With all the risks that organizations face these days, fleet safety often takes a back seat when it comes to priorities. However, fleet accidents now pose one of the highest risks an organization faces. Is your organization focused on reducing collisions? Is it time to reemphasize your expectations for safe driving and make sure you are heading in the right direction?

Current fleet risk environment

The vehicle fatality rate in the US jumped 22% from 2019 to 2022 and has remained high through 20231. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes the increase to driving under the influence, speeding, distracted driving, as well as a decrease in seatbelt use. The 22% fatality rate increase should be alarming to any organization operating vehicles. Your drivers must drive defensively to stay safe on the roadway.

Additionally, over the same period, crashes resulting in injury and death have led to much higher legal damages due to rising medical costs and society’s expectations related to injury or loss, often referred to as social inflation. Vehicle repair costs and repair times have increased due to inflation, delays in getting parts, and a shortage of repair staff. Auto accidents can disrupt an organization on many levels.

Successful fleet safety programs

The most common factors associated with successful fleet safety is strong leadership, commitment and involvement. Examples include:

  • Having formal policies and programs in place – not winging it.
  • Assigning fleet safety responsibilities to individuals with adequate knowledge, experience, time and authority.
  • Allocating adequate financial resources for safety technology: telematics, dashcams, advanced safety systems (i.e., automatic emergency braking), etc.
  • Senior leaders attending driver orientations, safety meetings or training to reinforce expectations.
  • Senior leaders sending the right message by:
    • Addressing unsafe driving with the driver and coaching to improve.
    • Not making phone calls while driving themselves.
    • Not calling drivers when they know they are driving, or ceasing a call when they find out the employee is driving.
    • Allowing drivers adequate time to get to their destination without speeding.
    • Participating in the same training (if they drive for business).
    • Participating in the same telematics/dashcam usage.

It isn’t important unless management is passionate about it

A segment of the driving population drives aggressively: speeding, following too close, driving while distracted, pulling out in front of others, etc. These drivers pose an additional risk to your organization if they are not identified, and their behavior isn’t corrected. Many drivers will not change their aggressive behavior unless they are monitored, and it is clear to them that senior leadership is serious and will hold them accountable.

  • Has your organization made it clear that unsafe driving will not be tolerated?
  • Does your organization have tools in place to monitor driving behavior, such as driver ride-alongs and telematics/dashcams?
  • Are senior managers present at safety meetings and recognition events and passionate about supporting fleet safety activities?

Defining moments

Is it time to set new expectations for safe driving within your organization, or to reestablish a culture that may have waned? Popular leadership guidance talks about “defining moments” within an organization that establish direction, expectations and culture. Is now a good time to have a defining moment in your organization? 

Defining moments typically involve a meeting with all drivers, driver managers/dispatchers, vehicle purchasing and maintenance. Everyone involved with the fleet needs to hear the same message. Key topics include:

  • How the driving environment has deteriorated and the risk that crashes pose to your drivers and the organization.
  • Management expectations for safe driving as well as consequences for not meeting expectations. Making it clear that aggressive and distracted driving will not be tolerated. Include examples of both: speeding, following too close, rolling through stop signs, texting, driving while intoxicated, etc.
  • Your commitment to supporting drivers who make safe driving decisions that may impact customer service or productivity, such as not driving while fatigued or ill, or finding a safe place to park when road conditions become dangerous.
  • Making it clear to managers and support personnel that they are not to expect drivers to answer calls or texts while driving and that they should wait until the driver is parked before carrying out a conversation.
  • Praising drivers who have performed well by maintaining good driving records, being accident free, scoring well on ride-along evaluations and telematic scores, completing all required training, etc.
  • Reinforcing your support for the fleet safety team and the policies they have in place.
  • Your commitment to purchasing vehicles with good crash ratings and safety technology.

Defining moments are a start but it takes ongoing participation and support to create a safe and meaningful culture. Management should follow-up with active involvement in future safety meetings and training.


1 Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories Through June 2023. Traffic Safety Facts, A Brief Statistical Summary, Report No. DOT HS 813 522, NHTSA, November 2023

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