The newest safety challenge is dealing with COVID-19 in the workspace, especially for service fleets engaged in home services or last-mile deliveries. - Photo: Sorapop Udomsri via Shutterstock

The newest safety challenge is dealing with COVID-19 in the workspace, especially for service fleets engaged in home services or last-mile deliveries.

Photo: Sorapop Udomsri via Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing fleet safety protocols as revealed in my recent survey of commercial fleet managers that identified the top safety challenges currently facing their fleets. 

Need for COVID-19 Safety Protocols: The newest safety challenge is dealing with COVID-19 in the workspace, especially for service fleets engaged in home services or last-mile deliveries. This involves the development and implementation of new safety protocols, ranging from limiting the number of passengers in a vehicle to vehicle sanitization procedures, especially for pool vehicles, which includes cleaning and disinfecting them, along with post-travel sanitation procedures. Today’s fleet managers are developing tomorrow’s best practices to ensure employees are safe from infection when driving fleet vehicles, and at centrally maintained fleets, they are identifying what type of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn by shop staff and defining the cleaning protocols for shared tools.

Reassessing Safety Training: What was once normal in the  pre-pandemic era is no longer an acceptable practice. For instance, you can no longer crowd 30 people in a conference room for safety training. Social distancing is a new consideration when deciding between online versus in-person safety training.

Onboard Vehicle Safety Technology: There is an ongoing assessment about the efficacy of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, etc. The question is whether the data demonstrates lower accident rates to support the investment in these safety options. Another issue is ensuring that drivers know how to fully utilize these various safety technologies, otherwise it negates their value.

Telematics and Data Analytics: How employees drive a vehicle determines how safe they will be on the road. If you can change driving behavior, you have a direct impact on driver safety. Telematics tracks compliance to fleet safety policies and identifies high-risk drivers. In addition, telematics technology continues to evolve. For instance, fleets are assessing bi-directional video systems with artificial intelligence to improve security and safety. However, even with the installation of telematics devices, drivers still continue to do things they shouldn’t, but now these high-risk drivers can be identified and infractions documented.

Distracted Driving Isn’t Abating: Distracted driving remains the most significant ongoing risk that fleet managers must mitigate. Also related to distracted driving is fatigued driving. The reality is that today’s field employees are being pushed to do more with less, contributing to driver fatigue. Fleet managers must develop and implement policies and investigate the use of technologies to minimize in-vehicle distractions. However, there are often multiple devices in the vehicle – a company cellphone, personal phone, a navigation device, a company device for billing, etc. The bottom line is there are too many devices in a vehicle that can cause driver distraction. With the ease of making and receiving calls and texts, some believe we are losing the battle with driver distraction. 

Recreational Marijuana: In addition to the concern about impaired driving, there is liability exposure with the use of recreational marijuana or its transport in a company car. This concern is growing as more states look to decriminalize marijuana use. 

Gaps in MVR Reporting: It is difficult to stay current with MVR reports, especially in states with special requirements. Also, gaps between annual or semi-annual MVR checks can create liability exposure. As a result, many fleets are turning to continuous MVR reporting to minimize negligent entrustment liability.

Preventable Accidents: Accident repairs are a major expense for fleets, representing, on average, 14% of total fleet costs. Fleet accident rates average around 20%, with some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, even higher. Of the 20% of vehicles involved in an accident, about 40% are involved in preventable accidents. If 40% of all accidents are preventable, this is a huge opportunity to reduce costs.

Fleet Safety Policy: It is important to communicate a documented fleet safety policy to set clear and consistent expectations of drivers. It is critical that senior management is vocal in its support of the fleet safety policy. Policies should be updated regularly (COVID-19) and consistently enforced without exceptions.

Managing High-Risk Drivers: Having a fleet safety policy is not enough, you need to consistently enforce it, as well as hold drivers accountable. Most fleets have implemented safety training programs and technology to modify unsafe driving behaviors, such as in-vehicle cameras for driver coaching. A key challenge is keeping safety top of mind in a high-turnover environment where driving isn’t the main responsibility.

Budgeting Process: While management often talks a good game about the value of fleet safety programs, getting them to put money behind it is another story. Many fleets have budget restrictions and are not able to fund training programs or purchase optional safety equipment packages during new-vehicle ordering. 

Ladder Safety Training: Fleets that have high employee turnover must continually train drivers on how to safely operate drop-down ladders and how to correctly lock them.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists: There is an increase in accidents and fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists. Drivers must be alert that pedestrians or bicyclists may not stop at stop signs or will unexpectedly cross the road outside of marked walkways.

Dumb Accidents: Despite all of the investments in fleet safety programs and technology, companies still experience dumb accidents, such as vehicle rollaways, box trucks hitting overhangs or awning, aggressive driving, and inattentive parking lot accidents.

The Right Thing to Do: Although fleet safety can reduce fleet costs, the more important reason to make it your No. 1 job priority is because it’s the right thing to do. Your actions (or inactions) can be the difference that prevents (or contributes) to a family tragedy.

Let me know what you think.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet

About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award, presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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