Unsafe Driving BASICsApril 12, 2012
Traffic fatalities are on the decline, yet unsafe driving habits like speeding still account for roughly ⅓ of those fatalities. As part of its commitment to making America’s roadways safer, the FMCSA is focused on helping motor carriers keep unsafe driving habits out of the cab.
As roadways become more crowded and routes are increasingly squeezed for efficiency, driving a rig can start to feel like a gladiator sport, with hundreds of cars nipping at your heels. But as tempting as it might be to drive aggressively, the payoffs won’t be worth the consequences once you start racking up violations.
The FMCSA holds CMVs to a high level of safe driving. And since these rankings are part of a carrier’s public safety ranking, they can be a factor in which carrier a shipper chooses, or they may play a role if a crash victim tries to show a pattern of unsafe driving by a specific carrier. As part of our look at the FMCSA’s 7 BASICs, we’re turning our attention this time to the FMCSA’s efforts to crack down on unsafe driving.
Not safe for work
The FMCSA defines unsafe driving as “the operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by drivers in a dangerous or careless manner,” which basically covers any law, ordinance, or regulation (including rules governing the transport of hazardous materials) in any area the driver is located. Some of the areas monitored are:
● reckless driving
● improper lane change
● other unsafe driving behavior
Violations in any of these areas will affect the carrier’s percentile ranking, which is the overall score assigned and accessible on the FMCSA’s SMS website. And it looks like texting and cell phone use while driving rank right at the top of the banned list. Violations are assigned points on a scale from 1 to 10 (low to high), and texting, cell phones, and reckless driving all receive 10s. Other violations are ranked based on the likelihood of crash risk, with seat belt violations netting a 1 and “following too closely” garnering a 5.
Eliminating traffic violations before they occur
Unsafe driving might seem like something that can only be seen after-the-fact, but with a technology solution like Xata Turnpike in place, motor carriers can monitor their drivers and driving habits, identifying drivers who repeatedly speed and brake hard in traffic. By monitoring a driver’s speed, for instance, and simply posting the results in the company break room, a fleet manager can see measurable improvements overnight. And by proactively dealing with these issues, motor carriers can avoid the negative effect of unsafe driving on their overall ranking.
Motor carriers should remember that safety violations will diminish in significance as they age, so a recent safe driving record will do more to improve your safety ranking than anything else. Beyond that, educating your drivers and monitoring driving patterns will ensure that unsafe driving isn’t the cause of any accidents that may occur on the road.
Keeping an eye on your score
In our previous post on the vehicle maintenance BASIC, we focused on how a motor carrier can monitor their ranking on the FMCSA’s SMS website. The website gives motor carriers an opportunity to review their safety performance and challenge any citations they believe to be errors. If you have legitimate challenges, you can file a DataQ with the FMCSA. For example, fleet managers can use data provided by Xata to show a driver in compliance of speed limits if the driver feels they were slighted by an unfair citation of speeding.
Stay tuned as we look next at fatigued driving and hours-of-service.