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Time for safety: The dangers of time pressure

Date: 21 April 2020   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Fleet managers need to make sure time pressure is not putting drivers at risk

The effect of time pressure on fleet driver safety has been highlighted in a new white paper.

Published by research organisation Drivermetrics, and written by its research director Lisa Dorn, the paper, entitled Time Pressure and Driver Risk, explains how time pressure influences driver behaviour at work, and the relationship between time pressure, driver stress, performance and crashes.

The paper, which is available to download free from the Drivermetrics website, sets out a series of recommendations to help fleet managers mitigate time pressure more effectively - from both a behavioural and an organisational perspective.

Dorn writes: "Time-related demands are a serious problem for people driving for work, and associated with higher stress levels and near-accidents.

"Feeling under time pressure can arise in the absence of any time constraints, due to personal preferences to be on time. For those who are time urgent, deadlines and pressures can be magnified and can cause greater stress.

"Drivers may become impatient with delays and schedule too many appointments, or the organisation may place unreasonable demands on the driver."

In the paper, Dorn cites research showing that drivers under time pressure tend to drive not only faster, but more aggressively as well.

They may also be distracted from the task of driving by other time pressure-related worries; for example, if they are running late.

Dorn says that organisations should aim to address the issue by adopting a multi-layered approach, aiming to develop a positive safety climate over the longer term, rather than carrying out a single intervention.

She explains that where traditional safety interventions focus on individuals, the social and organisational context in which drivers operate shapes their beliefs, attitudes and behaviour.

"A safe work environment not only depends on individual compliance with safety procedures, but on all hierarchical levels within a workplace, understanding the potential risks, anticipating safety threats, showing concern for the safety of others, and contributing to safety improvements within the organisation," she writes. 

"Leadership also has a major influence on safety outcomes, with leaders that play a pivotal role in creating a context where safety is valued showing lower levels of crash involvement. A leader's concern for a driver has also been found to be linked with safe driver behaviour."

Dorn also writes that different driver personalities can also be a factor, with some drivers more prone than others to being annoyed, anxious or stressed about being late - something fleets can take steps to identify.

Among the paper's final recommendations for managers is to ensure that drivers understand from their induction and ongoing training that safety takes priority, and to gear driver coaching towards identifying triggers that lead to worries about being late.

Managers are also advised to set achievable targets, and make sure drivers take breaks even when under pressure, especially on long journeys.

Drivers should also be encouraged to accept that sometimes, heavy traffic and unexpected journeys can occur, and to plan accordingly, as well as to plan routes to avoid traffic and roadworks where possible.

Among the other recommendations are that managers should avoid the use of sanctions for being late, review time schedules to make sure they are realistic, and explain how arriving both late and stressed will mean drivers are less able to deal with customers and clients - they should instead pull over when safe to do so and contact supervisors or customers to inform them of the delay.

Finally, the report urges managers to lead by example within their organisation by showing concern for drivers' well-being. Dorn writes: "Positive safety climate policies and practices guide managers and employees to value safety above other organisational goals. 

"A company with a positive safety climate would ensure that time pressure at the psychological level of the individual is addressed."