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Even under the best circumstances, heavy trucks and construction equipment are difficult to drive — and many times, driving isn’t an employee’s primary job. Whether it’s moving earth or cement to a job site or digging a hole, a driver’s main focus is less on driving technique and more on using the equipment to get the job done. 

To add to the complexity, jobsites have an absence of controls. There are often no stop signs or marked lanes or roadways, and many times, multiple companies are working on a site together, each with different operators, training protocols and levels of experience. 

All of these factors require drivers to be hyper-focused and sometimes accidents happen. According to data from the 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, highway crashes and work zone accidents are the second-largest cause of on-the-job deaths in construction, following closely behind fall- and slip-related fatalities. Many of these deaths occur from improper handling of utility vehicles such as dump trucks and cement trucks. 

When an occupational driver — or any employee — is involved in a crash while on the job or operating a company vehicle, it is the employer who ultimately pays the bill. And when an on-the-job driving crash causes a serious injury or even death, the company’s bottom line can take a huge hit.

The Cost of On-the-Job Driving Crashes

In 2013 alone, motor vehicle crashes cost U.S. employers $25 billion and were responsible for 1,600 deaths, according to the most recent data by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). In each fatality case, the cost per incident to the parent company was more than $671,000 plus $65,000 per nonfatal injury. 

In addition to loss of life and injuries, on-the-job crashes damaged more than 700,000 vehicles in 2013, costing the parent company an average of $24,000 per incident. According to the NETS report, 20% of a fleet is generally involved in some type of crash annually. This means that a fleet of 1,000 vehicles averages a cost of $1,178,000 per year for property damage alone.

And because most major construction companies are self-insured, these costs come directly out of the business’s bottom line. 

Construction zones are dangerous for a variety of reasons. While utility vehicles are the leading cause of transportation-related deaths, employees are often injured and sometimes even killed by other motorists who are driving too fast, driving distracted, or by reckless drivers who ignore the commands of those directing traffic. 

All of these costs add up fast. In 2013, motor vehicle crash injuries on and off the job cost employers a total of $47.4 billion. More than half of this total cost — some $25.17 billion — resulted from on-the-job crashes. These costs include property damage, related medical and legal expenses, as well as health care costs and overall lost productivity.

Hidden Costs of On-the-Job Accidents

An on-the-job crash results in medical and legal expenses, associated lawsuits and potential liability claims, and the direct cost of property damage and vehicle replacement. But there are also other indirect costs to the parent company as well.

When employees are injured in a crash, for example, they often miss work. This results in lost productivity in addition to workers’ compensation claims and the associated expenses with having to hire and train a replacement if an employee cannot return to work. 

On-the-job driving crashes can also harm a company’s reputation with consumers. If employees are driving erratically or recklessly in company vehicles or while operating company equipment, it ultimately reflects poorly on the employer. This can lead to bad publicity, lost customers and missed revenue. 

Improving Driver Behavior to Reduce On-the-Job Crashes

According to the NETS study, driver behavior has a direct effect on employer crash costs. The biggest causes of crashes resulting in serious injury or death are speeding, driving while impaired, not wearing a seatbelt and distracted driving.

In a recent survey by AT&T, some 70 percent of responders admitted to using their smartphones while driving to read and respond to texts and using email and social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some even admitted to shooting videos and snapping selfies from behind the wheel. 

The good news is that most on-the-job driving accidents are preventable. By creating and enforcing a driver safety program, companies can reduce the number of on-the-job driving incidents that result in injuries, death and property damage. 

Establishing a distracted driving policy for drivers while they are on the road and on the jobsite — and prohibiting the use of phones and hands-free devices from behind the wheel — is a good first step. Setting rules around the use of navigation systems is also important. Drivers should never set destinations or interact with navigation tools while driving. 

Drivers can also improve their overall driving habits with the right classroom training combined with customized behind-the-wheel training. Instructor-led behind-the-wheel training is the most effective training method because it allows drivers to learn while operating their unique vehicles or equipment in real-world scenarios with knowledgeable instructors who can observe and correct their behavior in real time. 

Protecting employees from on-the-job crashes through training and safe driving policies ultimately saves employers time and money, but most importantly — it saves lives. By investing in driver safety and making it a top priority, companies can reduce crashes, avoid liability, protect their employees, equipment and the bottom line and improve the safety of everyone on the road.


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