Fleet Risk Management: Tips for Safety, Liability, and Compliance

April 20, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Best practices for minimizing risk across your fleet operations and avoiding unnecessary costs. Learn how to improve driver safety, minimize accident liability, maintain vehicle safety, and ensure regulatory compliance.

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Fleet risk management is a hot topic—for good reason. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in 2017, large truck fatalities rose 9%, an increase of 392 lives lost over the prior year. And with “nuclear verdicts” on the rise, many fleet managers are looking for ways to minimize risks and avoid potentially catastrophic costs.

No matter what industry you’re in—from trucking to construction to local government—having vehicles on the road means you’re inherently open to risk. An accident could occur. A vehicle could break down. A driver could fail a roadside inspection. Thankfully, there are proven ways to manage these risks and minimize unnecessary costs to your fleet operations.

In this guide, we’ll cover four of the most important topics for effective fleet risk management, with industry best practices and tips for each.

Improve driver safety

Safety starts with your fleet drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has found that 87% of all commercial vehicle crashes are the result of driver behavior or driver error—which means training and coaching your drivers on road safety is of the utmost importance for fleet risk management.

One of the biggest risks to driver safety is distracted driving. According to the FMCSA, the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event are six times greater for commercial vehicle drivers who engage in dialing a mobile phone while driving than for those who do not. They found that dialing drivers took their eyes off the roadway for an average of 3.8 seconds. At 55 MPH, this equates to a driver traveling the length of a football field without looking at the road.

Speeding is also a huge risk. For more than two decades, speeding has been a contributing factor in approximately one third of all motor vehicle fatalities. And in 2018, NHTSA road safety data shows that speeding killed 9,378 people, accounting for more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities.

How can you manage these driver risks? Below are three tips for minimizing high risk driver behavior and decreasing the likelihood of accidents.

Tips for reducing driver risk

  1. Invest in dual-facing AI dash cams: Dash cams—particularly dual-facing dash cams with artificial intelligence (AI) built in—are proven to reduce risky driving behavior. How? With two camera lenses (one that faces the road ahead and one that faces in the inside of the cab), dual-facing AI dash cams can detect safety-related incidents and auto-upload incident footage to the cloud for driver training or coaching. Plus, some dual-facing AI dash cams include a built-in audio speaker that can play in-cab alerts when risky driving behavior—like cell phone use or speeding—is detected. This helps drivers stay vigilant, learn from their mistakes, and prevent accidents in real time. In fact, a study from the Journal of Safety Research found a 60% reduction in the number of incidents and an 86% reduction in accident-related costs when dual-facing dash cams are used. Learn more about how to select the best dash cams for your fleet.

  2. Build a video-based fleet safety program: One of the best ways to reduce driver risk in the long-term is to build in a robust, video-based fleet safety program. Beyond investing in dash cams, an effective fleet safety program includes driver training, coaching, and rewards—elements that help build a safety-first culture and align driver incentives around your safety policies. Learn more in our guide to building an effective fleet safety program.

  3. Hold regular safety trainings: Driver safety trainings shouldn’t only happen when drivers are first hired. Make sure to hold regular driver trainings to reinforce your safety policies, including guidelines for seat belt use, distracted driving, and corrective actions. To maximize the effectiveness of these trainings and keep drivers engaged, use real dash cam footage rather than purchased safety training videos. Show drivers examples of defensive driving maneuvers (to encourage safe driving), as well as examples of driver error (to help drivers anticipate and avoid similar incidents in the future).

Minimize accident liability

Commercial auto insurance premiums have been on the rise for the last decade. But over the last few years, a rapid increase in “nuclear verdicts”—legal verdicts exceeding $10 million—has increased the financial pressure on commercial vehicle operators and insurance companies.

The first step to minimizing accident liability is improving driver safety. If you can reduce the frequency and severity of accidents caused by your drivers, you can reduce the overall accident risk and associated costs to your business.

Unfortunately, commercial vehicle drivers are often blamed for accidents that are not their fault. In fact, multiple large-scale studies have shown that in fatal accidents between cars and commercial vehicles, commercial vehicles are only responsible about 25% of the time—however, they get blamed far more often. In order to protect your drivers and business, you have to be prepared to exonerate your drivers from not-at-fault accidents and false claims.

Tips for avoiding false claims

  1. Choose a dash cam that auto-uploads incident footage: Dash cams provide irrefutable, unbiased video evidence in the case of an accident—but you need instant access to that footage for it to be useful. The best dash cams connect to a telematics device that can detect safety-related events and auto-upload incident footage to the cloud within minutes. This makes it possible to exonerate innocent drivers from not-at-fault accidents on the spot, bypass lengthy claims processes, and eliminate unnecessary payouts for false claims. Learn more about selecting the best dash cam for your fleet.

