Your company's fleet is one of its most important assets, as are the drivers who work hard on your behalf. It makes sense to take steps to improve the safety of both.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 2,000 motor-vehicle-related occupational fatalities in 2014. That number doesn't even include nonfatal injuries.
Fortunately, there are many simple and inexpensive steps you can take to improve safety so your fleet is less likely to become a statistic.
Every vehicle in your fleet requires regular maintenance, but heavy schedules can make it difficult to plan maintenance. The advantage of prescheduling preventive maintenance is that you will experience less unplanned downtime, which will actually help with scheduling.
Create a checklist for each vehicle, ensuring that all manufacturer-recommended maintenance is planned in advance. You can save some time by grouping interval‑based maintenance, such as fluid changes and tire rotations, to minimize the time a vehicle is off-road.
Also, build time at the start of each week and each shift for quick but essential maintenance tasks like checking tire pressure and wear, topping off fluids, and verifying that brake and signal lights are operational.
Even with the best preventive maintenance process, breakdowns or accidents will occur. Make sure your vehicles are equipped with a well-stocked first-aid kit, several flares, a flashlight, a blanket and water. This equipment may help save a life in the event of a problem. Even if it is never used, a safety kit should be in every vehicle. Checking the contents of the first-aid kit for expired products should be part of the truck's periodic maintenance, and making sure the kit is onboard should be part of the driver's daily checklist.
Time spent on education is never wasted, especially when the topic is safety. Develop a safety education program that covers safe driving techniques, first aid and the rules of the road. Safety tips can be as simple as reminders that seat belts save lives or as complex as off-site safe driver education courses. One of the most important parts of safety education is having your team recognize that safety is critical to management.
In a landmark study, researchers discovered that performance against metrics improves simply because the people involved believe the results are being observed. This principle, known as the Hawthorne effect, has been proven to create changes in a variety of settings. Use the Hawthorne effect to improve fleet safety.
Fleet monitoring software can contribute to positive results. These cost-effective solutions can identify unsafe driving practices such as speeding, tailgating or heavy braking so drivers can be re-educated before the behavior becomes ingrained.
This type of software can also help you judge the effectiveness of your routes, ensuring that drivers use the most efficient routes to save fuel, time, and wear and tear on the vehicle. This will help enhance safety by reducing hours on the road while also decreasing costs and improving on-time delivery performance.
Fleet monitoring can even help with vehicle recovery in the event of stolen or missing vehicles. The faster a vehicle is recovered, the safer the driver is likely to be, and the less likely the vehicle is to sustain damage.
Taking a few simple steps can increase the safety of the vehicles in your fleet and the drivers who operate those vehicles. While the actions you take to enhance safety may also result in improved overall operations, reduced costs and better performance, the real reward is the peace of mind you achieve knowing you've done all you can to ensure the safety of your fleet and drivers.
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS truck tracking devices and systems for small and midsized companies.