Focus on Fleet Safety: The Need for (Less) Speed

Transportation accidents kill more workers than any other work-related hazard—and it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you probably have workers who are on the road while they’re on the clock. This week, we will be focusing on fleet safety issues—in particular, the four driver behaviors that can put your driver, his or her passengers, and other travelers at risk.

What are the hazards of driving on the job? While some factors, such as equipment safety and roadway conditions, can affect crash rates, driving behaviors are far more important. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that four unsafe driving behaviors significantly increased crash risks: speeding, drowsy driving, looking away from the road, and aggressive driving. Unsafe driving is a significant hazard for workers on the job.

Workers Are Speeding Up

Speed is deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), excessive speed is involved in 31 percent of the nation’s fatal crashes. But rather than slowing down, Americans are driving ever faster, NHTSA’s research revealed. From 2007 to 2009, the percentage of drivers speeding on U.S. highways increased from 48.3 percent to 71.1 percent, with 45 percent of drivers exceeding the speed limit by at least 5 mph (up from 28 percent in 2007).

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Workers who are on the clock and driving company vehicles are part of this trend, too. What can employers do to slow them down?

Although “speeding” is generally defined as “exceeding the speed limit,” that’s not the only time that employees may be driving too fast. Make sure workers know they’re driving too fast if they:

  • Drive too fast for conditions. Some road conditions—fog, heavy rain, ice, and smoke, for example—warrant slowing down. Any time visibility is reduced or road conditions are slick, workers need to slow down.
  • Tailgate. Drivers should leave 3 seconds’ distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front when driving below highway speeds in ideal conditions. At highway speed, or when conditions are poor (reduced visibility or slippery road conditions), they should leave 4 to 5 seconds’ distance. In extremely dangerous conditions—snow and ice, for example, 7 to 8 seconds’ following distance is needed.

Employers Can Slow Them Down

The single most important thing you can do to discourage employees from driving too fast on the clock is to make sure they have adequate time to get where they’re going.

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Make sure workers know they are not expected to exceed any posted speed limit as a part of their job and are not required to drive faster than conditions safely permit. This may mean adjusting their schedules so they have sufficient travel time.

You should also have a written policy in place covering speeding for workers who drive on the clock. Workers need to know that:

  • They must pay their own speeding tickets. Believe it or not, workers do not assume this. Put it in writing.
  • They must report speeding tickets to you. If workers receive speeding tickets while on the clock, require them to report it. It will affect your insurance and your overall risk of a work-related crash, so it’s important that you know about workers who habitually drive too fast. You can get this information in other ways, of course, but it should also be your policy to require workers to ‘fess up on their own.
  • You will be requesting reports from your insurer. Speeding tickets should be reported to your insurer, but your insurer may or may not automatically report them to you. Make a habit of asking for this information on a regular basis.
  • Speeding is subject to your disciplinary policy.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at other aggressive driving behaviors.

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