Accidents on the road and in the warehouse can cause serious bodily injuries—even death. The truth is that a significantly high percentage of accidents need never happen, as they are absolutely preventable. This section will examine accidents common in the trucking and warehouse arenas and how to prevent these costly accidents through common-sense and practical safety training programs and practices.
On The Road Again
Trucking companies take safety seriously. They are, ultimately, responsible for the safety of their drivers and of the public at large. Safety-mindedness begins the moment a truck driver clocks in, says Gary Petty, president and CEO of Arlington, VA-based National Private Truck Council (NPTC). “Safety on the road can even include a truck driver’s conduct when he is off his shift and in his private vehicle. If he is involved in an accident during these times, it could have serious implications for his continued employment with his employer.”
Causes: Even the most experienced driver is not immune to accidents. “Research has demonstrated that experienced drivers who are good at their jobs have two common flaws,” says George Mundell, executive vice president for NPTC. The first is overestimating distance from a vehicle in front of them, and the second is underestimating speed, either of which can lead to a catastrophic accident. “They get so good at operating their trucks that they sometimes push the envelope in these two areas, especially when they are on the same run every day which can lead to complacency.”
Lane changes have consistently ranked among the top reasons for truck accidents—either by the motorist or by the truck driver, reports Susan Chandler, executive director of the Safety Management Council for the American Trucking Association in Arlington, VA. “Studies conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate that the majority of accidents are due to human factors such as everyday distractions or because one of the drivers is not fully focused,” she says. “For professional drivers, studies suggest that most accidents happen within a four-hour window after the driver has left the terminal. So we find that safety programs focus on developing a culture of safety, which includes teaching drivers to leave all other thoughts behind once they get behind the wheel and assume their role as professional drivers. This message is reinforced again and again in safety training programs.”
Driver inattention is another major cause of accidents, notes Mundell. “Simply reaching down to pick up a water bottle that fell to the floor can distract a driver.”
A driver’s health can also affect the potential for an accident. Research concludes that a driver’s body mass index (BMI) can lead to sleep apnea. “A driver with a BMI of 35 or greater is likely to suffer from sleep apnea,” Petty says. “If this condition is left untreated, he could experience micro bursts of sleep while driving which can lead to an accident.” Some companies have implemented voluntary sleep apnea mitigation programs for their drivers. “Although we haven’t yet reached a point to where we mandate that a driver has to be in this kind of program as a qualification for employment, it may come to this because of the seriousness of this condition.”
Prevention: Training, training, training is what companies must implement to prevent accidents, notes Dr. Tony Vercillo, president and CEO of International Fleet Management Consultants in Las Vegas. “Statistics show that 80 percent of all accidents are due to human error and they are preventable through proper training.” The cost of an accident is three to four times greater than the cost of fixing a truck involved in an accident because of the administration surrounding the accident report, the supervisor’s report, and getting the adjuster involved, he reports. “All of these things increase the cost, which many fleets underestimate because they focus on the fact that nobody got hurt.”