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Wearing a seat belt can save a life or prevent serious injury in a rollover accident.

To become a skilled delivery professional in the ready-mix business, a person must first be a qualified truck driver. When you're delivering a time-sensitive product, drivers must arrive on time, and then quickly and safely discharge a quality product. Then they make the return trip for another load.

A fleet is comprised of more than ready-mix trucks. Fleet managers rely on maintenance personnel driving field service trucks and, of course, foremen, supervisors, and managers who must navigate the highways going from job to job. What would you lose if you suddenly had to replace any of them?

That's when safety enters the picture. Fleet safety has always been a critical part of all vehicle operations. But in the last few years, there have been some very interesting developments in tools, equipment, and management software/training directed at fleets.

In the next few issues, we'll examine many aspects of vehicle safety, starting with a look at crashes and how drivers can protect themselves when they occur. In the months ahead, we'll examine the role of electronics in safety technologies.

Finally, we'll look at the driver, including how new technologies affect the task of driving and how drivers react to them and accept them.

Driver and vehicle safety are more than just personnel issues. Effective programs can impact profitability. Some benefits go directly to the bottom line, as many producers are self-insured. For smaller producers, successful safety programs can help keep insurance premiums at reasonable levels.

The financial toll

A failed safety program is expensive. Here are some facts and figures you can use to evaluate the impact of crashes–or crashes avoided–on your bottom line.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published “Unit Costs of Medium/Heavy Truck Crashes” in 2007. The study examined crashes involving commercial vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight with data compiled over five years. The average cost of all crashes, adjusted to 2005 dollars, was $91,112.

Property damage-only crashes had, on average, associated direct costs totaling $11,299. When non-fatal injuries were involved, the cost per crash was $195,258. Each fatal crash averaged more than $3.6 million.

In the ready-mixed business, the loss of product can often escalate these costs.