Safer Trucking for Future Drivers: Alexis Asks

Managing editor Alexis Mizell-Pleasant asks industry experts about various topics developing in the supply chain. Campaigns like Distracted Driver Awareness Month further the importance of staying focused and alert at all times while behind the wheel.

Adobe Stock 361324625

It's Distracted Driver Awareness Month and it's time to zoom in on safe driving. We know the dangers of distractions— yep, looking at you iphone—but for truck drivers, the stakes are even higher due to the size and weight of their vehicles.

To mitigate risks for truck drivers specifically, it's essential to emphasize comprehensive training on safe driving practices. Education and discussion on data backed topics that give statistical proof on what's happening and when are helpful for drivers to understand the scope of safety concerns.

Recent data from Samsara found that risky driving behaviors are common in weeks leading up to and following holidays. For example, harsh braking was 22% higher the week before Thanksgiving, compared to the week of the holiday. Furthermore, harsh braking was 13% higher in the week after Thanksgiving, compared to Thanksgiving week. When looking at incidents of speeding, as compared to Thanksgiving week, the study found that incidents were 21% higher the week before and incidents were 22% higher the week after.

However, speeding was not uniform across the country, as is the case with harsh braking, where incident rates are more consistent. Many of the states with the highest level of speeding per trip were clustered in the Northeast, including Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware and Maryland, likely a symptom of infrastructure. 

“In fact, one study found that harsh braking is one of the most likely predictors of future crashes. For this reason, any rise in harsh braking is cause for concern, and our data showed higher levels of this behavior surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday,” says Samsara. Understanding the nuances of the road through data like this can indicate a heightened awareness during peak seasons that keep everyone a little bit safer during their travels. 

When it comes to investing in the safety of your drivers now, Val Poltorak is head of U.S. regulated industries at Sterling, says instead of only offering training during orientation or after a violation occurs, developing an ongoing driver training program can help drivers improve their skills over time, retain talent and shows that you're invested in your driver's wellbeing. 

"Initiatives such as the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) Program have helped new drivers explore trucking careers and help trucking companies hire and train new drivers through an apprenticeship pilot program," says Poltorak— and emphasize the safe element to new waves of drivers as they're ushered into a fresh career. 

Additionally, we know that technology tracking systems and AI have to potential to open up new doors for road safety. We see it daily in autonomous monitoring and driving systems in vehicles like Telsa, and now major players in the trucking space are working to optimize the capabilities of trucking autonomy which will likely bring about safety improvements. Gary Johnson, head of market strategy at Motive, says the role of AI and automation is not to displace truck drivers, it’s to make their jobs safer, more efficient and more lucrative.

In conjunction with the technology to support it, creating a company culture that prioritizes safety over speed or deadlines can encourage truck drivers to prioritize their own safe driving habits. Campaigns like Distracted Driver Awareness Month further the importance of staying focused and alert at all times while behind the wheel— truck driver or not.