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The Australian Financial Review - Wednesday, 1st September 1999 < Back to News Index

Financial Review

Written by Christopher Jay

A psychological program for fleet drivers designed to improve their attitudes is being picked up by a number of training schools, as an addition to programs to enhance skills. There is reduced emphasis on sliding delivery vans over skid pans and recovering from high-speed braking on wet roads in favor of improved handling of fleet vehicles under normal conditions.

Among the driver training groups involved are Mount Cotton Driver Training School in Queensland and DECA in Melbourne, both major driving organizations. Masterdrive in New Zealand is a former government operation which has been privatized for several years, while Accredit in Brisbane handles training in hazardous goods transport situation.

Training and recruitment associates include Jamiesons Consulting at Erina, near Gosford on the NSW Central Coast, Chandler & Macleod and Tasmania's Searson Buck Human Resources. In the past year, major insurance groups insuring big fleets, including freight transport vehicles, are reported to have been taking more interest in improvements in driver training for fleets.

These include insurers Queenslands' NTI, MMI, Zurich, Suncorp and Lumley. Extensive field work with several Australian companies has indicated that employees can be roughly divided into three groups.

One third drive responsibly, with few accidents and even less accident damage; one-third are average drivers with a moderate number of accidents, and the rest contribute to nearly all the accidents and the overwhelming amount of serious damage and insurance costs.

The attitudinal change approach, known as ARM (for accident risk management) is marketed by consultants PaQS Pty Ltd, run by husband and wife organizational psychologists, Carl and Donna Reams of Kunghur, near Nimbin, in NSW.

The work with actual fleets has confirmed the initial findings, that employers can cut accident costs by working to improve the self-esteem and sense of responsibility for the lowest performing one-third of their workforce.

Drivers can be tested on safety awareness, with a score from a low of 0 to a high of 100. "People who score between 1 and 35 on the safety awareness index have 75 per cent of accidents, and 85 per cent of lost time injuries," says Carl Reams.

The move to working on individual drivers has been strongly reinforced by increasingly onerous occupational health and safety legislation, which is placing the onus on fleet management organizations to take positive initiatives to improve driver performance.

"There's so many more companies attracted because it's about getting people to accept responsibility for their own actions," says Carl Reams. "Fleet driving requires self-management once you're outside the depot. Management is deciding they will have to take more responsibility for compliance by their drivers."
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