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Fleet Vehicle Safety

Are Your Vehicles in Safe Hands?

By Tom Venafro

When you talk about safety, it usually centers on OSHA and topics such as chemical safety, fall protection or confined space. For purposes of this article, safety will evolve around identifying safe drivers.

As I contemplated writing this ar­ticle I thought about a Risk Assessment course I took in college. That course taught how to determine the dangers or risks associated with chemicals and what the most hazardous or danger­ous occupations were. What stood out was that no matter how risky an occu­pation was, the greatest exposure to fa­talities and injury on or off the job was driving a motor vehicle. The U.S. De­partment of Labor indicates that work­ers are more likely to die in motor ve­hicle crashes than in other job-related incidents. In 1996, 1,300 workers died and another 45,439 were injured. Since this reality equates to your greatest po­tential for employee and business loss, the following information should be considered.

Fleet Vehicle Safety

Should you develop a fleet safety program? The answer is yes, even if your fleet of vehicles is small or if transpor­tation of people, materials and equip­ment is incidental to your primary busi­ness operations.

Why should you develop such a pro­gram? Vehicle accidents are the num­ber one cause of fatalities and injuries. They cost you money, customers and goodwill among the general public.

On the positive side, motor ve­hicle accidents are largely prevent­able. They do not happen by chance. It’s estimated that defensive driving could prevent 95% of all accidents. Most accidents are attributable to driver errors such as using excessive speed, following too closely, im­proper passing, turning, or lane changes, failure to yield the right of way, inattentive driving, driver fa­tigue, using cell phones, and aggres­sive driving (road rage).

Should you develop a fleet safety program? The answer
is yes, even if your fleet of vehicles is small or if
transportation of people, materials and equipment is
incidental to your primary business operations.

An effective fleet safety program should include the following elements:

    • Management’s commitment andleadership
    • Responsibility and accountability
    • Driver selection and hiring
    • Written fleet safety rules, policies, and procedures
    • Driver education and training
    • Preventive maintenance
    • Record keeping
    • Accident investigations

Driver Selection and Hiring

The high costs (direct and indi­rect) associated with accidents are an average of $8,998. Since reducing driver error could prevent 95% of ac­cidents, you must put the effort and resources up front and use individu­als that are good drivers. A good fleet safety program begins with good drivers. An effective driver selection and hiring process will assist manage­ment in obtaining the best available drivers. During the process, consider factors such as:

    • Age
    • Maturity
    • Driving experience
    • Previous employment history
    • Training
        • Physical condition

Think about it for a moment: you hire employees you really don’t know and hand over the keys to an expen­sive vehicle and cargo. It is a serious matter.

When selecting a driver, you should:

    • Make sure the applicant has a valid driver’s license.
    • Review the employment applica­tion.
    • Run a motor vehicle report through your insurance company prior to hiring.
    • Conduct a personal interview.
    • Check references.
    • Consider the need for background investigation.
    • Consider drug testing.
    • Give applicant a written test or road test, or have a supervisor per­form a driver safety observation checklist on the new employee. If they fail, find a new applicant.

Policies and Procedures

What are your rules? State your policy on smoking, cell phones and seatbelts while driving. Orientation is the first step in a successful driver­training program; this is when you must communicate instructions on:

    • Vehicle inspections
    • Accident reporting
    • Breakdown procedures
    • Routes and schedules
    • Equipment familiarization
    • Handling cargo
    • Special equipment

Sample Motor Vehicle Report Policy

Employees with MVRs that violate the following standards may have driving privileges revoked. The em­ployee will be considered for a driv­ing position at such time as the MVR shows improvement. The criteria for acceptable MVRs are as follows:

    • No more than # moving violationsin any #year period.
    • No more than # preventable ac­cidents in any L year period.
    • No restricted or suspended licensein the last # year(s).
    • No driving under the influence(DUI) convictions in the last #years.

Driver Education and Training

For many, if not for all of us, driver education and training dates all the way back to high school. Effective, continuous training can create safety awareness among your drivers.

Training can take place in a classroom setting or on the road. Many local safety councils offer defensive driving training at an affordable cost. Document your training activities to verify content and attendance. It’s especially important to train new drivers who haven’t driven anything other than a car.

Training topics could include the following:

    • The importance of wearing seat belts
    • The dangers of driving while underthe influence of alcohol and/or drugs
    • Traffic laws and regulations
    • What to do in the event of an ac­cident
    • First aid
    • Proper backing techniques
    • Proper passing procedures
    • Cargo securement
    • Rural driving
    • City driving
    • Winter driving

Implementing a fleet safety pro­gram with close scrutiny on just how safe a driver really is will be the key element in preventing and reducing motor vehicle accidents.

Tom Venafro is Safety Manager/ISO Coor­dinator of Nelbud Services. He will be pre­senting the Safety Update at the Fall Tech­nical Seminar in Chicago, October 5-7.

This article appeared in the September 2000 edition of “The Scratch Pad”

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