With traffic crashes causing 1.35 million deaths around the world every year, it’s no wonder that fleets make it a top priority to ensure that their drivers stay as safe as possible on the roads.
In the U.S., police reported 499,000 crashes involving large trucks in 2018, including 4,415 fatal crashes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Unfortunately, these numbers are part of a worrying trend: From 2009 to 2018, the number of large trucks and buses involved in fatal crashes skyrocketed by 48%.
The increasing safety problems in the carrier industry point to the need for driver safety solutions to help fleet operators stay safe driving. A driver safety solution captures and analyzes driver behaviors, road conditions, and other factors, and sends reports of driving problems or discrepancies back to fleet managers. With this real-time information in hand, managers can help drivers adopt better driving habits and consider ways to improve road safety.
Let’s explore the top elements of a driver safety solution that helps carriers be safe when driving.
Top Elements of a Driver Safety Solution
Most of the top elements of a driver safety solution are fairly common-sense, such as training drivers, encouraging safe driving techniques, and improving defensive driving. However, technological solutions like a fleet safety platform can also help ensure that drivers are following their training and maintaining best practices of safety.
1. Set safe driving strategies
Driving safety is a matter of intention: Fleets need to set strategies to ensure that drivers are well-informed and well-equipped to operate their vehicles as safely as possible.
So, what are the components of driving safely? Training, maintenance, technology, and motivation. Along those lines, here are a few key things that fleet owners and managers should consider when setting safe driving strategies.
- Conduct driver safety training. Drivers should be expertly trained, with particular attention to defensive driving techniques.
- Do regular vehicle maintenance. Ensuring that trucks are in good working order and won’t give drivers any unwanted surprises is essential for road safety.
- Install a fleet safety program. For fleets, an effective safety program incorporating safety technology, such as an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), is one of the most important requirements for safe driving.
- Create a safe driving initiative. A program to encourage and even incentivize safety on the road can help boost drivers’ care around safety issues.
- Communicate road safety rules. Fleets must have clear standards about road safety and communicate those to their drivers, along with consequences for failing to uphold them.
Fleets that are able to incorporate these strategies into an overarching vision and develop a true, top-to-bottom driver safety culture are most successful in keeping the roads safe. Driver safety must be constantly discussed, reinforced, and celebrated.
2. Use driving tips and techniques
Most truck drivers will insist they don’t need tips for being a good driver, but it’s always good to keep best practices top-of-mind by reviewing smart driving tips. That’s why fleets must be proactive with training and consistently enforce fleet safety. Some of the best tips for new drivers, like leaving enough following distance and leveraging technology to chart the safest route, should be repeated often.
Winter driving safety tips are particularly important. Driver safety awareness is all the more important in challenging weather. Drivers should use technology to chart the best route through difficult conditions like ice and thick fog. It’s also essential to more thoroughly inspect vehicles and be proactive with maintenance during winter months.
These types of driving tips and techniques can go a long way toward improving driver safety, and fleet managers should ensure that each driver is well-versed on the most appropriate tips for any given environment or situation.
3. Stop texting and driving
Truck drivers can improve their safety on the road by leaving their cell phones out of arm’s reach. Texting and driving is extremely perilous: According to a 2010 report by the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving is responsible for more than 28% of traffic crashes, resulting in 1.6 million crashes every year.
Why is texting and driving dangerous? Think of it this way: When a driver sends or receives a single text, it requires taking their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. If they’re traveling at 55 mph, that’s the same as driving the length of a whole football field with their eyes closed.
This is, quite obviously, one of those things on the list of “What you should not do while driving.” Another is the infamous rolling stop. Doing a rolling stop means moving slowly through a stop sign or not stopping before going right on red. It’s a traffic violation that can easily go hand-in-hand with texting, as a distracted driver is apt to pay insufficient attention to traffic signs.
A rolling stop may seem harmless but is in fact very dangerous: The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration estimates that one-quarter of traffic fatalities and about half of traffic injuries occur at intersections. A fleet vehicle can cause particular damage in this scenario, considering its size and weight relative to other vehicles and pedestrians.
4. Improve defensive driving
Defensive driving, one of the most effective methods of increasing driver safety behind the wheel, is a set of driving skills that anticipates problems and allows a driver to be proactive in responding. It starts with looking to spot hazards before they are dangers, such as when moving ahead of or behind a weaving driver before they can come your way. It includes planning ahead for poor weather and taking action to prevent problems, such as pulling over to wait out a torrential rainstorm.
