ASP Safety Fundamentals Exam – Fleet Safety
Common Fleet Safety Acronyms
DOT – Department of Transportation
NHTSA – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
SAE – Society of Automotive Engineers
FMVSS – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
FHA – Federal Highway Administration
BAC – Blood Alcohol Concentration
Each year there are approximately 45,000 motor vehicle related deaths and disabling injuries well in excess of 1,000,000 in the United States alone. In fact, vehicle accidents are the leading cause of occupational injuries and work-related fatalities at 35% and 40% respectively. Many factor contribute to these statistics. Chief among them is driver behaviors, with most vehicle accidents being attributable to some form of human error.
It is estimated that approximately 50% of drivers involved in fatal crashes have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 or more, which was the legal limit in many states before it was lowered to 0.08 nationwide. Studies suggest that some mental and physical impairments of drivers begin at 0.05 BAC or less.
Driving for long periods of time, which is common in many workplaces (especially for commercial drivers) also greatly increases the frequency of vehicle crashes among drivers. When normalized for crashes per hour driven, commercial drivers who drive for 10 hours or more at a time have about double the risk of being involved in a collision than those drivers who are on the road for only a couple hours or less.
Passenger restraints have greatly contributed to lowering injury and fatality rates for those involved in motor vehicle crashes, but yet many individuals still choose to not wear seatbelts.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sets minimum qualifications for commercial drivers in an attempt to control driver behaviors. These qualifications include:
- Drivers must be 21 years of age,
- Meet physical qualifications and have physical exams completed
- Have knowledge of safe methods of securing cargo
- Pass road and written exams
- Maintain a driving record clean of disqualifying offenses (including DWI / DWUI)
Generally speaking, well trained drivers are thought to exhibit safer behaviors than untrained drivers. As a result, many areas require or encourage young drivers to undergo formal driving education prior to obtaining a drivers license.
Vehicle Safety Features
Often, safety features are built into the environment we drive in by governmental entities. These include:
- Signage and Traffic Lights
- Road surfaces (Selection and maintenance) and their design (crowns, etc)
- Lane markers and barriers (medians and guardrails)
- Bridges and other support structures, including those with energy absorbing features
- Lighting, including the use of break-away lights and poles
Additionally, other actors within the environment can impact our safety on the road:
- Time of day
- Natural lighting, including lack of and excessive / glare
- Weather, including its impact on road surfaces
Vehicles often have safety features built in to them, such as:
- Anti-lock brakes
- Air bags, including curtain airbags
- Lighting features that enhance the visibility of the driver or the vehicle to other drivers
- Autonomous driving features, including autonomous braking and the appearance of fully autonomous vehicles
Vehicle inspections should be performed at regular intervals to ensure a vehicle is functioning properly on the roadway. Several protocols for vehicle inspections exist.
States may dictate that all vehicles on the roadway undergo an annual inspection process to ensure proper functioning. Many areas of the country also require that vehicles undergo emissions testing to ensure they are not emitting too many pollutants as a result of internal combustion issues. Trailers and other roadway equipment are often subject to these requirements as well.
It is often up the the discretion of individual drivers how often their vehicles should be inspected in addition to these requirements, and some may choose not to inspect their vehicles at all beyond these annual requirements. Often dealers, service stations, and repair shops will perform a thorough inspection on all vehicles that pass through their shops to identify additional issues that may need to be addressed while a vehicle is in for servicing.
Commercial drivers are subject to more stringent requirements and must provide proof of daily pre-flight inspection checklists when asked by law enforcement officers. These inspections are often detailed inspection processes, but are dependent on drivers accurately and consistently inspecting their equipment.
Crash and Collision Investigation
Following a crash or collision, an investigation is often necessary for criminal or liability purposes. Most often, these investigations are undertaken by local or state law enforcement agencies, although larger scale or unusual events could draw the attention of federal agencies. During the investigation process, the accident may be reconstructed to determine what caused an event. Presently, law enforcement officers typically collect data from an incident scene that is input into a software system that reconstructs the event. This data includes locations and lengths of skid marks, impact points (either on surfaces near the roadway or other vehicles), locations of vehicles or components, and the pavement types and conditions. From this data, the software will calculate (this can be done manually as well) stopping distances, approximate speeds of travel, and forces exerted by the crash.