- Hard driving is sudden, sharp, unexpected changes in speed.
- Hard braking and acceleration by company drivers can be costly, dangerous and environmentally unfriendly.
- GPS fleet tracking software is one viable way to track and prevent hard braking and acceleration.
- This article is for fleet managers and business owners with company vehicles looking to reduce their drivers' hard driving habits.
If your team is constantly on the road, you have ample reason to worry about your drivers' safety. There are 6 million car accidents per year on average, with 90 traffic-related deaths per day. Your drivers must do everything they can to maximize safety for both themselves and other motorists. Unfortunately, traffic accidents can also severely impact your bottom line, so driver safety is both a business and ethical consideration.
Hard braking and acceleration – together known as hard driving – are leading causes of such accidents. Luckily, tools available in GPS fleet tracking software make it easier to identify and reduce hard driving in your fleet. Below, learn more about them and how to prevent them.
What is hard driving?
Hard driving is any sudden or unexpected change in a vehicle's direction or speed. It includes taking corners too quickly, accelerating rapidly, and – perhaps the most common type – hard braking.
What is hard braking?
Hard braking is the application of more force than usual to a vehicle's brakes. Your drivers may need to brake hard to avoid rear-ending another vehicle or joining a pile-up in front of them. In fact, hard braking is perhaps the most inevitable type of hard driving. More often than not, though, hard braking by your drivers is the result of their own poor driving habits rather than the world around them.
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What is hard acceleration?
Hard acceleration is the application of more force than usual to a vehicle's gas pedal. This may be necessary when, for instance, your drivers approach a yellow traffic light. That's because the larger the vehicle, the more time it needs – perhaps as long as six seconds – to come to a full stop.
Like hard braking, though, hard acceleration shouldn't happen often. If it does, your team may be driving unsafely – and unsafe driving can have tremendous consequences for your business.
Key takeaway: Hard driving is often risky and costly. Identifying the bad habits and training your drivers to avoid hard driving is necessary for both their safety and your business's bottom line.
Why hard driving behavior can damage your business
Hard driving by your team can have many negative impacts on your business.
- Vehicle wear and tear: Every instance of hard braking accelerates the inevitable, gradual wearing down of a vehicle's brakes. The result is more maintenance costs in a shorter timeframe.
- Lower fuel efficiency: Hard acceleration is a big-time gas-guzzler, and fuel is a huge fleet expense. Hard driving thus has a substantial impact on your expenses and your bottom line.
- Increased risk of accidents: Hard braking can lead to your vehicles being rear-ended or rear-ending other vehicles. In the worst-case scenario, a driver's hard braking can trigger a rear-ending domino effect, leading to a pile-up.
- Damaged equipment: Accidents damage your vehicles, which are some of your most important business equipment. Hard driving behaviors thus increase your company's equipment expenses.
- Public safety threats: Of course, accidents are far more than a business concern – they also impact people who have no connection to your company. Your drivers' hard braking and acceleration habits could lead to injuries or even deaths of drivers and pedestrians. You and your drivers should always prioritize human lives over quickly reaching your destinations.
- Lower CSA scores: All fleets have compliance, safety and accountability (CSA) scores that reflect your drivers' accident records, safety violations, out-of-service periods and inspections. Hard braking makes many of these CSA-lowering events more likely. The lower your CSA score, the more likely potential customers are to choose one of your competitors instead.
Key takeaway: Hard driving behavior leads to damaged equipment, lower fuel efficiency and CSA scores, and more accidents leading to injury or even death.
Benefits of monitoring hard braking and acceleration
Hard braking and acceleration can have dire consequences. You can protect your drivers and company by monitoring your drivers' behaviors on the road. These are some specific reasons for doing so:
- Fewer accidents: Simply letting your drivers know that you're monitoring their driving habits may cause them to drive more safely. In some cases, your drivers will consciously prioritize safety when they know you're tracking them; in other cases, the change will be more subconscious. Either way, you avoid casualties and damaged equipment.
- Less expensive operations: The ramifications of hard braking and acceleration on your fuel, wear and tear, and customer acquisition costs are plain as day. Monitoring your drivers' behavior minimizes these costs. The more you can catch hard drivers in the act and train them to avoid these harmful habits, the less money you lose to dangerous, inefficient driving.
- More eco-friendly drivers: There's arguably no such thing as an eco-friendly fleet, but you can reduce your environmental impact when you monitor hard driving. Hard acceleration uses more fuel, thus reducing your fleet's miles per gallon and increasing its carbon footprint.
- Instant hard-braking alerts: Some monitoring platforms immediately alert you every time one of your drivers brakes or accelerates too hard. If you are serious about keeping your drivers in line, you could call them every time you receive a hard driving alert. You can also use your monitoring platform to generate driver alert reports that help you identify training and discipline needs.
Tip: Combine telematic system insights with a retraining program to encourage positive habits, instead of risky ones like hard driving.
Tips on how to prevent and monitor hard driving
Keep these tips in mind to prevent and properly monitor hard driving.
1. Set follow distances and speeds.
Although your drivers can't predict or control vehicles in front of them suddenly braking, they can minimize the chances of this obstacle becoming a disaster. All it takes is maintaining a safe distance between themselves and other vehicles. The same is true for setting speeds that drivers should never exceed. Set these distances and speeds with your drivers before they hit the road to minimize hard driving.
2. Train your drivers on your distance and speed rules.
It's one thing to set limits; it's another to show your drivers how to stay within these confines. Hands-on training will go a long way in helping your drivers hit their marks before they get on the road, as will implementing driver scorecards that reflect your drivers' safety habits. Both approaches can lead to a safer fleet that's less prone to hard driving.
3. Reward good drivers and retrain unsafe ones.
Whether you manually track all hard-braking alerts or turn to your software for thorough reports, you should use your data as the first step toward an action plan. For example, you can start a "driver of the month" program to reward whichever driver has the fewest hard-driving infractions. Conversely, you can implement mandatory retraining for drivers with more hard-driving incidents than a certain preset minimum.
4. Plan reasonable routes.
Your drivers may feel more inclined toward hard acceleration – which can, in turn, lead to hard braking – if their routes require them to rush between locations to stay on track. In this regard, preventing hard braking is a matter of planning. Don't expect your drivers to travel long distances in short times – spread things out so a driver can take their foot off the gas.
5. Install speed-limiting devices.
No, you can't be in the passenger seat with all your drivers, but you can cap their speeds from afar. Devices that prevent vehicles from exceeding certain speeds are increasingly available. Though some people argue that these devices could prevent necessary instances of hard acceleration, if you'd rather your drivers err on the side of going slow, such devices may be viable solutions.
6. Install GPS fleet tracking software.
The single easiest way to track your team's driving habits and collect relevant data is through GPS fleet tracking software. These platforms will help you generate the driver scorecards to keep your drivers accountable, locate your vehicles, and monitor your drivers' travel in real time.
GPS fleet tracking software's real-time tools are especially important, as they show you exactly when and where hard driving is happening. Choose GPS fleet tracking software with a reliable system of alerts and notifications, and an electronic logging device to keep you apprised of developments in real time. With this information, you can reach out to offending drivers before they get into accidents.