We have so much information available to us these days; education, safety training, trend analysis, insurance recommendations, medical studies, etc. All this information is great at helping us develop the best and most current safety standards and practices, but what it can't do, is tell you what your staff/drivers are going through each and every day on the job.
I recommend to all safety and dispatch personnel – and anyone else that interacts directly with drivers – that they take the time, at least once a year, to get out from behind the desk, away from the phone, and work with your drivers.
When I was in Safety with a new car hauler company, I did a 1-day ride with a local driver. I picked and loaded a car directly on top of the truck cab, and walked down the ramps to the ground. It was hands down one of the scariest experiences of my life. And it wasn't until that moment, getting dizzy while looking over 10 feet down to the ground, that I really realized what my drivers went through every day. I think I also gained a little respect that day, too. Not only did my trainer-driver see me out there, working hard, but so did multiple other drivers and they kind of puffed up a little in the chest as they worked. It was a great experience.
When I got back to my desk the next morning, I was still tired and sore from the long day the day before. But I had a newfound energy to support and assist my drivers however they needed! I knew that they had so much to do already in their day, and so many frustrations, and all the regulations and training and paperwork could easily fall by the wayside during their shifts. I tried to change the way I spoke to them, with them, and about them. (Please note, I always respected the drivers, I just wanted to express it better and encourage others to as well!) This can simply be accomplished by asking, “What can I do to help you today?” or “Is there something I can do to make this easier for you?” As office staff, we typically have time to think of creative training programs, safety meeting outlines, way to meet or exceed regulations, etc. As drivers, they have physical exertion jobs that require all their attention at the time. Getting out there with them really helped that sink in for me.
Moral of the story – Shadowing your drivers helps you appreciate their schedule, job duties, and skills. Take a day and literally walk in their shoes. You won't regret it. Unless you get hurt. Then you will understand how injuries really happen on the job!