Skilled fleet managers excel at juggling a number of important tasks to maintain a successful operation, with safety being high on the list of essential duties.
Effectively managing safety is crucial as this ultimately means looking out for the well-being of company drivers, the general public, and your vehicle fleet. Integral aspects to thoroughly managing a safe fleet include monitoring driver behaviors as much as possible, whether this is done by managing real-time GPS data and video, regularly reviewing motor vehicle records, or utilizing a number of other important solutions and tools to support fleet safety.
Beginning with a Solid Fleet Safety Policy
To start, your fleet should establish a solid fleet safety policy. If there aren’t any general safety expectations or goals set forth for the team, then your fleet may not know how to benchmark on successes or failures of fleet safety or how to adapt to potential changes.
You’ll want to establish the kinds of expectations of safety you want to set for drivers with this policy, which can be done through discussions with teams that have close ties to fleet and key company stakeholders.
According to The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) Recommended Road Safety Practices, a fleet safety policy, as a baseline, should at least make some considerations to address the following elements: 1
- Alcohol and drug use
- Mobile phones
- Seatbelts and helmets
- Speed limits
- Vehicle lighting
Crashes related to many of these types of driving behaviors cost employers billions of dollars in 2015, which further exemplifies the need to address these points. 2
But even with these base expectations set, fleet managers should constantly be reviewing and updating details of the policy.
With respect to monitoring driver behavior, take “alcohol and drug use,” for example. If you have drivers operating in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, does your fleet policy address forbidding the use of cannabis while on the job? A recent AAA report found that fatal crashes involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana increased after the state legalized recreational use of the drug. 3
Being aware of the policies you set in place for your fleet can help establish from the beginning exactly what you are looking out for with your drivers, and subsequently reacting to unforeseen incidents in an appropriate manner.
Learning About Your Drivers
Once you have a proper fleet safety policy in place, your organization should establish methods to help enforce the policy to monitor driver behavior, as well as have a solid foundation on how to educate or coach drivers, as needed.
A fundamental component to monitoring fleet drivers is through reviewing driver motor vehicle records to identify any problem areas they may have on the road.
In California, for example, a reviewable driver record will include information pertaining to convictions for three, seven, or ten years, departmental actions, and accidents on their record as required by California Vehicle Code 1808. 4
Reviewing motor vehicle records is not only critical during the driver hiring process, but should also be performed annually, at the very least. If a fleet has the time and resources to do so, organizations would benefit from bi-annual or even quarterly MVR checks to gain a more ongoing perspective on how their drivers are behaving on the road as a way to prevent future crash incidents.
“Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work, and provide training where indicated,” reads an excerpt from “Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes,” which was a joint effort by NETS, NHTSA and OSHA to reduce motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries in the nation’s workforce.
Improve Safety with GPS Tracking
Setting up safety guidelines and regularly monitoring driving records is critical, but these more general practices will only get a fleet so far if organizations want to more actively find ways to prevent crashes.
For fleets who want to monitor drivers on demand, GPS solutions provide companies with real-time methods of tracking driver behavior.
Beyond assisting with general vehicle routing and location tracking, GPS and telematics technologies can help further bring your fleet to more elevated levels of safety. For example,
these solutions can help fleets monitor and alert managers, in-real time, when drivers conduct hard braking events, do any excessive speeding, or make any abrupt accelerations.
Having telematics data available can help fleets make choices related to fleet safety much more actively rather than waiting on an unexpected accident to dictate the decision making.
“The speed monitoring (is) a great feature since it shows how fast the trucks are going along with the posted speed limit for the street they are on,” said an anonymous GPS Trackit customer, commenting on the benefits of the speed monitoring capabilities.
GPS Trackit customers have seen accident risks fall by one-third through the help of the on-demand speed and safety reports that its fleet management tracking software offers.
“Since the installation of this program, accidents have been cut down drastically since the drivers know that the management is monitoring them via fleet manager and at the end of the day I safely know where my vehicles are,” said GPS Trackit customer Peter G.
Amplify Driver Monitoring with Commercial Truck Dash Cams
As the continued adoption and acceptance of GPS and telematics technologies gains traction, in-cab video is also gaining popularity with fleet managers, and is a solution that can further elevate the effectiveness of on-demand driver monitoring.
A Virginia tech study found that the combination of an onboard safety monitoring device with driver feedback and coaching resulted in a 52.2% reduction in safety-related events, and a 59.1% reduction in the most severe safety-related events.
By using dash cams and video telematics technology, fleets will be able to review clear documentation provided by cameras to more transparently see where and how crashes occur but can also help fleets defend drivers in disputable at-fault accidents, discourage auto insurance fraud, and resolve claims quickly.
Some fleet drivers may have some initial privacy concerns when these technologies are introduced to a fleet. Indeed, there is still resistance from fleets, with regard to the adoption of the technology, but proper education and being transparent with your drivers about the solutions will go a long way to making your fleet that much safer.
- “Driver Behavior Has a Direct Effect on Employer Crash Costs” here:https://trafficsafety.org/costofcrashes/index.html
- “Evaluating the Safety Benefits of a Low-cost Driving Behavior Management System in Commercial Vehicle Operation” evaluated the safety benefits of a video-based onboard safety monitoring device in two commercial fleets.