A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that “the number of fatal work injuries involving transportation incidents, the incident leading to most fatal work injuries, increased in 2015. Roadway incidents were up 9 percent in 2015 to 1,264 and accounted for 26 percent of all fatal work injuries (629) . . . Almost half of these fatalities involved a semi, tractor-trailer, or tanker truck.”
Another source quotes OSHA as indicating that “the average crash involving a commercial vehicle costs an employer $16,500, including legal expenses, medical care, lost productivity, and property damage. If someone is injured, that cost goes up to $74,000 and can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved.”
Assuming the $500,000 liability amount as reasonable, fatal commercial vehicle accidents cost fleet operators a total of $314.5 million in 2015.
What Does Safety Cost?
There is a simple answer. Safety, like quality, does not cost a thing. In fact, like quality, it is a small investment that reduces immediate and future costs of corporate fleets.
Fleet managers and executives who view the cost of safety programs as a line item cost to be trimmed are short-sighted and ill-informed. Admittedly, that is a pretty strong indictment. It is, nonetheless, true. It is poor rationale to minimize the need for effective safety programs merely as a cost reduction strategy.
Moral issues compound the financial aspects as well. What is a life worth? You can replace equipment, but you cannot replace a life.
How Can Safety Reduce Fleet Costs?
Fleet managers, drivers, and corporate executives need to be clear that safety is always associated with prevention. It follows, therefore, that a company may never be able to account for how much savings an effective safety program can generate. On the other hand, it is possible to see cost reductions directly related to vehicle safety (or lack thereof) versus prior years.
Automotive Fleet suggests four safety measures that can reduce accidents and costs.
- Establish and enforce a clearly-defined safety policy.
- Ensure that drivers are trained and receive continued training.
- Implement technology that promotes safety.
- Monitor and analyze maintenance and repairs.
Linxup offers the five following suggestions for what an effective safety policy should contain.
- Rules and guidelines for safe conduct and vehicle operations
- Disciplinary procedures for unsafe driving
- Reward programs for proven safe driving
- Post-accident or collision protocol
- Automated maintenance scheduling
The OSHAcademy offers a seven-module course that extensively covers fleet safety measures and responsibilities, including sections about:
- An overview of an effective safety plan
- Duties and responsibilities of managers and supervisors
- Duties and responsibilities of operators
- Driver selection
- Driver training and evaluation
- Accident investigations
- Vehicle selection and maintenance
What Do Fleet Safety Recommendations Have in Common?
Whether it is the three sources cited here or nearly any other, the safety basics always include safety rules and guidelines (safety policy), driver education and training (safety promotion), and maintenance (safety in practice).
Performing maintenance is only part of the overall role of vehicle repair. Monitor vehicle maintenance, in-house and on the road. Of course, operational expenses on the road have to be controlled. Downtime on the road can be costly, especially if your drivers don’t have the resources immediately available to pay for repairs or extra fuel expenses resulting from detours and delays. Many of those on-the-road expenses can be better controlled by issuing fleet cards to your operators. Not only can they use them for expenses, but you can better manage those expenses to cut waste and to analyze ways to improve safety.