The annual accident rate for commercial fleet drivers is 20 percent.
Equally troubling, all these accidents cost companies close to $60 billion a year. Accidents create a laundry list of problems for companies in the field service and utility industries. These include property damage, liability claims, lost productivity, and most importantly, employee injuries. Part of the reason fleet driver accidents is so common is because they’re continually behind the wheel. Clock 25,000 or 30,000 miles a year, and the chances of getting in an accident starts to tick well above average.
But is there a way to fight back these statistics? Is it possible to limit the staggering costs of accidents and protect fleet drivers from collisions? Here we look at what fleet managers can do to help make their drivers safer. These measures can help fleet managers keep their vehicles out of repair shops and their drivers in possession of near-spotless records.
Distracted driving is defined as driving while also engaged in one or more other activities. These other activities often feature technology: reading and sending texts and emails, playing music, using smartphone apps, and talking on the phone. What’s shocking is the extent to which these habits are ingrained in today’s driving culture despite how dangerous they are. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2016, nearly 3,500 people died as a result of distracted driving.
Field service workers are at a higher risk of distracted driving because of how many miles they log behind the wheel. That’s why fleet managers have a critical role to play in establishing strong, consistent driving habits. Fleet managers in the field service and utility industries should understand what distracted driving is and the risks it poses. They need to then communicate that knowledge to their field teams. After defining the term and establishing its parameters, you should explain to your team what is and is not allowed. In other words, develop a policy.
While drivers changing the radio station might be okay, reading and sending texts behind the wheel should not be allowed under any circumstances. Make sure to be covering your bases, too. Though text messaging is one of the more high-profile causes of major accidents, there are also dangers posed by using a host of different smartphone applications. These include email, music streaming services, podcasts, and on-demand television. The clearer you are with your distracted driving policy, your drivers may be more likely to adhere to it.
Ask fleet managers, field operations chiefs, and field service executives what the most important ingredient is for safer drivers, and many of them may repeat the same thing: driver safety programs.
It seems simple, but driver safety programs are proven difference-makers. They’re often the key distinguishing feature between companies with industry-average accident rates and those that save money and protect their employees with industry-best accident figures. An important part of any strong driver safety program is ongoing implementation. Fleet managers should be incorporating parts of their company’s program—including driving tests, safety guidelines, and communication of best practices—at various stages of their employees’ careers.
A good driver safety program is one that’s reinforced to employees over and over, regardless of their status.
Start conveying your safety policies as soon as new employees get hired and continue reinforcing the program at regular intervals. Consistency across various stages of employment is a major component of these programs’ successes. Impressionable new hires need to understand that the company they’re joining has a dedicated culture of safe driving. Even seasoned, longtime field service pros, sometimes need reminders to resist the temptation to take old guidelines for granted. A good driver safety program is one that’s reinforced to employees over and over, regardless of their status.
Telematics (also referred to as GPS fleet tracking) is an emerging technology that allows companies to monitor driving habits in their fleets. Telematics devices can be either hooked up to your car or synced to a driver’s smartphone. These devices use GPS and onboard diagnostics to track the movements of the vehicle. Telematics can record driving behaviors like speed, acceleration and braking, fuel consumption, idling, and even the precision of right and left turns. It’s a powerful tool that can yield a range of insights about your drivers’ habits.
What you do with the telematics data is up to you. Fleet managers might consider taking a page out of the playbooks of insurance companies like State Farm, Allstate, and Progressive, which use telematics to monitor insured drivers. Some of the companies then provide “driver scorecards” grading performance on a variety of driving habits.
There’s one more reason telematics is such an actionable technology for fleet managers. You may be able to pick up on trends with the collected data. For example, maybe a telematics device plugged into an old vehicle is consistently showing low grades on breaking—no matter who’s behind the wheel. This insight could be telling you that the vehicle’s braking system is under-performing. It’s no overstatement to say that data like this can help you see accidents before they happen.
Whether you’re a fleet manager for a water company or a telecommunications firm, your field team probably does a lot of driving. Managers often overlook driving history and habits during the hiring process. One way to trim the steep costs associated with accidents is by hiring workers with a history of responsible driving. A potential employee’s driving habits matter as much as their ability to perform other tasks. Over time, they can have a significant impact on your company’s bottom line.
During the hiring process, fleet managers should look into applicants’ driving histories. A driving record should be considered favorably if there are no accidents or traffic violations. It’s not a hiring factor on par with certifications and field experience, but the financial benefits of safer drivers can accrue for decades.
If you want to be able to accurately monitor your drivers’ habits, consider exploring the latest fleet management software. Beyond collecting driving data, fleet management software can help managers keep track of vehicles and drivers. You can see in easily-accessible databases what projects each of your vehicles are assigned to. Real-time mapping and geo-tagging can help ensure you’re in lockstep with your entire fleet.
Fleet management software can provide greater control, enhanced visibility, and a level of insight you might not have thought possible.
All monitored by you, in real time. Are you ready to take control?