No industry-wide statistics exist on the percentage of public sector vehicles annually involved in an accident. Therefore, it is difficult to identify the industry-wide percentage of preventable accidents. The reason for this paucity of data is that not all public sector fleets have systems in place to track accident types. In the absence of this data, it is necessary to use anecdotal, fleet-specific examples. When doing so, common factors emerge as to types of accidents experienced by public sector fleets. For instance, most fleet managers will tell you that public sector vehicles are hit more often than they hit other vehicles. Another common factor is that fleet managers will tell you that the majority of their accidents involve fleet vehicles hitting stationary objects. On average, public sector fleet vehicles, particularly those operated by municipalities, travel fewer than 10,000 miles per year. This makes them less vulnerable to accidents than their commercial fleet counterparts, which travel an average of 24,000 miles per year. On the other hand, municipal vehicles drive primarily in high-density urban traffic, increasing accident risk exposure. Although hard to quantify, every accident prevented represents dollars that go straight to the bottom line of your fleet budget. Responsibility for fleet safety varies between political subdivisions. Driver safety may be the responsibility of the department supervisor, safety manager, or fleet manager. Regardless, a comprehensive fleet safety program should be in place to ensure all responsible individuals actively address driver safety and all are working from the same policy. There should be a strong safety program that is ongoing and not a once-a-year event. According to Milton Reid, director of General Services for the City of Gainesville, Fla., fleet managers can implement a variety of programs to reduce preventable accidents:
- Develop and establish effective operator training programs to include incentives and penalties for safe and unsafe drivers.
- Standardize fleet, where possible, so users are familiar with vehicle/equipment operation.
- Establish and monitor a procedure whereby operators must do a “walk-around” check on vehicles before the beginning of each shift or work day.
- Develop specifications compatible with the vehicle and its application to allow for minimum blind spots by including the proper rear-view mirrors and cameras where needed.
- Prohibit hand-held cell phone use while driving.
The goal of a driver risk management program is to prevent vehicles from colliding in the first place. In this vein, fleet managers need to view accidents from a different perspective than just repairing bent metal. The true cost savings are in accident prevention and not in accident repair cost reduction. To reduce accidents, fleet managers must focus on the cause (the driver) and not the symptom (the accident). Let me know what you think. [email protected]