By Dale Willis & J. Kimo Ketner

Safety on the job, regardless of company size, is critical and should be instilled as a mandatory practice, especially for businesses with fleets.

In particular, small businesses often lack the manpower for adequate supervision of employees, dedicated safety directors or fleet managers and often utilize underdeveloped safety training programs. Vehicle and driver monitoring can help close the gap between small and large fleets by effortlessly identifying problem areas using data and efficient reporting tools. These solutions offer “big” capabilities to smaller businesses without all of the resources of a larger entity.

Fleet safety should be a critical business value, according to Ensuring Fleet and Driver Safety: How Technology Helps Service Businesses Adhere to Regulations and Protect Employees. Should an accident occur, a business can be held liable for negligence and hefty workers’ compensation claims, which can lead to a potential civil lawsuit. Lawsuits can destroy any business, regardless of profitability, and can critically damage a company’s reputation.

In fact, the National Safety Council reports that the estimated cost of motor vehicle accidents is $22.3 billion each year. Obviously there is also the human impact to consider when thinking about accidents that cause injuries to employees or the general public; however, when evaluating on a purely economic level, the total cost of vehicle accidents can include:

    • lost time by employees;
    • lost revenue because equipment is not producing income;
    • failure to fill orders or meet deadlines;
    • lost time by rescheduling missed jobs;
    • lost time on accident investigations and reports by management;
    • possible increase in insurance premiums;
    • possible increase in government audits and potential fines; and
    • public relations damage. A well-managed and safe fleet of vehicles can result in a more profitable business, better customer service and increased safety, among a myriad of other benefits.

A well-managed and safe fleet of vehicles can result in a more profitable business, better customer service and increased safety, among a myriad of other benefits.


Technology Aiding In Safety Initiatives and Incentives

By implementing a fleet management system, businesses are differentiating themselves from the competition by providing a new level of safety, security and service. The technology collects data such as speeding, harsh braking, vehicle maintenance scheduling status and vehicle location from a hardwired GPS receiver installed directly on the vehicle that transmits collected data via cellular communication to remote users.

While some tend to view technology that provides insights into driver behavior as an invasion of privacy, employees and business owners need to remember that this technology can help ensure the safety of all drivers. The technology also can be used to create incentive programs where employees are rewarded for safe driving behavior and adhering to safety regulations instead of being punished when they break the rules.

Incentive programs can offer employees rewards such as extra vacation days, cash or points that are applied to a leader board whereby someone is recognized as the safest driver of the month. It’s important for business owners to create these programs so employees view the technology as equally beneficial to them as it is to the business as a whole.


Rein in Aggressive Driving

Part of implementing a useful driver safety program is ensuring the business can analyze objective sets of data that show whether drivers are engaging in risky behaviors. Running driver risk analysis reports are vital in helping ensure dangerous behaviors, like speeding or harsh breaking, are quickly corrected. In fact, speeding is a factor in nearly 23 percent of all at-fault large truck crashes, according to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. Fleet management solutions are useful in providing business owners a clear picture of drivers’ habits and an opportunity to correct unsafe behaviors, which can significantly decrease the chances of being involved in a serious accident.


The Need for Driver-Centricity

Businesses should work with a vendor to put technology in place that pinpoints drivers who are offending rules and regulations. This visibility can be used to measure against safety metrics such as harsh breaking, turning and accelerating, and directional turns.

Visibility into driver behavior also can help businesses educate their drivers on the negative consequences in order to curb the amount of accidents that occur each year, enhance business reputation, and qualify for lower insurance premiums based on a safe driver record. These reports may protect businesses from customer complaints and potential lawsuits. The “tell me how I’m driving” stickers can be enhanced by fleet management technology that runs in near real-time and alerts fleet managers to unsafe driving events.


Fleet Safety as a Core Value

While the slew of driver safety benefits are clear, there are other advantages to using tools to monitor and enhance fleet safety. Those range from reducing the frequency with which drivers get lost in unfamiliar areas to signaling the unauthorized use of vehicles and aiding in the recovery of stolen vehicles and equipment, to allowing for quicker emergency response, reducing vehicle maintenance costs, decreasing payroll hours and facilitating greater employee and customer satisfaction. All of these things combined provide peace of mind to business owners and protect the bottom line.

Beyond the many aforementioned advantages of making fleet safety a priority, it is also the law for many businesses. The need to adhere to it has never been more vital, as the trucking hours debate continues to take shape and an escalating number of sleep-deprivation and other non-safety regulated accidents occur. Fleet safety programs must be implemented by every fleet-based business and should be emphasized as an essential company value. Implementing safety programs can be seamless with the use of fleet management technology, which ensures a smooth rollout and an overall healthier organization.