By Mark Boada, Senior Editor
As the newest member of the Fleet Management Weekly editorial team, it was a great privilege and pleasure to attend one of the finest fleet conferences I’ve been to — the 2017 Network of Employers for Traffic Safety Strength In Numbers Annual Fleet Safety Benchmark Conference last month in Charlottesville, Virginia. And while that complete title is a mouthful for a two-day conference, it fully lived up to, if not exceeded, my expectations.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the organization – “NETS” for short – is in its own words “an employer-led public/private partnership dedicated to improving the safety and health of employees, their families and members of the communities in which they live and work by preventing traffic crashes that occur both on and off the job.”
Founded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1989, the annual gathering in Charlottesville was its 9th and, by all measures, its most well-attended, with total attendees numbering 193, according to Joe McKillips, NETS’ executive director. Attendees included fleet and fleet safety professionals, fleet safety suppliers, and private and government safety organizations.
For me, there were two major highlights of the event. The first was a trip to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Vehicle Research Center in nearby Ruckersville, Virginia, to witness a crash test and get behind the wheel of vehicles equipped with some of the latest driver assist and crash prevention systems.
The second was a presentation on NETS’ latest annual benchmarking report, a compendium of fleet traffic safety statistics and summary of best practices, based on a survey, this year, of 71 member fleets that operate in 142 countries. The report – available to members only — includes data on a fleet, industry and country basis for accidents and injuries, while keeping the identity of fleets anonymous.
What I found among the most powerful findings of the report was the relationship between fleet crash rates and the strength of a fleet’s policy and practices regarding the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel, the use of in-vehicle driver monitoring devices and whether fleets have a fatigue-prevention program and how strong they are.
While these were the conference hallmarks for me, that’s not to say the rest of the program wasn’t powerful. There were highly informative panels and presentations on a number of topics, including autonomous vehicles, the science of distraction, creating an effective safety culture, the alarming increase in impaired driving, and case studies of effective fleet safety programs in action, both in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Joe McKillips reported that NETS membership is increasing, and the conference was great evidence for why: it offers granular insights that fleet managers should find invaluable. If you’re in fleet — whether fleet management, safety, risk or procurement, you should seriously consider becoming a member of NETS. For more information about the organization, visit www.trafficsafety.org.