Fleet risk and safety management are two of the most important concepts for all fleet managers. Many fleet companies put such a heavy emphasis on reducing costs through optimization, reducing fuel consumption and idling, and implementing preventative maintenance. However, the impact of improving driver safety is not to be overlooked. It’s a priority for all fleets to keep their drivers safe and reduce the number of accidents, especially considering that the minimum costs of a fleet accident are $74,000 per accident. But some fleets have a harder time knowing how to reach safety goals in an efficient way.
Below, we cover why it’s vital to focus on fleet risk management and safety, plus provide tips on how to do just that.
Why You Need a Fleet Driver Safety Program
Fleet trucks, especially those with three or more axles, have more difficulty with maneuvering and braking. This, of course, is all learned in fleet driver training or studying to receive a CDL license. Fleet drivers also spend around 60 hours on the road each week. This statistic alone is exactly why fleets have the number of safety regulations in place today. However, drivers on those long hauls learn to get comfortable, opening themselves up for distractions tuning the radio, texting or talking on the phone, or eating a meal. Because drivers become so comfortable with their vehicles it’s easy to slip into bad driving habits like speeding, hard braking, or aggressive maneuvering.
These behaviors don’t just cause accidents, they also:
- Worsen your CSA scores
- Increase your insurance premiums
- Increase fuel costs
- Increase maintenance costs
- Lead to greater DOT violation fines
- Decrease employee retention
Simple Ways to Improve Fleet Driver Safety
The first thing you need to do, well before you implement any kind of safety tips or protocols to improve driver safety, is to assess your risk. By assessing all of the risks to your fleet, you gain a better understanding of what needs to change. Some of the most common risks to a fleet and its drivers are:
- Substance abuse
- Several types of distractions
- Aggressive driving by both the fleet driver and others on the road
After a fleet risk assessment, managers should work with drivers to create a fleet safety policy. Doing so helps to communicate safety procedures, ensure they are in place, and promote policy reinforcement by all team members. Once you have made employees aware of the policies, it’s far easier to reprimand drivers for things like aggressive driving. Your fleet driver safety policy needs to have these key elements:
- Driver selection controls
- Traffic regulation compliance
- Driver behavior monitoring
- Funding for safety
- External risk anticipation procedures (for weather emergencies)
- Maintenance scheduling and procedures
- Vehicle inspection procedures
The policy should include the factors above, but do consider including and integrating the following tips for improving driver safety.
The reason this should be in your safety policy is that vehicles should be efficient, and function exactly as expected. If brake pads aren’t replaced when they should be, it makes it far more difficult for trucks to stop as fast as they need to. It alters their ability to respond to a potential accident. This example is just one of many to showcase why certain policies need to be in place to ensure proper maintenance for fleets.
All fleets have driver training, but only some fleets have continuous training. Continue training at regular intervals and make sure all of your drivers know when there are updates to regulations and protocols. Make sure your drivers know their impact on each level of inspection, and their ability to reduce the rate of inspection through proper driver and responses to DOT and state highway officials. You may consider using videos and training programs drivers can do on their own time. You can also use driver behavior monitoring from a telematics device to tailor training.
As previously mentioned, drivers become very comfortable on the road after spending 60 hours driving per week—which is to be expected. Incentivising drivers to pay more attention to their behaviors can be the most effective way to alter poor driving. You should also provide rewards for regulation compliance as telematics systems are ideal for monitoring this. Incentives may include:
- Safety bonuses
- Extra vacation time
- Updates to cab or equipment
Improve Driver Hiring
While you always want to improve the skills and behaviors of the drivers you already have, it’s also beneficial to hire the right employees from the beginning. Make sure you run an MVR (Motor Vehicle Report) on all of your drivers, especially those you’re thinking about hiring. Set strict standards for new hires and your bottom line will thank you.
Communication is the key to any relationship, especially a business relationship. You don’t want your drivers to leave your company because they’re reprimanded for policy violations they didn’t know about. You don’t want them to leave because you don’t show that you value their safety. Out on the road, they’re alone. Make sure they know you see them and care about them.
Reduce Distractions on the Road
Drivers are often distracted by their cell phones, especially when they are on the road for long periods of time. This is even more true for drivers that have to respond to texts or calls from fleet managers checking in on progress. But the distractions stretch farther than contact with managers. Consider adding phone policies so that drivers stay focused until they’re on break. Telematics can also help reduce your contact with employees while driving by recording real-time insights on driver behavior and engine diagnostics.
As you’ve seen in the previous points, telematics makes it easier to monitor your drivers while they’re on the go. This helps you improve their training by focusing on what really needs to be fixed. It also streamlines maintenance and inspections by maintaining reports in a central database and using the data to build trend reports that help you make decisions about your fleet.
Learn more about how managers can improve safety for their drivers, boost productivity, and save companies money at Azuga. Smart solutions using telematics are ideal for fleets both big and small. Check out Azuga’s innovative products and start optimizing your fleet today.