Vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of worker fatality in the United States, with more workers killed as a result of a vehicle crash than due to any other incident type. Fleet vehicle crashes also impact the employer organization on many levels, typically resulting in property damage, lost productivity and/or lost revenue, and increased liability exposure. Yet, many companies that operate fleets do not take a proactive approach to reducing the risks of work-related vehicle crashes. By taking such an approach, organizations will reduce the incidence of vehicle crashes, in urn achieving the vital goals of protecting their employees and the bottom line. This case study illustrates how Abbott, a global, broad-based health care company, is achieving both goals by instituting a comprehensive fleet driver safety initiative across all of its commercial organizations.
Many organizations devote significant resources to train plant workers in Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) procedures and to keep their facilities in compliance with OSHA regulations. Those same companies may also send hundreds or thousands of employees out onto the road each day in fleet vehicles with little or no driver safety education or training. As compared to the highly regulated setting of a manufacturing plant, these drivers venture out into an uncontrolled driving environment in which vehicle crashes are very frequent.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics reveal that in the United States, a motor vehicle crash occurs every five seconds. For the average driver, the odds of being involved in a vehicle collision during a lifetime are 1 in 15. Yet, a typical driver travels 12,000 - 15,000 miles annually, while many fleet drivers travel 20,000 - 25,000 miles or more each year. As a result, their exposure to crash risks is far greater than the general public's exposure.
Information from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, reveals that theincreased risk for fleet drivers translates to a high frequency of crashes. In 2003, fatal highway incidents accounted for the greatest number of worker deaths, with these crashes responsible for more deaths than any other type of work-related incident. As illustrated in Exhibit 1, the 1,350 fatal highway incidents recorded in 2003 accounted for about 24 percent of all worker fatalities, or 1 in 4 worker deaths. And while high-profile incidents such as workplace homicide have actually declined since the early 1990s, highway vehicle fatalities have trended higher over the same period.