  2. For maximum protection, consider dual-facing dash cams: Because dual-facing dash cams capture footage of the driver as well as the road, they bring the added benefit of showing the driver’s activity at the time of the incident. This is vital in cases where your driver is wrongly accused of misconduct. Footage from dual-facing dash cams can be used to show that your driver was attentive and driving in case of a not-at-fault accident. Learn more about the benefits of dual-facing dash cams in our comprehensive guide to dual dash cams.

Maintain vehicle safety

When it comes to fleet risk management, vehicle safety is just as important as driver safety. Unexpected vehicle breakdowns can cause downtime, delays, and significant costs to your fleet operations. In fact, last-minute emergency repairs can be up to four times more expensive than preventative maintenance. Plus, serious vehicle issues can put the safety of your drivers (and others on the road) at risk. 

For this reason, the FMCSA requires commercial vehicle drivers to conduct pre- and post-trip driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs). It’s also why the DOT conducts regular roadside inspections where they evaluate driver and vehicle fitness. While these requirements are meant to ensure drivers and vehicles stay safe, they pose an additional risk to your business; you are depending on drivers to inspect company vehicles properly and report maintenance issues promptly.

How can you ensure your vehicles are maintained properly and meet your safety management standards? Below are a few tips for ensuring vehicle safety, passing inspections, and reducing vehicle downtime.

Tips for maintaining vehicle safety

  1. Switch to electronic DVIRs: The first step to ensuring vehicle safety is knowing as soon as possible when there’s a maintenance issue. If you’re still using paper DVIRs, you might not know for a full day if an unsafe DVIR has been submitted, since there’s often a delay between when the driver completes it and when it reaches your back-office. Electronic DVIRs make it possible to respond to vehicle safety issues in real time. Drivers can submit DVIRs directly from their smartphone, and you can be notified as soon as an unsafe DVIR is submitted so you can immediately take action. Learn more about the benefits of electronic DVIRs.

  2. Create a preventative maintenance schedule based on real-time engine diagnostics: Avoid unnecessary breakdowns by making preventative maintenance more than just a nice-to-have. Create a preventative maintenance schedule for every vehicle based on mileage, days since last service check, previous breakdown history, or all of the above. Ensure that your maintenance team sticks to it by sending out alerts one to two days before a vehicle is due for a visit to the shop. Learn more about how you can create a preventative maintenance schedule based on real-time engine data.

Ensure regulatory compliance

Regulatory compliance is another important focus area for fleet risk management. Failure of a roadside DOT inspection, HOS violations, and other compliance issues can lead to costly fines, suspensions, and audits. Serious violations can even lead to out-of-service designations, which can be damaging for any fleet.

That’s why compliance should be part of your fleet risk management strategy. Here are a few ways to streamline compliance and avoid potentially costly violations.

Tips for staying compliant and avoiding fines

  1. Choose an easy-to-use ELD solution: One of the most commonly cited roadside inspection violations is “unable to perform data transfer,” largely because ELDs are still relatively new for drivers. To avoid violations, choose an ELD solution that’s easy for drivers to use. Look for a user-friendly Driver App, clear interface, and positive app store reviews. If you’re looking to install a new ELD system or replace an old one, check out Samsara’s driver friendly ELD solution and easy-to-use Driver App.

  2. Use AI dash cams to minimize unassigned HOS: In addition to helping improve driver safety, dual-facing dash cams can also help you stay compliant by automatically assigning unassigned HOS. Advanced AI dash cams may offer the option to automatically recognize drivers and assign them to associated driving segments. This helps increase efficiency and minimize potential compliance violations. Learn more about Samsara AI dash cams.

  3. Get real-time visibility into compliance trends across your fleet: Don’t let a DOT audit catch you off-guard. Choose an ELD solution that provides advanced compliance reporting, so you can easily monitor compliance trends across your fleet, track HOS violations, and manage unassigned hours. Learn more about how a consolidated compliance dashboard can help your fleet approach DOT audits with confidence.

Minimize risk with Samsara’s complete fleet management platform

Fleet risk management starts with getting visibility into the safety of your drivers and vehicles—which is why more than 10,000 fleets across the country partner with Samsara. Samsara offers a complete fleet management platform that helps fleets of all sizes improve driver safety, minimize accident liability, maintain vehicle safety, and ensure regulatory compliance.

Samsara’s all-in-one fleet management platform includes:

See how Samsara can help your fleet improve driver safety, minimize accident liability, maintain vehicle safety, and stay compliant. Request a free trial to get started today.

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