School buses, pickup trucks, trailers, and even sedans present unique risks to drivers and their passengers. A preventative maintenance plan helps keep your yellow and white fleet road ready and safe, but accidents will still happen. That is because human errors such as speeding and driving while sleepy cause 94 percent of traffic crashes, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study. An accident review committee (ARC) is a powerful tool for identifying preventable accidents and reducing the risk of them happening again.
ARCs at a glance
ARC members are responsible for determining whether drivers took every reasonable precaution to avoid the accident. For consistency, the committee should review accidents involving yellow and white fleet vehicles. Members will analyze accident reports, witness statements, photos, and other evidence. They should also consider whether management missteps, such as failing to train employees, contributed to the accident. Based on its findings, the committee recommends corrective action or penalties if appropriate.
5 tips for cashing in on ARCs
In addition to providing valuable learning opportunities, ARCs can boost morale by giving employees a forum to present their side of the accident. If your district, community college, or education service center is ready to reap the benefits of an ARC, put these five tips to work.
1. Recruit the right representatives.
Your committee should include leadership and front-line employees who bring different perspectives to the accident review process. For example, fleet managers and technicians understand the costs associated with repairing or replacing damaged vehicles. Safety coordinators and supervisors know each driver’s safety training history. Staff involved in the insurance program see the rising costs of auto coverage contributions due to accidents.
Consider rotating committee members regularly, perhaps each month or quarter. The team will benefit from fresh ideas brought by new representatives.
2. Define preventable accidents
Determining whether an accident was preventable is your ARC’s core function. So, how do you define preventable? That’s up to your organization, but accidents commonly considered preventable include rear-end collisions, backing accidents, collisions with fixed objects, violations of the law or company policy, and accidents caused by failure to drive defensively.
3. Operate transparently
Employees should never feel like the ARC secretly meets and arbitrarily metes out discipline. Post the committee’s schedule, and make detailed minutes available. Encourage employees to attend the discussion of their accident or submit a written statement for the committee to consider.
4. Focus on changing unsafe behavior
Accident investigations and reviews should be fact-finding missions, not fault-finding missions. Analyze your accident investigations and committee decisions to identify trends. From there, pinpoint training opportunities that will help drivers change unsafe behaviors that cause accidents.
5. Apply progressive discipline if appropriate
Disciplinary action is a necessary part of any safety initiative. Your accident review committee’s responsibilities include recommending corrective actions or penalties for drivers. A progressive discipline policy could look something like this:
- First offense – Classroom retraining and exam
- Second offense – Single-day suspension without pay, and eight hours of individualized training
- Third offense – Three-day suspension without pay, and driving privilege suspension
Some organizations discipline drivers on a point system. Assume a principal driving a pool car causes an accident by failing to yield. Four points go on his record. Two months later, he rear-ends another vehicle. Six more points go on his record. Because the employee has accumulated 10 disciplinary points, he is suspended for one week and required to take a defensive driving course.
Use these no-cost resources
The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety offers this free tool to help you find out how much money on-the- job traffic crashes drain from your budget. Your risk solutions consultant can also help you identify accident trends and recommend corrective measures. Fund members with Workers’ Compensation pool coverage benefit from online training at no additional cost. Employees can complete the defensive driving module, available in English and Spanish, in about 20 minutes.