According to the latest figures from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the number of large vehicles involved in accidents has steadily increased over the past decade. In 2019 alone, the year for which the most recent data is available, more than 5,000 fatal crashes involved large trucks, a 2% increase from 2018. That reflects 13.65 fatal truck crashes per million people in the US in 2019, a 29% increase from 10.6 in 2010.
These numbers are an urgent call-to-action for fleet safety in the trucking industry. This article outlines five clear actions commercial vehicle businesses and fleet managers can take to advance their commercial fleet safety. Our practical recommendations include driver needs, back-office management and security telematics.
1. Prioritize driver well-being
Driver well-being is essential to improving fleet safety. Consider that:
- 20% of accidents on major roadways are sleep related, with 40% of sleep-related accidents involving commercial vehicles.
- 1 in 10 work-oriented drivers admit they’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel.
- 26% of truckers report feeling depressed and 14% report feeling anxiety 27% of drivers drink just 5-6 cups of water per day and 19% drink 4-5, far short of the medically recommended 8. A mildly dehydrated driver will make twice as many errors.
- The rate of obesity and diabetes is notably higher among truckers than in the rest of the national population.
As these statistics indicate, supporting drivers’ mental and physical health should be a cornerstone of your organization’s mission to improve fleet safety.
Well-being is also key to retention: 10% of drivers have quit a job because of stress, while 25% have considered it. Facing an industry-wide driver shortage, trucking companies can’t risk losing qualified drivers.
Happy and healthy drivers are safer, more productive drivers. Seeking concrete tips on boosting driver health and well-being? See our free eBook.
2. Schedule in preventive maintenance
Reducing costs and minimizing vehicle downtime are necessary to running a profitable trucking company. Maintenance is a big expenditure both budget- and time wise, but it’s one area a trucking business can’t afford to cut corners on.
Vehicles that go without regular maintenance and parts upgrades are more likely to break down. Unforeseen mechanical failures can lead to expensive repairs—not to mention lengthy downtimes that jeopardize your ability to deliver. By scheduling in maintenance and parts replacements, you avoid surprise breakdowns and service inefficiencies, thus improving fleet safety. You also help protect your truck drivers, and the drivers around them, from potentially preventable accidents.
If engine problems or tire blowouts caused an injurious accident and they were the result of sloppy maintenance, the organization could be vulnerable to litigation and reputational damage. So, it’s no exaggeration to say that regular truck maintenance helps safeguard the entire business and improves fleet safety.
It’s challenging to keep track of every truck’s maintenance needs, especially if you’re managing a large fleet. With diagnostics alerts and maintenance reminders, Webfleet makes it easy to keep all your trucks in excellent shape.
3. Do periodic safety trainings and policy reviews
You undoubtedly bring every new driver up to speed on safety protocols. What about your veteran drivers? Do they ever take safety refreshers?
Regardless of experience level, many drivers crave professional development. Safety training programs can help quench their thirst for reinforcing skills and gaining knowledge. Importantly, creating trainings gives you an opportunity to systematically assess your fleet safety policy. As industry trends, workforce dynamics and regulations evolve, you may want to review your fleet safety measures for any outdated or incomplete material.
Training at routine intervals assures that you can cover any unintended gaps or inconsistencies in fleet safety standards. Plus, it signals to the workforce that safety is an ongoing professional practice and not just a one-time, new-hire requirement.
4. Leverage video telematics technology
Safety is about protecting your fleet while respecting driver privacy. Our integrated fleet safety solution Webfleet Video was built with the needs of fleet managers and drivers in mind. Your business controls how and when the driver facing and road facing cameras retrieve and store footage. This enables fleet managers to support drivers while they’re on the clock and to keep cameras off during non-working hours.
Intelligent in-cab feedback empowers drivers to perform at their best. If the camera recognizes driving behavior that needs correcting, it will notify the driver with a visual and audio alert. Dashcams also help shield a driver’s safety records, providing evidence in the case of an accident in which the driver wasn’t at fault.
5. Know your data
One benefit of using a fleet management platform is that you can securely store and access all your records in a single place. Your cloud-based account is much more than a digital file cabinet. It’s your company’s business intelligence center.
From the dashboard and reporting tools in a platform like Webfleet, you can glean insights on fleet safety and driver safety KPIs, from truck maintenance records to route conditions, driver hours, speeding, harsh braking, road incidents and more. Such fleet safety analytics can be viewed in real-time and historic overviews alike. If you spot any potential fleet safety issues, you can preemptively resolve them.
For example, reviewing data related to driver behavior allows you to identify if a driver is speeding or braking harshly too often. You can then take action to train the driver to improve in this area. Or, perhaps, you notice that certain drivers have perfect safety records while others have greatly improved. You can acknowledge their efforts—appreciation lifts morale and shows that achievements in driver safety are recognized and taken seriously.
Of course, your drivers may have information to contribute as well. Consider surveying them intermittently about their own maintenance checks, safety habits and experiences on the road. This qualitative data will round out your understanding of overall fleet safety management, and it can feed back into safety training programs and policy reviews.
At Webfleet, we strive to provide the best tools to run your business safely and efficiently. We realize that maintaining a high level of security and safety across an entire fleet is not a simple task. To support your fleet safety planning, we’ve put together an eBook full of actionable insights. Download this free guide now.