Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Operation Safe Driver Week 2020: Top ways you can prioritize driver safety

Michael Ahart
Michael Ahart
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

Operation Safe Driver Week is officially here! This Sunday marked the first day of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) event. Public safety officials will be paying particular attention to our roadways as part of the weeklong initiative dedicated to keeping drivers across North America safe.

Our roadways have been far less congested and more susceptible to increased vehicle speeding as a result. As such, the CVSA has highlighted speeding as the focus area for this week, although public safety officials will be on the lookout for other hazardous driving behaviors, such as drunk and reckless driving. “As passenger vehicle drivers are limiting their travel to necessary trips and many commercial motor vehicle drivers are busy transporting vital goods to stores, it’s more important than ever to monitor our roadways for safe transport,” said CVSA president, Sergeant John Samis.

To highlight the importance of this week, I’d like to first highlight these North American vehicle safety statistics:

  • The U.S.: In 2019, an estimated 38,000 people died in car crashes, and 4.4 million people sustained injuries that required medical attention.
  • Mexico: The World Health Organization recently estimated that approximately 17,000 people are killed in road traffic crashes each year.
  • Canada: In 2018, the number of fatalities per 100,000 population increased slightly to 5.2.

Factoring in these numbers and our industry’s professional relationship with the road, I want to emphasize that industry leaders can proactively prioritize driver safety. Here are several ways to do so:

Don’t underestimate the value of proper training

In our industry, a small mistake can have huge ramifications. While most commercial motor vehicle drivers practice proper caution on the road, errors are still far too easy to make. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently found that there were approximately 475,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in just one year, with 61% of those crashes occurring in rural areas.

While these numbers don’t illustrate which percentage of the truck drivers were responsible for the crashes, the FMCSA recently stressed the significance of proper, consistent training for truck drivers to enhance safety. Often, training is most emphasized at the beginning stage of a truck driver’s professional journey. The problem with this, however, is that truck drivers are in a sector that — from a regulatory, industrial, and technological perspective — is steadily changing. As our industry evolves, so does our awareness of safety.

Further, the right kind of training doesn’t just begin and end with a booklet and pencil. Harvard Business Review recently released an in-depth analysis of the shortcomings of outdated training techniques. In their report, they concluded training programs must have their priorities strategically mapped out ahead of time to ensure that the training will help employees attain the skills and knowledge they need. So, concerning safety training, industry leaders should shape the narrative around how drivers can prioritize their safety on the road.

Maintain open communication with drivers

The American Management Association examined how managers can genuinely implement a workplace culture that encourages communication openly and healthily. They emphasized that managers who communicate respectfully, value employee engagement, and build trust with their employees are likely to have the healthiest, most fruitful relationship with their employees.

In our industry, safety and communication go hand in hand. Drivers who don’t feel comfortable communicating with their employers are more likely to place themselves in potentially hazardous situations to meet delivery deadlines and avoid unpleasant, top-down conversations. Leaders who take the empathetic approach and communicate to drivers that their safety is always the foremost priority will likely fare much better in the long run.

Utilize the right solutions

Technology is here to make our lives easier — not more difficult. When truck drivers are using solutions that are not in line with today’s industry expectations, technology is far less beneficial than it usually would be. That’s why you must invest in solutions that can benefit you now and as your business grows.

What that looks like — from a high-level perspective – depends on your business needs. Most companies that rely on truck transportation find immense benefit in video-based solutions that record critical events. A video solution can help protect innocent drivers from potential litigation — which frequently happens as blame for roadside accidents historically falls on truck drivers. Frequently, the right video solution can provide back-office teams with enhanced insight into risky driving behavior, so you can coach drivers and prevent accidents before they happen.

Check out my recent blog post covering the importance of this week and the perils of speeding in our industry. Stay tuned for my final Operation Safe Driver Week blog post coming later this week. Stay safe, drivers!