Everyone who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, or who rides along as a passenger, is taking a risk. However, because it’s something we do every day, it’s a risk that is often overlooked or taken for granted.
For the pharmaceutical industry, learning how to keep drivers safe is a part of workplace safety that is crucial to the well-being of a company and its workforce. According to a study by OSHA, the typical driver in the U.S. logs between 12,000 and 15,000 miles a year and has about a one in 15 chance of getting in a crash. Fleet drivers, by comparison, often log an additional 8,000 to 10,000 miles more than that each year, and their odds of having a crash increase with every mile.
For companies, the cost of a crash is often staggering. Vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of work-related deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a single fatal crash costs a company around $671,000. Even non-fatal crashes hit the bottom line hard, averaging around $65,000 in costs to the employer.
More Road Time, More Risks
Pharmaceutical reps, who by the nature of their job spend much of their day behind the wheel, are at a high risk for on-the-job crashes. A study in the journal Occupational Medicine titled, “Occupational health issues affecting the pharmaceutical sales force,” found that pharmaceutical sales reps were at a much higher risk for crashes than the general population.
The combination of increased time behind the wheel and increased distractions on the road can have costly consequences. And, the study ultimately found, the work-related crashes were “due more to driving style than to increased time pressures.”
With more vehicles on the road today, and more distractions for every driver, pharmaceutical reps face more significant challenges today than ever before. Giving drivers the tools to deal with the distracted drivers around them, and to manage things like fatigue and dangerous weather conditions, is as important as providing them with the knowledge about the pharmaceuticals they are selling.
Equipping them with the ability to deal with virtually all challenges on the road can make employees not just safer, but happier and more productive as well.
Putting Safety in the Driver’s Seat
While the core competency of every pharmaceutical company is to make safe and effective drugs, its second priority is to keep employees safe. The only way to do that is to provide them with the best possible driver safety training.
Putting drivers through a one-day defensive driving course is the industry standard, but nothing compares to providing real-world behind-the-wheel advanced driver safety training.
The advantage of advanced driver safety training is that it allows drivers to get instruction on individual driving habits that they may have relied upon for years, not knowing there was a safer approach.
Moreover, the training can teach pharmaceutical reps that there are safe, low-stress ways to drive, even in stressful traffic situations or during severe weather. The result? A lower chance of having a crash, a less-stressed and happier employee, and a better track record of driving safety for your company.
Benefits of a Driver Safety Culture
When a pharmaceutical company adopts a driving safety culture, and it receives top-down support and approval, the efforts are reflected in the company’s bottom line. Training your supervisors to be as concerned about what happens in the vehicle between appointments as they are about what happens during a sales call reinforces the need for safer driving and helps reps remember, every day, to put their training into action every time they put their vehicle in gear.
No amount of training can change the conditions of the roads that pharmaceutical reps travel every day or the actions of other drivers, but it can help them better anticipate what could happen and improve the way they respond to it.
As their chance of having a crash is lowered, the company’s profitability and safety record improves, allowing it to focus more on what it is designed to do: provide customers with pharmaceutical options.
About the Author:
Tony Douglas is the president & CEO of Smith System, the first fleet driver safety training organization. Smith System instructors and certified trainers deliver behind-the-wheel instruction to more than 250,000 drivers annually and serve customers on every continent.