Strategies for preventing fleet accidents
Source: FleetAnswers Fleet accidents are costly. It leads to a loss of fleet productivity and negatively impacts the company’s bottom line. Drivers may have to be hospitalized. The company may be held liable for damages and injuries. Vehicles involved in the accident have to be replaced or repaired. The perceived lack of safety culture is bad for morale, especially if drivers do not feel valued.
Perhaps more importantly, most fleet accidents are caused by driver error and therefore, largely preventable. It is no wonder that many companies are interested in reducing the rate of motor vehicle accidents within their company. A study showed the different ways fleet managers measure motor vehicle accidents and the strategies they employ to reduce the rate of motor vehicle incidents.
In addition to the strategies outlined in the above study, fleet managers and directors have also relied on the following ways to successfully protect their drivers and fleet from motor vehicle accidents.
Training but one size doesn’t always fit all
Trucking companies may feel pressured by the shortage of truck drivers to hire someone with only a few weeks of training even though the drivers may not be ready to be driving alone. This has led some fleet managers to blame poor training programs as one of the main issues leading to motor vehicle incidents.
Many fleet managers therefore feel the need for mandatory training such as defensive driving courses aimed at improving driver’s aptitude and overall road awareness. Even though it is nearly impossible to prevent every motor vehicle incident, a robust safety training program followed by strict enforcement of safety polices can prevent many accidents from occurring. These safety training programs should not just be mandatory to new drivers but one that is continuously being updated and done proactively such as updating current drivers of new regulations, refresher courses to remind drivers of safe driving practices (e.g. lane changes and passing, defensive driving, winter safety checks) as well as remind them of regular maintenance checks.
Although it may seem cost effective to invest in a standardized safety training program in the short run, a one-size fits all program may not be as effective as one tailored to the individual driver based on experience, knowledge, and ability. Everyone learns at a different pace and process information differently. By understanding the limitations of a standardized program, some fleet leaders have advocated for an individualized safety training program for drivers to help them develop the skills and foresight to make rational decisions under pressure.
Management needs to stay committed to safety
Establish a culture of safety within the company. Too often, companies do not treat safety as a top priority, and may only pay it lip service when it benefits them or their company’s reputation.
Attitude is paramount when it comes to establishing a good safety culture, and fleet management needs to lead by example. Several fleet managers have pointed out that in order for drivers to fully believe in the culture of safety, fleet management has to be committed to enforcing a culture of safety through strict compliance to safety policies, safety training, communication, and educating its employees and drivers alike.
This means management must be prepared to reward good driver behavior through bonuses, incentives, or recognition programs as well as hold drivers with poor driving habits accountable for their actions.
Fleet management can also show their full commitment to corporate safety culture through their hiring practices.
Some fleet leaders have advocated for management to adopt good hiring strategies and practices. For instance, make minor offenses such as broken signal or tail light a chargeable offense to convey a strict culture of safety. If drivers know that minor offenses are taken seriously and practice good safety checks, they will be more likely to drive carefully.
Others have advocated for strict and long road tests (e.g. two-hours instead of one-hour or none) during the hiring process to see how prospective drivers will react to different road conditions, pressure, and traffic.
Another way that management can stay committed to safety is through their business practices, particularly through controlling fatigue among drivers. The increased pressure on companies to deliver products faster and cheaper (e.g. same-day or one-day delivery) can result in unreasonable expectations that can lead to unsafe driving practices.
For instance, trucking and retail companies may force drivers to run summer schedules in winter when the days are shorter to meet on-time delivery demands. Drivers may also feel pressured to meet companies’ schedule demands because of the fear of losing their income.
According to the Department of Transportation, driver fatigue is one of the top five causes of trucking incidents. This should come as no surprise because fatigue leads to slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations. Driver fatigue is dangerous because drivers often cannot accurately assess or are even aware of their own fatigue levels until they find themselves drifting in and out of lanes or worse, until it is too late.
A way to combat driver fatigue on the management side is to be aware of the hours of service guidelines and to control drivers’ time on the road.
Benefits of technology
Consider investing in a telematics solution for your fleet to proactively address driver behavior. According to a 2016 survey of fleet managers and directors, driver behavior is the top reason for investing in telematics solutions.
Being able to identify problematic drivers who consistently break safety rules such as speeding, not wearing a safety belt, or hard acceleration is important. This is because having more data means more understanding of drivers’ behavior and the ability to hold them accountable, which can reduce company’s accident rates. The same survey found that most fleet managers and directors were satisfied with their overall telematics experience, attesting to the benefits of technology for driver safety.
Once drivers with poor driving habits have been identified, they can be retrained. In addition, it will also allow the company to identify good drivers and compensate them for their performance.
Ask drivers what they think would make their job safer. Having an open communication channel with drivers is important to get feedback from drivers on ways to reduce fleet accidents. This will also make your drivers feel valued. In addition, implement frequent safety reminders in the form of an alert, daily tips, or newsletters to remind drivers of the company’s accident policy, to perform regular maintenance checks, and safe driving practices.
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