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    What is Fleet Safety? A Guide (2023)

    fleet vehicle on the road

    In a time when efficiency is more important than ever, fleet managers are often tasked with creating a fleet safety policy that not only ensures the safety of their drivers, but also keeps the company safe from frivolous lawsuits, curbs costs where appropriate, and creates a best practices guide employees can follow to keep the fleet operational, on-schedule, and in tip-top shape.

    In this fleet safety guide, we’ll tackle the question a lot of companies are asking: “what is fleet safety?” while also exploring best practices, benefits, compliance, accident mitigation, training for drivers, and more.

    What is a fleet safety program? Our definition and other considerations

    The definition of fleet safety is pretty simple—keeping the fleet safe and road ready by enacting both driver and vehicle safety policies. However, the definition goes much deeper when you factor in other important aspects of fleet safety programs, including economic considerations, complying with federal and state regulations, liability concerns, and even employee satisfaction.

    Challenges a fleet safety plan can help solve:

    1. Fleet accident mitigation: A driver training program minimizes the probability of collisions caused by risky driving and can even identify behaviors that cause these kinds of incidents (cell phone usage, aggressive lane changes, etc.). This critical element of a good fleet safety program can also help protect the company from financial and legal issues that may arise from incidents on the road.
    2. Costly litigation and claims costs: In the event a collision does occur, great safety programs that include in-cab video can help curb costs associated with lengthy litigation or claims.
    3. Driver exoneration: Video evidence can exonerate a driver or help a company settle if it turns out their driver was at fault.
    4. Distracted driving: A video safety program can help detect distracted driving, alerting drivers of their risky driving behavior in the moment, so they can self-correct.

    Other fleet management challenges solved by a fleet safety program and vehicle telematics:

    1. Fuel expenditures: With rising costs for fuel, efficiency is the name of the game. A fleet safety program coupled with vehicle telematics can identify inefficiency down to specific vehicles and can even optimize routes to help minimize fuel consumption during routes. Optimized routes also mean less driving, minimizing exposure to risks of the road.
    2. Vehicle breakdowns: When a vehicle is not on the road, it not only keeps important deliveries from being made, it also creates customer service issues and affects the bottom line. Today’s fleet technologies can provide down-to-vehicle diagnostics surrounding fuel usage, tire pressure, the necessity for maintenance, and more, keeping vehicles on the road and on-schedule. Not only that, but a healthy vehicle is a safe vehicle. Ensuring vehicle health protects drivers on the road.
    3. Administrative headaches: Increasing the size of a fleet can mean increased pressures on the fleet’s administrative team. More drivers, new vehicles, larger maintenance needs, payroll issues, licensing requirements, insurance premiums, etc., can really be time-consuming and impossible to manage without the help of today’s technologies. A best-in-class fleet safety program will also provide features to help manage your fleet.
    4. Drivers out-of-service: When driver compliance issues crop up, they can really hurt your fleet’s scheduling. When licenses expire or drivers need additional training because of road infractions, it’s a lose-lose for everyone. Fleet technologies allow fleets of all sizes to monitor and maintain the most important aspects of compliance. Expiring licenses, time behind the wheel, and other critical reporting elements can be easily managed with the help of the right fleet technologies. This critical aspect of fleet management is not only beneficial to the organization, but also a way to solve fleet driver safety.
    5. Driver recruitment and retention: These programs can also be part of an overall recruitment and driver training program that is ideal for both new and existing drivers. Helping drivers understand the dos-and-don’ts of the road will create better communication and camaraderie, and, most of all, set clear expectations to potentially avoid costly issues down the road. Even better, a good program will empower drivers and incorporate opportunities to positively reinforce and reward safe driving practices, leading to greater employee satisfaction and driver retention.

    Fleet safety compliance is a huge topic in 2023

    There are many elements to fleet safety compliance, most of which revolve around rules and regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Fleet safety managers must make sure that employees have safe and healthy working conditions when behind the wheel. This applies to maintenance issues, impossible schedules that are too rigorous to meet, and even excess time spent behind the wheel.

    In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has regulations that apply specifically to safety in transportation, including the safety of commercial vehicles. Specific regulations that the DOT requires includes, but are not limited to, the following:

    Hours of Service (HOS)

    Prior to the December 2011 enactment of these rules, some workers were spending unhealthy amounts of time behind the wheel, not only endangering their own health, but also the health and safety of other drivers on the road. The passage of this rule was meant to cover driver fatigue by determining the maximum number of consecutive hours a driver can work without taking an appropriate break.

