There has been a lot of talk recently about how providing your team with easy-to-use, dependable safety technology has become a major factor in recruiting and retaining top drivers. I think it’s time to explore this a bit more.

Currently, there are an estimated 1.2 million trucking companies in the U.S. alone. More importantly, analysis by the ATA says that there is currently a shortage of 48,000 drivers and that the shortage could grow to 175,000 by the year 2024.

It’s expensive to recruit new road-based personnel, especially those that can be counted upon to drive safely and to take care of customers and equipment. With the growing shortage, that puts these employees in the driver’s seat both literally and figuratively when it comes to choosing where they work. So, how can carriers stand out to make sure that they are on the radar for these new hires?

There is a new generation of younger drivers coming into the workforce today who will fill positions as baby boomers and older drivers begin to retire. These younger drivers expect safety technology to protect and assist them as they take to the road.

And it’s not just younger drivers that are starting to rely on safety tech solutions. Older drivers, especially former outlaw drivers, are becoming big fans and respected advocates of safety tech within their fleets. Check out our video interview with driver Ken Noe from Martin Transportation for a good example of this.

Let’s face it, commercial vehicle operation is a dangerous job. 745 U.S. truck drivers were killed on the job in 2015, an increase of 11.2 percent over the previous 5 years. Safety technology is not just about convenience – active safety systems like collision avoidance and roll stability systems can save lives and company reputations. As I like to say here at SpeedGauge: “we are saving lives everyday – we just don’t know which ones.”

Monitoring systems can make for better drivers, and not just because they know they are being monitored. Drivers learn to monitor what is being monitored, and this increases engagement behind the wheel and at pick-up and drop-off. Performance reviews and safety coaching can make the difference between an engaged driver and a careless one.

In addition to saving lives, the right safety technology can also reduce both direct costs, like fines and repairs, as well as indirect costs, such as lost business and recruiting replacement. In addition, roadside inspections (or, even worse, court appearances) take drivers off the road where the company and the driver earn their living and profit – one mile at a time.  If you’re not rolling, you’re not earning money or building revenue.

We live in a litigious world where it’s usually the big rigs that get blamed in accidents. A good camera system can exonerate the driver in court and protect the company from liability. Even if the driver is speeding in an accident, having an anti-speeding program in place can show that the driver is not a reckless or habitual speeder and that the company is a good corporate citizen and actively managing an important issue – in other words, that the company is not being negligent when it comes to safety. Even better, we hope that monitoring driver behavior, focusing on safety, and providing coaching will help avoid the need for exoneration in the first place.

Most importantly, fleets with solid safety tech in place usually have a better safety culture. Safe fleets are profitable fleets, meaning there is more money for the driver, and a well-implemented safety program will pass some of the rewards on to drivers. For example, our Safety Director at SpeedGauge, Dale Dunaitis, has seen drivers add as many as 1,000 extra miles per week after switching to electronic logs, and many top fleets offer safety bonus programs to incentivize safe driving. So, use safety and performance stats as part of your recruitment and retention programs. You’ve paid for it. It’s OK to brag a little about it.

When it comes to safety technology, the numbers tell the story quite effectively. Here are some of the most high-impact safety tech pieces fleets should consider implementing.

  • Cameras for Exoneration. After integrating an in-cab video with their existing stability control, lane departure and collision avoidance systems, Mike McFarlin, CEO of M&W Logistics reported that both of their fleets have experienced a 34% decrease in total accidents within the first year. More importantly, in McFarlin’s words, “We have also benefited from the capture of video in certain accidents that exonerated our drivers.”
  • Collision Avoidance Systems. In a study conducted by the University of Michigan, research team Woodrooffe and Blower found that forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems could reduce fatalities in rear-end crashes by 44%.
  • Lane Departure Warning Systems. According to PeopleNet, fleets using LDW systems for over 1.3 billion combined miles have reported a 75% average decrease in lane departure accidents.

While each of these safety tech systems can make a difference on their own, they work best when integrated together.

The future of the industry is going to be competitive when it comes to attracting new drivers. The demand is high, yet the supply remains low when it comes to smart, dependable people that you can feel good about putting behind the wheel. You can bet that these drivers have choices, and it’s common sense to believe they will choose a company where they can make a good living and still count on making it home to their families safely. Fleets that run safe should fly the safety flag high and show some justified pride in their safety programs!

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