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

Safety has direct financial benefits. When a crash occurs, a load is missed. Miss a pour and the job is delayed. When a skilled worker is lost for a short time due to a minor injury, you are short-handed. When the injury is more serious or fatal, you must replace the worker.

In over-the-road trucking, replacing a driver costs $4000 to $6000. Considering the skills involved in operating a ready-mix truck pump, or dump truck, the direct and indirect costs to hire and train are far higher. For every $100,000 of accident costs, a company making a 5% profit margin must generate an extra $2 million in additional revenue to cover those costs. That's why many trucking companies have separate safety and compliance departments and conduct regular driver safety training.

Seat belts save lives

The beginning point in almost every safety program is the use of seat belts.

To help fleet managers stress the importance of seat belts, Volvo has created a dramatic video which shows trucks with test dummies inside the cab, one in each seat. The trucks had high-speed cameras fixed in front and were rolled down a hill. The unbelted dummies bounced inside and were ejected. To even the greatest skeptic, it's obvious that humans would not have survived.

When the dummies were restrained with three-point belts, they stayed within the safety cage of the cab. Humans would have been injured but would have survived.

That supports statements from every safety group around the world: Seat belts save lives.

FMCSA found that “a significant proportion (up to 60%) of fatal truck crashes is associated with rollovers,” with ejections occurring in about 35% of fatal truck crashes. We do not need to examine the dynamics of each crash to agree on the effectiveness of seat belts. The study found that one-half of drivers ejected from cabs and 35% of those pinned inside were killed. But only 7% of those wearing seat belts were killed.

Despite the facts, many drivers still resist using restraints. While general use is about 80%, only 48% of truck drivers used seat belts in 2005, FMCSA reports. This improved to 59% in '06. The seat belt usage rate for all medium and heavy trucks and buses was 65% in '07, according to DriveCam, a company that records and tracks driver safety behavior.

Increasing seat belt use

How can fleet mangers increase seat belt use? First, hold safety meetings. Emphasize the benefits of using seat belts. Ask those who don't why they don't. Typical answers are that a large truck offers enough protection, that good drivers don't need them, and that they prevent escape. Research has debunked each of these.

When the truck stops, an unrestrained driver keeps going until he or she strikes something. Large cabs provide more surfaces for an unrestrained driver to strike. Good drivers wouldn't need belts if all the drivers on the road were also good.