Managing the Safety of Large Truck Fleets

Motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. increased 16% through the first six months of 2021, according to new preliminary estimates released by the National Safety Council, which further exacerbates the need for fleets to address driver safety protocols in their operations.

This new data extends the disconcerting trend that was observed in 2020, which found that, despite there being fewer vehicles on the road as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentage of on-road fatalities went up.

The Latest Data on Fatal Crashes

So far in 2021, approximately more than 21,400 people lost their lives on the road, according to the latest NSC data.

The eight states that experienced increases in road-fatalities of 30% or more so far in 2021 included:

  • South Dakota (up 51%)
  • Oregon (up 51%)
  • Minnesota (up 41%)
  • Idaho (up 39%)
  • Nevada (up 38%)
  • Utah (up 36%)
  • Vermont (up 33%)
  • Tennessee (up 30%)

The latest data reinforces the idea that fleet and safety managers will need to continue to push for stronger driver safety policy practices, not only for their drivers but for those who share the road with them.

Heavy Truck Crash Data

The most recent injury facts from the NSC that is specific to large trucks have mostly shown marginal year-over-year increases in fatal and injury crashes. 2 For fatal crashes that were reported, the most recent data has shown a 43% increase since 2010.

However, the majority of deaths in large truck crashes are represented by passenger vehicle occupants, with the main problem being vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles around the larger trucks, according to IIHS-HLDI. 3

Indeed, IIHS 2019 data found that approximately 16% percent of these deaths were truck occupants, while a much larger 67% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles. The other 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. Considering how these road fatalities are of greater concern for passersby of the large trucks as opposed to the truck drivers themselves means that there is an onus on fleets to be as mindful of the road as they can.

Fleet Safety Strategies

Every fleet operates differently, but there are a number of commonalities among fleets with regards to safety strategies that they utilize.

Some top fleet safety strategies that fleets with heavier vehicles utilize, according to a recent 2021 Safety survey by Heavy-Duty Trucking and Work Truck 4, included:

Having well-maintained vehicles
Implementing written safety policies and procedures
Incorporating driver training practices
Having strict driver hiring standards
Utilizing safety Technologies

Expanding upon the implementation of safety technology, in-cab camera technology was the most commonly noted safety technology that fleet survey respondents said they plan to adopt in the next year. Distracted driving prevention and detection technology was also noted to be of significant interest for larger fleets, according to the survey.

Distracted Driving and other Risk Concerns for Large Trucks

Indeed, distracted driving is a perennial concern for fleet managers, which has only worsened since the adoption of smartphones by the general public. A survey from J.J. Keller on the state of fleet management published in April 2021 identified that distracted driving was the most significant gap in driver knowledge and skill. 5

Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) observed that 71% of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was doing something other than driving. Other top concerns from fleet managers observed in the survey included how to help drivers avoid injury, how to safely operate vehicles, comply with HOS limits and use of exceptions, and understand how FMCSA regulations apply.

Are you ready to learn more? Talk to a Fleet Advisor today.

Importance of Proper Maintenance

Echoing the safety strategy in the HDT/Work Truck survey of having well-maintained vehicles, the IIHS listed defective equipment – with particular focus on braking systems – as a notable causation to truck crashes. For example, data pulled from Institute researchers observed that brake defects were found in 42% of crash-involved trucks investigated, and those severe enough to place the truck out of service tripled trucks’ crash risk, according to IIHS. Having any vehicle defect was associated with a 200% increase in crash risk.

The stopping distances for trucks are much longer than compared with passenger vehicles, and with wet and slippery roads there are even greater disparities between the braking capabilities of the two. These disparities can be aggravated by poor maintenance of truck braking systems, according to IIHS.

Telematics Technologies

While in-cab camera technology is becoming a more commonly accepted tool in the world of fleet management, the adoption of telematics solutions remains a tried-and-true practice for fleets that are looking to introduce newer and helpful fleet technologies.

“Since the installation of this (telematics) program, accidents have been cut down drastically since the drivers know that the management is monitoring them via fleet manager and I know at the end of the day I safely know where my vehicles are,” said GPS Trackit customer Peter G.

This is especially important as a company increases in business activity and expands the size of its trucking fleet; as more work vehicles are introduced to a fleet, there is inherently an increase in the likelihood that your fleet will experience a crash instance. “We used to keep track of our equipment’s location on paper. This was ok when we only had 10-15 pieces to keep track of. Now we have almost 200 pieces of equipment and it would be nearly impossible to keep track of it without GPS Trackit. Our equipment moves around 24/7/365,” said Bob, another GPS Trakit customer.

If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.


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