By Mike Antich

Poor spec'ing decisions can result in expensive workers' compensation litigation. The average workers' comp cost for a pushing/pulling injury is $10,175, while the average cost for a lifting/bending incident is $8,989. Under OSHA regs, an employer must provide a workplace (which includes work vehicles and equipment) free from recognized hazards.

When spec'ing equipment and vehicles, review customer requests and ask operators follow-up questions to verify the equipment ordered, especially if not in prior use, is suitable for the job. Make sure the vehicle and equipment is engineered up-front for the job it is required to do. Teh following are some options to consider.


Equipment Specification Considerations

Liftgates. A liftgate reduces the risk of back injury by allowing workers to easily maneuver, load, and unload heavy products in and out of trucks and trailers. If liftgates are not currently in use, give them serious consideration. They can increase safety in many applications.

Rear Step Bumper and Grab Handles. Analyze ease of rear entry and egress from service and van bodies. Add step bumpers and grab handles to facilitate getting in and out of a service body bed. To minimize slips, fleets are opting for an open strut style rear bumper to allow snow or rain to fall through the openings.

Side Steps on Pickups. One important consideration when ordering pickups is side steps to access cross-bed toolboxes.

Slide-Out Bed. Pickups equipped with commercial-style caps can be specified with bed sliders, so the driver doesn't have to bend or twist to remove a heavy object from the vehicle bed. Fleets are also adding flip-up side doors on commercial-style caps to allow quick access to tools and equipment.

Safety Tread Step. A driver-side fuel tank with open safety tread step is preferable to closed running board steps, especially in areas where snow can create slippery conditions for the driver.  Other precautions include anti-slip coatings. If there's any chance a driver will walk on a surface or use it as a step, it must not be smooth. Anti-slip coating or surface treatment is needed. Any operating area exposed to snow or ice conditions needs traction areas with large openings to prevent build-up.

Mirrors. Many fleets now spec heated mirrors and convex spot mirrors, optional equipment that improves visibility.

Roll-Up Doors. A cargo body with a roll-up door needs a pull-down that can be reached from a ground stance.

Pull-Out Ramps. These ramps expedite the removal of equipment and tools, while minimizing the possibility of back injuries.

Spec'ing the Right GVWR. If an application requires a crane installation on a service body, the chassis GVWR should be sufficient for the application. Under-engineering can lead to unnecessary driver safety risks.

Hydraulic Drop-Down Ladder Rack. If your employees have need for ladders, specify drop-down style ladder racks for vans. This helps minimize possible back problems that could arise from removing an extension ladder from the roof of a van.

Side Door Access. Walk-ins or dry freight bodies with stepvan side-door access steps enable drivers to work inside the body protected from the elements. They can exit the body with the load already staged. This type of truck also provides security for drivers and products.


Operator Safety is Primary Concern

It is important to thoroughly train all users handling equipment in its operation and safe use. Develop written guidelines covering equipment usage. The fleet manager should work closely with user departments to analyze their normal work processes. You may identify actions that can lead to injury, such as  drivers repeatedly climbing into the rear of a service body truck for parts or equipment.

In addition, user department managers should regularly inspect equipment to ensure its safe working condition. The guidelines should require employees to report any equipment failure or damage and stipulate punitive consequences for not following maintenance checklist procedures.

Ease of use and operator safety should be a fundamental concern for all fleet managers. It is helpful to consult in advance with the end user and visit jobsites to understand how the vehicle and equipment is utilized. Site visits help identify opportunities to minimize or eliminate injuries and improve ease of use.

Operator safety should be your primary concern, and one of the best ways to ensure this is by spec'ing equipment with this concern foremost in mind.

Let me know what you think.



Mike Antich
Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

View Bio