One More Reason to Drive Safely
In the trucking industry, safety isn’t just about saving lives; it’s
also about saving money.
One large motor carrier runs such a rigorous training program that half of
its trainees wash out before they can get through it. Why would a carrier chase
off half of its recruits? Because it makes good business sense to pay up front
for extensive training and wind up with a better caliber of driver than to hustle
trainees through a minimal program and hope they avoid prob lems down the road.
Here’s the fleet’s philosophy toward training:
- It’s cheaper to retrain an existing driver than to fire him and hire
a new one. A new hire can cost up to $7,000. • Classroom training is
a poor substitute for on-the-road driving.
- Experienced drivers benefit more from finishing programs than novice drivers.
The fleet’s experienced drivers who under- went training had 35 percent
fewer accidents, with the average cost per acci- dent dropping 50 percent.
Accidents involving big rigs can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions
- The training resulted in a 4.7 percent sav- ings in fuel in one year. That
translated into a $3 million savings in fuel.
- Simulators—sophisticated training tools— are effective in exposing
bad driving habits. Through the use of simulators, the fleet discovered that
rather than speeding, dangerous drivers more often tended to drive too fast
for conditions. They also tended to stand on the brakes, crank the wheel in
an emergency and shift lanes without checking mirrors.
John Van Steenburg, a major with the New York State Police and a former president
of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, says that current data suggests that
driver error—not faulty equipment or bad weather—was a contributing
factor in the majority of fatal and serious injury crashes. Van Steenburg cites
New York data that show that 35 percent of large truck crashes occur at intersec-
tions that have a stop sign or traffic light.
While Van Steenburg supports the Depart-ment of Transportation’s vehicle
inspection program, he maintains that beefed up traffic enforcement is the key
for the DOT to meet its goal of reducing truck-related fatalities by 50 percent.
“I believe we are missing the picture,” Van Steenburg says. “We
need to leverage the resources of all law enforcement not for inspections, but
to enforce the rules of the road against the commercial vehicle operator who’s
violating traffic laws and operators of passenger cars who drive recklessly
Along those same lines, an official with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration says the agency will devote more resources to checking drivers
and fewer toward inspecting trucks, pending the results of the agency’s
ongoing study to determine whether drivers—not unsafe vehicles—are
cause of truck crashes.
Sources: DOT, Roemer Report FMCSA