One of the top challenges that fleet managers face is safety for both drivers and the vehicles. Commercial fleets account for an annual accident rate of 20%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 40% of all motor vehicle accidents are work-related. Plus, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that more than 6,000 people are injured in fleet accidents in the US every year, 2,400 of which are children.
In addition, the National Safety Council reports that 50,000 collisions occur in parking lots and garages every year that result in 500 fatalities at least, and more than 60,000 injuries.
Although the installation of backup cameras in new vehicles manufactured from 2018 aimed to bring down the numbers, rear-ending incidents and collisions continue to dominate the fleet industry.
Most US drivers travel between 12,000 to 15,000 miles annually. Thus, they only have a 6-7% chance of being involved in an accident. In contrast, fleet drivers travel 20,000 to 25,000 miles every year, which means that they have greater chances of being involved in an accident. As a result, fleet accidents have become a perennial concern for companies and regulatory authorities.
Costs to Fleets
According to Phil Samuelson, the fleet and capital asset manager at USIC, not all fleet accidents result in high costs to fleets because many of those collisions occur at lower speeds, but they’re surely avoidable. He also stated that despite the fact that all vehicles bought by the company in the past 3 years are equipped with back up cameras and back up alarms, fleet incidents continue to occur in large numbers.
However, when the accidents are serious, the average cost of the damage to the vehicles is approximately twice the cost of an average workplace injury. In 2017 alone, fleet accidents led to losses worth $56 million for employers. The same report also revealed that insurance claims associated with fleet accidents reached the highest levels over the past ten years.
If a vehicle can no longer be operated following an accident, even for a short time period, the productivity of the operation will be affected, resulting in revenue losses. To make things worse, the company may be held liable to pay damages if its driver pleads guilty. If the stock in the vehicle is damaged, the organization will have to bear further insurance claims.
Reasons for Fleet Accidents
Most fleet drivers tend to overestimate their abilities when operating vehicles. This leads to them getting careless behind the wheel or driving at extremely high speeds. Hence, it isn’t surprising that according to the National Safety Council, two of the most important reasons for fleet accidents are distracted driving and speeding. The effects of these two are clearly offsetting the benefits of the advanced safety systems introduced in vehicles.
Among the two reasons, distracted driving has a higher contribution to reported accidents, especially in the case of company drivers. Considering the vehicles as mobile offices, company drivers often engage in multitasking while operating the vehicles, increasing the chances of crashes.
The biggest problem that leads to distracted driving is the use of cell phones while driving. It’s so common among fleet drivers that it has helped distracted driving surpass drunk driving as a leading cause of accidents.
But companies are partially responsible for this issue. They expect their drivers to be working 100% of the time on the road, which is the reason why fleet drivers drive so much more than an average US driver. The pressure and stress transferred from higher management, as well as the need to stay connected to the company, forces the drivers to have to multitask.
Strategies to Prevent Fleet Accidents
Owing to the huge costs associated with fleet accidents, companies are concerned with reducing the rate of vehicle collisions. Since most fleet accidents occur due to driving errors, they can be greatly avoided. Fleet managers can adopt the following strategies to reduce the chances of accidents:
Commitment to Safety
Needless to say, companies fail to prioritize safety in the real sense and only highlight the notion when the company’s reputation is at stake. The most effective strategy is to shape drivers’ attitudes by establishing a culture of safety. To promote such a culture, management needs to primarily focus on enforcing safety compliance policies, organizing training sessions, and continuously communicating and educating their drivers.
However, unless there are some forms of rewards and penalties put in place, the impact of these training sessions would be limited. Therefore, good driving behaviors can be recognized and rewarded through monetary incentives and bonuses, while poor driving behaviors can be penalized and controlled through salary cuts.
Monitoring Driver Behavior
Some drivers just can’t leave their poor driving habits no matter how many training sessions you conduct. They will keep ignoring the importance of safety measures such as wearing a seat belt, keeping control of their speed, etc. Hence, to reduce the company’s accident rates, monitoring driver behavior is critical. One effective solution is to install telematics systems in vehicles. These systems serve to record driver behavior.
When drivers with poor driving habits have been identified, they can be retrained or replaced if necessary.
As mentioned earlier, drivers are often burdened with challenging tasks such as same-day delivery or extensive driving. Plus, they need to be connected to the company at all times. These factors lead to a great deal of stress and fatigue among drivers. Drivers often have to multitask, and many of them turn to music or other such activities to release stress. While many of these are legal practices, the way they are handled may result in unsafe driving practices.
Hence, management needs to take hours of service seriously and direct drivers to stick to the guidelines. Fleet managers should make sure that drivers do not spend more than the recommended time on the road.
Drivers are incredibly knowledgeable about the causes of fleet accidents because they’re the ones on the road. If anyone can shed some light on how to reduce fleet accidents, it’s the drivers. Thus, management should adopt the strategy of open communication, encouraging drivers to share their thoughts and suggestions on how to reduce fleet accidents. This will not only help improve safety but will also make the drivers feel valued. As a result, they’ll be motivated and more likely to take safety issues seriously.