Truck drivers face a range of hazards in their daily jobs. A significant accident or injury is life-changing and the company impact can equal millions of dollars from lost productivity, costs of clean-up, investigation, and even to insurance.
The essential first step in driving safety across your transportation fleet is optimal training for drivers and supervisors. Some of the hazards we’ve come to expect and educate our drivers on are as follows:
- The most common on-road hazard:
Distracted driving by other drivers. Rather than using complete awareness with their surroundings, other drivers may be talking on cell phones, texting, listening to loud music, or be generally oblivious to those around them—particularly to large trucks. Fleet safety depends on driving defensively in this context and being able to adjust to mistakes or erratic driver behaviors.
The trend in trucking is to encourage drivers with a good defensive driver training program. A curriculum of training topics should be provided to drivers in a way that helps them retain the information, modify undesirable behavior, and create awareness with others. This can be accomplished on a month-to-month basis or quarterly. Professionally produced digital trucking magazines with safety messages from top executives also encourage a culture of safety-first.
- The most common off-road hazard:
Injury from getting in and out of the cab. Most driver injuries are caused by slips, trips, and falls that bring pain and shorten driver careers. Simply jumping out of a truck after sitting can have long-term effects on a driver’s back or knees. Making drivers well aware of these hazards is important.
Drivers need to be in good mental and physical condition to apply training. For many years, we have used electronic on-board computers to enable drivers in monitoring their time off to remain rested and alert.
Training and Correcting with Technology
We require our drivers to complete a JJ Keller interactive training video every month. It’s documented with completion times and graded based on captured answers. Smith System and the National Safety Council also offer good programs.
The trucking industry uses remarkable diagnostic technology more and more these days. At Kenco, we coach drivers with corrective techniques. For the last couple of years, we have used the SmartDrive Camera system, utilizing outward and inward facing cameras on our OTR trucks. Certain triggers for hazardous situations are captured and drivers are then given techniques and coached to correct any unsafe driving behaviors.
Other technologies commonly used to identify hazards and improve equipment include:
- Lytx Drive Cam, another camera system
- Benedix’s air brake charging and control + AutoVue Lane Departure Warning system
- Truck rollover avoidance systems
Team Safety Culture and Measuring Progress
Next to training your fleet and all those who support their work, attracting drivers with impeccable driving records and the ability to communicate the safety message is another optimal way to drive safety across your fleet. These drivers are heralds of the safety-first message to their co-workers and all those in the communities where they live and work.
After hiring impeccable drivers, hiring qualified drivers and enabling their growth is another important focus area. Before hiring a driver, conduct a thorough background search for major violations or a pattern of unsafe driving behavior. Past actions are a good predictor of future behaviors. It would be wise to pass on a candidate with a significant history of poor performance. If a candidate shows up with minor infractions, it’s ideal to provide extra training addressing issues and creating trust around future work together.
Annual recognition programs through the American Trucking Associations (ATA) Safety Management Council help to measure progress. They’re a good way to encourage companies and drivers to maintain safety records and develop safety cultures.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and propagating safety awareness throughout your organization is critical to achieving the one ultimate goal — to bring each driver and associate home safely every day.
Joe Smith, CDS is Manager Fleet Safety at Kenco Group. Joe has been with Kenco for 10 years and has won multiple safety awards. He was recently recognized by the ATA with the 2015 Leadership Award and the 2015 National Safety Professional Award of Excellence for his leadership and contributions to motor carrier, highway, and workplace safety.
Note: A version of this post was originally published on Kenco’s blog.