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5 Tips to Improve Fleet Driver Safety

For fleet managers, it’s easy to focus on maximizing profits while minimizing costs. However, when it comes to cost-cutting, you should never take shortcuts when it comes to fleet safety. They say that companies are only as good as their people, and the same is true for industries that depend on their drivers.

Hence, one of the first things you should focus on as a fleet manager is to ensure the security of your drivers. This may mean investing more money into guaranteeing their well-being, but the benefits you get in return are definitely worth it.

Create a Driver Safety Policy For Your Company

The first step to improving driver safety in your company is to integrate it into your company policies. This way, all current and new drivers are aware that once they work for your company, they have to abide by the policies because it is for their own good as well.

The most important policy of all is ensuring that your company complies with FMCSA regulations regarding driver hours. All commercial drivers have a set number of driving hours that you shouldn’t go past. Here are some guidelines that you should include in your policy:

  • Drivers that carry passengers (buses, taxis) can drive only up to 11 consecutive hours and only after they take a break of 8 consecutive hours.
  • Drivers that carry goods and property (trucks, trailers, moving vans) can drive only up to 10 consecutive hours and only after they take a break of 10 consecutive hours.
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break for every 8 consecutive hours that they’ve been on the road.
  • Drivers are not allowed to drive after 60 to 70 hours while on duty for 7 to 8 consecutive days.

These policies help ensure that drivers are not sleepy or fatigued while driving on the road. A driver whose senses are impaired due to fatigue or lack of sleep experience lapses in judgment may pay less attention to other motorists on the road.

Policies for Regulating Driver Behavior

Drivers need to know what the company’s standards are when it comes to driving behavior. Create specific policies and make sure your drivers know what the consequences are if they violate company policies. Make sure your company’s rules are clear on the following:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Use of mobile phones and other distracted driving practices
  • Using company vehicles for personal errands
  • Vehicle cleanup and maintenance

Safe Vehicles For Your Fleet Drivers

Since drivers spend the majority of their work hours inside their vehicles, as a fleet manager, you should help make sure that the vehicles you use in your company are not death traps.

Safer vehicles start with vehicle acquisition. To cut costs, a lot of fleet managers purchase 2nd hand vehicles. The practice itself isn’t bad and it has proven to be cost-efficient for a lot of management officials; however, extra care should be taken when acquiring used vehicles. Make sure all vehicles acquired, whether brand new or used, go through a stringent testing process to make sure they’re road-worthy.

Vehicle maintenance also plays a huge part in keeping your drivers safe. Having a dedicated maintenance or repair crew for your fleet is a great investment. Hiring on a contractual basis may save more money, but having a dedicated crew means that the same group of people will continually work on your vehicles. You will then have a team that knows your vehicles inside out and is experienced at repairing the particular model and make of your vehicles.

Fleet Safety Features for your Vehicles

Manufacturers continually design more advanced fleet safety equipment for drivers. As a fleet manager, some of these features may seem unnecessary because they cost a lot of money; however, it’s something to keep in mind. Fleets that start doing well financially should consider advanced safety equipment as the first thing they upgrade.

Basic and advanced fleet safety features for commercial drivers include the following:

  • Airbags – Most light trucks have airbags installed since the start of 2000. Airbags are triggered immediately if the vehicle gets into a head-on collision. In recent years, airbag technology has adapted to detect the weight and closeness of the driver to the steering wheel. This reduces the chance of an airbag opening with full force, which can also cause head injury to drivers. Also, side airbags are now fitted into some vehicles and protect drivers if the vehicle rolls over due to impact.
  • Antilock brakes (ABS) – This technology prevents the vehicle wheels from locking up due to hard braking. This safety feature allows drivers to gain full control of the steering wheel while braking, allowing them to maneuver the vehicle to reduce the damage or impact of the collision.
  • Stability control – There are several types of stability control features available today. All of these features have one goal: to prevent skidding or slipping. These features allow drivers to gain full control over the vehicle during bad weather conditions such as snow or rain.
  • Seatbelts – While seatbelts are the most basic safety equipment found in vehicles, recent developments have made the seatbelt very intuitive, especially during head-on collisions. Newer seatbelt models tighten up in the event of a frontal collision so that the driver won’t get launched forward upon impact. The seatbelt then loosens up a few seconds later to prevent chest and shoulder injury.

