Personnel Safety, Transportation

NIOSH Reveals Keys for Improving Driver, Fleet Safety

Corporate fleet safety management practices like driver training, fatigue risk management, in-vehicle monitoring systems (IVMSs), and strong mobile phone policies can reduce the number and severity of motor vehicle crashes, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found in recently published research.

Drive Safe

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NIOSH researchers and colleagues from Miami University and the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) analyzed 2016 crash data for NETS member companies, along with their responses to a detailed questionnaire about their fleet safety management programs and policies.

Researchers looked at data from 70 companies for almost 333,000 vehicles ranging from passenger cars to tractor-trailers in a variety of industries, examining almost 5.5 billion vehicle miles driven.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace fatalities, according to NIOSH. More than 29,000 workers in the United States died in work-related motor vehicle crashes from 2003–2018. While Department of Transportation regulations have improved the safety of large trucks and buses, there are few regulations covering the driving of cars and other light-duty vehicles for work.

Researchers found that companies with policies on checking mobile phone records after all collisions and prohibiting the use of all electronic devices while driving, including the use of hands-free phones, fared better.

Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) needs to take steps to address motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving. According to the board, it’s OSHA’s responsibility to raise employers’ awareness of the need for strong cell phone policies prohibiting the use of portable electronic devices while driving company-owned vehicles. OSHA also should cite employers that fail to address distracted driving hazards, the board said in a report on a fatal crash involving a company-leased electric car.

NIOSH research shows that employers should adopt a number of safety measures for company fleets to reduce the number and severity of motor vehicle crashes, including:

  • Fatigue risk management for light-vehicle drivers—safety practices such as fatigue awareness training, restrictions on night driving, and medical screenings for fatigue.
  • Managers’ commitment to fleet safety—the companies that reported that their top executives were committed to fleet safety and their field managers managed road safety well had greater success.
  • Determining crash severity as part of collision reviews—conducting in-depth reviews of all collisions and determining the severity of the collisions to identify issues that need to be remedied across a company’s fleet.
  • Using an IVMS—equipping vehicles with video cameras, coaching drivers by using video footage, and summarizing IVMS results for upper management.
  • Driver training—using a range of driver training methods, such as behind-the-wheel and classroom training; training all employees (not just those classified as motor vehicle operators); and paying particular attention to drivers identified as high-risk.

NIOSH’s Center for Motor Vehicle Safety cautions employers to communicate clear and consistent expectations for safe driving behaviors to all workers before installing and using IVMSs. Supervisors also need to provide one-on-one coaching in a timely manner, using a positive, instructive approach.