DOT & ELD Guidance Blog

5 Stages of a Successful Driver Coaching Session

Build a top-tier performance management program with effective driver coaching.
J.J. Keller Senior Editor J.J. Keller Editor

Mark Schedler - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

October 18 , 2019

Successful driver coaching and correction on unsafe behavior, particularly from driver-specific video footage, minimizes the potential for negligent supervision and maximizes your return on investment in proactive safety systems. In order to build a top-tier performance management program, your driver coaching sessions should be conducted in five critical stages.

1. Scheduling a Time to Meet with the Driver

Timing is everything. For the best results, make sure you’re applying your coaching process in a timely manner, which includes:

  • Coaching the most serious events within 24 to 48 hours of the event
  • Recognizing positive behaviors with equal enthusiasm and timeliness
  • Verifying the driver is available, well rested, and receptive to the timing of the session

2. Preparing for the Conversation

Focus on the facts, avoid emotions, and don’t make assumptions. To ensure an unbiased and diplomatic approach to your coaching sessions,

  • Review the driver’s safety history for trends
  • Review the video at least twice and get another coach’s opinion, if needed
  • Think through the conversation and consider questions you have for the driver, how you plan to start the conversation, and how you expect them to respond

3. Building Rapport with Your Drivers

First and foremost, greet the driver in a positive manner and treat them with respect during the session. With each coaching opportunity, make a concerted effort to:

  • Ask the driver how their day/week is going, or how their family is doing, if appropriate
  • Tell them that you appreciate their time
  • Recognize positive safety history when appropriate

4. Coaching Drivers and Providing Recognition

Your coaching should be carried out as a conversation. In addition to asking meaningful questions, you should be listening carefully to the driver’s side of the story. You can achieve the right balance between corrective action and recognition by:

  • Having the driver view the video clip and provide information that may help shape your assessment
  • Asking how the driver would suggest correcting the root cause of the incident and how the company can help
  • Noting positive behavior along with areas that need improvement, and ensuring the driver understands the risk of continuing unsafe behavior
  • Choosing consistent and appropriate remedial or disciplinary actions, especially given the driver’s safety history and prior training
  • Documenting the root cause, next steps, and any recognition that was given

5. Gaining Commitment from the Driver

Encourage the driver to take accountability for their actions going forward. This means gaining commitment from the driver to:

  • Complete the agreed upon follow-up actions
  • Correct the unsafe behavior(s)
  • Consciously engage in safe behaviors in the future

Remember, coaching will sustain behavioral and cultural change when it’s ongoing and relies on rapport building skills. A “gotcha” mentality won’t be well-received by drivers, and hardly encourages improvement. End each coaching session on a positive note by thanking the driver, letting him or her know you are available any time, and reminding them they are a valuable member of the safety team.

Learn more about incorporating effective coaching into your performance management program by requesting your copy of The Fleet Manager’s Playbook: Using Driver Data for a Safe and Productive Fleet.


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