QUEENS, NY. Zero fatalities and zero major injuries on its streets is New York City’s motto behind Mayor Bill de Blasio’s movement to improve traffic safety. The movement is called Vision Zero and it involves a task force from various city departments to reduce traffic-related deaths in the city that never sleeps.
During Vision Zero’s second forum, held Nov. 5 at the Queens Theatre, New York City fleets, the police department, and other city officials gathered to discuss fleet best practices in safety, particularly concerning what both public and private fleet operators are doing to reduce collisions and costs.
According to Vision Zero statistics, approximately 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 250 are killed each year in traffic crashes. Being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14, and the second leading cause for seniors. On average, vehicles seriously injure or kill a New Yorker every two hours.
Thomas M. Chan is New York City Police Department’s chief of transportation. He told attendees that since Vision Zero’s implementation, the city has seen a 15% decrease in crash-related fatalities in the last year. He also noted that overall fatalities are down 14% this year compared to last.
One fleet that has adopted the city’s vision and implemented various safety initiatives and technologies is AmbuTrans, a company that transports mobility challenged, elderly and disabled patients to their medical appointments. President Neal Kalish explained that since the company has installed Lytx DriveCams in its vehicles and the Mobileye collision avoidance/early warning system throughout its fleet, the company went from having one or two collisions or traffic-related events per month down to approximately two events over the past 15 months.
The company has also implemented GPS monitoring, more in-depth driver training and “rigorous” fleet maintenance, Kalish said.
“As a fleet operator our decisions matter even more because we are held accountable for every decision the driver makes behind the wheel,” he explained. He also added that the company will not hire drivers who have more than two points against them on their MVR [motor vehicle report], and that all employees must pass a pre-employment physical and wheelchair training before they’re hired.
Like Kalish, Ken Levine, the corporate safety director of waste collector Action Carting, also has installed various safety technologies within his fleet. Action Carting operates 100 trucks in New York City, and Levin said the trucks mostly work through the night and pick up around 37 tons of trash per night.
To enhance fleet safety, Levine noted the company uses cameras and collects analytics data. But the cameras are used mainly as a training tool, rather than a disciplinary tool, he said. Levine said the company has installed AWT’s 3rd Eye cameras to help prevent crashes and reduce risks.
When the device is triggered, Levine explained, whether from abrupt G-force, hard brake, or lane deviation, the company sends Action Carting the data and a video of the driver.
“We take it to monthly meetings and use it as a training tool,” Levine explained. “We look at what did the person do right, what did they do wrong, what could they have done better.”
The company also uses sideguards on its vehicles from DuraGuard that not only protect pedestrians and bicyclists, but are also good for Action Carting technicians when it comes to fleet maintenance, Levine said.
Action Carting drivers also must successfully complete driver training for a specific period of time before they are able to drive on their own, Levine added.
“Drivers will conduct five days of training in a classroom, then another five days of training on the road before going out in a vehicle alone,” he explained. “It’s a good way for us to retain good drivers and the current staff we have.”
When it comes to incentives for safe driving, Action Carting has a driver award program to recognize its safe drivers, and AmbuTrans reinforces its efforts with higher driver pay and bonuses. Kalish added that AmbuTrans also has a negative reinforcement program, which punishes drivers who have collisions and are found at fault – either by eliminating overtime options or by termination, depending on the severity of the event.
Another critical safety element for both fleets is maintenance.
“Maintenance is really critical in terms of day-to-day operations,” Kalish said. “If we don’t have a quality fleet maintenance program in place, it gets in the way of our ability to provide quality service.”
Levine echoed that sentiment, noting that solid waste trucks are particularly difficult machines to operate and are governed by USDOT guidelines.
“We’ll tell drivers when they are doing their pre-trip that if the truck or steering doesn’t feel good, don’t take it out,” he explained. “We’ll tell them to go inside and take it into the mechanic.”
When it comes to cost of the safety technology, Levine said he wishes the government would put credits on the technology. “I think more fleets would consider them if they got tax credits from insurance carriers or the government,” he said.
Kalish, on the other hand, said he has received insurance credits. He added that though he pays for the technology out of the company’s operating costs, he has seen a return on investment because of it.
“I look at it as what’s the cost compared to the cost of cleaning up accidents, taking the vehicle out of service after an accident and the overall cost to the business,” he said, noting the technology he is using has saved the company overall.