive driving could be just as effective – perhaps even better.

    You can stimulate safe behavior on the road through driver incentive programs. Have a look at your current safety data to decide which challenge you want to tackle: cell phone use, speed limits, etc. Find a parameter that is easy to track, set some simple rules, and communicate those clearly to all your drivers.

    Keep in mind that such programs are most successful when you focus on short-term goals and diversified, meaningful rewards. Maybe your drivers can obtain points for every day of minimal screen time, and redeem them in your store? Just don’t forget to lead by example – motivation will definitely pick up if the executive staff boasts glowing safety numbers.

    When your drivers enthusiastically set out to improve their stats, don’t wait too long to give (public) praise and recognition to those who deserve it. You could even throw in some gamification, and rank everyone’s data on a leader board – including a nice prize at the end of each month.

    Whichever option you choose, use the program to show your drivers that you care and appreciate their efforts, so they will care in return.