In April, our team at Utility Fleet Professional magazine launched the first-ever fleet track at the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo in Loveland, Colorado. The conference is the industry’s largest safety education event, produced by our sister publication, Incident Prevention magazine.
We covered a wide range of topics, from the imminent safety challenges of automated vehicle technologies, to fleet ergonomics that can reduce worker injury risks, to spec’ing aerial platforms with maximum safety in mind.
But my biggest takeaway from the conference?
It’s that there’s a growing need for fleet and safety professionals to communicate and collaborate with each other on a deeper level – to spec the safest vehicles possible within the real-world budget constraints that fleet departments must navigate.
Think about it. We’ve seen automated driver-assist systems deployed in cars over the past few years. But now we’re starting to see them being introduced in the commercial truck market as well, which could have significant implications for both the fleet and safety departments at utility companies.
For example, the 2018 Ford F-150 features an available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection system and advanced adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality that uses radars and cameras to maintain a set distance behind a vehicle – and even follow that vehicle down to a complete stop.
This is cool safety technology, but it also makes the truck more expensive. And when fleet managers are given a mandate from senior management to do more with less money, how do they strike that delicate balance between vehicle safety and cost?
If a fleet decides to spec their trucks with driver-assist systems, what is the company’s policy regarding operation of that equipment? Now, that’s a question for the safety department. After all, if a driver gets annoyed with the beeps or vibration alerts on the truck’s lane-keeping system, for example, and decides to disable it, how is that issue addressed? If a crash occurs after the system was disabled, what does that mean for the company’s risk exposure?
And if there are specific driver policies governing the use of driver-assist systems, how can fleet assist the safety department to help ensure driver compliance with those policies? Perhaps fleet could place labels inside the cabs that clearly communicate the safety policy. And in some cases, fleet could install technology on the vehicle that would alert the company when a driver ignores a warning or disables the system.
Both safety and fleet professionals want to see lineworkers and equipment operators get home safe to their families. So, it makes sense that they should work closely together to build the safest fleet possible in a way that doesn’t break the budget.
Sean M. Lyden