By Dave Osiecki, President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC and Safety Consultant to Trimble Transportation
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Operation Safe Driver Week in mid-July is on! While most industry-related events have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, CVSA’s annual weeklong traffic safety and enforcement event will happen as scheduled.
Operation Safe Driver will occur throughout North America from July 12-18, 2020, and carrier safety staff should educate drivers on the purpose of this event and prepare them for this year’s enforcement focus: speeding.
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, less highway traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed some drivers to ignore traffic safety laws including speed limits. In announcing this year’s event, CVSA cited speed-related data from 10 different states and called increased speeding on our highways during the pandemic an “alarming trend”.
Understanding the Key Goals of Operation Safe Driver
Operation Safe Driver Week is different from CVSA’s annual International Roadcheck inspection blitz in two important ways.
First, Operation Safe Driver Week is a traffic safety education and enforcement effort focused on unsafe driving behaviors, and not on the safety of the truck and its many mechanical components. Second, and importantly, the state, provincial and territorial law enforcement officials involved in Operation Safe Driver Week are looking for high risk driving behaviors of passenger vehicle drivers as well as professional commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.
Operation Safe Driver reminds motorists how important it is to drive safely around a CMV. In addition to speeding, other high-risk driver behaviors enforcement personnel will focus on include distracted driving, use of handheld device/texting while driving, following too closely, improper lane changes, failure to obey traffic control devices, failing to use a seat belt, and alcohol and drug impairment.
Preparing Your Drivers for Increased Enforcement
As you communicate regular safety messages to your drivers and prepare them for this week long traffic safety event, it may be helpful to share information and data on the most commonly seen and cited behaviors during last year’s Operation Safe Driver Week.
In 2019, more than 46,000 citations were issued to all drivers, and the top five unsafe behaviors of CMV drivers were:
Speeding/Violation of Basic Speed Law/Too Fast for Conditions – 1,454 citations/2,126 warnings
Failure to Wear Seat Belt – 954 citations and 586 warnings
Failure to Obey Traffic Control Device – 426 citations and 871 warnings
Using a Handheld Phone/Texting – 249 citations and 170 warnings
Improper Lane Change – 92 citations and 194 warnings
The common theme of each of these behaviors is that they are preventable and by avoiding them you will improve safety.
Given the traffic enforcement nature of the Operation Safe Driver event, truck drivers found to be operating unsafely will typically be pulled over on the shoulder of the road/highway. These shoulder locations can often be high traffic and a tricky environment for both the driver and the enforcement official.
Enforcement personnel are trained to pull commercial drivers over on wider shoulders and where visibility for the motoring public is not an issue. Drivers should stay in their vehicle while the officer approaches the vehicle. Drivers should observe the inspector in the mirror as they approach the vehicle.
It is important for the driver to make himself and his hands visible as the inspector approaches. As such, it’s usually a good idea for drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. Reaching around the truck cab for insurance documents, a bill of lading and a wallet containing a CDL, etc. is not a good idea as the officer is approaching.
Participating in Operation Safe Driver During a Pandemic
Drivers should be aware that during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the inspector may approach the vehicle using various personal protective equipment (PPE) items such as gloves, masks, etc. The inspector may also ask to just view the documents by means of taking photos or having the driver show them through the window, etc., rather than having the driver hand them over.
Drivers should be prepared to electronically transfer ELD records to the inspector. This means the inspector is not likely to ask the driver to hand the ELD device to him/her. Above all, drivers should be patient, since these inspection steps may take a little longer due to the agency processes and protocols for COVID-19. Drivers should remember—these processes are there for the protection of the driver as well as the inspector.
Professionalism and respect toward the law enforcement officer will go a long way to making a traffic stop a smoother event for the driver. Traffic stops can be frustrating and, at times, scary. Drivers should be reminded that inspectors are doing an important job--promoting highway safety for everyone involved, including them.
Ensuring Your Fleet’s Safety and Compliance
While Operation Safe Driver Week places an emphasis on transportation safety and compliance, these are two topics that are of crucial importance every day in your fleet. Having the right technology in place can not only help you achieve your safety and compliance goals but uncover new ways to operate more productively across your driver base.
Are you ready to take your safety and compliance efforts to the next level? Contact us today to learn more about Trimble’s extensive set of safety and compliance solutions and how we can help you improve all aspects of your fleet’s performance and efficiency.