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Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations

Jan 17, 2018

The highest priority for any organization with a vehicle fleet is the safety of its drivers.ntsb-roundtable_080217 Several factors play into the safe operation of a motor vehicle, all of which should be addressed at an organizational level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation incidents accounted for 40% of workplace fatalities in  2019. This emphasizes the need for organizations to implement policies and procedures centered around driver safety.

ANSI/ASSP Z15.1, Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations offers a comprehensive framework for effectively managing risks associated with motor vehicle fleets. A recent update to the standard includes revisions to sections on distracted driving and driver qualifications, as well as a new section pertaining to operational policies.

“Z15.1-2017 provides a structured approach to proactively identify system gaps and effectively manage fleet risk,” says Terry Ketchum, Z15.1 Committee Chair. “Organizations should use the standard to assess their fleet’s risk, develop an action plan to close the gaps, implement corrective actions and continuously reevaluate the fleet management system.”

An important aspect of the Z15.1 standard is that it addresses the human side of motor vehicle safety as well as the automotive side. “Historically, fleet management was more oriented toward vehicles, such as purchasing, maintenance, inspection,” says Bill Hinderks, former chair of the Z15 Committee. “The standard addresses vehicle issues certainly, but shifts the emphasis to managing risk more effectively with its focus on drivers and driving.”

The sections below outline the new and/or revised sections of Z15.1-2017.

Section 4.3 – Distracted Driving

In recent years, distracted driving has come to the forefront of vehicle safety issues due to the prevalence of smartphones and other technology used in motor vehicles, coupled with other distractions such as eating or grooming. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that in 2019, distracted driving accounted for 3,142 fatalities and an estimated 424,000 injuries.  

In an effort to address this issue and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities, Section 4.3 outlines steps that employers can take to prevent distracted driving. This section requires that organizations have a policy regarding potential distractions while driving, including the use of mobile communication devices, eating and drinking, smoking and reading.

The major change within Section 4.3 in the 2017 update is that it now classifies all forms of in-vehicle information systems (IVIS) as potential distractions, and advises organizations to establish policies which state that IVIS use is only acceptable when the vehicle is stopped. It also encourages organizations to provide periodic training and information on the dangers of distracted driving.

Section 4.8 – Operational Policies

Managing a fleet requires organizations to consider what types of vehicle use are allowed and by whom, and to establish policies and driver responsibilities for each use case. A new addition to Z15.1, Section 4.8 states that organizations must establish organizational policies for business use and personal use or company vehicles, as well as for driver-owned/leased vehicles used for business purposes and rental cars.

  • Business Use (Section 4.8.1) – use of organizational vehicles.
  • Personal Use (Section 4.8.2) – cases in which organizational vehicles are allowed for personal use.
  • Driver-Owned/Leased Vehicles Used for Business Purposes (Section 4.8.3) – driver use of personal vehicles for organizational business.
  • Rental Cars (Section 4.8.4) – driver use of a rental vehicle while on organizational business.

For further guidance, Z15.1-2017 includes in its appendixes examples of policies for business use, personal use, driver-owned/leased vehicles used for business purposes and rental car use.

Section 5.1 – Driver Qualifications

When hiring drivers, organizations want assurance that an individual has the capability and knowledge to do the job safely. Accomplishing this requires establishing the duties and responsibilities of the position, as well as the qualifications the organization is looking for in a driver.

Section 5.1 states that organizations must establish a job description for each driving position, and that the hiring process include an application form and background check. Along with evaluating an individual’s qualifications, Section 5.1 advises organizations to evaluate the number and severity of that person’s moving violations, any previous crashes or incidents, and whether they have a criminal record or history of impaired driving.

The significant changes in Section 5.1 are additional requirements that define acceptance criteria for applicants and existing drivers, and the recommendation that organizations consider checking the driving records of other authorized drivers (i.e., family members).

In addition to the sections already noted, Z15.1 also includes Section 4.4, High-Risk Driving Behaviors. The standard recommends periodic evaluations of driver behavior to identify and help correct aggressive driving behaviors. This can be achieved through tools such as ride-alongs, incident reviews and vehicle record checks.

“People have different perceptions of what aggressive driving is, but they are not certain about the common behaviors associated with it,” explains Hinderks. “Z15.1-2017 outlines these types of behaviors so that organizations and drivers are able to better identify actions defined as aggressive behavior.”

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