We’ve talked many times about the importance of a strong safety culture in a trucking company. And there’s a good reason for it. A strong safety culture is the single most important element in reducing crashes in your trucking company. In a report on safe trucking, the FMCSA says, “The norms, attitudes, values, and beliefs of organizations define the culture of an organization and are manifested in the behaviors of its agents.”
Whether you are the executive, fleet manager, truck driver, or technician, you need to ensure safety is ingrained in the company culture. It must be treated as an essential core value. You must never waver from your commitment to ensuring your trucking company remains a safe trucking company. Yet, for many fleets, that’s easier said than done. Fortunately, there’s help. Technology has changed the game in the commercial motor vehicle sector.
In 2023, there simply is no reason why trucking companies of any size shouldn’t be implementing a core safety program. Are you ready to hold yourself and your organization accountable for safe driving on our nation’s roads? Let’s take a deeper dive into what constitutes a safe trucking company in modern-day North America.
Top Tips for Running a Safe Trucking Company
We are going to take a deep dive into trucking safety culture best practices. Have we talked about it before? Sure! But it’s such an important topic that it bears repeating. Trucking companies that don’t operate safely put people’s lives in danger. Ensuring your big rigs are running safely around others on interstate highways and roads should be priority one. If you think essential safety is too expensive to invest in, we assure you that nuclear verdicts are far more expensive than simple safety technologies.
Implement a thorough driver training program to ensure all drivers have the necessary skills and knowledge to operate their vehicles safely. Here are some top tips on how you can ensure your trucks are the safest trucks on the road:
- Regularly maintain and inspect vehicles to ensure they are in good working condition.
- Implement a strict policy for compliance with traffic laws and regulations.
- Implement a system for monitoring driver behavior, such as electronic logging devices and GPS tracking.
- Encourage safe driving practices through incentives and rewards for good driving behavior.
- Use technology such as collision avoidance systems, lane departure warnings, and blind spot detection to help prevent accidents.
- Have a clear safety culture within the company, where employees’ safety is a top priority.
- Regularly review and analyze accident data to identify and address any patterns or areas of concern.
How safe your trucking company is should be consistently shown in its actions. These are some of the essential steps in building a safety culture: First, define and communicate the company’s shared values regarding safety. Live what you say and walk the talk you expect from your workers.
Consistently Project an Atmosphere of Safe Practices
There are some essential best practices safe trucking companies live by. First, consider developing well-defined policies and rules; communicate them clearly and consistently. Make sure there are no inconsistencies or contradictions in your training material. Utilize online resources and create accessible web-based safety information no matter what device your people use.
Are you creating effective training and development programs? Create a robust safety training program, communicate its value, and make sure it’s accessible and user-friendly. Ensure your truck drivers are working within Hours-of-Service regulations and understand how your electronic logging device (ELD) is used. Collect and analyze fleet safety data for training purposes, but don’t get overwhelmed in a mountain of data you don’t need. And finally, properly match the skills your truck drivers bring to the table against what will be required of them on the road. Where you operate and what your routes are will impact your overall organizational safety.
Don’t expect change to happen overnight, however. While authentic safety cultures are built over time, there are more immediate steps you can take to reduce crashes:
- Brake Maintenance: Brake problems were a factor in 29% of truck crashes.
- Tire Care: Tire problems factor into 6% of truck crashes.
- Recruiting and Retention: Past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. Truck drivers with crash histories are at much greater risk of a crash than drivers with clean driving records. Who do you retain?
- Skills Matching: Is your truck driver ready for the route and road?
Technology is a hot topic in truck safety circles, and for good reason. Trucking companies have become adept at using high-tech devices and methods to reduce crashes and promote better road safety.
How Technology Changes the Game
There are so many new trucking technologies out there, even small trucking companies can afford them. Gone are the days when essential safety tech for big rigs was simply too expensive. Safety tech has become prolific, and your trucking company should take advantage of it (if it isn’t already).
There is a reason why technology continues to reshape entire industries and business verticals. Technology can help trucking companies operate more safely in a variety of ways. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Electronic logging devices (ELDs) automatically track a truck’s hours of service, helping to prevent driver fatigue.
- Automatic braking systems can detect when a truck is approaching another vehicle too quickly and apply the brakes to avoid a collision.
- Lane departure warning systems alert the driver when the truck begins to drift out of its lane.
- Vehicle tracking systems allow dispatchers to monitor the location of all trucks in real time, which can help to improve routing and reduce the risk of accidents.
- Advanced driver assistance systems can detect and alert the driver of potential hazards on the road, such as pedestrians, bicycles, or other vehicles.
- Smart-driving analytics that use historical data, machine learning, and AI to predict accidents, and routes, and optimize fleet operations.
Overall, technology helps trucking companies to operate more safely by providing real-time information and alerts that allow drivers to make better decisions on the road, which can help to prevent accidents and protect the lives of all road users.
Video has also become prevalent in the trucking sector, and for good reason. Real-time and historical video records provide opportunities for coaching and performance improvement. They can also exonerate truck drivers in the event of a road crash is not their fault. Video evidence can be a game-changer in litigation. Let’s look at video as a useful tool for promoting a culture of safety in your trucking company.
How Video Helps You Run a Safer Fleet Operation
There’s a reason why trucking companies extort the value of video. A comprehensive video safety system provides complete fleet and driver visibility. Video is captured inside the cab, on the road ahead, and ideally on the truck sides and rear, automatically recording notable road incidents for study, coaching, and legal exoneration in a crash. Complete systems include third-party expert examination of recorded incidents and driver activity for additional safety insights. There’s a lot you can do with video recordings matched with sensor data from sensor points on the truck.
Once set up, a comprehensive video system should function like a virtual ride-along coach, observing everything, taking notes, and providing feedback. The system keeps an eye on the truck driver and may use Artificial Intelligence or machine learning to provide real-time alerts for speeding, tailgating, lane drifting, U-turns, texting, eyes off the road, signs of drowsiness, inattention, and other unsafe driving behaviors. Fleet managers will use this data to craft a better environment for safety within the organization.
Video safety can be especially effective at addressing distracted driving and fatigue. Remember that two of the most significant crash risk factors are distracted driving and fatigue. The camera’s ability to discern distraction and drowsiness represents the forefront of video technology. Ensure your video provider offers this useful attribute. Video was the first technology to provide real, actionable insight into truck drivers and vehicle activities to improve safety. Every fleet should consider adopting a video safety program. Is yours?
The most important thing to know is that most crashes are not accidents, but results, primarily of human decisions or actions. Fortunately, through communication, technology, persistence, and reward, we can improve decision-making and actions to reduce the tragic loss of life on our roads.