What can Brown do for you?

Police can learn a few things about driving safety from UPS

The disturbing rise in law enforcement collision deaths and injuries has many departments scrambling for solutions to reduce LE collisions and make our jobs safer.

UPS photo
While many so-called experts are trying to sell their methods, videos or techniques, the United Parcel Service (UPS) – with the famous brown trucks we see every day — has been leading the private industry in driving safety for nearly 100 years. UPS issued their first driving handbook in 1917 and they have been modifying and improving their training program ever since.

While long haul trucking, the forth most dangerous job in America, saw 808 deaths in 2006, UPS did not have one 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.

The safety record is based on the commitment of the company to provide its employees with the best training available—a commitment that LE should model. In 2007, UPS will invest $38 million dollars and 1.3 million hours on safety training, and despite a century of emphasis on safety, they continue to push for excellence.

In fact, in the last five years alone, the UPS accident rate has dropped by 30%. This amazing statistic is due, in part, to encouragement on the part of the company for employees to take direct responsibility for the safety of their coworkers.

“Our more experienced drivers will work with our newer employees and mentor them,” says UPS Corporate Fleet Safety Manager Gerry Eaker. “We use someone that has a track record of safety in the workplace.”

The Training

Many LE agencies lack the facilities to provide driver training. Makes you wonder how an organization with over 100,000 drivers provides training on a regular basis.

In fact, UPS delivery drivers don’t use a driving facility or controlled environment to train. Instead, UPS has a defensive driving course called “Space and Visibility” and it is typically completed on the roads and highways of your hometown!

Package car drivers receive 20 hours of classroom and road training, and they will complete three safety ride evaluations during their first 22 days as a new driver. These safety rides become the mainstay for UPS drivers. They will receive as many as an evaluation ride from their supervisor every six months and in the event of a preventable collision, they will receive 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 will drop everything and conduct a full day safety ride check”—meaning the supervisor will ride with the employee and evaluate all of his or her techniques and habits, correcting any mistake on the spot that could jeopardize safety.

While discipline is a factor in the safety program, UPS does not unduly focus 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.”

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 so you can comfortably determine the true hazards around your vehicle. Don't tailgate others.

    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 very relentless about our training,” he says.

The continuous training isn’t the only piece of success that makes UPS stand out. While they train and discipline those that are involved in collisions, they also give positive recognition to those that adhere to the safety techniques.

UPS’s safest driver marks 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. (Photo credit: UPS)
Recognizing Excellence

Since 1923, UPS has been recognizing 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 there are more than 4000 active drivers within the Circle of Honor, designating at least a 25-year accident-free career. Each year these Circle of Honor drivers are recognized in a full-page ad in USA today.

UPS spends more than $5 million dollars 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.”

It’s an Attitude

The core concepts of the UPS program may seem familiar to LE. The Smith Driving System is incorporated into many LE driving programs. But if LE shares a similar philosophy, then why has UPS had resounding success while LE struggles to find answers for their leading cause of deaths?

The answer lies not only the method of the company’s continuous and frequent training, but in the inherent culture of UPS.

Think about this: What would your officers do if a trainer or supervisor rode with them in their car every six months and spoke to them about driving?  What if they were asked to physically stretch prior to their shift and attended a ten minute training session on safety every day? 

It’s safe to say that for many, this daily regimen may take some getting used to, but for the UPS employee, it’s just a normal part of his or her job.When you speak to a UPS drivers, there is an attitude that follows this training program—I wouldn’t call it a swagger, but I would call it confidence. They have confidence in their training, in their record and in 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. They have turned the concept of training into more than a program—it has become a value. While management may change, the values of UPS have stayed the same.

What about the officers at your agency? Have we given them the necessary training to make them confident? While I realize that LE doesn’t drive big brown trucks, can we not gain some knowledge and insight from a company that has had resounding success in the area of driving safety?




About the author

Major Travis Yates is a Commander with the Tulsa (OK) Police Department. His Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training and the Director of Ten-Four Ministries, dedicated to providing practical and spiritual support to the law enforcement community.

Contact Travis Yates

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