Heavy vehicles and stress don’t mix but it’s a packaged deal for many drivers. They can face a range of pressures, and it’s easy to fall into bad habits and convenient shortcuts. But when the stakes are so high, it’s up to the operator, fleet managers and back-office staff to ensure that they don’t go unchecked.
Whether it’s to ease the mental strain or getting sluggish after hours on the roads, bad habits can creep up. The trick is to not only recognise them, but figure why it’s happening and what you can do about it.
Bad Habits that are Hard to Break
Here are just some of the problems you need to keep at the front of mind:
- Skipping or Delaying Breaks
Taking on some extra hours or skipping a rest break is the junk food of the heavy vehicle driver. They know it’s bad but tell themselves it’s okay every now and then. Some drivers even feel like they have no choice but to bend the rules to meet the demands of the schedule. But not only is it breaking the law, poor fatigue management is dangerous. The National Transport Insurance (NTI) reports that fatigue-related incidents are at an all-time high, accounting for 12.2 per cent of all vehicle crashes in the last year. The body needs sleep and it’s going to get it one way or another. It’s up to you to take every step to stop it happening behind the wheel.
Life in the fast lane might get the job done quickly, but that’s only if you live through it. Speeding is one of the leading cause of traffic accidents and fatalities, with an estimated 1300 deaths per year across Australia. Going a few dials above the speed limit might not seem like a big deal, especially if other vehicles around you are also speeding. Those few kilometres over the limit can make or break lives, especially considering the safe breaking distances of a truck is a lot longer when carting an enormous payload. The faster you go, the harder it is to make quick decisions in an emergency. While managing routes, tracking deliveries and maintaining paperwork, it’s can be easy to unconsciously follow the traffic. A bit of proactive speed management goes a long way.
- One-Handed Driving
The golden rule of the wheel to keep your hands at 9 and 3 o’clock, but it’s easier said than done. Whether it’s eating on the go, fiddling with the dashboard cradle or just because it feels more natural. It’s a guilty pleasure. Reaction times of one-handed drivers are much slower while also not being in complete control, so are less likely to avoid collisions.
- Driving in bad weather
As far as customers are concerned, deliveries should happen rain, hail or shine. Feeling unable to refuse jobs and going out in dangerous conditions means deliveries are completed at a greater risk. Rain, wind, fog, ice and darkness disrupt visibility and disturb the engineered balance of the vehicle, with the driver often left fighting at the wheel. It can make road conditions considerably unsafe and causes potential damage to the driver and the vehicle.
The Impacts of the Juggling Act
From ensuring compliance to meeting schedules, there are a host of demands on truck drivers. Smart fleet managers know that they need to act to ensure that bad habits don’t become an ingrained part of the job. Not only do they create a negative working environment, but they pose unnecessary risks for employees, road users and your business. The trick is stop them in their tracks to ensure safety, compliancy and ease of operation.
Be Their Partner on the Road
When you make it easier for drivers to do their job, stress becomes a thing of the past. The most effective way to do this is to make their day-to-day accessible, easily manageable and seamlessly integrated into their workflow.
Providing the tools to automate previously manual processes, such as fatigue management or route adherence, it can easily free drivers from administration work that they don’t enjoy doing. Paperwork will soon be a distant memory that ate into productivity. It also means that you have the real-time visibility to identify issues such as break-skipping or speeding before they create problems.
It’s also important that your drivers have technology on hand that provides a means of communication, even in remote areas, so that they can let you know about problems on the road such as bad weather.
While fleet management system can play an integral role in helping operators identify bad habits, some habits require a more hands on approach. The worst habits aren’t usually on purpose. However, by addressing problematic behaviour and making a driver’s life easier, you can replace the bad habits and stigma with positive reinforcement and a safer workplace.