The average fleet manager has myriads of responsibilities, but none are more important than driver safety. Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of workplace fatalities between 2003 and 2018, and a crash occurs in the United States every five seconds. And while some accidents may be unavoidable, 39% of fleets reported that most or all of their 2021 accidents were preventable. Moreover, research suggests that the implementation of fleet safety management practices can significantly lower rates of work-related crashes and injuries.
Aside from protecting employees and others on the road, businesses that invest in a robust fleet safety program can realize significant savings in time and money. A safer fleet means fewer collisions (hence: less money spent on repairs and medical bills), lower insurance rates, reduced downtime for employees, and a better overall company image that can help with recruitment. Creating and implementing a comprehensive fleet safety program is an absolute must for today’s fleet managers—but with so much to consider, where should you start?
Establish fleet safety policies and procedures.
The first step is to develop a set of thorough safety policies and procedures for all employees. At the very minimum, your fleet safety policies should explicitly detail what your drivers can and cannot do behind the wheel on company time, as well as the consequences of breaking those policies. These policies and procedures don’t just set clear expectations of driver conduct—they can also protect you from litigation in the event that one of your drivers is involved in an accident or collision.
Priority policies, at a glance.
Every fleet is unique, but any safety policy should address some of the most basic, pressing issues in the world of fleet management:
- Daily vehicle inspections: Your drivers should be responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is in good operating condition on a day-to-day basis—especially before and after embarking on a trip. These policies can help minimize the risk of breakdowns or other roadside issues.
- Seat belt usage: Seat belts are required by law, but too many people neglect to buckle up before hitting the road. This can have tragic consequences: Of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020, 51% were not wearing seat belts. Any employee driving a fleet vehicle must commit to wearing their seat belt while on company business.
- Respecting speed limits and traffic signals: Traffic rules are in place to protect drivers and others on the road. Any fleet driver must agree to adhere to speed limits, obey traffic signals, and use common sense while driving.
- Distracted driving and/or mobile phone policies: Some cell phone calls might be necessary in the event of an emergency, but mobile phone usage should be kept to an absolute minimum. The same should go for the operation of navigation and entertainment systems while operating a fleet vehicle.
- Drug and alcohol usage: Each day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes involving an impaired driver. When they’re on the clock, your employees must agree to refrain from using drugs or alcohol.
Setting clear, consistent expectations of your drivers is the foundation of a successful fleet safety program. Need help drafting your own policy? There are plenty of samples and templates online that you can use to get started.
Set up fleet safety certification training and ongoing coaching.
You’ve hired qualified, reliable fleet drivers, double-checked their credentials and licensing, and informed them of your company's safety policies. Now it’s time to make sure their safe driving skills are properly honed by way of fleet safety certification training and ongoing coaching.
What is fleet safety certification training?
Fleet driver safety certification programs are the best way to sharpen your drivers' current skills and reiterate the core requirements of your fleet safety policy. Driver safety training and certification can reduce the frequency and severity of road accidents, as well as standardize the procedures and communication you expect from your team. Whether you choose virtual training courses, classroom education, behind-the-wheel instruction, or some combination of all three, an initial new-hire training course should cover all the information and best practices your drivers need to minimize risk on the road.
Fleet driver training to-dos.
- Traffic laws and procedures: A refresher on the current traffic laws in the state and municipalities in which you operate. For instance, some states don’t allow drivers to turn right at red lights—make sure your employees are aware of these kinds of nuances.
- Driving in different weather conditions and environments: Tips and best practices to ensure your drivers are comfortable driving in rain or fog, in low-light conditions, and on icy roads.
- Defensive driving: Help your drivers to anticipate dangerous situations and the mistakes of other drivers while maintaining their own safety.
- New vehicle and equipment handling: Ensure employees understand and are comfortable with the equipment and driving assistance systems on their respective vehicles.
- Fatigue management: Reinforce that drowsy driving is impaired driving—an estimated 6,400 people die annually in crashes involving drowsy drivers.
- Accident protocol: Employees should know what to do in the aftermath of a crash, what information they need to collect, and how they can communicate with management.
The work doesn’t stop once your employees are on the road, however. Your organization should provide ongoing refresher courses and even remedial training to help drivers maintain these critical skills throughout their tenure with the company. Consider scheduling monthly safety meetings, annual driving skills tests, or the occasional manager ride-along to ensure drivers put their training to use.
Identify and minimize risky behaviors.
Even with the most robust training program, you may occasionally need to correct unsafe driving habits. An effective fleet safety program should include regular monitoring of driver performance to flag risky behaviors and identify drivers who might need ongoing coaching or remedial training. And while you can’t be in the passenger seat to keep tabs on all of your drivers, you can harness the capabilities of telematics systems and accessories like in-cabin cameras to identify and correct reckless behavior before it costs your company money—or puts lives at risk.
