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Driving Complacency: Why Seasoned Drivers Can Pose A Serious Risk

It is often said that it is more difficult to maintain top performance than to climb the mountain to achieve that top performance in the first place.

Why is that? My guess is that the people that achieve top performance can easily fall into a state of complacency which can cause their performance to slip back to less than excellent.

When years of experience can actually come back to bite you

HNI recently did a study on our agency’s 50 largest truck claims over the past 3 years. One of the most Driving_Complacencyinteresting things we found was that the drivers in almost all cases had at least 5 years of experience behind the wheel.

This was a very surprising find that we did not expect.  To dig into this, we gathered our team to brainstorm how and why this could be happening.

Some of the ideas that were thrown about included distracted driving, traffic congestion, and weather.

However, one idea that was thrown out struck me as something to be investigated. The idea was that some of these experienced drivers could become complacent in their driving habits.

Complacency and how it creeps in

What is complacency? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as:

A feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better

Self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

Think about some characteristics of those experienced drivers having driven many hundreds of thousands of miles over the road. Words probably come to mind such as professional, safe, and responsible.

However, do words such as comfortable, confident, and maybe complacent come to mind? How about “autopilot”?

Breaking complacency in our organizations 

How can we help good experienced drivers that want to do the right things stay on guard and help them avoid complacency?

Here are a few critical practices to consider: 

Weave safety excellence into the company culture.

A CEO driving a culture of daily excellence throughout the organization is necessity. A sense of urgency around safety excellence will help keep everyone on their toes.

Deploy constant training.

Safety never sleeps. We have to be constantly training and reminding our drivers and operations staff on driving techniques, weather, traffic conditions, and the “why” behind safety.

Use technology as a leading indicator.

In-cab cameras can help identify some of those complacent behaviors before they result in a crash.

The complacent “autopilot” mode is a danger to everyone including the driver. Let’s make an effort as an industry to keep on our toes and maintain that level of driving excellence.

Over to you: did our finding about experienced drivers having the worst crashes surprise you?  What do you think is fueling this trend?  How do you beat complacency in your organization?  Let us know in the comments!

Truck Driver Meetings

Topics: Transportation Safety / Compliance