The commercial trucking sector is a critical component of the United States economy. Truckers cover millions of miles to transport goods between manufacturing and production centers to consumers each year. With the miles traveled and loads hauled, trucking operations face numerous risks. Understanding these risks is the first step toward risk management, a strategy that incorporates trucking insurance and other business-oriented protections. In this first part of a two-part series, we will explore industry best practices for reducing risks, helping to keep trucks, truckers, and cargo safe on America’s roadways.
Keeping Truckers Safe
Millions of tons of cargo are transported each year by the American trucking sector, representing nearly $800 billion in revenue as of 2019 figures. Nearly a million drivers are employed in the trucking industry, from owner-operators to independent carriers, contract carriers, and fleet employees. Safety is one of the biggest challenges in the trucking industry; a single incident involving a large truck on the road can result in millions of dollars in property damage, injuries, and losses of equipment. Safety is a crucial aspect of the transportation sector; trucker safety directly impacts other road users as well as trucking assets. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes trucking as one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Collisions and worker injuries account for billions of dollars in losses each year. Violations of safety standards can result in steep regulatory penalties and even loss of licensure for fleet operators.
While trucking insurance is an important part of a more comprehensive risk management program, adopting safety-oriented practices not only reduces injury risks but helps trucking companies save money. In the following sections, best practices for reducing on-the-road risks can help trucking companies overcome safety challenges, leading to more efficient and safer operating environments.
Defensive Driving: A Mission-Critical Safety Practice
The core of defensive driving is the practice whereby truckers anticipate potential hazards related to driving or road conditions. Drivers must continually scan roads for hazards as well as changing road conditions, such as created by inclement weather. Drivers must also make safe decisions when negotiating America’s roadways, being proactive in their approach to unexpected situations or conditions. Some of the factors of defensive driving include:
Monitoring blind spots – truckers know that blind spots can interfere with safe driving practices. According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 800,000 accidents occur each year attributed directly to blind spots. Because rear-view and side-view mirrors are not always sufficient to detect other vehicles in blind spots, drivers must use additional strategies to monitor these danger areas. Looking out of windows before lane changes can reduce vehicle collisions. Some modern trucks are equipped with blind spot monitoring systems to help drivers operate more safely.
Practicing the 3 Second Rule – creating a safe buffer zone around and in front of vehicles is an important defensive driving strategy. This can be achieved by following the 3 Second Rule: drivers should allow a full three seconds between the point at which a vehicle in front of the truck reaches a specific point on the road before the truck passes the same spot. As road conditions warrant, this following distance should be increased to five or even 10 seconds, particularly when precipitation or ice covers roadways.
Monitoring vehicle speed – slowing down can save lives. Even when roadways are dry and clear, reducing vehicle speeds can give truckers additional time to react safely to changing conditions. Lower speeds also help to reduce the severity of a collision. Finally, lowering truck speeds can actually save on fuel expenses, an added bonus for fleet owners.
Preventative Maintenance: Improving Vehicle and Driver Safety
Maintenance of commercial vehicles is an integral part of operations. Trucks that are maintained properly are less likely to break down and less likely to cause accidents. Fleet owners must implement preventative maintenance schedules that include:
- Vehicle system checks
- Oil and tire changes
- Brake checks and maintenance
- Lighting and safety equipment checks
Staying on top of maintenance can also reduce more expensive breakdowns or repairs as well as reducing the chance of regulatory penalties or fines. Fleet managers can look at vehicle data via telematics or engine management systems to create maintenance schedules that meet the operational needs of the fleet. As a risk management component, preventative maintenance is often just as important as trucking insurance.
Inspections: Requirements for Truckers
Every experienced trucker knows that pre- and post-trip inspections are a daily part of operations. These inspections are required by state and federal laws; failure to conduct them can result in significant fines or other financial penalties. Why are these inspections so important? The answer is simple: they improve safety on America’s roadways. Routine inspections reveal problems that may interfere with the safe operation of vehicles and trailers, allowing maintenance personnel to address any issues that can cause an accident. Fleet managers must ensure that inspections are conducted and must maintain records for review by regulatory officials as needed.
Reducing Distracted Driving
As smartphones and in-cab entertainment systems have become ubiquitous in the trucking sector, the chance of a driver becoming involved in an accident due to distractions has increased. In fact, distracted driving is the number one cause of road accidents in the U.S. As a result, many states have outlawed calling or texting without the use of a hands-free communication device. Trucking fleet owners must ensure that their drivers are following these requirements. Some fleets have installed driver-facing camera systems to record drivers; using footage captured by these systems, owners can initiate corrective actions before they can cause an expensive accident – or a driver injury.
Trucking insurance is not the only risk management solution available to trucking companies. In part two of our series, we will explore even more ways that truckers can adopt safety-oriented practices. These best industry practices for driver safety help keep all road users safe and reduce the claims volume and frequency of trucking insurance policies
About Western Truck Insurance Services
Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes. Contact us today at (800) 937-8785 to learn more!