In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a final rule prohibiting Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers from texting while driving. The FMCSA continues to implement this rule by imposing civil penalties and disqualification sanctions on drivers failing to comply.
Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds on average, which equates to the length of a football field if a vehicle is moving at 55 miles per hour. While texting is undoubtedly a key distractor for commercial drivers, it’s not the only one by any means. Luckily, there are actions fleet professionals — from drivers to managers — can take to reduce distracted driving.
#1: Avoid touching your phone at all costs
In addition to texting, FaceTime, talking on the phone, and even dialing can lead to hazardous incidents.
Bluetooth wireless technology is often credited with helping drivers keep their eyes on the road. However, the National Safety Council has found that this form of multitasking technology can still pose a threat to driver safety. For example, drivers talking on their phones — regardless of whether via Bluetooth or handheld device — still missed up to 50% of their surroundings, including pedestrians and light signals. They also found when drivers sent voice text messages, they remained distracted up to 27 seconds after finishing the text.
#2: Have your audio ready beforehand
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how fidgeting with vehicle audio can be distracting. First, you have to shift your focus — however temporarily — to your device or vehicle audio. If unprepared, this distracting behavior is all the more repetitive and dangerous.
To help counteract this, consider having your audio ready beforehand. One way to do this is to create an extensive music playlist. You can also create a podcast playlist or have your vehicle tuned in to your favorite radio station before hitting the road.
#3: Utilize your GPS the right way
It’s a seemingly small precaution, but having your GPS easily visible throughout your route is an optimal way to prevent distracted driving. Switching between looking down at your mobile GPS to keeping your eyes on the road is dangerous, so pick a prime spot inside your cab to hook your GPS to. This isn’t the only precaution you should take with your GPS, though. With the right technology, you can choose your optimal route path beforehand to reduce on-the-road surprises that lead to distracted and scattered thoughts.
#4: Familiarize yourself with your vehicle beforehand
In the commercial motor vehicle world, a driver and their vehicle go hand in hand. If you’re still familiarizing yourself with your vehicle, consider taking the time to acquaint yourself with all the vehicle’s features before you hit the road. Something as simple as not knowing how to seamlessly operate the AC can lead to a disastrous distraction.
#5: If you’re a manager, don’t underestimate consistent training
Recently, Harvard Medical School highlighted how broad psychological evidence confirms human beings learn efficiently and effectively by increasing their intervals of time between subsequent reviews of previously learned materials. In other words, repetition is key.
Often, managers stress the importance of driver training at the beginning of a driver’s driving journey. Implementing consistent, safety-related training that, in part, focuses on distracted driving can reemphasize the importance of attentive driving to drivers and keep them safer on the road in the long run.
#6: Ensure your technology matches the times
Technology should make our lives easier — not more difficult. If drivers are using outdated solutions on the road and back-office teams are relying on obsolete routing applications, this can often lead to many discrepancies in your operation. At a direct level, these operational issues can impact driver attention if drivers consistently have to shift focus between the road and other responsibilities.
Utilizing solutions that fit your operational needs, help streamline driver and back-office communication, and enhance the employee experience for your teams and customers can have an exceedingly positive impact on the driver experience and thereby reduce workplace distractions on the road.
#7: Take caution with your thoughts
There is merit to the ‘control your mind before it controls you’ narrative. U.S. researchers found that drivers reported their minds wandered 70% of the time they were on the road. In their study, the researchers confirmed that mind wandering, an understudied form of driver distraction, prevents drivers from remaining aware of other roadside passersby. In dangerous circumstances, this can prevent drivers from responding rapidly enough to hazardous incidents.
While mind wandering from time to time can affect even the best drivers, consider ways you can remain as aware as possible on the road. One way to go about this is to incorporate meditation at the start of your day to better organize your thoughts. You can also mix up your playlist so that the music isn’t repetitive and doesn’t leave you in a monotonous lull.
Check out one of our throwback blog posts to learn more about the perils of distracted driving.