Safety First: Fleet Safety Solutions
Whether you’re a one-vehicle owner-operator or a fleet manager of hundreds of vehicles, a fleet safety program is essential to your day-to-day operations. What is fleet safety? It’s essentially a set of policies and protocols to ensure that each vehicle passes safety and compliance regulations and boosts driver safety.
Managing professional drivers and commercial vehicle safety requires more than seat belt use and safe driving habits. Your fleet safety solution must incorporate clearly communicated safety standards that are reinforced by vehicle maintenance protocols, collision response procedures, and driver accountability.
Consistent and thoughtful implementation of fleet safety solutions is a cornerstone of managing resources and protecting your drivers—and the public—as well as your bottom line.
How Can Fleet Management Reduce Accidents?
A high accident rate and inefficient auto oversight can cost your company thousands in lost work time, vehicle turnover, damages, and liability.
Effective fleet management covers a lot of bases, but one of its key advantages is the ability to reduce the risk of accidents your fleet encounters. Serious accidents can cause:
- Death, more than 29,000 U.S. workers died in vehicle crashes over the past 20 years
- Immediate impact of damaged or undelivered freight
- Lost work time of the driver
- Lost resource of disabled vehicle or downtime during repair
- Medical costs of those involved in the accident
- Property damage
- Higher insurance costs
- Lowered morale and confidence among fleet drivers
- Negative impact on client or public perception
Fleet managers can help prevent accidents through several measures, including:
- Improving vehicle performance and response time with proper maintenance
- Avoiding breakdowns with preventive care, inspections, and reporting
- Increasing driver attention and reaction time through health and safety protocols
- Improving driver skills with ongoing coaching, monitoring, and learning opportunities
- Incorporating predictive safety as an aspect of route planning
Additionally, implementing proper fleet management tools can reduce drivers’ administrative responsibilities, allowing them to focus on driving safety standards without the distraction of rescuing lost revenue or acquiring resources in the event of an accident.
What Are the Fleet Management Techniques That Improve Safety?
You don’t have to be certified in fleet safety to develop policies to keep your fleet operation safe. Common sense will get you started, and you can rely on tried-and-true best practices—like those we share below—to identify practices based on your business needs.
#1 Create, Communicate, and Reinforce Your Plan
When implementing a fleet safety solution, it’s important to convey the new standards concisely across your organization. Fleet safety plan documentation should include:
- Employee policies and procedures that include accident response
- Specific onboarding, training, and coaching protocol for drivers
- Maintenance calendars at the fleet and vehicle level
- Oversight, tracking, and reporting protocol
Make sure every driver and manager has easy access to the safety policies and procedures and can reinforce them across the company. You may also want to involve management in creating accident procedure cards, providing regular training courses, and rewarding safety compliance with rewards or recognition.
#2 Ban Mobile Phone Use
One of the causes of distracted driving is smartphone usage. Using mobile phones is consistently associated with higher accident rates across all types of drivers. Your mobile phone policy should cover both hands-on and hands-free electronic device use in all commercial vehicles.
One way to reinforce this is to include a review of personal mobile phone records after all collisions.
#3 Schedule and Prioritize Vehicle Maintenance
Collisions aren’t the only cause of accidents—a vehicle that skips routine inspection and maintenance can cause a road accident through malfunction, failure to start, or operating inefficiencies. Lack of maintenance can also cause strain on the engine, which may lead to incremental damage to other parts.
When you have an entire fleet rather than one or two family vehicles on the road, basic maintenance can become more complex. However, it’s a vital safety solution. As such, it’s advantageous to schedule regular maintenance and downtime for your vehicle fleet.
#4 Keep Tires Properly Inflated and Inspected
Another habit fleet drivers need to curb is harsh braking because it wears out tires. Tires are the guiding and protecting force between your vehicle and the road. To that end, you must maintain your tires and keep them operating at their best with:
- Regular inspections for tread depth, wear and tear, and damage
- Proper inflation based on tire, vehicle, and load guidelines
#5 Keep Your Drivers Healthy and Attentive
Fatigue risk management is high on the list of safety policies that reduce the rate of accidents. Driving while tired can be like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leading to lowered response rate time and fatigue at the wheel.
