“He looked down at his phone and crashed the truck,” your COO responds reluctantly, knowing you’re not going to like his answer.
“What are you going to do now,” you ask him exasperatedly before hanging up the phone.
Commercial motor vehicle crashes and driving accidents like these are becoming more prevalent across the country in companies just like yours. Research also shows that a bulk of commercial motor vehicle crashes and motor carrier accidents, nearly 40%, are caused by commercial distracted driving. But the business problem of commercial distracted driving is not just relegated to your fleet. It’s a problem that can impact every facet of your organization, for any employers, creating ripple effects of chaos throughout other departments as well. In fact, it’s an issue so pervasive that it can inhibit the profitability and jeopardize the future growth of your company.
Based on a 2015 report from the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), distracted driving crashes and distracted driving accidents had an $8.4 billion direct financial impact on employers. The NETS report goes into details on the financial breakdown of the impact a commercial distracted driving accident will have on your business. When a business incurs a distracted driving crash (often due to texting) with an injury involved, the average cost of such an incident to the parent company is $68,000. In turn this jumps to more than $671,000 when a fatality is involved. What is your company’s share of that financial loss?
Your fleet is naturally the first thought when it comes to distracted driving accidents and commercial crashes, and the most visible sign of its impact. It’s hard to ignore a mangled large truck and out-of-service delivery vans. However, the employee distractions (driving distractions) that caused the motor vehicle crash are now causing distractions for your executive team. And some of their time is going to be devoted to your key drivers of revenue–your customers. Have you checked if their cargo was damaged? Was traffic or other passengers impacted? Was law enforcement alerted? Were any hazardous materials involved? Did they miss a deadline or an opportunity because a repair tech couldn’t get to their office following a crash?
It’s important to consider the impact that lost productivity and a negative brand image will have. Do they still want to be your customer? As an employer, when you have drivers on the road in a community driving distracted, it negatively affects the way consumers view the business. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) establishes definitions and guidelines for commercial distracted driving in order to help protect carrier safety, our national highway and highway traffic overall. FMCSA states the most common distraction is text messages and provides ample evidence to why you should never text and drive.
What happens when there is an injury? Your company vehicles aren’t the only assets that will need repair and rehabilitation. Consider your company’s impact on traffic safety and the consequences from law enforcement and civil penalties. What about the employees involved? In the aftermath of a crash, after your fleet manager and safety manager, HR is likely one of your next calls. The best case scenario is that your employee is out of work for a few days or a week at the most. This way, you only have to account for his lost productivity. Worst-case scenario, the employee is unable to work for a longer period of time or incurs a lasting injury and files a workman’s compensation claim against your company. These can take months if not longer, to resolve. These cases represent a huge workload for your team members and a massive financial cost to the business that could have been prevented.
If you’re already seeing dollar signs, your head is in the right place. Wrecked vehicles and injured employees are very visible representations of the damage the quarterly P&L will see as a result of repairs and injuries. The average cost of a commercial crash without injury is just over $3,000, but as vehicles get larger, so do the costs. Average costs go up exponentially to $91,000 in crashes without injury and $200,000 in crashes with an injury. Your drivers and company may also be looking at harsh legal and civil penalties and fines for distracted driving negligence or breaking a distracted driving law as well. Recognizing the risk and dangers of distracted driving, such as texting in vehicle (texting while driving, even with hands-free devices), eyes off the road, and any mobile device usage is a critical first step in distracted driving prevention and safe driving. Establishing enforceable commercial distracted driving laws, driving policies (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a great resource), educating employees on distracted driving awareness and the massive impact of texting and driving are steps to eliminate and prevent distracted driving. An internal or external safety administration can help establish strong driving policies for your business. For a comprehensive report on the financial impact of distracted driving on your business then be sure to check out the 2015 Report on the Cost of Motor Vehicle Crashes on Employers from NETS (Network of Employers For Traffic Safety).
But the impact of commercial distracted driving will expand even beyond your fleet, and finance and HR departments. Whether or not it’s a high-profile crash, as was the case with Coca-Cola and these others, your company’s reputation will be impacted. This is going to rope in your PR and Marketing department who will have to likely spend the better part of at least the next few work weeks dealing crisis communication and brand management. Even if you haven’t seen a crash yet, what your employees do behind the wheel of vehicles bearing your company’s logo will negatively impact company reputation. Within any community, kids are walking to school or a school bus takes them to and from school safely, so it is not just protecting your reputation but showing the community that your businesses is taking all available actions to create a safer community. In turn, you now not only have protected your reputation by showing the community and your clients that you value their safety but also gain the trust of those residents and businesses.
As you can see, distracted driving as a whole (not just texting and driving) impacts more than just your fleet and safety teams. From finance to public relations and HR, distracted driving affects every department and is an even bigger danger to company reputation. There is likely no other single event that could do more damage to the growth and profitability of your company, therefore it’s a problem that must become your top priority to solve.