ON THE ROAD TO SAFE DRIVING: 6 STEPS YOU CAN’T SKIP
Be it vehicles in a driver’s blind spot, cyclists wheeling by at a fast clip or a tie-down flapping loose on the highway – driving a truck can be stressful at the best of times.
Whether you operate just one truck or many, safe driving starts well before your driver gets into the cabin. It begins with how truck owners and transport operators set up their fleet, and the driving culture that evolves as a result.
In this post we take a look at six factors you can control to make your transport business run as safely as possible and keep downtime to a minimum.
1. Maintain your vehicle
Savvy transport operators know to build regular vehicle service checks into their business operations – but what about making sure there’s a system in place for the early detection of a parts failure or breakdown in between scheduled maintenance?
To avoid unknowingly operating vehicles with blown headlights, unsafe tyres or spongy brakes, urge your drivers to perform regular pre-departure checks. Incorporate an inspection checklist for maximum efficiency.
The inspection checklist could include any of the following:
- fluids (oil, diesel, coolant etc)
- mirrors, windscreen, side mirrors
- in between the back tyres on dual wheel trucks
- reflector lights and number plates – make sure they’re clean
- lights and indicators
Communicate your expectations on the duration and frequency of these inspections, and allow your drivers the time to undertake it properly. Jammimg a detailed inspection into an already hectic schedule is only going to annoy your staff. Make it easy for them.
2. Create a safe-driving policy
Does your business have a safe driving policy? If so, do drivers know about it and can they access the information readily?
A good policy and procedures document keeps your drivers informed on a range of safety issues, both occupational and legal.
3. All roads lead to driver education
As the boss, your role doesn’t end with hiring the best driver for the job.
National law, industry requirements and technology are constantly driving changes in the transport industry. Consequently, the skills and training of your drivers need to keep pace.
For instance, does one of your drivers need to upskill to drive a heavier class of vehicle? Does another need to unlearn some bad driving habits? Do you need a member of staff to become a representative for safe work practices on the shopfloor?
There is no shortage of educational tools, kits, materials and courses available from industry associations and safety watchdogs. There are also plenty of online tests, quizzes and courses for testing general truck driving, fatigue management and road rules knowledge.
Driving schools offer safe, low-risk and defensive driving courses. Some training organisations even incorporate simulators, which use predetermined scenarios to help train drivers to handle road conditions.
If your fleet has telematics technology installed, consider interpreting the data to analyse driver performance and to provide timely feedback. Businesses with telematics could even consider using the technology to frame performance-based incentives for drivers.
4. Plan your route
Media images of a truck stuck under a rail bridge never fail to raise a giggle, but there’s very little to laugh about. The cost of damage to the truck and infrastructure, suspension of registration, penalties and even injury adds up very quickly.
Plan the route in advance to make sure your truck won’t exceed the posted mass or dimension limit on any road, bridge or structure you driver will be travelling on.
Remind your driving team to stay alert for notices and warning signs on the road. Other clearance hazards to watch out for include overhead wires (including tram, electricity and telecommunications wires) and tree branches growing out over the roads.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NVHR) provides an online interactive Journey Planner which displays approved routes for heavy vehicles. As well, state road authorities will be able to provide map services to help with route planning, and height clearance information for structures and roads.
5. Beat fatigue
When it comes to driving a truck, fatigue is everyone’s business.
Fatigue crashes are twice as likely to be fatal compared to other crashes, and a fatigued driver is six times more likely to die in a crash than any other driver, according to the NSW government.
Importantly though, even before drivers get behind the wheel, transport operators need to have in place manageable schedules with enough breaks for drivers to rest, rehydrate and eat.
6. Ask your drivers
No-one knows more about driving a truck than the professionals who do it every day of the week. Some of the best suggestions will come from your own employees. Use that resource. You’ll end up with a more engaged team and you might just unearth some ideas you hadn’t considered.