Safety first! Always kick the tires (and check brakes, lights, etc.)

In my former life with the State of New Mexico’s Motor Transportation Police, I was always shocked by the number of commercial drivers who didn’t make time to do proper pre-trip inspections before getting on the road. Part of this oversight is an inherent trust drivers seem to have in their truck operating well on their last run or with the driver that drove the truck last. The other part was simple math – the less time spent outside of the truck, the more time on the road. Unfortunately, these pre- and post-trip inspections, also known as “kicking the tires,” is the easiest action operators and drivers can take to protect themselves and others.

As part of the compliance team at Zonar, I still work closely with commercial drivers and organizations, so I understand the pressures and constraints they’re burdened with. I always try to impress upon anyone I meet that it is too easy for people in the industry, especially ones with decades of experience, to forgo standard vehicle checks because they know how things work so well.

Understandable as this inclination is, it’s no excuse. Trucking is not an industry that accommodates shortcuts. Too much money is at stake, and even one mistake can place lives at risk. Keeping everyone on the road safe, and making sure no time or money is wasted, still requires kicking the tires – avoiding complacency, regardless of the number of years you’ve spent in the industry.

Here are three ways to help drivers and fleets avoid complacency:

Keep up with regulation changes: You didn’t need me to tell you the final deadline for ELD (electronic logging device) adoption has passed, right? Nor should you need me to remind you about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s new Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse regulations, which will require employers to check the Clearinghouse for drug and alcohol violations before allowing any current and prospective employees to drive on public roads, kicked in on Jan. 6, 2020, or that all State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) need to implement them by Jan. 6, 2023, or about the FMCSA’s proposed Hours of Service (HOS) changes. Drivers and fleet managers alike should ensure they’re on the email list for at least one fleet publication or governing organization, helping them keep up with the latest industry news and regulations. 

Invest in training: While it’s hardly news that many fleets waited until the last possible moment to switch to ELDs, there’s a reason the FMCSA gave fleets so much time to adopt them –training drivers to use the technology takes time. Too many fleets have chosen their ELD providers without conducting thorough research, leading to complaints about diagnostic issues and hardware malfunctions. The solution is not for the industry to become frustrated with laggards, but for independent drivers and fleet managers to ensure they’ve prepared with the appropriate training. Make sure that when you invest in new technology, your vendor will help you develop and implement a training curriculum that makes sense for your teams and addresses your concerns. A good vendor will act as a partner, not just a provider. You may even consider gamifying training by creating friendly competition and rewards that will inspire people to attend the most safety workshops or complete training sessions. 

Take advantage of technology: Yes, kicking your vehicle’s tires is important, but choosing solutions that support your drivers and teams can go a long way to improve safety and increase efficiencies. Find solutions that can make pre- and post-trip inspections faster and easier for your operators and can do double duty, like measuring a vehicle’s health and finding business insights that help leaders and people on the road make smarter decisions in real-time, based on data. After all, technology is only there to support and supplement the humans behind the wheel.

It’s easy for experts in any field, but especially trucking, to fall into complacency, but keeping up to date on the industry and doing proper inspections have always been a necessary component of the industry for a reason – mistakes can be life-threatening. Last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 885 large truck occupants died – that’s an increase of almost 1% over 2017 and the highest number of deaths in a single year since 1988.

Education, training, and digital inspections represent the best chance today’s drivers have to ensure their vehicles are safe and ready to be on the road before actually getting behind the wheel.

This article was originally posted by American Trucker.