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Updated Feb 20, 2024

Fleet Health and Safety Compliance Best Practices

GPS fleet management software is one of the ways you can encourage driver safety.

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David Gargaro, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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They should also take active steps to manage and improve the safety of their commercial vehicles and drivers. Not only is compliance with regulations critical to avoiding fines and lawsuits, but businesses operate more efficiently when their assets and workers remain safe and healthy. This guide includes best practices for keeping your operations compliant and safe, including a look at how GPS fleet management software can help.

What laws do you need to comply with for fleet health and safety?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) provides legislative protections to ensure all employed individuals have safe and healthy working conditions. However, OSHA rules and regulations do not apply when another federal agency exercises its own rules and regulations for specific working conditions. For example, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has created several federal regulations that govern employee health and safety in transportation. This includes regulating the safety of commercial motor vehicles.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within the DOT, governs commercial vehicle operators. The agency issues rules and regulations that fleet managers and drivers must follow to maintain safety on roadways and reduce vehicular accidents. Different operators of commercial vehicles may need to follow different sets of rules that depend on various factors, including the types of vehicles used, materials transported and distance driven.

Did You Know?Did you know
Telematics systems, such as the GPS fleet management solutions described below and in our GPSTrackit review, can assist with legal compliance, driver safety and fleet efficiency.

Hours of service

The FMCSA developed hours of service (HOS) rules to monitor commercial drivers’ working hours. It sets the maximum number of consecutive hours a commercial vehicle operator can legally drive or work before they must take a rest break. HOS rules are designed to prevent vehicular accidents resulting from driver fatigue. Violations of HOS rules can result in fines and probationary periods for the carrier and affect their safety rating.

Commercial vehicle operators must also use an electronic logging device (ELD) to track their HOS, as spelled out in the ELD mandate. These devices (also known as electronic logbooks) connect to the commercial vehicle’s engine to automatically record driving time. The device provides a reliable method of collecting HOS data.

Compliance, safety and accountability scores

The FMCSA manages the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, which identifies commercial operators that have safety concerns involving their drivers or vehicles. The goal of the CSA program is to identify carriers that require some form of mediation to improve road safety.

FMCSA uses the program to score, rank and group commercial operators based on how many safety incidents they’ve had over a given time period. It then uses roadside inspections to gather data on commercial operators and updates their safety rankings in its Safety Measurement System (SMS).

The FMCSA uses the SMS to organize and rank data according to seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.

  1. Crash indicator: Patterns of vehicular accidents, including frequency and severity.
  2. Controlled substances/alcohol: Instances when a driver was caught operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. Driver fitness: Recorded incidents when a driver did not have a valid commercial driver’s license or medical card or is otherwise unqualified to drive.
  4. Hazardous materials compliance: Cases where commercial operators did not handle, label or transport hazardous materials according to regulations.
  5. HOS compliance: Instances when drivers did not maintain records of duty status according to regulations or exceeded HOS driving limitations.
  6. Unsafe driving: Times when drivers failed to wear a seatbelt, drove at unsafe speeds or engaged in other unsafe driving behavior like hard braking.
  7. Vehicle maintenance: Documented instances of the commercial operator’s failures to secure loads; repair faulty brakes, lights and other systems; or reduce maintenance costs.

Commercial operators receive a CSA score for each category, calculated from 0 to 100 on a percentile scale (0 is the best score). The FMCSA sets specific intervention thresholds for each category to identify high-risk commercial operators and determine when to assign investigators.

FYIDid you know
Using ELDs can root out unsafe behaviors and also reduce fleet fuel costs and idle times.

Drug and alcohol testing

The FMCSA’s drug and alcohol regulations determine who is subject to testing, when they must be tested, how testing must be done and what employees must do to return to driving commercial vehicles if they have violated the regulations. The regulations also provide privacy protection for employees’ sensitive medical information.

Fleet owners must conduct drug and alcohol testing when hiring new drivers as well as annually for existing drivers. Any employee who regularly operates commercial vehicles is also required legally to undergo drug and alcohol testing in the following circumstances. 

  • Before being hired as a driver
  • When there is reasonable suspicion or cause of illegal drug or alcohol use
  • When returning to active driving duty
  • To follow up on a reported concern
  • Following an accident or incident
  • On a random basis

The FMCSA also maintains a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, an online database of commercial vehicle drivers who either failed a drug or alcohol test or refused to take a test. Fleet owners must use the clearinghouse when doing preemployment background checks and annual driver checks.

Best practices for maintaining your fleet’s health and safety

In addition to adhering to the legally mandated rules and regulations for commercial vehicle operators, fleet owners should implement a few best practices to help protect drivers’ health and safety.

Identify potential risks.

Fleet owners and their drivers face an assortment of risks and hazards. Some issues apply to all types of commercial vehicle drivers, while others only apply to specific industries and drivers. Some risks include dealing with drivers who are either untrained or have incorrect vehicle licenses, those who drive long distances or over varied terrains, drivers operating fit-for-purpose vehicles and safety ratings. Fleet companies must assess each driver’s particular level of risk exposure and create a plan to ensure they have the correct systems and resources in place to maintain safety.

Implement a fleet safety policy.

A fleet safety policy helps drivers understand the fleet owner’s expectations and enables the employer to spell out health and safety requirements. The policy should focus on the importance of driver safety over everything else, such as fatigue awareness training and restrictions on night driving. A fleet safety policy should also include information on the following:

  • Communication of safety messages
  • Safe driving pledges
  • License checks
  • Regular vehicle maintenance
  • Driver risk assessments
  • Driver training
  • Incident reporting

A fleet safety policy helps engage stakeholder support in enforcing company safety protocols. When management is committed to fleet safety and field managers manage road safety, fleet owners generally have greater overall success in maintaining driver health and safety. 

