The holidays are an essential time of the year for truck drivers and fleet managers to prioritize vehicle and driver safety. With more consumers making online purchases, stores are deploying additional trucks to keep up with holiday delivery demands. However, increased traffic and congestion isn’t the only safety concern on the roads. During the winter months, the weather is more hazardous than usual. From rainy or snowy weather to black ice, it’s vital that your fleet is ready to hit the road with preparation, skill, and precision.
Truck Safety: 8 Things to Keep in Mind for Your Fleet
There are many reasons to be particularly vigilant about fleet safety in the run-up to the holiday season. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare your commercial fleet for the holiday season:
1. A Longer Holiday Shopping Season
Consumers began shopping earlier than ever this year to avoid crowds and limit anxiety over in-store shopping, product scarcity, shipping costs, and delivery timeframes for online orders. Many retailers started their holiday sales before Halloween to meet consumer demand. The earlier start also allowed retailers to better manage limited inventory, product availability, distribution, and shipping to avoid the usual seasonal rush during a year in which overtaxed supply chains and timely deliveries have been ongoing challenges.
2. More Online Sales
Holiday e-commerce sales continue to grow year over year as online shopping becomes more popular. The National Retail Federation forecasts that “holiday retail sales during November and December will grow between 6% and 8% year over year to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion.” In fact, “last year’s holiday sales grew 13.5% over the previous year and totaled $889.3 billion.”
3. Additional Delivery Vehicles
Home deliveries present specific fleet safety risks: frequent stopping, access and curb-space issues, and high levels of driver pressure. Unlike heavier freight, they are frequently carried out by non-vocational drivers. Even if your fleet isn’t involved in this sector, your drivers’ routes will be complicated by the frequent presence of delivery vehicles.
4. Peak Volumes
According to CNBC, the top category sales this holiday season will include computers, toys, TVs, appliances, furniture, and bedding. Other categories include lounge and athleisure wear, beauty products, home furnishings and décor, tools, kitchen equipment, streaming and subscription services, at-home entertainment, gaming, and fitness equipment. More shopping, buying, and home deliveries mean more trucks on the road — particularly on narrow streets in tight neighborhoods.
5. 5 PM Sunsets
Early darkness doesn’t only affect visibility, but also affects our mood, cognitive function, and sleep patterns. In addition, it impacts driver and pedestrian safety. Pedestrians walking around at dusk are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars in the days following the end of daylight savings time than just before the time change. A study of seven years of nationwide traffic fatalities was conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, calculating the risk per mile walked by pedestrians. The study found that the per-mile risk jumps 186% from October to November. The National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF) has done studies proving that auto accidents increase after clocks fall back an hour. Besides the lack of visibility, the NRSF notes that commuting in the dark can also make drivers drowsier than usual.
6. Seasonal Drivers
Fleets use more temporary drivers during peak periods than usual. The trucking industry has noted a correlation between temporary drivers and collision rates. This is not because temporary drivers are unskilled. They are frequently asked to drive unfamiliar vehicles on unfamiliar (and often unpopular) routes, so they don’t necessarily share the company’s safety culture or have access to the same level of safety training. They don’t have the same investment in a company, vehicle, or career prospects. Proper induction and careful management and monitoring are vital for the fleet and the driver.
7. Holiday Parties
Christmas is party time, and that can mean that alcohol and drugs are being used more. It can be easy for drivers to underestimate the effects of last night’s drink on this morning’s performance — and drivers need to monitor home consumption as closely as their nights out. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a campaign to remind people to stay safe.
8. The Weather
It’s officially winter! Vehicle maintenance needs to be top-notch and weather appropriate. Drivers need to judge reasonable speed for visibility, rain, ice, and fog. Driving too fast for road or weather conditions, which can change rapidly and unexpectedly, accounts for 23% of truck crashes. Additionally, the severity and cost of collisions significantly increase in adverse weather conditions, often resulting in nuclear verdicts. With 70% of the nation’s roads located in regions receiving more than five inches of snow annually and vehicles requiring ten times longer to stop on snow and ice than on dry pavement, fleets must monitor and notify drivers of unsafe conditions.
Raising Awareness for Truck Driver Safety
Fleet safety must be at the top of everyone’s agenda during the holiday peak. Fortunately, thousands of the drivers out there are being protected by SmartDrive’s video-based safety system this holiday season. Your fleet can be too. Learn how to further enhance your holiday trucking operations with truck safety by exploring our solutions or giving us a call.
Wherever you and your loved ones are during the holidays, we hope you stay safe. Season’s greetings from all of us at Omnitracs!