Editor’s note: This article was excerpted from “Fleet Management Solutions,” an e-newsletter sponsored by Verizon Connect, which was formerly known as Fleetmatics.

Pest management companies send thousands of vehicles and drivers onto the roads every day. And when you consider the average driver makes more than 35,000 driving-related mistakes in their lifetime, it should come as no surprise that driver safety is the biggest risk exposure for pest management companies.

The costs attributed to poor driver behavior can be measured in a variety of ways. It can be as simple as poor fuel usage due to inefficient routing or leaving the engine idle. It also can be due to higher insurance costs for fender benders or for incidents far more serious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33,000 Americans die each year in motor vehicle accidents and 2.5 million suffer disabling injuries.

Improving driver behavior and safety can be achieved through consistently delivered training.

For example, the simplest of training reminders — remembering to fasten seatbelts — can literally be a life saver.

How does a pest management company establish a strong safe driver program and culture that results in better driver behavior?

Quality driver safety training revolves around providing employees with the knowledge and having them apply it in the real world. Pest management companies can find teachable moments for driver behavior and safety training if they incorporate it as part of their ongoing training efforts.

What basics elements need to be included in an effective driver safety training program? They include:

  • Backing Procedures
  • Intersection Procedures
  • Rollover Prevention
  • Head-On Collision Avoidance
  • Striking Fixed Object Avoidance
  • Distraction Elimination

One of the most common mistakes commercial drivers make is failing to identify the risks around them — you can’t rely on other drivers from preventing an accident. With so much “activity” taking place on and off the road it can be hard for drivers to keep track of everything and everyone sharing the streets with them.

Drivers survive on habits and companies need to constantly reinforce the safe driver message and provide the tools to do so. Programs can include computer-based interactive training, train the trainer sessions, driver assessor training, poster programs and safe driver handbooks.

Establishing a driver safety culture (see box above) is not the only way to achieve a better managed and more efficient fleet. Staying on top of routing/scheduling and vehicle maintenance also renders financial benefits.

Improved routing and scheduling, and eliminating unwanted behaviors such as idling not only protects one of a technician’s most valuable assets — their time — but reduces wear and tear on the vehicle and fuel usage.

To prove the point, did you know that one hour of idling per day for a year equals 64,000 miles in engine wear or that the cost of poor driving behavior increases fleet fuel expenses between 5 and 15 percent?

Regularly performing basic vehicle maintenance (i.e., oil changes, tire rotation and air pressure, changing belts and filters, etc.) will result in less down time for vehicles and your technicians.

Finally, if your company experiences fewer vehicle incidents it will translate into lower insurance modifiers and lower rates.