11 Dec 19

Helena Deyama, Drive Instructor: Tips for creating a safer fleet

Three-time winner of Rally Cross Country and Baja championships, Brazilian born Helena Deyama is a pioneer for women in the automotive racing industry.

Besides competing, Ms. Deyama conducts driver training courses and gives speeches on risk prevention, defensive driving and other related driving matters. In this brief interview, I had the pleasure to discuss her accomplishments as well as some of the driver training needs in Brazil and abroad.

You’ve won three racing championships. When were they and what were they for?

Deyama: My first accomplishment was in 2005 when I won the Brazilian cross-country championship. Nine years later, I won the Brazilian Rally Baja championship in 2014 under the UTV Marathon category.

Then in 2016, I won the Rally Baja championship again, but under the UTV Marathon Master category. I was the first woman to win these championships and to date, the only woman to have won these competitions in Brazil.

Vehicle maintenance course for women motorist at DPaschoal Goodyear in Santos-SP, Brazil (source: Helena Deyama)

Could you tell me a bit about the BMW driving training program you were involved with in the past, and the efficient driving program you are involved with today?

Deyama: As for the BMW program, it was originally created in Germany and then implemented in more than 14 countries. I was one of the four instructors in Brazil. I taught defensive driving with three other instructors who were also professional race car drivers. This was a requirement to be a BMW instructor.

Regarding the efficient driving program today, it is actually a course about risk prevention driving. I teach corporate drivers to think about prioritizing safety when driving. All companies want their employees to return home safe and sound.

Approximately 433,000 accidents occur every year in Brazil, leading to 45,000 deaths and approximately 50 billion reais (US$12bn) in costs. What can multinational companies with large fleets do to improve matters?

Deyama: The main cause of accidents is due to human error and, actually, 95% of accidents could be avoided but they aren’t. Many companies hire workers that have little driving experience and then oblige them to do a job which requires a lot of driving. To improve matters, companies really need to invest in the education of their drivers.

This does not only mean theory classes. Companies need to give their drivers opportunities to gain experience through practical courses. Theory is good, but drivers really learn when they are behind the wheel.

When test driving, what do you look for? Could you mention some of the brands you have worked with?

Deyama: When I do test driving, I am driving the car on behalf of consumers. My job is to show consumers how the new models have been improved. I look for new technologies, performance in terms of power, braking, and handling, as well as issues like fuel efficiency, emissions control, safety, design, and comfort.

Some of the brands I have tested are BMW, Jaguar, Land-Rover, Audi, Mini Cooper, Volvo, Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki, among others.

BMW driver training at Mega Space in Belo Horizonte-MG, Brazil (source: Helena Deyama)

Could you give me some tips for the management and driving of off-road vehicles?

Deyama: Well, if you really using your vehicle off-road, you need to pay more attention to maintenance. Cleaning dirt and mud is one of the most important things, as well as lubrification. Also, remember that off-road vehicles can get very bumpy, so you need to make sure that components and parts are not becoming loose or out of place.

Moreover, off-road vehicles are usually large so some drivers think they can drive over almost anything. Drivers of these vehicles need to remember to respect nature on the trail and respect smaller vehicles in urban areas.

Do you have any last words?

Deyama: Sure, another way to help employees drive safely is by using telematics. Fleet managers need to be aware of driver habits in real-time and drivers should be punished for incorrect behaviour.

This could include behaviour such as over-speeding, using the phone while driving or dozing off at the wheel which could be due to excessive hours of work.

Remember, however, that training goes hand-in-hand with telematics. If you give good training first, punishment may never be necessary.  Education always comes first.

To learn more about how telematics can help optimize TCO as well as improve safety in your fleet, attend Fleet LatAm’s next webinar on the matter. It will be taking place next week Thursday (17 December).

Authored by: Daniel Bland