Why develop a safety culture? Speaking at an industry conference in San Diego in June, Newell said it was because in 1994 one of the company's trucks had a wreck only about 3 or 4 miles away from the main office. It was the first time that the office staff had seen a wreck up close. "The owner said, 'No more,'" Newell said. That was the beginning of their efforts at developing a safety culture. Now, everyone in the company has a safety plan, and not just drivers.
In a phone interview, Newell said technologies such as lane departure warning, mobile communications, automated logging and predictive modeling are all used in the pursuit of safety. While noting it's hard to quantify how much any one element of their safety program contributes to their safety performance, he said the company had "just came off the best year we ever had."
Newell has been using predictive modeling from Qualcomm Enterprise Service's Fleet Risk Advisors business unit for three or four years. He said the modeling can tell them what's going on in a driver's life by picking out patterns. "It allows us to focus on guys we would not have focused on."
If a driver has been driving for a company for a number of years without having an accident and then one day he makes a right turn and hits a pole, "he didn't suddenly forget how to drive," he said. Instead, there are probably things going on in that driver's life that have an impact on their driving. "You can't control what's going on in a driver's life," but predictive modeling helps identify those drivers. Newell describes predictive modeling as an active system, rather than a passive system. It identifies drivers that need more coaching before there is an incident.
The model identifies the 10% of the company's 1,350 drivers most likely to have an accident within the next 28 days. Based on this information, Newell has a conversation with these drivers. "I just ask them how they are doing," he said. "When you ask them, they will open up and we let them guide us down the path of what they want to talk about. We don't say anything about the model."
Drivers targeted for this type of remediation are identified by predictive elements in the model that one would not normally associate with safety risk. "It could be shift start variations or an enormous amount of Qualcomm or email messages," he said.
As a vice president in charge of safety, Newell says he uses the various technologies, driver coaching and driver recognition as tools in the company's overall safety program. "But you can't just put technology on a truck and be done with it; you have to work with it. It's about changing behavior."
It is also about adhering to a safety culture, where safety is a value and not just a priority, he explained. "Priorities change from day to day, values don't. That's why we make safety a value."