Motor vehicle safety is one of the most critical aspects of occupational safety for most businesses. You don’t have to operate a huge fleet for it to be vitally important.
For evidence of that truth, consider this fact: From 2003 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, work-related motor vehicle crashes killed 18,716 U.S. workers, more than any other work-related cause.
It’s important to note that 16% of those deaths occurred off public roadways and 18% were pedestrian worker deaths. Whether it’s on-road or off-road use, any business that has employees operating motor vehicles is vulnerable to the consequences of unsafe vehicle use—fines, liability, and the host of costs that come with on-the-job accidents or fatalities (work disruptions, worker’s comp premium increases, administrative/management time, etc.).
It doesn’t matter whether you have personnel driving big rigs across country, back hoes or pickups across a job site, or sedans to the next sales meeting, you need to take steps to create a motor vehicle safety program that minimizes hazards and risk during that driving.
1. Start at the top.
For a motor vehicle safety program to be effective, it must have support at all levels of management, starting at the top. This support must not be in word only; it needs to be backed up with meaningful rewards for safe behaviour, as well as with consequences when safety is neglected.
2. Provide training on motor vehicle safety.
Before anyone drives for your company, they should be trained in:
- Best practices for safe driving.
- Relevant laws (speed limits, seat belt use, load weight, etc.).
- Specific safety measures to be taken for the vehicles they’ll be driving.
- How to recognize defects in the vehicles they’ll be driving.
This training should be periodically reinforced with “refresher” training. When drivers have been at fault in an incident or have demonstrated unsafe behaviour, they should receive corrective training as soon as possible.
3. Develop processes for continuous improvement.
On a set schedule, collect and review data about your company’s motor vehicle safety, looking for areas where improvement is needed. Whenever an incident occurs, investigate it as matter of course to see if policy or procedure changes could have prevented it.
4. Don’t let unsafe drivers drive.
If you’re hiring someone for a position that will require a lot of driving, avoid candidates with bad driving records. Periodically review motor vehicle records to identify drivers who have violations that indicate they need more training in safe driving.
5. Implement a pre-use and post-trip vehicle inspection system that personnel must follow.
Using an inspection checklist system such as The Checker, you can prevent unsafe vehicles from being operated. Inspections should be required, even when not mandated by law. Personal vehicles are not exempt—if they’re being used for business, they should be inspected because all the risks to the company are still present.
6. Require operators to keep their company vehicles properly maintained.
Your maintenance department may handle the heavy maintenance, but the personnel who operate the vehicles daily can be responsible for providing routine, simple maintenance (e.g., keeping tires properly inflated, keeping fluids at correct levels) or bringing it to the attention of appropriate maintenance personnel. All vehicle operators should:
- Understand how maintenance issues can lead to accidents.
- Know how to report maintenance issues and have the means to do so.
- Be assured that the company truly wants these issues reported and will act on them.
7. Don’t rush drivers.
When supervisors are scheduling tasks that involve operation of a motor vehicle, they need to allow enough time for the operation to be at a safe speed.
8. Ban handheld use of phones, tablets, GPS devices, etc. while driving.
Distracted driving leads to unsafe driving, and it’s not just texting that can distract vehicle operators—simply trying to answer the phone or make a call can do it. You may even consider banning phone conversations of any sort while driving.
9. Prevent impaired driving.
If alcohol and illegal drug use is a problem, you obviously need to get that driver from behind the wheel on the job. However, much work-related impaired driving occurs because of legal prescription drugs. Therefore, require drivers to report any prescriptions they are taking so you can determine if they will affect their driving competence.
10. Prevent drowsy driving.
Drowsy drivers are not safe! Carefully follow all rules regarding driver rest and implement your own rules if necessary—and then enforce those rules diligently. It only takes a second of nodding off for a tragedy to occur.
Neglecting motor vehicle safety is a mistake that can have major negative repercussions—in both a human and business sense. Whether you have a fleet of thousands of vehicles, or only a few, it’s wise to develop a motor vehicle safety program to minimize risk.
Image courtesy of Sergei Scurfield, Creative Commons.