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Motor-vehicle-related accidents are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities in America, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). So, why do some companies spend more on office ergonomics than they do on their fleet vehicle safety and training?

Based on statistics alone, they definitely shouldn’t. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average vehicle accident costs an employer $16,500 in medical care, property damage, legal expenses, and lost productivity. An average of around 20 percent of fleet vehicles are involved in some form of crash each year. So, how can fleet managers move the dial and make their companies’ fleets safer?

Moving the Dial on ‘Safety First’

For employees who drive on the job, having the safest vehicle available and being well trained on employer safety policies are vital in helping to reduce crash risks. The time is now to make the change and act on “safety first.” Besides reducing costs and minimizing downtime, it also means keeping employees safe and saving lives.

The move starts with selecting the safest vehicle available. When ordering vehicles, in addition to performance and maintenance statistics, fleet managers should consider vehicle ergonomics, safety ratings, vehicle weight, and expected cargo, along with optional safety features, such as brake assist, rearview cameras, blind spot indicators, accident avoidance, and enhanced in-cab safety features. Frequently, the cheapest models are not the safest models; however, the safety features available on the costlier models are almost invaluable to companies and their drivers, making the move worthwhile.

Fostering safe drivers result in more economical drivers, and this is aided by vehicle telematics reporting. Implementing an effective safety program as a result of telematics reporting and driver training results in lower costs, fewer claims, reduced maintenance costs, and downtime, as well as providing a safer work environment for employees.

The above are just the initial steps toward focusing on “safety first.” Once these are in place, continued awareness and training on safety issues for employees is needed and should be accomplished by a combination of methods including e-mail, instructor-led and online training, and a company intranet site that relays information in a straightforward and concise manner.

Making the change to safer drivers makes sense to companies from an economic as well as a humane standpoint. It is an operational issue well worth up front investing rather than paying the price later after an accident has occurred. Thus, you have the basic recipe for “Safety First” on which to build.

Creating the ‘Safety First’ Basic Recipe

The “safety first” basic recipe consists of:

  • 1 part intelligent, safe vehicle selection and upfit.
  • 1 part vehicle operations monitored by telematics reporting.
  • 1 part driver training and safety program implementation. Repeat at regular intervals.

Anthony Foster is the corporate fleet manager at Pioneer Natural Resources, a large independent exploration and production oil and gas company.