FleetSpeak

Are Your Drivers Safe?

November 15, 2017

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

My husband and I make a good driving team. This is what we do: I drive while he points out all the people he sees going 75 mph on the freeway who are texting. We see their heads bobbing up and down, their screens lit up. We see some of them wobble in their lanes, sometimes swerving into other lanes.

Stay away from them, he says, disgusted with Los Angeles drivers. If this continues for a while, he threatens to call the police, but truthfully, what can the police do? It is probable these drivers will not get caught and will not learn anything until something terrible happens. We know it, and they do too, so it continues happening.

Changing Behavior

The fleet department ensures that vehicles are safe by checking up on recalls; by fixing problems that, if left unrepaired, could be dangerous for drivers; and even by buying safer cars.

Fleets know how to protect drivers from unsafe vehicles. Anything that’s vehicle-related, they’ve done it. But how much say do they have on driver behavior?

Some fleet managers and their agencies take driver safety policies seriously. These programs are admirable. They include policies that prevent distracted driving, such as cell phone bans; bumper stickers with safety phone numbers; classes on driver safety; telematics devices that alert managers when someone has been speeding; and in-vehicle cameras that record events that are then reviewed with the driver, allowing coaching for infractions as minor as not using seat belts.

Policies may be the first step, but the truth is, it’s just paper. If there’s no repetition and no enforcement, what is preventing drivers from forgetting or thinking they’ll get away with not following it?

I recently read a tragic story about a driver who was killed, hit by a city loader. Was distracted driving or some sort of mobile device involved? It doesn’t seem like it — just one man who stood in an unsafe location, and another man who made an assumption and didn’t look twice before backing up.

Accidents happen, even when we’re not distracted. Imagine what could happen when we are!

Tame the Risk Takers

Who hasn’t checked their cell phone while waiting at a stop light? Or worse? I won’t cast the first stone.

But there are people who take more risks than others. Some think they are absolutely in control when they’re tailgating another car, or rapidly changing lanes, or they’re texting while driving at high speeds.

Once, I reported a bus driver who appeared to be texting while making a left turn right in front of me. The city’s transit representative got back to me right away, a sign that they take such complaints seriously.

Some fleets may feel they don’t have much say in drivers’ actions because drivers don’t report to them, they just don’t have the time, or because it’s someone else’s responsibility. But in recent discussions with fleet managers, they say it is a current topic of concern.

For fleets that say safety is out of their purview, work with the risk department to get a policy or program started or reviewed. And if there’s one already in place, see how well drivers know it, and how seriously they take it. Invest some time and money. Everyone takes risky actions, but some risks are just too high to take.

How has your safety policy worked out?

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Thi Dao

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Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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