    A second component of this rule was added in 2017, requiring fleets to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track hours spent behind the wheel. These devices seamlessly connect to the vehicle’s engine and provide data that can be presented to authorities if drivers are ever detained while on a route. This digital way of tracking hours replaced the cumbersome paper records that were standard in the industry prior to the DOT’s new regulations.

    Violation of these rules can negatively impact not only the driver’s record but also the carrier’s safety reputation, hence this aspect of a robust fleet safety plan is integral to future success.

    Licensing and permitting

    Operating a fleet vehicle (much like operating a personal passenger vehicle), requires a variety of permits, licenses, and other regulations that must be followed and regularly updated for drivers who operate commercial vehicles. Such licenses include unified carrier registrations, commercial licenses (CDLs), motor carrier authority numbers, and other required compliance. To avoid costly fines and suspensions, fleet managers must be aware and ready to provide evidence of all usage and compliance information.

    Vehicle inspections

    Another critical component of an all-around fleet safety program includes rigorous vehicle inspections. When drivers begin their routes, they must do a thorough check of a required list of vehicle components, including steering checks, blinkers, axles, tires, horn, windshield wipers, parking brake, and more.

    Any identified issues must be repaired before the vehicle leaves the lot to avoid fines or suspensions of service to the vehicle. A signed proof of repairs is also required to ensure the vehicle can safely be put back into service.

    Pre-employment checks

    Before hiring any driver, an extensive background check must be conducted to ensure that the driver is licensed and approved. The driver’s history on the road, any infractions, accidents, violations of alcohol or substance abuse, and a pre-employment drug screening are all part of a rigorous hiring process. Some fleets take the hiring process even further as liability and reputation are at stake when drivers become the face of the company.

    What does “fleet safety certified” mean?

    This kind of certification means that a fleet has taken the necessary measures to ensure that their drivers and important personnel are well-educated and trained on the important rules of the road. Different types of certifications are offered by the following examples:

    National Association of Fleet Administrators Certification (NAFA) that covers:

    • Rigorous driver training
    • Safety measures and protocols
    • Fleet sustainability topics

    DriveSafe Online Certification that covers:

    • Fatigue prevention in drivers
    • Workplace safety that also covers topics such as violence, drug abuse, and interpersonal issues
    • Accident prevention and roadway safety

    NTSI Certification that covers:

    • Fleet driver safety and efficiency recommendations
    • Driver attitudes towards safety and how to improve and motivate drivers to be more aware of safety issues

    NSC Defensive Driving Certification that covers:

    • Accidents and prevention strategies
    • First aid and best practices for safety
    • Community issues around pedestrians, other potential hazards, and how to avoid issues

    How to get fleet safety certification

    You’ll need to complete a required checklist of important steps to get your fleet’s safety certification. Keep in mind that the kinds of material covered will vary in each certification program based on requirements set forth by the type of fleet you manage.

    In addition, the DOT and FMCSA also recognize a variety of fleet safety programs, so it’s important to make sure that the certification you’re using is compliant with each governing body’s standards for official driver and fleet safety certification. Consider determining which regulating agency is most applicable to your industry, area, or needs, and then optimizing your program around those requirements.

    Elements of most fleet safety certifications include:

    • Classroom training, including specified hours of education
    • Hands-on training (behind the wheel), including hours logged as required
    • Relevant testing with passing scores

    Fleet safety best practices in 2023

    While keeping an ear open for new requirements, rules, and regulations is integral to fleet management, safety planning is key to help protect the health and well-being of drivers. Here are some steps that fleet managers can take to ensure the safety and longevity of their fleet.

    Identifying route and vehicle related risks of the road 

    There are innumerable risks when hitting the road. Some of these issues are commercial vehicle specific (extra-long rigs pulling lots of cargo, hazardous material hauling, etc.), while others are more relevant to the drivers themselves.

    From a driver’s perspective, companies must identify if fleet operators are prepared to drive long distances or over varying terrains (think winter conditions) and whether they will be driving fit-for-purpose vehicles.

    As different drivers have different personal and/or professional requirements to perform their duties, fleet managers must consider the following parameters to create a fleet safety plan that covers all bases. Specific areas to incorporate into a plan that takes driver capabilities into account include the following areas:

    • How often will the vehicle be at maximum load capacity?
    • What is the vehicle’s true carrying potential?
    • What will the road conditions be during the journey? Kinds of topography and traffic data are also important data points.
    • Is the vehicle equipped with the right safety equipment, signage, and the equipment requirements set forth by governing agencies?

