Safety starts before a driver puts his or her vehicle in motion. Remind your drivers to prepare both themselves and their vehicles before they take to the roadways. A few proactive steps can help fleet drivers stay safe in their travels, no matter what they encounter. Share these pointers with your team:
Do a Walk-Around
When you get in your vehicle — either at the beginning of your workday or after each appointment — do you simply open the door and step inside? If so, you’re missing an important opportunity to improve your safety.
Fleet drivers should develop a habit of conducting a very brief walk-around inspection of their vehicle each time they get in. It’s best to do the inspection when you first enter your vehicle at the start of your workday and each time you return to the vehicle during the course of the day. It will only take about a minute, and the benefits will far outweigh the minimal time spent.
Consider the many ways a walk-around can help protect you:
- If you see a vehicle parked close to you, you’ll know that you need to be extra careful when pulling out to avoid hitting it.
- If you see an obstruction nearby such as an object that is directly behind your vehicle, but too low to be seen out of a rearview mirror, you can take steps to avoid hitting it.
- If you spot potential hazards on the ground, such as glass or nails, you can remove them to avoid a flat tire.
- If you notice a tire is low, you can add air before you run the risk of a flat tire while in transit.
- If you see you have left the vehicle tailgate or trunk open, you can close it to avoid damage while backing up.
- If you notice evidence of a fluid leak, you can schedule a repair before it turns into a dangerous situation.
Adjust Your Mirrors Properly
Before you turn on the engine, focus on your mirrors. The position of your outside mirrors is essential for your safety. Improperly positioned mirrors may prevent you from seeing other vehicles, pedestrians, or objects you need to be aware of while driving.
Conversely, properly positioned mirrors will help to improve your view and will especially help to minimize blind spots. When vehicles are no longer visible from your inside rear-view mirror, you’ll spot them sooner in your side mirrors if they are set up correctly.
Many drivers often make the mistake of positioning their outside mirrors too far inward, so what they’re seeing is the side of their own vehicle rather than the area around the vehicle. Use the following approach to position your mirrors properly — before you depart:
- Lean toward the center of the vehicle.
- Look into the right-side mirror and adjust it until you can no longer see the side of your vehicle.
- Sit up straight and glance in the right-side mirror that you just adjusted. You should not see any portion of your own vehicle in this mirror.
Once on the road, you should never rely solely on your mirrors when you change lanes on a multi-lane road or when you merge into traffic from an entrance ramp. Your mirrors won’t always display the entire roadway and without an accurate view of what’s happening around you, you could make the mistake of switching lanes or merging at the wrong time.
In addition to using your mirrors, also glance over your shoulder — quickly and several times as needed — to see the position of the vehicles around you before you change lanes or merge onto a road. If there are multiple lanes, look across all of them — not just the lanes directly next to you. Since motorists have been known to cut across several lanes at once, it’s helpful to see if a vehicle two lanes away is beginning to move in your direction.
Store All Items Securely
How you pack your vehicle before departing also plays a role in your safety. If you’re in a hurry, you may tend to drop work items onto the rear seat or floor without considering the potential hazard.
Remember that you and the objects inside your vehicle are traveling at the same speed as the vehicle itself. If you must stop abruptly, or if you are hit by another vehicle, any loose items will likely become airborne. At the very least they will distract you; at worst, they can cause injury or even fatalities if they are heavy enough.
Avoiding this safety risk is simple: Always store all items in your vehicle securely, using the following guidelines:
- Store heavy items in the trunk or cargo area, not in the occupant area.
- If you must carry items in the vehicle occupant area, place them on the rear floor or secure them on the seat with a seatbelt, bungee cord, or some other restraint.
- Pay special attention to electronics, since laptops and tablets can cause damage, injury, or worse if they become airborne.
Prepare Yourself for the Road
Preparing your vehicle is one matter, but preparing yourself is equally important. Before setting out for your day, make sure you are alert and refreshed.
Drowsy driving-related crashes claimed the lives of 684 people on the nation’s roadways in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Fleet drivers log far more hours behind the wheel than the average driver, so it’s essential to get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. Make sure you feel alert and focused before setting out for the day.
In addition, take steps to make sure you are comfortable before setting your vehicle in motion — from adjusting the vehicle temperature, opening or closing windows, and setting the GPS. By doing all of these things before the vehicle is moving, you’ll be more comfortable and less distracted while driving.
Finally, even professional drivers need to be reminded to buckle up every time they get behind the wheel. One of the safest choices a driver can make is to fasten his or her seat belt. In 2017 alone, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives, notes NHTSA.