What to watch for.
As a baseline, look out for dangerous driver behaviors that increase the likelihood of an accident, including:
- Harsh acceleration or braking
- Failure to use seat belts
- Failure to use turn signals
- Close following distance or tailgating
- Distracted driving
- Road rage
- Driver fatigue
In addition to identifying dangerous behaviors in the moment, telematics and tracking systems also capture empirical data that can start objective, fact-based discussions about safety and inform future training and coaching sessions. Information collected about driving habits and productivity can be used to develop driver scorecards that you can use to evaluate and address driver performance on an ongoing basis. And while this data can be extremely helpful in coaching your underperformers, you can also use it to celebrate and reward your safest drivers. Many companies have even implemented rewards systems or “gamification” to encourage safe driving within their fleets.
Don't forget vehicle safety and maintenance.
A comprehensive fleet safety program goes beyond the drivers sitting behind the wheel of your cars, trucks, or vans. It also demands a supply of reliable vehicles armed with features that protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Fortunately for today’s fleet managers, there is no shortage of cars with advanced driver assistance systems that can reduce accidents and driver downtime.
Vehicles that boast advanced safety systems might cost more upfront, but these technologies can reduce the total cost of ownership by mitigating liability exposure and avoiding collision repairs, downtime, and lost productivity and revenue. Additionally, there are considerable savings to be had through lower insurance rates and even reduced employee turnover, as many of these systems greatly increase driver comfort.
Systems to consider.
Reduce the likelihood of crashes (as proven in studies by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) with technologies such as:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Forward collision warning and mitigation systems
- Lane departure warning systems
- Blind spot warning
- Brake assist or automatic emergency braking systems
- Pedestrian detection
- Automatic high beams
- Rearview cameras
In addition to making the most of the many safety features available on today’s automobiles, you can improve the overall safety and productivity of your fleet through routine inspections and preventive maintenance on all vehicles. Even minor mechanical issues can lead to unexpected breakdowns or serious accidents, but scheduling inspections and maintenance at regular intervals can help detect defects or issues before they become potentially lethal liabilities.
A preventive maintenance schedule is also the best way to optimize your fleet’s reliability, fuel efficiency and lifespan. Keep your vehicles in top condition (and your employees safe on the road) by incorporating formal maintenance and inspections and performing preventive maintenance on critical components like brakes, electrical components, transmissions, and engine parts.
Prepare your drivers for accidents.
Well-trained drivers and well-maintained vehicles can mitigate most safety concerns, but the truth is that some accidents are simply unavoidable. Whether it’s a minor fender bender or a major collision, your fleet safety program should ensure that all drivers are well-prepared to handle an accident or other roadside problems.
Clear post-accident protocols.
The immediate aftermath of a collision can be chaotic, but providing drivers with clear protocols to follow in these high-pressure situations can help. Focus on the key actions to take—moving the vehicle out of incoming traffic, calling emergency services, attending to serious injuries, and collecting information and paperwork for a police report should be the top priorities.
Avoid admitting liability.
In the aftermath of an accident, it can be shockingly easy to make a comment that implies fault—even when that’s not the case. Train your team on phrases and terms to avoid when speaking with authorities and other drivers in the moments following an accident.
Have a communications plan.
Calling the police and emergency services after an accident is always priority number one, but notifying your company of the situation should also happen as quickly as possible. Make sure your drivers understand this and that they can easily access contact information for their manager, safety coordinator, and roadside service provider.
Use a detailed accident report form.
Keep a supply of accident report forms in all fleet vehicles for your employees to use as a guide for collecting important information. In addition to the names, contact information, insurance providers and policy numbers of the other drivers involved, the form should include space for the names and contact information of passengers and witnesses, diagrams of the scene, and detailed descriptions of damage and injuries.
When it comes to an accident, you can never collect too much information. Photographic documentation from the scene can help determine liability and assess the damage. Make sure your drivers capture images of the general area of the accident, close-ups of the vehicles involved, license plate information, landmarks and road signs from the scene, and any injuries that were sustained.
Ready for a safer fleet?
A safer fleet benefits everyone—your drivers, your customers, and your bottom line. Building a comprehensive, robust fleet safety program is well worth the time and planning…especially when you start enjoying the advantages of safer drivers, improved employee retention, better risk management, and enhanced efficiency.
If you’re ready to develop your own fleet safety program (or to improve an existing one), Mike Albert Fleet Solutions can help. Contact us to learn more.
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