Fleet safety conference targets drivers

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As transportation accidents continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths, occupational safety and health professionals, law enforcement and academia from 27 states, Canada and Switzerland recently met at UPS headquarters in Atlanta for a sold-out American Society of Safety Engineers’ “Improving Fleet Safety” symposium to identify additional ways to prevent injuries and fatalities on the roads.

The focus of the symposium was to offer safety, health and environmental professionals an opportunity to participate in sessions and panel discussions on new challenges faced within the transportation industry, management processes and best practices. Pilot programs involving new technology aimed at understanding driver behavior and the lone-worker environment were some of the many topics discussed at the two-day conference. In addition, the presentations went beyond addressing large trucks to include personal vehicles used for work, vans, utility vehicles and more.

In 2006, 5,703 people died from on-the-job injuries in the United States, and nearly one out of four of those fatal work injuries were transportation-related. Worldwide, roadway crashes and fatalities are at an all-time high. In the United States, there were 6,159,000 vehicle crashes in 2005, resulting in the death of 43,443 people and injuring 2.7 million more; those accidents cost the United States $230.6 billion. For businesses, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that the per-crash cost for a fatal crash involving a company vehicle to be $3,604,518.

Seatbelts and company programs aimed at reducing aggressive and distracted driving can work, conference participants said, but many are looking at in-vehicle cameras, vehicle and cargo tracking systems, and the importance of safety coaching and actively managing employee performance. Attendees agreed that safety is good business and that transportation crashes not only cause injuries and fatalities, but increase maintenance costs; lead to road repair and retraining and hiring new drivers; and slice away at a company’s good reputation.

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“We need to continue to mitigate risk and improve driver safety by using the technologies available to us now, such as electronic driver monitoring and feedback technologies, driver selection processes, and policies and procedures for optimizing transportation safety,” says Nadine Levick, chief executive officer of Objective Safety.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, Ill.-based ASSE has more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members located globally who manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education.