Preventing accidents and ensuring safety on the road are critical for transportation and trucking companies. This includes providing drivers with safe equipment, teaching them how to operate it safely, and reinforcing safe driver behaviors. What the driver does behind the wheel impacts everyone on the road. From 1980-2017, the number of large truck-involved fatal crashes has declined by 16%. This is a promising statistic that has been made possible in part due to increased driver training and additional safety measures mandated by government agencies and individual transportation and trucking companies alike.
Keeping the wheels of the truck turning is critical to the supply chain and providing for consumers. The safety of the drivers who are picking up the cargo and making the deliveries on the road continues to be a top priority of everyone in the trucking industry. There are several factors that when addressed can increase safety in trucking. These factors are crucial in ensuring the industry, the drivers, and those who share the road with them remain safe.
One of the most significant factors that impact safety is driver fatigue. Long hours on the road, irregular sleeping schedules, and the pressure to make tighter delivery schedules can cause a driver to become tired and therefore less alert. This can result in a higher probability that accidents and injuries might occur, not to mention the increased risk of a driver falling asleep at the wheel.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, research has suggested that truck driver fatigue is a contributing factor in 30 to 40% of all heavy truck accidents. To combat fatigue, and reduce the opportunity for accidents, safety leaders at trucking companies must encourage their drivers to take not only the mandated breaks during their driving shifts but also to get adequate rest and provide their drivers with regular home time.
The best-performing trucking companies, with respect to safety, are making additional investments in technology to ensure the safety of their drivers and those they share the road with. Driver monitoring systems such as rear-facing in-cab cameras can help detect signs of driver fatigue and alert drivers when they should consider taking a break from driving. Collision mitigation technologies that warn of blind spots, lane departures, electronic stability control, and forward collision warning with automatic brake application assist the driver in making driving decisions and add an extra layer of safety to the driving operation.
As a truckload carrier with more than 350 assets under ownership, Sonwil has made the decision to make a significant investment in technology that will improve the safety of our drivers and the equipment they operate. All Sonwil tractors are 2019 or newer, have both forward-facing and rear-facing cameras, and are equipped with telematics which shows speed and braking that can be accessed onboard and remotely, as well as collision mitigation technologies that help the driver make better decisions and prevent accidents. At Sonwil, safety is job one, and neither the drivers nor professional staff considers there to be an alternative.
Another key factor that impacts truck driver and fleet safety is the age and condition of the vehicle. It is crucial for trucking companies who espouse a safety-first mentality to keep their fleets in excellent operating condition, perform preventative maintenance, and ensure their trucks are safe to operate on public roadways. Daily pre-trip vehicle inspections by the driver and regular maintenance by certified professionals help to identify safety issues that need to be addressed before they become driving hazards.
When it comes to the safety of the equipment Sonwil operates, there is zero tolerance for defects that puts the safety of the driver or those sharing the road around them at risk. As a standard operating procedure, every driver conducts a multipoint inspection of their equipment; for tractors, it occurs pre-trip as they prepare to climb into the driver seat, and for trailers, after the trailer is coupled to the tractor before it is pulled. Periodic inspections are done each time the driver stops en route to ensure that any issue that might impact the safe operation of the equipment is identified and corrected prior to going out on the road.
Each of Sonwil’s tractors is equipped with advanced telematics that allows for tractor performance to be uploaded to proprietary maintenance software in real-time, often identifying a potential mechanical or safety incident before it occurs. This allows Sonwil to be proactive in addressing safety throughout its fleet.
Earning a CDL and gaining on-the-road experience is just the first step in becoming a professional truck driver. Ongoing training helps drivers not only become aware of the safest best practices but also learn how to be more efficient in their role and puts them on a path to success in a very demanding profession. The trucking industry is constantly changing. New rules and regulations are being added and changing frequently, evolving technology that increases safety is being introduced at a rapid pace, and upgraded equipment is being released to the market regularly. Each of these new introductions requires the driver to be trained in the changes and improvements. Not doing so could eliminate the safety advantage altogether.
Annually, the trucking industry invests at least $10 billion in driver safety. Making training accessible over the road helps drivers succeed in their jobs long-term and improves safety scores for a company’s entire fleet. A fleet that prioritizes both safety and training is one that drivers respect and reflect the importance they place on their driver’s safety and professional development.
Sonwil has developed a driver training and development pathway that goes beyond driver orientation and includes ongoing mentoring, additional learning throughout the lifetime of the driver’s employment with the company, and frequent knowledge and skill testing. For example, safety team members deliver ad hoc tests to the drivers and based on the result either document their pass or refer them to a driver mentor for additional coaching. The testing is meant to replicate real-life scenarios that a driver might encounter at a pickup or delivery, en route or at a roadside stop by law enforcement.
Keeping Trucking Safe
When on duty and driving, professional truck drivers are the captain of their ship; one that can weigh more than 100,000 lbs. and go down the highway at speeds exceeding 60 mph. As the primary operator of a vehicle has the potential to be involved in incidents which can become fatal for themselves and others around them.
Even though fatalities in trucking are on the decrease: from 2019-2020, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes decreased 4% from 5033 to 4842. A single fatality is too many. The goal for the industry should be the elimination of fatalities and injuries altogether.
Adhering to regulations, offering drivers frequent breaks, mandating rest, improving preventative technologies, keeping equipment in optimal condition, and offering a robust training program are all factors that will drive the industry closer to its safety goals.
Safety First. Always Safe. Safety Saves Lives.
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