The trucking industry does not need to be a hazardous profession, even if it sometimes is. Before truck drivers even enter the cab of their vehicle, there are workplace hazards to watch out for. While it is important that fleets focus on increasing road safety, there are plenty of risks to a truck driver when they are not behind the wheel.
In fact, did you know that slips, trips, and falls are routinely the most overlooked threat to a truck driver’s health? According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in 2017, 27% of injuries in the transportation industry came from simple slips and falls, whereas only 17% were a result of a road accident or collision.
Trucking companies who want to keep their truck drivers safe and reduce lost-time accidents and injuries need to focus more on what is going on in the yard than the truck. With a little time, investment, and common sense, most injuries can be prevented. But how?
Key Safety Considerations in the Yard
Obviously, a truck driver’s feet are one of the most important parts of their body when it comes to getting the job done. Whether it be climbing in and out of the cab, walking around the yard, or accelerating and braking, feet are critical to getting the job done. Are you providing a shoe allowance for your truck drivers? Do you have a policy in place to ensure your truck drivers are wearing steel-toed ANSI-certified safety shows? As trucking companies attempt to attract the best and brightest truck drivers, benefits like a simple shoe allowance go a long way.
In addition to investing in your truck drivers’ feet, you must always invest in your equipment. If your equipment is not properly maintained, slips and falls can occur. It is also important that you have buy-in from your truck drivers when it comes to reporting defects or other problems that could result in a workplace injury.
One of the most common safety problems among truck drivers is the habit of jumping from the backs of trailers, loading docks or cabs. While it may seem like a short distance to the naked eye, injuries often occur when a truck driver decides to jump. Even more, the higher up the jump is from, the greater the impact your body must absorb. Your joints and lower back take a lot of punishment when you jump.
Even something as simple as a safety vest can make a big impact. Truck drivers wearing a safety vest don’t have to climb in and out of a cab with something in their hands. Yet, far too few fleets invest in safety vests for their truck drivers. Pockets are simple and often taken for granted, but they are incredibly useful when a truck driver needs both hands.
The common rule of thumb for truck drivers is to maintain three points of contact when climbing into a vehicle: Two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet. But if a driver is carrying a tool, phone, or otherwise, maintaining three points of contact may be difficult. This is where safety vests and pockets come in. It is about more than convenience; it is about safety.
And while truck drivers are well aware of how water and ice can make driving treacherous, it can be just as problematic for shoes. Puddles of water can be quite hazardous, simply because it isn’t always easy to tell how deep the puddle is. It is also sometimes difficult to tell if ice is frozen over a walkway. Some of the most common back injuries occur when someone’s feet fly out from under them on an icy walkway.
For all these reasons, safety shoes with proper treads and good grip is essential. But the person wearing the shoes must also be aware of the conditions around them. If the temperature is cold or it is raining, truck drivers need to be careful on metal surfaces and docks. Ice often lurks beneath snow, so proper winter shoes or boots prevent slips and falls when the surface of the snow is breached.
Beyond water and ice, truck drivers must also be aware of slippery substances, such as oil and grease. There are plenty of slippery substances around the yard that can wind up on shoes, boots, clothing, and hands. Fleet managers must have a policy in place to keep the yard and site clean and clear of slipper substances and truck drivers must always be on the lookout for something that could cause a slip and fall.
While ladders and fall arrest harnesses are great, if they are used improperly or in need of repair, they can be just as much of a problem as a fall itself. Take fall arrest harnesses as one example. They must be routinely inspected and worn correctly. Improperly worn harnesses can not only not arrest a fall but can cause injury themselves.
Truck drivers and fleet managers must work together to ensure safety equipment is properly used. Truck drivers must be able to demonstrate this fact and work with a qualified trainer to provide feedback. Even something as simple as a ladder can be misused. It may seem rudimentary to discuss ladder use with your truck drivers, but it is no less important. If a ladder buckles and someone falls, injury awaits.
The bottom line is this: slips, trips and falls cause injury. Period. If you want to keep your company injury-free, you will need to partner with them to keep them safe. You need to educate them on how to reduce risks and – most importantly – you need to put your money where your mouth is and invest in products and services that help your employees avoid injury.
Key Safety Considerations on the Road
Yard safety is important, but the fact is your truck drivers spend a lot of time out on the road. No matter the fleet, the number one goal is always to reduce the number of preventable accidents as much as possible. Fleet managers must take a proactive approach to reducing and preventable accidents. But how do they do that?
The first step towards reducing preventable accidents is to take a professional and proactive approach to on-road safety. It may sound simplistic, but the easiest way to reduce costs related to accidents is to reduce the number of accidents that occur in the first place. The best way to do that is to provide consistent and comprehensive safety training. Motor carriers must demonstrate a commitment to on-road safety.
While many fleets provide a safety-first message, they often fail to provide consistent training to reinforce the message. Having a safety-first mindset is about more than just talk. Fleets must back up their words with verifiable actions. They must also focus on the one thing that often causes most at-fault on-road accidents: Truck driver behavior.
This is where technology comes in. Fleets must be able to capture real-time data on how their vehicles and truck drivers are operating. Whether it be through a telematics and fleet management product or simple coaching, fleet managers must have their finger on the pulse of how their fleet is doing. Companies should also make sure violations under review align with a driver-enforced policy.
And while telematics and other safety-first technologies are important, they are less effective when there is no multi-faceted truck driver safety program in place. In order to properly mitigate risk and reduce the number of accidents, fleets must include the following elements into their comprehensive safety program:
- Align the fleet safety policy with properly set driving performance expectations.
- Create a personalized onboarding program for new truck drivers.
- Identify poor driving habits through a comprehensive skills assessment program.
- Provide a continuous assessment of truck driver behavior.
Once a comprehensive safety program is in place, the only way to reduce accidents and costs related to accidents is to actively promote the program you are using. Programs like these are not things you can just implement and hope for the best. You must fully embrace the program and ensure your truck drivers do as well.
Along with continued reinforcement of a comprehensive safety policy, fleets must also consistently push acknowledgement of good behavior. They must vigorously highlight situations where truck drivers who consistently do well and have a clean driving record can be recognized. By encouraging good behavior through motivation and recognition, the safety feedback loop only increases.
Once a fleet has worked to reduce the amount and severity of accidents, preventing them in the first place should take center-stage. Fleet managers would do well to remember that you cannot track what you do not measure. By using key performance indicators in fleet accident management, motor carriers move from a reactionary stance to a proactive stance. Trends can be isolated, and improvements can be made depending on those trends.
Whether in the yard or in the truck, safety should be paramount. Truck drivers and other fleet employees should be looked after with policies that have a noticeable effect. When fleets keep safety at the front of their mind, everyone benefits.