Giving safety a check-up

Published in the December 2017 issue of Fleet Affiliation

Safety is almost always top of mind for fleet managers.  Ultimately, they have the responsibility to provide employees with safe vehicles used to complete their jobs. As weather and road conditions change for many of us this time of year, it creates an opportunity to give safety a check-up. Designing vehicles can be challenging considering they have to be compliant with federal motor vehicle safety regulations, Department of Transportation regulations and state and local regulations. Oftentimes, fleet managers who originally specified the vehicle will have little control on the vehicle’s actual use once it’s placed in service. However, there are a few controls that can be put in place to minimize misuse of equipment. 

Controlling weight
Those in the snowbelt know all too well when snow starts to fall and roads start to ice, trucks are filled to the brim with salt. Operators may not pay attention or be aware of their cargo weight. Others may blatantly not care, believing they are exempt from weight regulations — especially during snow events. There is no exemption for operating safe vehicles that are regulatory compliant. In addition to the potential of exceeding the gross vehicle weight rating, there are individual components such as axles, tires and suspension components that must be considered.

Space – it usually gets used
One challenge is having too much space.  Trucks are typically designed for multi-purposes. Take a moment to reflect on what will be hauled. For example, seasonally a dump truck may haul dramatically different materials of differing weight densities, e.g., mulch, salt or sand. Calculating the weight of these materials and marking proper load lines can assist with proper loading. This won’t guarantee against an overload condition, but it gives operators tools and controls they need to properly use the equipment as the fleet manager designed.

The human factor — getting people involved
Operator involvement has the potential to directly impact overall expenses, including maintenance and accident reduction expenses. When operators are involved and understand what the vehicles were designed to do, it can greatly reduce unintentional misuse of equipment. Involvement programs can be active or passive. Passive programs require little effort and cost to implement and could lead to the acceptance of active programs. Passive programs are as simple as having safety meetings and programs addressing proper driving techniques and loading procedures. Informative driver awareness posters in meeting and break rooms showing statistics related to maintenance and accident costs can be effective. Most effective programs include a hands-on element that provides optimal take-away for participants. Safety rodeos give drivers the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned.

Active programs typically have greater results, but also tend to cost more to implement. These programs usually involve some degree of technology. Devices such as telematics that provide instant feedback to drivers about their behavior give them the tools to self-correct. Active on-board scales can also reduce overload conditions. In the end, it ultimately comes down to the balance of truck design and driver involvement. Remember, operators have an obligation to get their job done, and fleet managers have an obligation to provide the tools for them to do so.

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