Fleet Safety: Reduce Preventable Collisions by 40%!

Bill Horne

Supervisor of Fleet Safety, City of Edmonton

Bill, tell us about your posi­tion at the City of Edmon­ton. 

I retired after work­ing 28 years with the police ser­vice in Edmon­ton and came into my cur­rent posi­tion in Decem­ber, 2010. Dur­ing my career in law enforce­ment, I would say about 50 per­cent of that was spent in the traf­fic divi­sion which includ­ed inves­ti­gat­ing seri­ous injury and fatal col­li­sions. I was also involved with the edu­ca­tion end of things with impaired dri­ving edu­ca­tion.  I went on to work in var­i­ous oth­er areas of the police ser­vice and then came back after a num­ber of years as com­man­der of the Traf­fic Sec­tion. Ulti­mate­ly, after spend­ing some time there I saw an attrac­tive oppor­tu­ni­ty to retire and change careers: man­ag­ing the fleet safe­ty pro­gram for the City of Edmon­ton. I cer­tain­ly had a lot of expe­ri­ence and back­ground with see­ing the real­i­ties of what hap­pens if peo­ple don’t dri­ve safe­ly and the impor­tance of hav­ing a good dri­ver safe­ty pro­gram in place. I have knocked on doors in the mid­dle of the night to pro­vide some bad news to peo­ple about their loved ones — I have cer­tain­ly seen the direct results of unsafe dri­ving prac­tices. 

A goal that I have with man­ag­ing the dri­ver safe­ty pro­gram with the City of Edmon­ton is to ulti­mate­ly change the dri­ving behav­ior of the pub­lic. Dri­ving a marked City of Edmon­ton vehi­cle is like dri­ving around with a huge bill­board as the pub­lic is always close­ly watch­ing the behav­ior of City employ­ees.  If City employ­ees are dri­ving in a safe man­ner, they can set a good exam­ple for the pub­lic to fol­low. 

Now, one of the ways I see in chang­ing that cul­ture is respon­si­bil­i­ty on the part of dri­vers. To use the term “It was in an acci­dent” is no longer accept­able. An acci­dent is some­thing that is unavoid­able. We use the term col­li­sion. If I am involved in a col­li­sion I play a part in the cause of that col­li­sion no mat­ter what my role was. When I use the term acci­dent, “I was in an acci­dent this morn­ing,” that takes the blame away from me, it has less sig­nif­i­cance on the event.

The City of Edmon­ton was audit­ed rel­a­tive to com­pli­ance with the Nation­al Safe­ty Code stan­dards which gov­erns the safe oper­a­tion of vehi­cles as well as the main­te­nance of those vehi­cles. The gov­ern­ment inspect­ed dri­ver records, the dri­ver safe­ty pro­gram and the main­te­nance pro­gram and as a result of that, we iden­ti­fied some areas we could improve upon. These reg­u­la­tions had been in place a num­ber of years and not just with­in the City of Edmon­ton, but across the indus­try. We took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to start edu­cat­ing our dri­vers as well as our main­te­nance per­son­nel about the impor­tance of fol­low­ing the Nation­al Safe­ty Code guide­lines and as a result, we wrote a new driver’s safe­ty pro­gram for the cor­po­ra­tion out­lin­ing what the rules are, so to speak, rules of the game so every­one could under­stand what their oblig­a­tions are when they are dri­ving.  We also start­ed look­ing more close­ly at things like dri­vers con­duct­ing trip inspec­tions, mak­ing sure they are not work­ing too many hours, fatigue man­age­ment, that sort of thing.   

Our pro­gram called “The Fuel Sense Pro­gram” has been in place for a num­ber of years now. It is required for all full-time dri­vers with the City of Edmon­ton. It is a short course that teach­es dri­vers basic defen­sive dri­ver tech­niques in an effort to improve fuel con­sump­tion. It is a pro­gram that not only teach­es the per­son how to save fuel while dri­ving their City vehi­cle; it is one that they can also take home and apply when they are oper­at­ing their own per­son­al vehi­cles.  

Do you have an exam­ple of how your train­ing increas­es dri­ver aware­ness?  

One thing I have found over my years in law enforce­ment and even in this cur­rent posi­tion is almost 40 per­cent of pre­ventable col­li­sions occur when a per­son is back­ing up. Those are plain­ly pre­ventable col­li­sions; there is no way around it – for exam­ple when you back into a pole. Like I say, close to 40 per­cent of our pre­ventable col­li­sions occur while back­ing up and we are look­ing at rolling out a new pro­gram, a safe­ty cam­paign to remind our dri­vers that we do have a pol­i­cy in place that requires them to fol­low cer­tain pro­ce­dures – use a guide when avail­able for back­ing up a vehi­cle and do a walk-around the vehi­cle before get­ting into it. If they are to fol­low those pro­ce­dures and guide­lines, we the­o­ret­i­cal­ly reduce our pre­ventable col­li­sions by up to 40 per­cent. That is some­thing we have rolled out recent­ly and are I hope­ful that it will be effec­tive at reduc­ing back­ing up col­li­sions.   

Con­grat­u­la­tions on receiv­ing NAFA’s 2013 Excel­lence in Pub­lic Fleet Safe­ty award. Give us your thoughts on receiv­ing this pres­ti­gious award.

It was cer­tain­ly an hon­or. I was nom­i­nat­ed for the award; how­ev­er, I reluc­tant­ly accept the award per­son­al­ly. It is a team effort. I have a great team back home that all work to bring togeth­er such things as the dri­ver safe­ty pro­gram and the change process that took place rel­a­tive to edu­cat­ing in excess of 3,000 dri­vers with the dri­ver safe­ty pro­gram and deliv­ery of Nation­al Safe­ty Code as a result of our audit. 

Pro­vid­ing Nation­al Safe­ty Code train­ing also includes the ongo­ing mes­sag­ing of going around to depart­ments to try to change the cul­ture rel­a­tive to dri­ving. Dri­ving is an exten­sion of your work­place. Many peo­ple may have a job such as an elec­tri­cian, they may be mind­ful of safe­ty while doing their job as an elec­tri­cian, but they just use their vehi­cle as a means of trans­porta­tion to get to anoth­er job. So, I think it is impor­tant to change the cul­ture to extend work­place safe­ty to include dri­ving and the vehi­cle as their work­place. Fol­low the safe­ty rules while dri­ving – just as they would while in their work­place.  

Try­ing to con­vert the cul­ture with­in the cor­po­ra­tion is the goal in mind and con­tin­u­ing to reduce col­li­sions — part of which will require us to con­tin­ue to edu­cate dri­vers on driver’s safe­ty. What hap­pened last year, receiv­ing notice of being a final­ist, it was an hon­or and I was even more sur­prised when I was announced as a win­ner at the awards din­ner.  Like I say, this was not an “I” thing – it was the result of the Fleet Safe­ty team I have back home. I am very proud of them.  


Bill man­ages the Fleet Safe­ty Sec­tion — which is respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing the dri­ver and vehi­cle safe­ty pro­grams for the City of Edmon­ton which involves over 6800 dri­vers and 4500 vehi­cles. This includes edu­ca­tion and over­sight in rela­tion to com­pli­ance with dri­ving poli­cies and leg­is­la­tion, includ­ing Nation­al Safe­ty Code com­pli­ance for the oper­a­tion and main­te­nance of com­mer­cial vehi­cles. Addi­tion­al­ly, this area is respon­si­ble for the inves­ti­ga­tion of col­li­sions and oth­er mishaps involv­ing City vehi­cles.





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