To keep your drivers’ eyes on the road, you can:
- Include fatigue awareness training as part of onboarding and coaching
- Limit night driving
- Educate your drivers on sleep hygiene and the medical effects of sleep deprivation
- Incorporate fatigue analysis into required medical screenings
- Add a wellness program to your health coverage that incorporates sleep goals
- Avoid encouraging the overuse of stimulants like caffeine
#6 Include Collision Response Procedures in Driver Training
Safe driving should be repeatedly reminded and prioritized. Train them, remind them, retrain them, provide action cards in vehicles—make sure your drivers know what to do in case of a collision on the road. They need to learn the steps and get them down to instinct, as they’ll be needed when the driver is shocked, hurt, or significantly injured. All additional training can help minimize risky driving behavior.
#7 Consider Driver Monitoring Systems
Using in-vehicle monitoring systems (IVMS) that include video cameras boosts safety and security for every level of the team. They provide:
- Analytics to identify individual and team needs for correction or coaching
- Hard data rather than anecdotes and opinions about driver habits
- Available evidence for insurance negotiation or legal defense
- Greater ability to personalize driver rewards and coaching
To make the best use of IVMS:
- Understand and share the data – Summarize the IVMS data with regular reporting to upper management and review by direct management. Identify trends, concerns, and opportunities.
- Incorporate driver rewards – Don’t limit the use of IVMS to a Big Brother function that only leads to criticism and punishment. Instead, take advantage of how they can boost morale and reward driver accomplishments by sending congratulatory messages for milestones and policy adherence and setting up an incentive program tied to gifts or bonuses.
- Communicate the benefits – Beyond incentives, make sure that your leadership communications, such as company-wide meetings, help drivers understand the role of IVMS. These systems help protect company assets (i.e., reducing insurance rates and battling opportunistic lawsuits), but they also reduce injuries among drivers and help the company understand driver challenges and needs.
#8 Take Car Safety Procedures Seriously
There are many federal and state regulations around safely operating trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles, but few rules cover professional-use cars and light vehicles. It’s all too easy to put these in a low-oversight category.
Almost every driver will be more familiar with driving a sedan than a semi, but that can go both ways. While your professional drivers exhibit experience and confidence on the road, the familiarity of driving a standard car can sometimes lead to negligence.
While all drivers would ideally operate every automobile based on best safety practices, it’s not always guaranteed. As such, it’s critical that you implement systematized training, coaching, and rewards systems to maintain proper driving habits on the road.
Implementing safety policies with passenger car drivers in addition to large commercial vehicle drivers has been strongly associated with lower rates of accidents and injuries, particularly with fatigue risk management.
#9 Identify Opportunities with Collision Reviews
When accidents or collisions occur, it’s important to conduct thorough reviews of what occurred to identify potential causes and solutions. What you’ll want to include in your oversight is a review process that reinforces continuous improvement. This process should:
- Take place after the urgency of the incident when everyone is calm and safe
- Start in a thoughtful listening mode that focuses on future prevention
- Identify contributing factors, including human error, outside forces, resources, etc.
- Evaluate whether the incident uncovers a need to adjust policies or practices
- Be separate from legal or insurance proceedings or any type of punitive process
At its conclusion, a well-run collision review should provide you and your employees with feelings of relief and security. The review must also identify growth opportunities rather than shift blame on an individual party.
Your challenge is not to identify how to avoid all future accidents but to prevent this same accident from reoccurring and implement analysis, training, and policy change.
Can Your Fuel Card Program Improve Fleet Safety?
To bolster your fleet safety protocols, you must implement clear safety standards, accident response policies, and regular maintenance.
AtoB can assist with the latter.
The AtoB fuel card can be unlocked to pay for repairs and parts, as well as road tolls, insurance, lodging, and more. Unlike other fuel card programs, AtoB has no hidden fees and is universally accepted at any vehicle stop or gas station that accepts Visa.
Universal acceptance means your drivers can go to the nearest location when they need fuel or repairs or shop around for the best prices—it’s all up to you.
From OTR vehicle companies to single-owner LLCs, we work with individual and corporate commercial drivers at all scales to provide the most flexible and easy-to-start fuel card program available. Find out more and get started with AtoB fuel cards today.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fleet Safety Management.
NASHIA. Distracted Driving and TBI.