Some other good defensive driving tips include:
- Maintain a substantial following distance
- Always be aware of your blind spots
- Brake early when others ahead slow down
- Stay steady in proximity to an aggressive driver
- Moderate your speed on wet or icy roads
- Consistently use your signals
- Change lanes with intention
Many of the rules of defensive driving match the guidelines for being a responsible and respectful driver: Always be aware of other drivers, give other vehicles plenty of space, and signal what you plan to do.
5. Avoid the dangers of distracted driving
Considering the concentration and alertness needed to drive safely, distracted driving is a substantial danger on the roads. Whether a driver is distracted by texting, fiddling with the radio, another person in the vehicle, or some other cause, the results are uniformly sobering:
- More than 2,800 people died due to distracted driving in 2018
- Probably around 400,000 people were injured in crashes attributable to distracted driving in 2018.
- 25% of the distracted drivers who got in fatal crashes in 2018 were young, aged 20–29
Distracted driving causes include actions that take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off the act of driving. There are many of these actions that can get in the way of road safety:
- Texting, talking, or fiddling with a phone
- Eating a sandwich or other food
- Adjusting in-vehicle controls like the radio
- Lighting a cigarette
- Arguing with a passenger
- Becoming lost in thought
The last one on the list is what an insurance company study found to be the greatest cause of distracted driving accidents. The study found that 62% of distracted drivers who got in accidents were identified by police reports at “generally distracted” or “lost in thought.” Cell phone use came in second place, at 12%.
As that study illustrates, insurance companies can gain valuable insight and data from transportation safety technology. These tools can also help inform insurance policy decisions and serve as evidence to protect companies from disputable claims. As a result, insurers may offer trucking companies large discounts if the companies are willing to institute use of driver safety tools in their fleet and share data collected using these tools with the insurer.
Benefits of Driver Safety Solutions
Keeping people safe
The main benefit of instituting driver safety is keeping them and others on the road safe. With thousands of large trucks involved in crashes every year, it’s vital for fleet managers to keep their drivers from being part of those statistics.
Driver safety technology keeps drivers and others safe by providing them real-time input about risks and dangers to help drivers increase defensive driving and avoid accidents. The tools also help managers get insight into drivers’ weak spots on safety so they can provide extra training or incentives for improvement.
Improving driving skills and awareness
Top-of-the-line driver safety tools that are part of a driver safety solution combines built-in risk analysis software with data collection and analytics, GPS trackers, sensors, cameras, and communications systems. In many cases, artificial intelligence systems can alert the driver of needed corrections in real-time.
Using this technology, drivers can improve their performance in substantive ways, such as maintaining longer following distances, consistently using turn signals, braking early, being alert to blind spots, and reducing distracted driving.
Along with their primary focus on preventing accidents, driver safety solutions have the major added benefit of limiting liability for fleet owners in the event of an accident or infraction. Safety platforms that incorporate cameras provide video evidence of a driver’s behavior, which can serve as evidence regarding who was at fault for an accident, potentially saving employers substantial sums. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), on-the-job vehicle crashes can cost employers $74,000 for each injured driver. That doesn’t count the thousands or millions of dollars in claims and other costs accidents engender. In 2017, road accidents cost companies over $56 billion.
Fleets and drivers have a lot to think about when considering driving techniques and solutions for safety. Not only are there things to remember while driving, such as driving basics like maintaining a safe driving distance, but there are also technological tools that fleets can use to increase driver safety awareness.
Fleet managers must constantly think about how to improve driving within their fleet. The most effective way is to institute a full-fledged fleet safety program involving training, oversight, incentives, and digital tools that allow both drivers and managers to monitor performance and troubleshoot problems. Think of it as a “driver safety support system” that assists drivers in being the best they can be on the road.
See how Netradyne’s advanced safety and camera platform can help fleets stay safe. Netradyne uses deep, advanced AI to recognize both positive and risky driving behavior and automatically initiate corrections to improve fleet safety. Driveri® video safety system captures everything that happens on the road, automatically recognizing good driving and providing coaching where needed. But don’t take our word for it; hear from fleet managers that use it.