Between 2018 and 2019, the number of fatalities involving large trucks (those over 10,000 pounds), rose by 1%, the highest level in 30 years. Of these fatal accidents, 32.3% involved at least one driver-related factor. (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)
Driver-related accidents, although highly preventable, are the most difficult for fleet safety directors to monitor and manage.
Here are the top 3 causes of driver-related fatal large truck accidents, according to the FMCSA 2018 large truck crash reports.
In 2018, “Speeding of Any Kind” was the most frequent driver-related factor for drivers large trucks. It accounted for 6.8% or 324 of all fatal large-truck accidents.
“Distraction/Inattention” was the second most common for large truck drivers. It accounted for 5.3% or 252 of all fatal large-truck accidents.
4.4% or 210 fatal large-truck accidents were caused by impaired drivers. The most common cause of impairment was substance abuse, followed by fatigue, illness, and emotional distress:
102 were caused by alcohol, drugs, or medication use (2.1% of all fatal large-truck accidents). 6% of drivers (in fatal accidents testing positive for at least one drug (although only 40% of drivers were tested for drugs post-accident).
62 were caused by asleep or fatigued drivers (1.3% of all fatal large-truck accidents).
21 were caused by ill or blacked out drivers (0.4% of all fatal large-truck accidents).
5 were caused by emotionally distressed drivers (0.1% of all fatal large-truck accidents).
7 Best Fleet Safety Technologies
1. Collision Warning and Mitigation
Rear-end collisions account for approximately 28% of all collisions, with driver inattention identified as a contributing factor in over 60% of these crashes (NSC).
"Cars equipped with forward collision warning systems can reduce rear-end collisions by about 10%" and forward collision warning and mitigation systems lead to lower insurance claim rates, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Driver distraction or inattention can be mitigated with collision warning or accident avoidance technologies such as:
- automatic emergency breaking (AEB)
- lane assist technology to alert drivers when the vehicle unintentionally drifts into another lane
- lane keeping technology to correct unintentional drifting into another lane
- and proximity alerts such as LiDAR sensors which estimate distance and create high-resolution 3D images of truck surroundings.
2. Electronic Stability Control
Electronic stability control systems monitor tire and steering wheel movement to sense loss of traction or slipping often due to wet or icy roads. When loss of traction is detected, it immediately reduces engine power, applies brakes, and corrects tire suspension.
All passenger vehicles are required to have this feature and it has been found extremely effective at preventing up to 800,000 single-vehicle crashes per year and reducing fatal crashes by 40-56%.
3. Driver Alert Systems
Driver alert systems are great at waking up fatigued or inattentive drivers.
100,000 crashes are directly caused by fatigue each year, according to the NHTSA. Fatigue is also the second biggest source of impairment in large truck fatal accidents caused by drivers.
- Collision warning systems
- Steering wheels and hats that detect drowsiness
- PRISM, an app which predicts when a driver will become fatigued, alerts the driver and his/her supervisor to impending fatigue, offers timely countermeasures, and then tests the driver for alertness.
- AlertMeter®, an app that detects driver fatigue and other impairment before drivers begin duty.
4. Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive cruise control senses where the vehicle in front of your driver is in relation to your driver's vehicle, and slows down or speeds up your driver's vehicle to maintain a safe following distance.
Adaptive cruise control could prevent 13,000 crashes per year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
5. Rear-View Cameras
Rear-view cameras let fleet drivers see the back of the vehicle and reduce blind spots.
Combined with blind spot warning and cross traffic alert technology, rear-view cameras can help large truck drivers reduce blind spot accidents such as roll overs or swiping nearby cars.
6. Intelligent Compliance Platforms
Fleetworthy Solutions’ COMPLY 2.0 provides increased visibility and control into fleet safety management so that companies can streamline processes, reduce risk, and improve the bottom line. Their intelligent compliance solutions measure, monitor, and manage compliance levels for driver and fleet safety, licensing and permitting, and fuel tax reconciliation.
7. Impairment Testing
Impairment tests detect driver fatigue, illness, intoxication, distress and other sources of impairment before a driver gets behind the wheel. Impairment tests are one of the most effective ways of reducing driver-related accidents and eliminating risks before an accident can happen.
Currently, the AlertMeter® is the only impairment test available and viable in workplaces. It is a 60-second cognitive alertness test taken on a smartphone or tablet. When impairment is detected, the app notifies a supervisor. It's been found effective in increasing driver alertness, decreasing instances of impaired driving, decreasing worker's comp claims, and decreasing employee turnover.