    Implementing a fleet safety policy

    There’s no better way to bring your fleet team together than by enacting a fleet safety policy that explains, down to intricate details, the rules, and responsibilities of all parties. By having a guide that all-parties can access, review, and ask questions on, the organization not only avoids confusion but can also point to written policies when they are violated.

    Policies for fleet safety should focus on critical areas of importance, including fatigued driving, night driving, resting intervals, hazardous conditions, and more. Companies can even go as far as requiring employees to study their fleet safety plan and sign written agreements that they understand every policy stated.

    Other important topics covered in fleet safety protocols include:

    • Driver risk assessments
    • License and certification checks
    • Incident reporting best practices
    • Complete communication of safety standards Vehicle maintenance and reporting protocols

    Investing in fleet safety technology 

    In addition to a detailed fleet safety policy, investing in the right fleet safety technology is paramount to keeping your drivers safe on the road. Understanding risks and company protocols is only the first piece to the puzzle. How drivers behave behind the wheel is what actually matters. A comprehensive fleet safety program will help you understand how your drivers are behaving on the road, provide actionable alerts and insights for behavior change, and the critical context needed to understand what, when, where, and why.

    Important considerations when vetting fleet safety programs:

    • What are your company’s primary goals?
    • Who are your key internal stakeholders and what are their needs?
    • What does success look like?
    • What are the most important characteristics of a potential vendor?
    • Which program maximizes ROI?

    One final thought. Don’t forget to include step-by-step protocols for fleet accident management, including an exact order list of how drivers should respond during and after an accident.

    Additional benefits of fleet safety

    While we’ve discussed best practices and safety compliance issues surrounding a complete fleet safety plan, the vast number of benefits of these kinds of programs grow every day and include elements that cover:

    • Protection for drivers who may be falsely accused
    • Company image (maintaining and positively growing)
    • Compliance with all state and federal regulations, giving peace-of-mind
    • Discounted insurance premiums as accident mitigation policies and further training minimize road incidents
    • Fewer fleet vehicle breakdowns means more time on the road
    • Less driver turnover and increased employee satisfaction
    • Expansion of fleets with established policies that make growing easy

    Fleet safety topics to consider in 2023 and beyond

    The technologies that work together to create a complete fleet safety plan weren’t even thought of only a few short decades ago. With shifting and advancements going in astounding directions as the years tick by, there are important considerations your company can plan for in the not-so-distant future, including:

    1. Electric fleet vehicles:Transitioning your fleet to electric vehicles can be a costly venture, but the savings on fuel can really add up. Upcoming commercial and delivery based EVs could be a gamechanger. General Motors, Honda, and Rivian are just a few names that are planning for these kinds of vehicles aimed at reducing emissions.
    2. Remote fleet management: As technology is constantly changing, many other aspects are changing the way we work. Remote fleet management technologies are currently readily available and are already part of an all-around fleet safety plan. Real-time visibility, constant contact capabilities, additional protection against cargo theft, and route planning are just a few of the vast benefits currently available in the marketplace. Imagine where the coming years will take us.
    3. 5G technology expansion: Improved response times and data transfer are just a few ways that 5G technology will further the capabilities of fleet management. In addition, new advancements in the technology can help improve road safety, automatically call for assistance when an incident occurs, and reduce the number and severity of crashes.

    Questions and additional considerations

    Lytx is proud to be an industry leader helping companies achieve comprehensive fleet safety. If you have questions or need additional information on how to create a fleet safety plan, please reach out to us to learn more.

    Frequently asked questions about fleet safety

    How do I choose a fleet safety program?

    When considering a fleet safety program, it’s helpful to outline your specific needs and objectives. Are you suffering from increased collisions and high claims costs? Are you drowning in litigation expenses related to fraudulent claims? Are your drivers burning excess fuel by excessive idling or aggressive driving practices?

    Start with the problem, then seek the solution. Once you have identified your organization's pain points, it will be a lot easier to select the right solution for your needs.

    What are the most important components to look for in a fleet safety program?

    Once you have identified your fleet's needs and objectives you should be able to identify the features and functionality needed to ensure your success. When vetting potential vendors, don't be afraid to ask the important questions, such as:

    • What is the solution and how can it help me?
    • How is the user interface organized?
    • Does it prioritize the things I need to see and act on daily?
    • How does the technology work?
    • Is there a way to protect driver privacy?

    The answers will help you make the most informed decision for your unique requirements.