Wellness, driver assist technology, telematics, cannabis and more
By Mark Boada, Executive Editor
A record crowd of 215 fleet professionals gathered to hear the latest on a wide range of approaches to improved fleet safety at the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety’s 2019 Strength in Numbers Annual Benchmark Conference, held on October 10 and 11 in Arlington, Virginia.
Driver wellness was the topic presented by one of the conference’s keynote speakers, Sergio Rojas, a corporate health consultant and the former executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Rojas cited studies that show that:
- Driving more than two hours a day is correlated with an inactive lifestyle, poor sleep, poor mental and physical health, obesity, and smoking.
- Sitting in a vehicle for more than 10 hours per week increases your chance of dying from cardiovascular disease by 64%, and 23 hours per week of combined car and watching television ups the chance by 82%.
- Sleeping between five and six hours a day instead of seven nearly doubles a driver’s chance of crashing and sleeping less than five hours increases the odds by four to more than 11 times.
“We know from dozens of research studies that the more you sit, the more increased risk you have for significant illnesses,” Rojas said. “When you have unhealthy drivers and add in distractions, we have the perfect storm: more crashes, increased costs for the repair and replacement of equipment and higher legal costs.”
Rojas said the answer is for fleets to enroll fleet drivers in long-term, coached wellness programs that encourage them to eat healthier foods, increase their physical activity, better manage stress, and get more and more restful sleep.
Successful wellness program
As proof that such programs work, he described the benefits that a top 100 trucking fleet experienced after three years of a program he helped create. Among the more than 500 drivers it worked with, he said 92% have shown major health improvement, the turnover rate has dropped by 24%, and their crash rate per million miles driven has declined 15%.
Rojas’ message was reinforced by the results of organization’s 2018 benchmarking study, revealed at the conference, which showed for at least the second year in a row that, among all safety practices, fleet programs that help drivers reduce their fatigue have the greatest impact on reducing crashes and injuries.
Other conference highlights included:
- Keynote addresses by Bruce Landsberg, Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board about what it sees as the major traffic safety challenges and future solutions; and by Faye Caldwell, a Houston-based attorney on the tangled web of federal and state laws regarding employee use of use of medically-approved and recreational cannabis.
- A presentation by Dr. David Harkey, President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute that showed that forward crash avoidance systems with automated emergency braking are the most effective advanced driver assist technology in preventing collisions and decreasing crash injuries and property damage. Meanwhile, he said that vehicles equipped with lane departure warning systems have seen an increase in collisions and injuries, in part because many drivers turn the systems off.
- A panel discussion by executives from Volvo, Toyota and General Motors about their on-going development of advanced driver assist technology.
- A presentation by The CEI Group and a client fleet that witnessed a 33% reduction in preventable rear-end collisions after the two companies collaborated to create a customized online safety module that focused on the problem and featured several senior company executives.
- A joint presentation by eDriving and a client fleet that experienced a 30% reduction in the collision rate among drivers in a six-month, 500-driver pilot program that deployed eDriving’s “Mentor” smart phone telematics and driver coaching safety system. The fleet used eDriving’s Virtual Risk Manager to identify their highest-risk drivers by combining each driver’s incident, collision, license violation, and telematics performance data. The pilot also validated the importance of manager coaching with their high-risk drivers.
- Case studies about two fleets that have experienced “high single-digit” to 12% improvements in fuel efficiency and a reduction in fleet crashes, one by using Geotab’s telematics system and the other by using Derive Systems’ computerized engine management technology.
- Presentations by two leading multi-national organizations outlining the process by which their companies instituted a complete ban on cell phone use while driving.
- A panel led by Smith System about the value of behind-the-wheel training.
- Concurrent sessions on heavy goods vehicle safety, best approaches to driver safety recognition, and methods used to engage senior corporate leaders in road safety programs.
- Formal sector meetings affording best practice exchange and networking for fleet safety professionals across the pharmaceutical, utility, insurance and agriculture industries.
NETS is a collaborative group of employer road safety professionals whose objective is to advance road safety for employees, their family members and members of the communities where they live and work. Members help one another improve road safety and reduce losses through fleet safety benchmarking and sharing proven, best practice approaches. NETS membership includes global traffic safety leaders across private industry and government, whose fleets range from fewer than 100 vehicles to those with more than 50,000.