Follow these steps so your drivers practice safe habits on the road.
By Alexandra Walsh
The primary role of a fleet safety program is to reduce motor vehicle accidents and protect employees.
Safety should be considered an essential component of every motor vehicle fleet, regardless of vehicle size or type. And just as important, safety must not be something done simply when it is convenient. Safety must be a company value!
Fleets without safety programs place themselves in financial jeopardy and are likely out of compliance with local, state, and federal rules.
In addition, fleet safety is a social responsibility. Company drivers and vehicles are interacting with the motoring public. The safety of the vehicles in your company’s fleet directly affects other drivers on the highway.
Do You Need a Fleet Safety Plan?
To answer that question, answer the following:
- Do we operate vehicles for our work?
- Do our employees drive for work purposes?
- Does our staff drive our vehicles for private purposes?
- Do we provide employees with personal vehicles?
- Do employees or others drive on our premises?
- Do we employ contract transport services?
If the answer is “Yes” to any of these, the employer is responsible for seeing that appropriate fleet safety systems and controls are in place and operating effectively.
Why Have a Fleet Safety Plan?
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury and death. Crashes on and off the job have far-reaching financial and psychological effects on employees and their families, their coworkers, and their employers.
You need a fleet safety program:
- To save lives and reduce the risk of life-altering injuries in your workforce.
- To protect your organization’s human and financial resources.
- To guard against company and personal liabilities associated with crashes involving employees driving on company business.
Elements of the Fleet Safety Plan
It is important to educate company drivers to improve their attitudes. Improved attitudes will influence their decision-making, behaviors, and driver performance. By instructing employees in basic safe driving practices—and rewarding safety-conscious driving—you help your employees and their families avoid tragedy.
Your fleet safety program should at least include the following elements:
- Written policy
- Program roles and responsibilities
- Driver selection, authorization, and review
- Driver training
- Driver incentives and recognition
- Driver discipline
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Emergency equipment
- Vehicle inspection and maintenance
- Accident reporting and investigation
Ten Action Steps to Responsible Fleet Safety
The following action steps, originally developed by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), will help you improve your fleet safety performance and minimize the risk of crashes involving fleet motor vehicles.
These steps help assure you hire capable drivers, allow only eligible drivers to drive on company business, train the drivers, supervise drivers, and maintain company vehicles properly.
- Develop ways senior management can demonstrate commitment and employees can get involved.
- Develop written fleet safety management policies and procedures.
- Develop and insist on the use of driver agreements.
- Complete motor vehicle record (MVR) checks.
- Report crashes and make sure they are effectively investigated.
- Make sure vehicles are properly selected for the job, preventive and corrective maintenance is performed, and inspections are regularly conducted.
- Institute a fair and objective disciplinary action system.
- Recognize and reward professional performance and offer incentives for sustained professionalism
- Conduct effective safety meetings and driver training.
- Work with regulatory agencies to ensure regulatory compliance is achieved.
What Can Employers Do?
Unlike other workplaces, the roadway is not a closed environment. Preventing work-related roadway crashes requires a combination of traffic safety principles and safety management practices.
Of course, employers can’t control roadway conditions, but they can promote safe driving behavior by providing safety information to workers and by setting and enforcing driver safety policies. Crashes are not an unavoidable part of doing business. Employers can take steps to protect their employees and their companies.
- Assign a member of the management team the responsibility and authority to set and enforce a comprehensive driver safety policy.
- Enforce mandatory use of seat belts.
- Don’t require workers to drive irregular hours or far beyond their normal working hours.
- Don’t require workers to conduct business on a cellphone while driving.
- Develop work schedules that allow employees to obey speed limits and follow hours of service regulations.
- Adopt a structured vehicle maintenance program.
- Provide company vehicles that offer the highest possible levels of driver protection.
- Teach workers how to recognize and manage driver fatigue and distracted driving.
- Provide training to workers driving specialized motor vehicles or equipment.
- Emphasize to drivers the need to follow safe driving practices on and off the job.
- Make sure workers assigned to drive on the job have a valid driver’s license and one appropriate for the type of vehicle to be driven.
- Check driving records of prospective employees and perform periodic rechecks after hiring.
- Maintain complete and accurate records of workers’ driving performance.
Managers play an important role in the fleet safety program, and should take on the following responsibilities:
- Develop and activate fleet safety program policies and procedures.
- Assume responsibility for the driving record of employees while they are on duty.
- Check frequently for compliance with fleet safety program requirements and policies.
- Review personally all accidents and take all steps to prevent a recurrence.
- Insist all vehicles are maintained adequately for safe operation.
- Inspect periodically all assigned vehicles for safety discrepancies, malfunctions, unreported damage, cleanliness, and that repairs are made as soon as possible.
- Support fully the company’s driver training program to promote defensive driving.
- Review accident and unsafe driving reports with employees and their supervisors.
- Enforce wearing seat belts on all trips.
Frontline supervisors are key in making sure the fleet safety program is successful. Their responsibilities:
- See that employees don’t drive any company vehicle unless they have a valid driver’s license and are familiar with company driving rules and regulations.
- Supervise only authorized personnel are allowed to operate company vehicles, special purpose vehicles, and trucks.
- Be alert in observing unsafe driving practices of employees and take immediate action to correct.
- Review all vehicle collisions with employees and discuss each unsafe act that was responsible and preventable.
- Ride along periodically with drivers to check for compliance with operating instructions and traffic regulations.
- Assure unsafe vehicles are not driven until safety discrepancies have been corrected.
Employees who drive company vehicles are, of course, critical to the successful operation of fleet vehicles. They are responsible for following all guidelines set forth in the
fleet safety program. These responsibilities include:
- Having a valid driver’s license in their possession
- Operating vehicles safely to protect passengers and cargo
- Inspecting the vehicle they are about to drive
- Reporting any vehicle accidents.
Safety Manager Responsibilities
The safety manager’s important role is to help supervisors and drivers make sure the fleet safety program is working as it should. The safety manager is usually in charge of developing the policies of the fleet safety program. Typical responsibilities will include:
- Developing an effective safety education and training program
- Assisting top management in implementing the fleet safety program
- Monitoring all employees driving company vehicles
- Monitoring maintenance procedures are being followed to keep vehicles in safe operating condition.