Take command of Fleet Risk Management

Approaches for reducing accident cost and frequency

Vehicle accidents tend to be the greatest source of loss for many organizations. With an effective fleet risk management program in place, a company can proactively reduce driving violations, help increase driver performance, reduce wear and tear of vehicles, prevent vehicle accidents or lessen the severity and costs involved, decrease vehicle downtime and lower insurance premiums.

The cost of truck crashes is significant. Based on the latest data available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the estimated average cost of a crash involving a straight truck is $97,811; $172,292 for a tractor trailer. The cost per non-fatal injury crash for a straight truck averaged $247,353 and $334,892 for a tractor trailer.

As to be expected, the cost of truck-involved fatal crashes is considerably higher: $6,314,659 per straight truck; tractor trailer, $7,633,600.

One essential element of any successful fleet risk management program is identifying high-risk drivers and training them to reduce the likelihood of accidents. Driving behavior is responsible for up to 90 percent of all crashes, and 33 percent of fuel consumption, says Dan Steere, CEO of GreenRoad, a pioneer and provider of a comprehensive service to improve driving behavior.

Driver-decisions also play a very important role in the wear and tear of the vehicle, he notes. "Fleets that can significantly improve the daily decisions drivers make will find that they have to spend dramatically less money on maintenance and have far greater control in managing risk."

There are four essential elements of a driver risk management process, says Stanley Stone, vice president of safety, Penske Logistics:

• A proactive driver screening and hiring process which provides an opportunity to hire low risk drivers, i.e. drivers with no moving violation convictions and/or accidents, suspensions, revocations, etc.

• Policies and procedures that clearly define and communicate the expectations of driver performance.

• A comprehensive training program to help ensure drivers continue to maintain a low risk status.

• A process to monitor driver performance and interventions to appropriately address driver performance; reward/recognition for desired performance and remedial training and/or discipline for drivers who cannot perform to expectations.

"In our experience, written policies, legislation and monitoring all fall into the category of negative reinforcement - which alone cannot change driving behavior or create a culture of safety," says GreenRoad's Steere. Company data and studies have shown that "the carrot is just as important as the stick - maybe more so. Drivers need constructive input and positive feedback if they are to make sustainable changes in their driving behavior.

"The fact is, we all need regular, relevant feedback in order to improve. Real, valuable and productive feedback needs to come in two forms: What you are doing wrong - speeding, weaving between lanes, allowing enough following distance, etc., and what you are doing right - preparing in advance for a turn, reading the road, maintaining appropriate speed, etc."

Another important factor to effectively managing fleet risk is proper vehicle inspection and maintenance. Operating safe vehicles is a must because maintenance issues are increasingly cited in vehicle crashes.

"Unsafe equipment increases the risk of accidents and associated injuries and deaths, Penske Logistics' Stone says. "Therefore, proper and timely maintenance of vehicles coupled with pre- and post-trip inspections by the drivers is critical to managing this risk."

Safety is always first and foremost at Boyd Bros. Transportation, says David Baker, vice president of maintenance. Formed in August 1956 and headquartered in Clayton, AL, Boyd Bros. is a flatbed truckload carrier that operates throughout the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. hauling primarily steel products and building materials.

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