How to Improve Safety for CDL Drivers as Post-Pandemic Traffic Heats Up

We’re always searching for new ways to improve safety for CDL drivers. But it’s never been more challenging to do so, as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and more Americans return to the roads.

More motorists could lead to more serious accidents, right? Well, what we experienced in 2020 is even more alarming. According to the National Safety Council, Americans drove 13% fewer miles in 2020 — yet motor vehicle deaths were up 8%, the highest percentage in 13 years. Another study, from the 2021 Travelers Risk Index, reveals that significantly more motorists are texting, checking social media, taking photos and even shopping online than they were prior to the pandemic.

We can live in fear that those same overconfident, distracted motorists are going to cause even more havoc on busier roads. Or we can do something about it. We can give truck drivers what they want. We can be proactive. We can become better drivers ourselves. And, we can offer our CDL drivers more support, including:

Training

Truck drivers may not remember everything they learned during the CDL certification process. They may also develop bad habits after months, years and even decades on the road. That’s why reputable trucking firms conduct annual (or even quarterly) training for new and current drivers. It’s important to go over the basics and share new trends, technologies and techniques, so drivers have the best chance to avoid collisions that could jeopardize their careers, or even their lives.

Smart Cameras

Many trucks have had forward-facing cameras recording everyday driving interactions for years. Now, it’s time for every truck to use them. They’re a critically important training tool. We’re alerted when a truck deviates outside pre-assigned parameters, such as following distance, braking speed, lane changes and more.

Smart cameras help us improve training opportunities for drivers. Plus, with the rash of accidents caused by distracted driving, we want to protect our drivers (and ourselves) against litigious claims. We have confidence in our highly trained drivers, so an always-on camera will help exonerate them in many cases.

Standard Safety Features

The best trucking companies invest in their drivers’ safety, outfitting rigs with a wide range of standard safety features. Manufacturers like Volvo have pushed safety innovation forward with front avoidance collision systems, blindspot maneuvering alerts, advanced disc brakes and more. In fact, U.S. auto safety regulators are expected to push for standardized emergency braking systems this year on all new heavy-duty trucks.

No amount of technology can entirely protect drivers against the most egregious poor or distracted motorists, but they can help reduce accidents significantly simply by adding another proactive element to the mix. The safest way to drive is to combine the skill of a knowledgeable, alert driver with advanced technologies designed to offset the poor driving of others.

Preparation

A daily safety brief can be used to connect with drivers and inform them of potential hazards, including road closures, inclement weather and other issues. Good dispatchers will continue to monitor conditions, so they can offer updates, insights and tips throughout the day to help drivers save time and reduce risks.

A pre-site inspection is standard. But it’s only helpful if it’s taken seriously by everybody involved. From checking belts and air pressure to electronic logs and fluids, companies need to stress the importance of proactive maintenance.

Freedom

Some drivers consider safety measures to be too restrictive or overwhelming. They want more input on decisions. Well, the best trucking companies grant them that freedom. Drivers must be confident on the road. If they’re unsure about anything, let them voice their opinion or even get off the road. If you hired smart, talented drivers, they want to do what’s best for themselves and for the company. Trust them to do so.

Safety is the bottom line.

Freight can’t be delivered on time if a driver is on the shoulder filing out an incident report. Give them the tools they need to reduce risks. Make safety more than a buzzword — make it what you do. What you teach. Who you are. Your drivers will be happier. They’ll be more productive. And that will help you be more profitable.

Dan Banner, Director of Safety, AMX

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