Most fleets can learn a few things about driving safety from the United Parcel Service (UPS). The delivery company, headquartered in Atlanta with those famous brown trucks we see everyday has been leading the private industry in driving safety for nearly 100 years. UPS issued its first driving handbook in 1917 and has been modifying and improving its training program ever since.
While long haul trucking, the fourthmost dangerous job in America, saw 808 deaths in 2006, UPS did not experience one driver death. UPS drivers are clearly superior in the field of driving safety, and it is no coincidence that the world’s largest package delivery company averages less than one accident for every million miles driven.
This safety record is based on the company’s commitment to provide employees the best training available. In 2007, UPS will invest $38 million and 1.3 million hours on safety training, and despite a century of emphasis on safety, UPS management continues to push for excellence.
Employees Responsible for Safety of Coworkers
In the past five years alone, the UPS accident rate has dropped by 30%, due in part to encouraging employees to take direct responsibility for the safety of their co-workers.
“Our more experienced drivers will work with our newer employees and mentor them,” says UPS Corporate Fleet Safety Manager Gerry Eaker. “We use someone who has a track record of safety in the workplace.” UPS delivery drivers don’t use a driving facility or controlled environment to train. Instead, UPS uses a defensive driving course called “Space and Visibility,” typically completed on public roads and highways.
Package car drivers receive 20 hours of classroom and road training, and they complete three safety ride evaluations during their first 22 days as a new driver. These safety rides are a mainstay for UPS drivers. They receive as many as one evaluation ride with their supervisor every six months, and in the event of a preventable collision, they are given additional training as well as discipline.
Training immediately follows a preventable collision. UPS Public Relations Manager Dan McMackin says, “When a collision happens, it doesn’t matter what else is going on — the supervisor drops everything and conducts a full-day safety ride check” — meaning the supervisor rides with the employee and evaluates his or her techniques and habits, correcting on the spot any mistake that could jeopardize safety.”
While discipline is a factor in the safety program, UPS does not focus unduly on it. “Discipline is always the last resort,” Eaker says. “It is much better to get what you want through recognition rather than with punishment.”
Safety Program Based on ‘5 Seeing Habits’
The UPS secret to success in road safety is described as the “Five Seeing Habits.” These five guidelines stress the importance of space and visibility when driving:
- Aim High in Steering. Look as far down the road as possible to uncover important traffic information to make appropriate decisions.
- Get the Big Picture. Maintain the proper following distance to comfortably determine the true hazards around your vehicle. Don’t tailgate.
- Keep Your Eyes Moving. Scan — don’t stare. Constantly shift your eyes while driving. Active eyes keep up with changing traffic conditions.
- Leave Yourself an Out. Be prepared. Surround your vehicle with space in front and at least on one side to escape conflict.
- Make Sure They See You. Communicate in traffic with your horn, lights, and signals to establish eye contact with motorists and pedestrians. Be reasonably sure of people’s intentions.
According to McMackin, UPS’s success in safety is summed up in one word: training. “Training is the cornerstone of everything here at UPS. We are relentless about our training,” he says.
Program Recognizes Safe Driving Excellence
Continuous training isn’t the only successful safety practice that makes UPS stand out. While the company trains and disciplines those involved in collisions, it also positively recognizes those who adhere to the safety techniques.
The safest UPS driver has achieved 45 years and 3 million miles without an accident. Ron Sowder of Ohio has enough accident-free miles for six round trips to the moon. Since 1923, UPS has recognized safe drivers. Ray McCue became the first five-year safe driver in 1928, and in 1955, the “Circle of Honor” was established to formally recognize safe drivers.
Today more than 4,000 active drivers have earned the Circle of Honor distinction, designating at least a 25-year accident-free career. Each year, Circle of Honor drivers are recognized in a full-page ad in USA Today.
UPS spends more than $5 million a year recognizing safe drivers. McMackin says, “It is meant to be an honor, in a public way. Service and safety are two big things here. It is a tremendous honor to be inducted.”
Safety is UPS Corporate Culture Value
Safety is an inherent core value in the UPS corporate culture.
For UPS employees, the training, evaluation ride-alongs, and other safety policies are just normal elements of the job.When you speak to UPS drivers, there is an attitude that follows this training program —not exactly a swagger, but rather a confidence. They are confident in their training, their record, and their abilities. They are proud to discuss their training program and their safety record.
While many companies talk about training as a top priority, UPS has proven it. The company has turned the concept of training into more than a program — it has become a value. While management may change, the values of UPS stay the same.