Once a fleet safety policy is created and put into writing, management should ensure it is communicated consistently across all programs and in different ways, such as in person and digitally, for greater accessibility and understanding. There should also be consequences for policy violations or if managers fail to enforce them.

Create a driver training program.

Truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Implementing a safety training program can help protect drivers against crashes as it minimizes the probability of accidents caused by careless driving and dangerous driving practices. It can also protect the fleet owner from financial and legal liabilities arising from commercial vehicle accidents.

A driver training program should be part of the organization’s onboarding process when hiring employees and it should be annually required for current drivers as well. It should teach and encourage safe driving behaviors, maintenance of vehicles and the use of technology that monitors driver performance.

Driver training should combine different methods, such as behind the wheel and in class, to improve lesson retention. Instruction should include teaching drivers how to do walkarounds of vehicles as part of an overall maintenance program.

Establish an accident review group.

Accidents will happen from time to time. Fleet managers should prepare for these circumstances by setting up an accident review group with procedures for evaluating what occurred and how to prevent future occurrences. Review each accident to determine where the responsibility lies and if the company is liable for fines or penalties as well as to determine if the driver made an error. Provide feedback through post-accident training and set up a risk management program to help the driver prevent future similar events.

Use technology to monitor driver performance.

Fleet companies can use different technologies to help monitor and increase driver safety. One of the best solutions is to install GPS-enabled fleet management software, which uses telematics to help improve fleet safety and streamline overall efficiency. These programs can promote safer driving by recording events that help drivers manage their performance while they’re on the road. A GPS fleet management service can identify signs of aggressive or bad behavior and it can note traffic violations. It can also help protect vehicle health by ensuring vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained. [Read more about the benefits of telematics and how it provides insights into vehicle and driver operation.]

In-cab video dashcams can provide another layer of security, whether they are integrated with fleet management software. They can alert drivers when they are engaging in poor driving behavior. Companies can also use the dashcam footage in training programs to demonstrate good and bad driving practices.

Encourage safe behaviors.

Negative reinforcement measures, such as firing employees, are not the most effective method for protecting driver health and safety. Providing drivers with encouragement and support — and adding more positive and fun elements to health and safety programs — can produce more positive results. Fleet owners can provide incentives, such as travel bonuses and merchandise, to reward successful participation and completion of safety programs as well as to recognize exceptional driving behavior.

Assess the effectiveness of your safety program.

Regularly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your driver safety training program. Determine whether drivers are putting what they learned into practice when driving. Identify what they are not doing or are doing poorly and the reasons why this is happening. Provide them with help where needed. Also, ask drivers for feedback on what needs to be supported or changed and assess the metrics being used to measure fleet health and safety.

Best GPS fleet management software for managing fleet health and safety

Below are our picks for the best GPS fleet management software with features that promote a healthy fleet and safer driving habits:

  • NexTraq: With several safety tools built in, this software system pays close attention to potentially dangerous driver behaviors. For example, the platform alerts drivers to sudden acceleration or braking. It also features a mobile device lockout function that ensures drivers refrain from using their phones while driving. Our NexTraq review details other abilities that make this platform a top choice for fleet safety.
  • Azuga: This system fosters a culture of safe driving by inspiring drivers to engage in safe behaviors through friendly competition and enticing incentives. It evaluates driver performance so you can reward high-scoring, safe drivers. Lower-scoring drivers receive targeted training initiatives to help them improve. Our Azuga review lays out this platform’s additional features that make it one of our best recommendations.
  • Samsara: This GPS fleet management platform acts as a coach on the road. It sends in-cab alerts that advise drivers of ways to improve their habits, such as increasing their distance from the vehicle in front of them. To learn more about the safety features and real-time insights this system provides, check out our Samsara review.
  • Motive: The innovative artificial intelligence (AI) functionality within Motive identifies and responds to unsafe driving behaviors. The platform also activates dashcams automatically to stream real-time video footage to dedicated safety experts for careful analysis. Motive also uses AI-powered cameras to provide 360-degree views of transport vehicles. Check out our Motive review to learn more about this platform’s AI and general fleet safety features.
  • Force by Mojio: This software system offers automatic recording in instances of risky driving or accidents. Force also helps you conduct careful and regular vehicle health assessments. This way, managers and drivers get comprehensive insights to enhance preventive maintenance. Find out more about this solution and the ways it improves driver accountability in our Force by Mojio review.
FYIDid you know
Costs of fleet management systems typically involve an upfront fee for tracking devices, along with a monthly rate for the management service and ongoing monitoring.

Safe operations for the road ahead

Your fleet covers hundreds to thousands of miles of road on a regular basis. Managing your fleet’s safety isn’t about micromanaging your drivers but, instead, ensuring behaviors and habits that prioritize security and responsibility. Following best practices and leveraging fleet management tools keep your business compliant while encouraging safer rides for your drivers — and everyone around them.

Shayna Waltower contributed to this article.

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David Gargaro, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
David Gargaro has spent more than 25 years immersed in the world of business. In 2018, he published the book How to Run Your Company… into the Ground based on his firsthand experience at a small business. In the guide, he advises on everything from strategic partnerships and product development to hiring and expansion — and all that's in between. Gargaro's expertise, which also extends to sales, marketing and financial planning, has also been published in the business-focused Advisors Magazine, Moody's Analytics and VentureBeat. He has been hired to speak on topics like the customer experience and created an entrepreneurs' toolkit for startup founders.
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