Injuries resulting from vehicle accidents are the leading cause of work-related death in the United States and the 9th leading cause of injuries in the workplace. These accidents are also costly. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), motor vehicle accidents cost employers $60 billion annually. On average, each crash costs an employer $16,500. These expenses rise to $74,000 if there is an injury and exceed $500,000 if there is a fatality.
A strong fleet safety program can help keep drivers safe and reduce costs. Here are six best practices for your fleet safety program.
1. Hire the Best Drivers
Your fleet safety program should start with your hiring process. Prioritize hiring experienced fleet drivers with stellar safety records. Ensure your hiring team takes the time to contact references and previous employers and requests specific information about safety records. Check out a potential employee’s motor vehicle reports (MVRs). Disqualify anyone with serious violations such as driving under the influence (DUI). Look carefully at minor violations if there a more than a few. Consider including a road test with the vehicle the applicant will be operating as part of your hiring process. If you begin with a solid driver who knows what they're doing on the road, your fleet is already moving in the right direction.
2. Train, and then Train Again
Onboard your new drivers with an eye to safe driving practices as well as your protocols for inspections and maintenance. Emphasize the need for defensive driving, the dangers of distracted driving and the signs of driver fatigue. All of these are leading causes of accidents among both commercial and non-commercial drivers. If you’re a Department of Transportation (DOT) monitored company, you will also need to provide DOT-mandated training to your drivers.
Training should also be conducted in policies, reporting and inspection requirements that are specific to your company. If and when these requirements change, all employees should receive new training.
In addition to onboarding new drivers, your training program should deliver ongoing driver education to your existing drivers. Provide refresher courses in defensive and distracted driving as well as in monitoring driver fatigue. It’s also good practice to include health-related education for your drivers, especially long haulers who may be facing additional health risks.
3. Establish Clear Fleet Safety Rules
Establish clear company policies regarding fleet safety and ensure they are communicated widely and often to your employees. Formally document all of your fleet safety program elements and include responsibilities, expectations, and, of course, consequences. There should also be a framework for evaluating and amending the fleet safety program and benchmarks for assessing what is working and what isn’t. Additionally, these policies can, and should, include the following:
- A mobile device use policy that outlines when and where drivers can use electronic devices in your vehicle.
- Alcohol use and drug use policies, as well as alcohol testing and drug testing procedures, which should adhere to DOT requirements.
- Policies on the use of seat belts, other safety features and the required use of specific fleet safety technologies make it clear that safety is a priority.
- Information about training should also include remedial training and when it may be required.
- Procedures for dealing with vehicle crashes. Who should be called and when? Provide these in a step-by-step format that clearly outlines what drivers should and should not do in the event of a crash.
- Accident and other reporting requirements should include templates for accident and maintenance reporting.
- Vehicle maintenance and inspection procedures should include a safety checklist for drivers to complete before leaving the yard and policies for routine maintenance by a mechanic.
4. Invest in Technology
Technology for fleet safety management has developed at a rapid pace over the last few years. Investing in these new technologies can keep your drivers safe and secure your assets. Telematics in particular has received some attention in recent years. Telematics is a system of leveraging GPS technology and onboard diagnostics, and it can be a tremendous asset to your fleet safety program.
However, telematics is just one example of the new technologies that can be accessed to improve fleet safety. Adaptive cruise control, for example, can ensure your drivers maintain a safe following distance and stay within the speed limit. Speed limiting systems can ensure your drivers do not exceed a specific speed. Some technologies provide advance warnings to drivers of lane departures or issues with their blind spots.
Collision mitigating systems are another option and will issue visual and audible alerts to the driver if there is a risk of collision with another driver or pedestrian. Some will provide automatic brake pressure to help drivers avoid a crash. These technologies are designed to prevent an impact or reduce the effects of one if it is unavoidable.
While the key priority is to make sure your drivers are well trained and alert on the road, these technological advances can help address any areas for human error and increase the overall safety of your fleet.
5. Prioritize Inspections and Maintenance
Simply put, well maintained vehicles are safe vehicles. Preventative maintenance can save money over the long term by reducing breakdowns and expensive repairs. Have a set schedule in place for light routine maintenance such as oil changes and more comprehensive inspections of the vehicle by a licensed mechanic.
Strictly enforce daily driver inspections of their vehicles. Before they set out, this should include lights, horn, turn signals, brake lights, oil and coolant levels, tire pressure and rear-view mirrors. Regular maintenance should be logged and kept in the vehicle, and drivers should conduct an end-of-day inspection and report any defects immediately.
6. Monitor Violations and Reward Safety
Safety violations should be logged and monitored on an ongoing basis by management. Accidents happen, but ongoing issues might point to the need for remedial training or even termination. Conversely, though, companies should reward safe drivers. Consider implementing safety bonuses, additional vacation days, updated equipment or other incentives for your safe drivers.