5 Tips to Reduce Accidents and Increase Fleet Safety
In the U.S., all motorists must follow the “duty to care,” by law.
Duty to care means that you can’t simply walk away from an accident — you must take whatever action necessary to secure the health and lives of everyone affected. But a “duty to care” also means that, as a driver, you must use reasonable care when you’re driving to protect both your own safety and that of others.
However, truck drivers are unique.
They’re held to a higher standard when it comes to “duty to care.” Not only are trucks more challenging to maneuver, but they also risk causing more damage to a greater number of vehicles than accidents involving motor vehicles alone.
Duty to care on American roads and highways also clue fleet managers into how they can help reduce fleet accidents. Notably, you can use many solutions to reduce the incidence of these fatalities and improve fleet safety.
Let’s look at a few.
Why are Fleet Accidents on the Rise?
Truck accidents are rarely the result of one isolated issue, such as driving behaviors or poor visibility due to weather.
For example, regulations by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) dictate that drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours in a 14-hour period — but once they hit eight hours, they must take a 30-minute break.
To compensate, some drivers are driving at maximum speed — or, worse yet, they’re breaking the speed limit.
Many drivers complain that a mandatory 30-minute break just increases their fatigue because they prefer to finish their entire shift before resting completely.
And, finally, veteran drivers say younger drivers are bringing along bad driving behaviors when operating a motor vehicle to the practices of commercial truck driving.
In light of this, fleet safety has to start with preventing the circumstances of fleet accidents.
Let’s look closer at why accidents happen.
The Reasons for Fleet Accidents
Whether your fleet includes big rigs, box trucks, or passenger cars, it’s smart to establish a company safe driver program to make sure all drivers understand the importance of accident prevention training. Before you can identify solutions or get started with a fleet safety management program, you need to know the common reasons for these issues.
There are critical events that occur on the road when these incidents happen. These events include:
- Running out of travel lanes
- Loss of vehicle control
- Rear-end collisions
- Late stopping
- Bad weather conditions
- Failure to see a passenger vehicle at the side or ahead
- Failing to gauge the distance between vehicles on the road
However, there are other contributing causes to truck crashes, and some of them depend on the type of truck accident.
For example, poor cargo loading practices can affect how stable a driver feels when making a lane change. Unsecured cargo could lead to a truck jackknifing or swerving out of control.
Other issues include:
- Poor vehicle maintenance (or total failure to comprehensive maintenance in compliance with trucking regulations)
- Equipment failure (a manufacturer’s issue)
- Driver error — Data shows that 81% of trucking accidents occur because of the passenger vehicle driver, whereas truck drivers cause 22% of crashes. There’s an opportunity for commercial drivers to enhance driver performance through defensive driver safety techniques.
Distracted driving is a significant issue for all drivers. For example, GPS systems intended as solutions to help reduce risk can actually cause distracted driving with alerts, notifications, or when drivers try to view the map and focus on the road.
The bottom line is that there are almost always multiple reasons behind fleet accidents. The results speak for themselves:
- In 2019, data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that trucker deaths were at their highest levels in more than 30 years.
- Fatalities involving large trucks increased for the fourth consecutive year.
- Pedestrians killed in accidents involving trucks increased by 13%.
- From 2017 to 2018, there was a one percent rise in people who died due to collisions with large trucks — 4,678 up from 4,369.
The caveat to these results is that overall deaths in every other category — including motorcycles, SUVs, vans, and even alcohol-impaired driving fatalities — decreased.
Clearly, instituting fleet safety needs to be a significant, even primary, priority for any company that requires employees to drive for work.
The Costs of Fleet Accidents
The long–term costs of fleet accidents have far-reaching consequences in the long haul.
Without comprehensive driver training programs or fleet safety programs and policies, commercial fleet companies risk spending at least $74,000 as an average cost for managing fleet accidents. With injuries and fatalities, this figure could rise to $500,000.
