For over 30 years the leading pallet and sawmill magazine in America.
Safety Check: The Basics of Fleet & Transportation Safety
Basics of Fleet Safety: The number one cause of workplace deaths is motor vehicle accidents. Establishing a good training and monitoring program is key to ensure that your truck drivers are safe. Learn what you may be missing.
By Jary Winstead
Date Posted: 8/1/2015
Basics of Fleet Safety:
The number one cause of workplace deaths is motor vehicle accidents. Establishing a good training and monitoring program is key to ensure that your truck drivers are safe. Learn what you may be missing.
If you travel much on the roads, you have come across vehicle accidents, and many of these are preventable. Companies must include fleet and transportation safety in their training regimes even though this area is frequently overlooked. From loss of life, serious injury, business liability and business disruption standpoints, motor vehicle safety can lead to significant problems. Being a former fire medic, I have seen my share of fatalities and serious injuries. Driving safety is one of my key safety topics during workplace safety trainings.
Just how big of a problem are motor vehicle accidents? The National Center for Statistics and Analysis projects that an estimated 32,675 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014. This represents a very marginal decrease of about 0.1% compared to the previous year.
Through the years there has been an overall reduction in fatalities from vehicle accidents. This is due primarily to the improvements in vehicle safety integrated into the vehicles that we drive, and improvements in the roadways we drive on.
It’s no surprise that statistics show vehicle accidents account for about 40% of all workplace fatalities, and that vehicle accidents are the leading cause of workplace fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large trucks are much more likely to be involved in a fatal multiple-vehicle crash, as opposed to a fatal-single, vehicle crash.
Statistics also show that rear-end collisions, and following too close, are the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents. Of the 32,719 fatalities in 2103, 9,613 were contributed to speeding.
According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, it takes alert drivers approximately two and one half seconds to see a roadway hazard and react to it. The more space a driver allows between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them, the more time they have to see a hazard and react safely. Anyone that drives our public highways and freeways knows that people are following too close. Bumper to bumper high speed traffic is now the norm on our major transportation systems. Hence, tail gating and following too close are often the main topics of class discussion during my driver safety meetings.
When drivers tailgate they significantly reduce their stopping distance or the distance needed to come to a complete and safe stop. Your stopping distance is directly proportional to the size and weight of the vehicle. As Graph 1 shows, it takes about twice the distance to stop a heavy truck than it does a car.
Increasing vehicle following distances will reduce accidents. It is recommended at highway speeds, in normal driving conditions, you should maintain a 500 foot separation between you and the vehicle in front of you. At 55 MPH your vehicle covers 100 feet in 1 and one quarter seconds, so that equals 6 and one quarter seconds. Therefore, a safe following distance under normal driving conditions is approximately 6 seconds of separation. In addition to the 6 seconds of separation, it is also recommended that you add one second for each adverse weather condition that you’re facing. One second for fog, another second for rain, and so on.
It is a good practice that all workplaces require pre-trip inspections on their company vehicles. For those operating commercial vehicles, it’s a federal law that all commercial vehicles have documented inspections. It surprises me to find that businesses allow their drivers to be lax in any way regarding vehicle inspections. As part of my quarterly safety inspections, I inspect the commercial driver files and review the last quarter’s commercial vehicle inspections. All too often there are only partially completed reports. Reports are often missing required information; driver names, mileage, dates, and other critical information. Oh, and never allow your drivers to draw a line through the inspection checklist components. When inspection forms state to check off each item individually, that is what must take place.
Businesses that operate commercial vehicles need to be well aware of the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The requirements for inspection repair and maintenance are listed in Part 396. In general, every motor carrier needs to systematically inspect, repair and maintain, all motor vehicles subject to its control. All of these records must be maintained. When one of your drivers is involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident, chances are your records will be audited.
