The Keys To Predicting And Preventing Severe Accidents – Part I

Today, we are going to bring you our multi-Part article series on what your fleet can do to predict and prevent severe accidents. And while you may initially think, “But that’s impossible,” in fact it can be done. Of course, every fleet wants to increase safety and mitigate crash risk, but they just don’t know how. By properly using data, sleep education and effective truck driver coaching, fleets can improve their overall level of safety and prevent horrible accidents.

Of course, the most significant aspect of a severe accident is the human toll. People can become injured or even die. Lives can be ruined. Beyond how it impacts people and their families, accidents can be substantial and leave little room for unbudgeted costs, whether they be from insurance claims, litigation, repairs, or service level damages. Consider that a single severe collision could cost your fleet millions of dollars, and you can see the problem. Numbers like that could cripple a small fleet.

One of the major problems in dealing with severe accidents lies in the fact that they are typically infrequent and largely happen at random… or do they? Could it be that, contrary to popular belief, large truck accidents are not random at all? Indeed, they may very well be a natural culmination of information, a set of subtle data points that can be isolated and analyzed. With the right information, motor carriers may very well be able to detect or prevent an accident before it ever occurs.

The key is understanding what issues the data points to. One of the most common causes of road accidents involving large trucks is that of fatigue. And while most conventional safety programs deal with specific truck diver behaviors, such as not checking mirrors or proper speed control, something like loss of control is generally a physiological problem. When a truck driver is suffering from fatigue or sleep abnormalities, they may feel awake even when their mind is asleep.

Consider this scary fact: A truck driver technically can be 100% in compliant with Hours of Service (HOS) regulations while still being asleep at the wheel. When truck drivers are tired and become distracted from operating the vehicle, accidents occur. Most severe accidents occur when truck drivers lose control of the vehicle and are not responsive at the point of contact.

When a truck driver has been exposed to:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Truncated sleep
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Cumulative fatigue
  • New sleep patterns and times

They may be at risk for a severe accident. Additionally, there are six major accident types that fall into the “severe” category and can be attributed to fatigue and loss of control:

  • Roll-overs
  • Run-off-road
  • Head-on
  • Jack-knife
  • Side-swipe
  • Rear-end

Each of these accident types could be potentially fatal for anyone else on the road as well as the truck operator. These types of loss of control accidents happen when the operator is disconnected or distracted from the truck driving task at hand. In these situations, they may not take any action, but had they been awake, would have seen the point of impact at least five to seven seconds before the accident occurs.

This is where the data gleaned from electronic logs can be used to the benefit of the truck driver and the fleet. Although the ELD rollout has not been without its fair share of confusion and complaint, it does provide a rich data set that can be used to do more than ensure compliance, it can save lives. Join us in Part II of our series where we examine exactly how that can be done.