Keeping your company’s drivers safe on the road is a big responsibility. It’s getting increasingly difficult to keep commercial drivers focused with the ubiquity of smartphones and other mobile devices. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found, in a 2009 study, that 71 percent of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was doing something besides driving the truck.
Of course, the foremost concern is the safety of everyone on the road. But jobs and employees are also on the line, no matter the incident. The FMCSA also states “drivers caught texting or using hand-held mobile phones are subject to fines, disqualifications, and being put out-of-service.”
Although drivers may be well aware of these dangers, they can get comfortable after being on the road a while, and an incoming text from a loved one or friend may prove too tempting. Here’s some advice on keeping your trucking fleet accident and worry-free.
Smart Phones and Tech in the Cab
A lot is going on in a modern trucker’s cab, from the newly required electronic logging devices to navigation and fleet management devices and apps. It’s easy to imagine the difficulty in focusing on the road with so many internal-cab distractions.
Limit the number of gadgets in your cabs. It’s easy to get carried away with fuel-coaching devices and other truck tech, but you should consider company policies that limit excessive gizmos. So, your driver’s cabs aren’t too busy, but what about distractions outside of the trucks?
Anything that Takes Your Eyes Away from Driving is Dangerous
When discussing safety tips and processes with your drivers, don’t underestimate eye-catching distractions beyond the cab. The FMCSA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found, in a three-year study, that an estimated 11,000 truck crashes in the U.S. involved external distractions.
Outdoor advertising, such as static and moving billboards, cleverly capture people’s attention. Remind your drivers to avoid looking at these objects, and even a quick glimpse could lead to a fatal accident.
Do Not Use Dispatch Devices While Driving
Let your drivers know that no matter how convenient it seems to pick up a message on a dispatch device, it must wait. There is nothing urgent enough to warrant the increased risk of a crash. According to the FMCSA, “texting on a dispatching device is indistinguishable from texting on another text-capable device, and is therefore prohibited.”
As technology advances, companies are creating easier-to-use and safer dispatching devices. Implement a dispatching device that supports voice-recognition and the ability to respond and read messages aloud without looking at a screen.
It’s a good practice to routinely remind your drivers:
- Never eat while driving
- Do not reach for objects
- Do not read anything
- No dialing or texting
Bob Bringgold, national director of risk control for Northland offers a great idea. During team meetings, ask drivers to recall the craziest distraction or thing they’ve seen on the road. It will encourage conversation and help get drivers engaged in company safety and risk prevention.
What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving?
The penalties for truck drivers caught driving-while-distracted, accident or not, vary per extenuating circumstances and location. The FMCSA states:
“Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a CMV can result in driver disqualification. Penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving.”
You also risk disqualification by the FMCSA. Multiple violations can result in disqualification by a state. Some helpful reminders from the FMCSA include:
- Use voice-activated dialing
- Use an earpiece or speakerphone
- Drivers are not in compliance if they unsafely reach for a mobile phone, even if they intend to use the hands-free function.
Talk to your trusted agent at Brooker Transportation Agency to learn more about protecting your drivers from distracted driving. We are your source for comprehensive truck insurance. We provide protection from a variety of commercial trucking risks.