According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), more than 5.8 million vehicle crashes occur every year. Of those, approximately 21 percent, or just over 1.2 million, are weather-related.
Rain, snow, sleet, fog, and crosswinds can significantly impact a driver’s ability to safely navigate the roadways. It’s critical that motorists take the proper precautions to prepare for and adapt to all adverse conditions. While crashes can occur during even the most pristine driving situations, there are certain things that drivers can do to increase safety and reduce the risk of an accident.
Here are the top four ways drivers can safely operate their fleets in hazardous conditions:
Be cognizant of the weather
While there’s nothing drivers can do to escape certain elements, there are approaches they can implement to improve their overall safety. First, they need to be aware of any current or upcoming weather conditions and adjust accordingly. This means taking steps to prepare their vehicles, such as refilling their wiper fluid, adding tire chains or traction mats, replacing lights, and more. Next, they should proceed with caution, reducing their driving speed, increasing following distance, being hyperaware of other vehicles, turning on signals earlier before merging, and removing any ice or snow from their trucks. While drivers need to always be aware of their operating times and delivery schedules, they should use their best judgement to determine if and when to take a break due to inclement weather. If it’s too dangerous to continue driving, they should look for a safe place to pull over and wait until it’s safe to resume their routes.
Take the most optimal routes
Poor weather and driving conditions can cause congestion and increased travel time on the roadways. In fact, trucking companies or commercial vehicle operators (CVOs) lose an estimated 32.6 billion vehicles hours every year due to weather-related congestion and traffic accounts for nearly 12 percent of truck delays across the country. Therefore, it’s important that drivers do what they can to account for delays and congested roads and avoid them if at all possible.
Drivers can leverage advanced navigation tools to find and follow the most efficient routes. While some drivers may be very familiar with their routes or prefer more traditional forms of navigation, they can greatly benefit by utilizing advanced technology. Solutions leverage real-time data to automatically populate the safest, most efficient routes that avoid traffic delays and weather-related issues as much as possible. These tools can also give visibility into hazardous routes including roads that are not well maintained or have low clearances, weight limits, or size restrictions. By utilizing historical traffic conditions, this software can help drivers bypass routes that may take extra time in the long run.
Getting a good night’s rest may seem obvious, yet not all drivers make it a priority. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 795 deaths in 2017, 90,000 crashes in 2015, and 4,121 fatal crashes between 2011 and 2015. To avoid being tired behind the wheel, drivers should make sure to get an appropriate amount of sleep during their off-time.
While the ELD Mandate has alleviated some pressures of driving at all hours, it’s important that drivers also make the conscious decision to pull off of the road and take a break during a long haul, if needed. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that people who sleep 6-7 hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as those who sleep a full 8 hours. That extra hour is crucial to road safety. Fleets can help reduce the risk caused by fatigue by investing in technologies that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that identify high-risk drivers, and take action before it’s too late.
When operating their vehicles, drivers need to worry about and consider a variety of factors, including their speed, other motorists on the road, how many hours they’re driving, and if they’re taking the most optimal routes. It’s crucial for drivers to remove any unnecessary distractions that may impair their abilities to operate their trucks safely. One of the most beneficial solutions: replace traditional communication tools with next-generation technology.
Because it’s critical for fleets to maintain constant communication with drivers, managing this while driving can be a tricky and somewhat dangerous task. However, new mobile communication tools are transforming the transportation industry completely. Now, fleets have access to advanced telematics devices that feature text-to-talk and hands-free capabilities, allowing operators to reach drivers at all times without requiring drivers to take their eyes off of the road or hands off of their steering wheels. Instead of relying on cell phones to contact supervisors, drivers can now rely on these robust messaging tools.
While there are certain times that can be more dangerous than others for drivers on the road, there are ways they can reduce the likelihood of an accident. With the right processes and technology in place, you can give your drivers the tools they need to operate and arrive safely at their destinations.