by Scott VanBeek
The explicit or implicit motto of every trucking business should be: Safety First. Most importantly, good safety practices help protect the lives and health of drivers and other motorists. In addition, a safe trucking operation reduces maintenance, repair and insurance costs substantially enough to make the difference between an operating profit and loss. These are important safety practices every trucking business should implement:
Candidates should be carefully vetted, with special attention being paid to their driving record, employment record and other indicators of stability and responsibility. The cost of having to replace a driver after a serious problem far outweighs the cost of careful background checks. In addition, candidates should be put through a battery of written tests and road tests to verify their experience and skill. Finally, seek drivers with experience in your company’s field — cattle, concrete, refrigerated produce, etc.
Ongoing training and safety awareness are crucial for maintaining a crew of safety-conscious, top-performing drivers. Skills and awareness grow stale without repetition; in addition, drivers can learn a great deal by sharing their experiences of real on-the-road situations. Consider rewarding employees for attending safety conferences and seminars.
Random drug testing is a must. Immediate drug testing after any type of accident is also imperitive. The safety, legal and insurance consequences of a lapse in this area are great enough to potentially put a trucking company out of business. Although DUIs among truck drivers are infrequent, even one incident is one too many.
Work Zone Awareness
A high percentage of serious accidents involving trucks occur in work zones. While adhering to the posted speed limit and maintaining high concentration behind the wheel are always important, they are even more critical here. Ongoing driver training programs should include steady discussion of this issue.
Distracted Driving Awareness
Another common cause of serious accidents, and one that is rapidly growing, is driving while distracted — particularly in terms of driving while texting or performing some other task on a mobile phone. Again, ongoing driver training programs should include steady discussion of this issue. Encourage drivers to use Bluetooth and headsets as a way to keep eyes focused on the road.
Implement and enforce a strict policy for driver hours behind the wheel. It is the business’s responsibility to work within these constraints and make sure that their drivers make deadlines while obeying the federally mandated hours. Violating the Department of Transportation’s requirements carries significant penalties, in addition to endangering lives. As with the previous two issues, fatigue should be a subject of ongoing discussion.
Cultivate a Healthy Workplace
In addition to addressing driver fatigue issue, business should concurrently be providing training and other resources to help drivers develop better all-around health practices. Important issues for drivers include: how to prevent neck and back pain, and how to maintain a healthy weight despite long hours logged in a seated position with little bi-pedal movement.
Have Consequences for Safety Violations
Drivers should face consequences for failure to meet a company’s safety expectations. Consequences can range from suspensions of varying lengths to termination for repeated traffic violations, receiving customer and/or motorist complaints, and/or failure to properly maintain the vehicle.
Reward Safe Drivers
The adage, people do what you pay them to do, not what you tell them to do, works to a trucking company’s advantage when it sets up a compensation package for drivers that pays bonuses for maintaining a safe driving record over a given range of miles.
Drivers or the company maintenance crew should regularly check vehicles to ensure they are roadworthy. In particular, brakes, tires, lights, signals, windshield wipers and other safety-critical components should always be in good working order. In addition, vehicles should be equipped with all of the necessary safety equipment, including first-aid kits, flares, functional spare tires, etc.
When a trucking company is fully committed to safety, drivers feel confident. This is just as important as controlling maintenance, repair and insurance costs because it fosters long-term driver retention. One of the most costly, time-consuming, challenging and potentially risky activities a trucking company can engage in is hiring drivers. With a solid safety program, trucking companies maintain stability with their drivers so their businesses can just keep rolling along.
*Scott Van Beek has over 15 years of experience at Raney’s, specifically working for the service center. He has been in the hydraulics industry for almost 40 years. For questions regarding equipment and supplies and how they can help with driver safety please contact him toll free at: 888-888-7990.