Using Technology to Prevent Accidents

Aside from the fleet safety equipment discussed above, there are several ways by which technology can prevent accidents and help ensure driver safety. Fleet management teams now make full use of Telematics to oversee drivers while they are on the road. GPS tracking services is an example of telematics technology that is popular with fleets and has proven useful in maintaining driver safety.

Fleetr’s GPS tracking system has a feature called the Driver Scorecard. The feature determines a particular driver’s safety performance score based on several factors. It takes the driver’s total driving time and then factors in the number of times the software was flagged for potentially risky driving behavior. These behaviors include hard braking, rapid acceleration, speeding, risky lane changes, and sharp turns. A safety score of 67 and above is considered good, while a score of 33 is bad and the driver should be reprimanded or re-trained.

By using Telematics, fleet management teams also get vital information about driver routes and roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration usually maps out roads and highways that are more accident-prone, and by using the latest telematics technology, you can diversify your driving routes to avoid accident-prone roads.

Regular Fleet Driving Re-training and Testing

Most fleets are not lacking when it comes to enacting a driver safety policy. However, the strict implementation of these policies is another story altogether. When drivers are newly oriented, they follow the company rules religiously at first; however, they get complacent the longer they are with the company. After a few months, they start to cut corners and deviate from the rules.

A continuous training program is important for any fleet. All the technology in the world is useless if there’s no practical application. Using the data gathered from telematics technology, fleet managers can determine which drivers exhibit risky driving behavior and can recommend them for re-training. Also, tracking your drivers using GPS vehicle tracking can help ensure that they stay compliant with the rules.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or the FMCSA, regularly conducts random testing on commercial motor vehicle drivers. Beyond the government-mandated testing protocols, you can also help guarantee a drug and alcohol-free workplace as a fleet manager.

You can conduct your own drug and alcohol testing in the workplace on drivers who exhibit risky driving behavior. Most of the time, drivers make poor decisions on the road because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you have a driver with a low driver safety score, drugs or alcohol may be the reason behind it.

Also, it’s important for management to regularly check on their drivers before and after trips. Drivers usually exhibit visible signs of intoxication or drug use, so something as simple as having a chat with the driver before and after their trip can give you telltale signs of possible drug and alcohol use.

Improve Driver Hiring and Management Practices

The best way to improve fleet safety is to make sure drivers who care about road safety make their way into your company. This involves streamlining the hiring process so potential applicants are made aware that driver safety is a priority for your company. When hiring drivers, make sure you do a comprehensive background check for possible red flags. You can also check Motor Vehicle Reports for past accidents, violations, and instances of license suspensions.

Management of your current fleet is equally important. For example, some drivers in need of extra cash may doctor their work hours so they could take on more jobs. People on the administrative side of your company should also prioritize fleet safety and stick to the policies without giving special treatment or cutting corners to save money.

Beyond the Tips: Building a “Driver First” Culture

The tips mentioned above are based on the mindset that your drivers are your most important resource and therefore, you should take good care of them. Some fleet managers prioritize the vehicles because they are expensive and need proper care, but let’s not forget that it’s the drivers who fulfill orders and transport goods.

By prioritizing the safety and well-being of your drivers, the following aspects will automatically fall into place: Safe drivers operate vehicles more carefully, thereby reducing expenses related to road accidents. If your drivers are cared for properly, they will in turn take better care of vehicles. Most importantly, by prioritizing fleet safety and well-being, you also gain the loyalty and trust of your drivers

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