Monte Jensen, the Safety, Health, and Environmental Manager of Savage Services, a transportation, logistics & materials handling company based in Utah, said, “Our drivers are independent workers, which is part of our culture, and we encourage everyone to take the AlertMeter® test at any time during their shift so they can make sure they’re able to stay focused.”
With so many different new technologies on the market, how do fleets determine the best fleet safety technology for them?
For fleets to determine which of these fleet safety technologies to use, they must consider the following factors:
1. Return on Investment
The ROI of predictive fleet safety technology is difficult to measure. It takes time and a lot of analysis to fully appreciate the ROI of good fleet safety technology.
If a company has a good safety record, it's easy to assume no further safety investment is needed.
However, without constant proactive risk mitigation systems in place, a single unforeseeable fatal accident can ruin years' worth of a perfect safety record.
Further, it is more effective and affordable to predict and mitigate safety risk than to attempt managing risks in real-time.
For example, it is cheaper and more effective to identify a fatigued driver and remove him from the driver's seat than to attempt waking him up with a collision warning system when risk of an accident is already elevated. With collision alert systems, there is no guarantee that the driver will awake soon enough and react quickly enough to avoid collision.
If budget is limited, the most bang for the buck of all fleet safety technologies are predictive and preventive tools that mitigate risk before the driver takes off. Preventive measures like impairment tests could reduce the need for more expensive safety technology.
If your fleet is large and expansive with visible daily risk, a more complex safety feature such as collision mitigation might also present a good ROI.
Fleet safety technology may be difficult for managers and operators to adopt if they involve a lot of new safety data they may view as additional work and increased liability.
The best and most effective safety tech tools often provide valuable insights and depend on supervisors and mangers to take action based on this data. If they fail to do so, they assume the liability.
So, a good safety tech tool must be:
- easy to use
- easy to act upon
- easy to integrate with systems already in use
- non-disruptive of daily routines or productivity
- not time consuming
- low maintenance for non-tech savvy managers
- a digestible and manageable source of data.
3. Acceptance by drivers
For new fleet safety technology to be accepted by drivers, it needs to be simple enough to use and not intrude upon their privacy or comfort while at work.
For example, wearable technology such as headbands or wristbands that detect and monitor fatigue, or cameras that track eye movements can be difficult to integrate in certain work environments where workers are suspicious of new technology or have strong privacy concerns.
One study found that, in order for wearable technology to be easily accepted by workers, the following criteria need to be met:
- employees need to be techno-curious
- they need to be experienced with wearable technology
- there should be demonstrated results to justify use of the technology
- employees should be involved in choosing the technology
- employees should be made aware of how, what, when, where and why their data will be collected, used, and protected.
This final point brings up the importance of training and communication before implementing any new fleet safety technology. Drivers should be thoroughly trained on how to use the new technology. If drivers are not comfortable using them, it will not only be a waste of time and money but also further exacerbate safety problems by confusing and overburdening drivers.
The best fleet safety technology for your company will depend on many factors including:
- the size of your fleet
- the demographics of your drivers
- the resources of your management team
- the current technology you use and the routines you have
- the safety risks you've identified within your operations
- your budget.
For any fleet safety technology to be effective and provide a high ROI, fleet owners and managers must thoroughly consider all these factors before making an investment.
If you're considering an impairment test, we'll do some of this work for you:
- The AlertMeter® is effective for fleets of all sizes and demographics--it doesn't involve a large learning curve, tech-savviness, or more than 60 seconds each day.
- Based on verified data from different companies, AlertMeter® is accepted by and popular with workers.
- AlertMeter® is easily integrated with existing routines, systems, and telematics.
- AlertMeter® only takes 60 seconds for drivers, and saves managers time by directing their attention to the drivers who need it most.
- "The safety conversations between employees and supervisors are no different than check-ins that took place before implementing AlertMeter®," said the SH&E Director of Savage Services, Monte Jensen.
- AlertMeter® is effective at preventing all sources of driver impairment related safety risk, a common yet preventable safety risk for all fleets who employ humans.
- AlertMeter® is priced per driver, per month, making it a cost-effective and affordable solution for companies of all sizes and budgets.
To learn more about how AlertMeter® can help your fleet, schedule a free demo and request an ROI analysis for your company.