When fleet managers review footage of their drivers for the first time after onboarding a video-based safety solution, their initial reaction is often wow. They’re stunned to see some drivers engaged in unsafe behaviors such as texting, completing paperwork, and even eating with a fork and knife while driving.
Since there hadn’t been any reports of unsafe driving behavior, they assumed that their drivers were adhering to the company’s safety policies. Yet, data gathered by Lytx on billions of driving miles suggests otherwise.
In a recent blog, From 190 to 1 in a Blink of an Eye: Managing the Heinrich’s Pyramid Challenge, Bryon Cook, Lytx® VP of Data and Analytics, discussed the fact that even the most seemingly minor infractions, such as not wearing a seatbelt, put a driver at risk of a collision. However, when you combine that with other habitual behaviors, such as eating in the cab, the chances of a major collision increase significantly.
It’s hard to know if a driver’s behavior is the root cause of a collision, and you can’t take action on what you don’t know, yet taking action on risky behavior is what can help prevent that collision in the first place.
Del Lisk, vice president of safety for Lytx, said that seat belt violations are the most frequent surprise for fleet operators. “Drivers of large commercial vehicles tend to have the greatest number of seatbelt violations,” he said. “They assume that if they’re in a collision with a smaller vehicle, they’ll walk away without a scratch, so they don’t think it’s important to buckle up.”
This false sense of confidence can have deadly consequences.
According to a 2015 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCSA), of the 3,697 drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2014, 335 weren’t wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Thirty-percent of those drivers were completely or partially ejected from the vehicle.
Perhaps even more dangerous, however, are behaviors that cause drivers to take their eyes off of the road. The FMCSA reports that a driver talking on a mobile phone looks away from the road for 3.8 seconds. A driver sending a text looks away for a whopping 6 seconds. At a speed of 55 miles per hour, this equates to driving distracted for the entire length of a football field.
Lisk explains that cell phone use has become so second nature that sometimes drivers don’t even realize the impact texting has on their driving. When drivers watch themselves on video during coaching sessions, they’re often shocked to see the length of time they’re distracted by their phones.
While video allows fleet owners to identify problems they didn’t know they had, Lisk warns against using the footage as grounds for punishment.
“There is the potential for fleet operators to react harshly when they see their drivers engaged in unsafe behaviors,” he said. “Their initial impulse might be to discipline employees, or even fire them.” Yet unsafe driving is often the result of ingrained habits that can be successfully changed with effective coaching. These types of events should be seen as an opportunity to retrain drivers so they’re more likely to be successful and safe on the job.