The cost of fleet accidents goes beyond just costs from collisions with people or property damage. Commercial drivers also have to think about costs related to:
- Reduced productive time spent driving
- Missed revenue due to downtime (of either driver or the vehicle itself)
- Cost of repairing the vehicle, which, for a large truck, could cost upwards of $22,000 per unit
- Potential injury claims (which could be filed up to two years after the accident)
- Fines and penalties due to distracted driving (in 2015, this prevalent issue levied a combined 8.2 billion dollar financial burden on employers)
When you consider this data, it’s clear that you have to address the issue of reducing fleet accidents through multiple strategies such as compliance, fleet safety, and driver behavior.
With all of this in mind, let’s look at how you can reduce accidents within your fleet.
Five Tips to Reduce Fleet Accident
There’s no doubt that a fleet safety program can help identify and address major fleet issues that need to be improved.
These five tips ask you to work with all aspects of fleet management, including driver performance, vehicle maintenance, and emergency procedures. They also ask managers to use technology to identify ongoing areas that need improvement.
These practices will be effective for a company when used together, over time.
1) Start with a Fleet Safety Plan or Policy
A fleet safety program is an overarching plan that establishes the key elements of fleet operations.
It can define granular details about:
- Acceptable standards of driver performance
- Driving requirements and records
- Consequences of DUIs
- Collision policies
- Resources for drivers when they encounter issues on the road
- Rules about license suspension
- Penalties for poor vehicle care
It should also define what critical maintenance and preventative maintenance baselines for company equipment require.
Furthermore, a comprehensive fleet program can help management monitor and identify how to improve driver behavior through coaching. You should have all drivers read and sign this plan and send out newsletters that zero in on each aspect of the safety program as a continual reminder.
2) Rely on a Robust Defensive Driving Training Program
There are two parts to a successful driver safety and training program.
The first is the training itself, which should be personalized according to a driver’s needs. The fleet safety driver training should increase a driver’s confidence, readiness, aptitude, and overall road awareness and responsiveness. DriveSafe Online defensive driving courses are designed to educate drivers on traffic laws and safety procedures, and are ready to immediately plug into a corporate safe driver program.
The second part is the testing. The company should not feel pressured to hire drivers after only a few weeks. Instead, they should be testing drivers in various, real-world highway, weather, and vehicle readiness conditions.
For a driver training program to be successful, the company must establish a culture of safety that is championed by company leaders at every level. Training should continually be updated, and drivers should be extending and refreshing their skills through ongoing training.
3) Make Preventative Maintenance a Practice
Another part of fleet safety is fleet management. Fleet managers can rely on the help of software designed to specifically evaluate and update managers (or a driver) on the need for routine, preventative maintenance.
Some software solutions are robust enough to track real-time issues with equipment, which may help ensure that any incidents that do occur aren’t vehicle related.
4) Incorporate a Rewards Program for Safe Drivers
Rewards programs tie desirable driver behavior to the results of their individual improvement. These incentives include:
- Monetary rewards like bonuses
- Non-monetary rewards like additional vacation time
One way to implement a rewards program that incentivizes safe driving is to use driver scorecards. Managers will be able to reward drivers with the highest performance, as well as those who show significant improvement over time. As a bonus, incentives also increase driver retention and employee loyalty.
5) Control Fatigue and Manage Driver Behavior with Telematics
One of the best long-term strategies to improve fleet safety is through telematics.
Installing telematics in your vehicles can help support driver performance and ensure drivers are using safe driving techniques. Telematics can also reduce the risk of critical incidents through training resources.
So, what are telematics? When installed in vehicles, telematics help track events like speeding, not wearing a safety belt, hard acceleration, and more.
This helps management access data they need to review driver performance and avoid traffic collisions over time. Using this data, a company may even decide it’s less expensive to retain and retrain their driver than to fire and hire anew.
Telematics gives your management system access to insights and analytics about specific drivers and their driving habits, often in real time.
The bottom line of vehicle and fleet safety is that it’s in your hands — whether you are a company president, trainer, or driver.
DriveSafe Online driver improvement programs can easily orient new drivers or refresh training certificates for existing fleet drivers.
Contact us to learn more about how you can take advantage of our in-depth training for higher-risk drivers in your fleet.
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