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With an estimated 36 million trucks currently in service in the United States, there is a more urgent need to make sure truck drivers maintain strict safety and accident prevention standards.

Unfortunately, the numbers say this is not the case. According to the 2019 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, which covered data up to 2017, the number of fatalities from accidents involving trucks has been on the rise since 2014. Out of these fatalities, 72% were occupants of other vehicles, 18% were occupants of large tracks, and 10% were pedestrians.

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Accident statistics specifically involving fleet trucks don't paint a better picture. The annual accident rate involving fleet vehicles is currently at 20%, while the average cost of losses per incident is a whopping $70,000. Aside from property damage, collisions involving fleet trucks result in lost revenue, decreased productivity, increased number of audits, and higher insurance premiums.

If you're running or managing a fleet, it's vital you take measures to prevent accidents and take active steps to instill a culture of safety among your truck drivers. The good news is, improving your fleet’s safety record is not rocket science. Here are some simple yet effective tips to prevent accidents in your fleet.

1. Create an Anti-Distracted Driving Policy

As explained by Clay Gaudet, senior global fleet manager of Memphis-based AutoZone: “Cell phones are the biggest threat to any fleet, along with the general public. Distracted driving has surpassed drunk driving and will continue to increase until our government mandates that all OEMs and cell phone providers block cell phone usage while a vehicle is in motion.”

Don’t wait for the government to implement laws banning cellphone use when truck drivers are on duty, however. Why not jumpstart a safety program that reduces driver distractions on your own?

Looking at the numbers, 17% of light collisions and 20.7% of large truck collisions involve drivers with previous recorded crashes. 

Drivers  involved in fatal traffic crashes statistics.

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Changing driver behavior is still at the core of every effective fleet safety program and reducing distractions should be a major component of this. Crafting a simple Anti-Distracted Driving Policy for your fleet is a great first step and should contain the following basics:

  • Clear education and communication of how distracted driving puts lives and properties at risk
  • Best practice guidelines on responsible use of mobile phones while drivers are on duty
  • A zero-tolerance clause for distracted driving
  • Setting clear response time expectations when drivers are on duty (i.e. dispatchers/comptrollers should expect a delayed response from drivers when they are on the road)

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2. Implement a Zero Tolerance Policy for Over-speeding

There’s no defying the laws of physics—large vehicles that are moving at reckless speeds will result in more fatalities in collisions. In recent years, the spotlight has been focused on new road safety threats, such as distracted driving, but over-speeding remains one of the main culprits behind accidents involving fleet trucks.

In fact, a 2019 report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that there could have been 36,760 fewer accident fatalities if speed limits weren’t increased in the last 25 years.

Speed limit stats 2017.

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Connected vehicle technologies with telematics is one of the most effective ways for you to identify over-speeding drivers. Engine-connected hardware detect when drivers are going above the speed limit you set for your fleet and automatically report on the speeding in a web-based dashboard. This can be used for coaching and identifying repeat offenders among your team, so the proper penalties can be given. Advanced telematics also have the ability to provide real-time feedback to prevent accidents and close calls. For example, BigRoad’s Vision alerts your drivers to speed violations, as well as other traffic rule infractions such as breaching stop signs, harsh braking or acceleration, tailgating, and lane departure.

3. Keep Trucks in Tiptop Shape

A well-maintained fleet is a safe fleet. You will already reap a positive ROI from your preventive maintenance investments just from the safety benefits alone.

For instance, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 29% of all large truck crashes are due to brake problems and 6% are due to tire problems. Now, imagine one of your trucks speeding down an interstate at 70mph during rush hour and the driver realizes that the brakes are defective. Vehicle maintenance can literally spell the difference between life and death.

One key component of an effective preventive maintenance program for trucks is timely reporting of potential issues and breakdowns. Contrary to popular belief, this is not only the job of your chief mechanic; it’s a shared responsibility with your truck drivers. 

You should equip your truck drivers with tools, such as an app that will allow them to report potential issues and needed repairs in their vehicles. The same app can be used by your mechanics to get a list of maintenance work they need to perform without intermediaries, making the process faster and more efficient.

Making Roads Safer One Truck at a Time

Truck fleets contribute a lot to the economy. On the other hand, trucks are also often seen as the monsters of the road, both due to aggressive driving and because of the scale of accidents when trucks are involved. Fleet managers need to keep road safety a priority. Aside from preventing loss of lives, road safety is also a business competitive advantage that paves the way for higher profitability.

One of the easiest ways you can improve your fleet’s safety is by rolling out fleet management technologies that also improve your fleet’s operations efficiency. If you’re interested in learning more, contact BigRoad for a free consultation.

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