In the trucking industry, tragedy happens in the blink of an eye. Even with new technology and a renewed focus on safety training, trucking accidents have not declined. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts, 3,921 people were killed and 104,000 injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2012, a 4 percent increase from 2011.
Of all the risks you face, your drivers are your biggest. Anytime you combine large machinery and the human factor, any number of things can go wrong. However, drivers are the crucial link for getting cargo to market, so it’s imperative to focus your risk management efforts on this vital asset.
Accident prevention starts with awareness
To take control of accident prevention, you need to be keenly aware of the risks you face. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the top 10 causes of trucking accidents are:
- Driver fatigue
- Debris on the road
- Hitting a stopped vehicle from behind
- Driving off the side of the road
- Poor road conditions due to bad weather or maintenance
- Loss of control
- Mechanical failure
- Shifting cargo
- Lane drifting
Five strategies to manage transportation risk
Your goal is to keep drivers safe, drive down insurance costs, deliver on your company’s key objectives and enhance your bottom line. How do you accomplish all that? Here are five transportation risk management strategies:
- Hire smart. Hiring good drivers reduces accidents and injuries, supply chain snafus, workers’ compensation claims and overall costs, including your insurance premiums. Conduct thorough background checks and interviews of all driver applicants to get the best fit.
- Rigorously road test. You need to see firsthand how prospective drivers will do, and statistics show that companies that conduct at least two-hour road tests have fewer accidents and lower overall costs than those that have shorter or no road tests.
- Train a safe driving crew. You’ll never be able to prevent every accident, but a robust safety training program and strict enforcement of safety policies can help prevent many of them. As you saw in the list of accident causes above, driver error is the most frequent. Defensive driving courses aimed at improving driver aptitude and awareness should be mandatory.
- Control fatigue. A struggling economy and global competition have put trucking companies under pressure to get their products to market faster and cheaper. But tragic accidents in the last few years have drawn attention to driver fatigue as one of the leading causes of accidents, resulting in new hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truckers. Make sure you’re aware of the hours of service guidelines and control your drivers’ time on the road.
- Enforce strict technology rules. Technology has done wonders to modernize and increase efficiency in the trucking business. But if your drivers are texting behind the wheel, they’re creating a deadly hazard, as evidenced by an increase in texting-related accidents. Make sure your drivers understand the risks, and set strict guidelines about using cell phones and other devices while driving.
Trucking is a risky business, and to be successful, you need good risks behind the wheel. Make sure you’re devoting the necessary resources to hire, train and retain safe drivers and enforcing safe driving policies. When you need an insurance firm that understands your unique risks, contact the transportation insurance and fleet risk management experts at Higginbotham Insurance.