Though telematic technology has come a long way, there is nothing that can compare to a conscientious, safe driver. With today’s modern conveniences, texting and similar activities require visual, manual, and cognitive attention, making them a concerning driver distraction. Studies have shown that drivers who text look away from the road about 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, a vehicle will travel more than the distance of a football field during that time. When you think about the crowded traffic on many roadways, that is startling!
To reduce serious accidents and fatalities, the FMCSA banned texting using handheld devices. However, there are many other distractions drivers can face, including common activities like adjusting a radio, eating, drinking, using maps and navigation devices, and searching for an item in the cab.
Trucking company owners have an important role to play in reducing distracted driving. Here are six important steps you can take to help drivers operate safely and free of distractions.
- Create a distracted driving policy for all employees that requires drivers to focus only on driving tasks while operating a vehicle. The policy should indicate that activities such as texting, using hand-held cell phones, and similar distractions are prohibited while driving and failure to comply with the rule will result in disciplinary action.
- Educate and train all employees affected by the policy and provide written copies to hand out during training, which can be conducted during new hire orientation, driver meetings, and one-on-one coaching. Additional periodic reminders can include sending information via paycheck stuffers and leaving information in cabs. Acuity offers posters for our customers and can provide in-cab adhesive decals reminding drivers of your policy and the regulation.
- Enforce the policy! Involve drivers by asking them to become ambassadors representing your fleet while on the road. It is not a big ask of employees to follow regulations and help get people home to their families at night. Demonstrate that you are willing to enforce the policy and that it will be audited. The old saying “trust but verify” is essential for changing driver behavior.
- Use technology to help with compliance and enforcement. Your fleet’s on-board communication systems should be locked while a vehicle is in motion. Most systems have options to shut down devices when the vehicle is being operated.
- Don’t allow one-touch, hands-free, or voice-activated systems. Even if they can be used per the regulation, it is safer to prohibit the use of communication or social media technology altogether while driving.
- Be willing to terminate unsafe drivers. At the end of the day, this is about protecting your drivers and your business. You must be willing to use a progressive disciplinary policy and terminate drivers who operate outside regulations and your company’s policies.
If further training and education is desired to enhance driver safety, there are many safe driving programs available. Some Acuity insureds have provided positive feedback on their use of the Smith System, which incorporates five keys to help reduce crashes and accidents.
Safety often provides a huge return on investment. Accidents can be costly in terms of damage to vehicles, public liability, customers not being served, drivers quitting, and more.
Cliff Johnson is Acuity’s Trucking Consultant. Have a question for Cliff? Email him at email@example.com.