Every motor carrier must require its drivers to report, and every driver needs to prepare a report in writing at the completion of each day’s work on each vehicle operated and the report needs to cover at least the following parts and accessories:
• Service brakes including trailer brake connections
• Parking (hand) brake
• Steering mechanism
• Lighting devices and reflectors
• Windshield wipers
• Rear vision mirrors
• Coupling devices
• Wheels and rims
• Emergency equipment
Part 396 regulations state the following requirements:
Report content. (i) The report must identify the vehicle and list any defect or deficiency discovered by or reported to the driver which would affect the safety of operation of the vehicle or result in its mechanical breakdown. If a driver operates more than one vehicle during the day, a report must be prepared for each vehicle operated. The driver of a passenger-carrying CMV subject to this regulation must prepare and submit a report even if no defect or deficiency is discovered by or reported to the driver; the drivers of all other commercial motor vehicles are not required to prepare or submit a report if no defect or deficiency is discovered by or reported to the driver. (ii) The driver must sign the report. On two-driver operations, only one driver needs to sign the driver vehicle inspection report, provided both drivers agree as to the defects or deficiencies identified.
Corrective action. Prior to requiring or permitting a driver to operate a vehicle, every motor carrier or its agent shall repair any defect or deficiency listed on the driver vehicle inspection report which would be likely to affect the safe operation of the vehicle.
Every motor carrier or its agent shall certify on the original driver vehicle inspection report which lists any defect or deficiency that the defect or deficiency has been repaired or that repair is unnecessary before the vehicle is operated again.
Retention period for reports. Every motor carrier shall maintain the original driver vehicle inspection report, the certification of repairs, and the certification of the driver’s review for three months from the date the written report was prepared.
Exceptions. The rules in this section shall not apply to a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), a driveaway-towaway operation, or any motor carrier operating only one commercial motor vehicle.
Operator Wellness and Preparedness
It is most important that the vehicle driver be physically and mentally ready to drive; assuring that all commercial drivers have a valid and current medical card is a federal requirement. The most important part of a motor vehicle is the driver. Getting plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel is number one. Eating well and staying fit to drive are also very important. Drivers that are not healthy and well rested should not drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver drowsiness and fatigue causes 100,000 accidents each year.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
In 1991 The United States Congress passed a law requiring drug and alcohol testing for commercial drivers. Since 1991, the FMCSA and its predecessor agency has defined drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations for employees who drive commercial trucks and buses that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL). These regulations identify who is subject to testing, when they are tested and in what situations. The regulations also impose privacy protections and restrictions on employers and service agents against the use and release of sensitive drug and alcohol testing information.
Many commercial carriers believe that having their commercial drivers in a drug and alcohol consortium is sufficient. On the contrary, you are also required to have your own drug and alcohol program in addition to a consortium. The FMCSA controlled substances and alcohol use and testing regulations can be found at 49 CFR Part 382.
Your supervisors need to be well aware of these laws, and a great source of training info can be found at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/drug-alcohol-testing/us-department-transportation-dot-drug-alcohol-supervisor-training
Hours of Service
Commercial vehicles have regulated Hours of Service (HOS), this can be found at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations
These regulations are put into place to assure drivers are rested and not driving while tired or drowsy. Most commercial drivers must comply with the HOS regulations if they drive a commercial motor vehicle. In general, a commercial motor vehicle is a vehicle that is used as part of a business and is involved in interstate commerce and fits any of these descriptions:
• Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
• Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
• Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
• Is designed or used to transport nine or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
• Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards
Seat belts save lives; ask any law enforcement officer or fire medic. Your company safety program must have this policy. Seat belts must be used by all vehicle drivers, with no exemptions. Enforcement of this policy is crucial to your accident prevention program.
The Safe and Professional Driver
Your company drivers are the billboard of your company. Safety and professionalism is paramount. Statistics show that commercial vehicle drivers are statistically not the fault of most vehicle accidents.
Motor vehicle accidents are very costly; for every 100 million miles driven on U.S. road ways, there are 2.3 deaths and 60.5 injuries caused by big rigs. It goes without saying, the value of a human life is immeasurable. The dollar cost of a commercial vehicle accident is $59,150. It pays in the long run to maintain a proactive fleet safety program and ensure that all your drivers are safe and professional.
Editor’s Note: Jary Winstead is a safety consultant, author and trainer who serves a variety of industries including the forest products sector. He owns Work Safety Services LLC and can be reached at SAFEJARY@aol.com.