Why is fleet maintenance and safety important in the construction industry? According to industry reports, accidents can get down to an average of 13 percent per year with a formal fleet safety and maintenance program.
Without one, research suggests the number of accidents can be upwards of 25 percent. Every percentage counts when considering the hefty cost behind injury claims, potential litigation and other factors, such as repairs. Incorporating a comprehensive vehicle maintenance and safety program can help manage exposure to this serious risk. Choosing the right drivers, personnel, training and monitoring safety on the worksite are important considerations when maintaining a fleet. Why? Because vehicles represent a significant potential for substantial loss to the organization.
The vehicles in fleets are often multi-ton mobile pieces of machinery, capable of causing injury and damage to others and/or injuring the driver or employee as well as “injuring” the bottom line of the business. Consequential losses may result in:
- workers’ compensation claims;
- health insurance claims and costs;
- vehicle repairs or replacement;
- auto liability claims;
- reputation damage;
- administrative costs due to employee loss and replacement; and
- business downtime.
The solutions to these consequences are centered around avoidance, mitigation and management. Company vehicles must be maintained and in top performing condition to reduce the chances of an accident due to a vehicle malfunction or driver error resulting from equipment failure. Additionally, the right drivers, supervision and training must also be in place.
Fleet Safety Policy Must-Haves
An effective fleet safety policy recognizes that employees are a company’s most valuable asset. As motor vehicles are the leading cause of work-related fatalities, construction companies must be committed to providing a safe working environment for employees while they are on the road. The construction business may already have a fleet safety policy in place, but it is crucial to review the policy frequently and make revisions as needed.
An effective policy can be summarized in seven main steps:
1. Driver Selection
Ensure the following thresholds are completed and the candidate holds proper certification during the hiring process:
- reference checks;
- proper license and good driving record;
- physical fitness/drug screening as allowed by state law and union contracts if applicable; and
- road and written tests.
2. Driver Training
Ensure the following is completed when training a new employee:
- company rules/policies;
- equipment familiarization;
- routes and schedules;
- emergency procedures;
- defensive driving techniques (from a qualified training source);
- cargo hazards; and
- ride-alongs with experienced drivers.
3. Driver Supervision
Ensure the following items are maintained and managed by drivers’ supervisors:
- driver’s record as allowed by state law;
- accident investigation;
- routing and scheduling;
- vehicle location;
- road observation reports;
- incentive programs; and
- driver meetings.
4. Vehicle Maintenance
Ongoing repair logs should be maintained for each vehicle. These logs should be kept accessible in the glove compartment of each vehicle. If repairs are needed, vehicles should be promptly removed from the inventory/use list and repaired or replaced with a substitute vehicle. Services include:
- oil changes;
- lubricant levels;
- wheel alignments;
- parts and repairs for items such as brakes;
- fuel and exhaust systems;
- steering mechanisms;
- wheels; and
- windshield wipers and glazing.
5. Routing and Scheduling
Check that those involved in routing and scheduling take the following into consideration:
- efficient itineraries;
- road conditions;
- type of roads;
- hazardous cargo or wide-load restrictions;
- road construction; and
- on-the-road communication.
6. Operational Analysis
Ensure the quality of operations by implementing and maintaining the following:
- process for analyzing shortcomings and customizing the fleet program;
- regulatory compliance;
- fleet security; and
- proper securing of trailers and/or loads being hauled.
7. Driver Checks
Include documentation of pre- and post-operation routine checklists. Drivers should be checking the below before operating a vehicle:
- all mirrors;
- oil and coolant levels; and
- tire pressure.
Fleet Safety Considerations Now and in the Future
All of the above are great components to have in a fleet safety and maintenance program. This program cannot stay stagnant though. New and emerging exposures should be taken into account. For instance, technology is now advancing to automobiles, with autonomous vehicles, anti-rollover systems and brake technologies on the forefront. These seem like major conveniences and can help with overall safety, but new technology used in commercial settings can potentially lead to additional liabilities like cyber crime.
Automobiles have the capability to store a driver’s personal information. That can include a social security number, driver’s license number, hours of service requirements and global positioning system (GPS) work routes. As convenient as it would be for a driver to have all of his/her information in one place, is compromising their identity worth the risk?
GPS fleet monitoring started out as a tool in other industries, but the technology has proven valuable to any business that operates its own fleet. A major cyber issue for construction companies would be having the GPS signals for its fleet scrambled or having someone tamper with electronic shipment documents. Hackers can disrupt the loss control systems of trucking lines, causing management to lose a fleet’s locations altogether.
Whether it is now or in the immediate future, contractors can minimize risk to their companies and employees by updating and/or creating a fleet safety and maintenance program.