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Finding savings with safety

Sept. 9, 2013

As the annual “Brake Safety Week” campaign shifts into high gear this week, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), which helps sponsor this event, will also focus its outreach effort to try and change the industry’s economic view of safety issues.

“By and large, the industry still views safety as a cost, not as an investment,” Steve Keppler, CVSA’s executive editor, explained to Fleet Owner. “Our ongoing challenge is to change the ‘economic dynamic’ surrounding safety in this industry, that there will be more benefits to focusing resources on safety than just reducing crashes.”

For example, he noted that the soon-to-be released metrics collected during the big Roadcheck 2013 roadside inspection push across North America earlier this summer reveals that 49.6% of all the out of service (OOS) designations were for brake-related issues – a statistic that hasn’t changed much over the last few years, despite the ongoing focus on brake safety importance.

“That number has been pretty consistent, only dropping out of the mid to lower 50s a few years ago,” Keppler said. “Now, some of that is because we’re using better enforcement techniques to focus inspection activities more predominantly on ‘bad actors’ within the trucking industry. But brakes still remain a large portion of our safety problem so more education needs to be done about it.”

Keppler, who’s stressed the link between profits and safety routinely over the past several years, believes that greater participation by insurance companies in providing incentives for safety performance in the form of discounts could help “swing the needle” in terms of boosting the industry’s focus on safety initiatives.

“Change right now when it comes to safety is still incremental and it’s not hard to see why,” he added. “When you talk to fleets that are investing $10,000 to $13,000 more per vehicle in safety enhancements like air disc brakes or collision warning devices, yet their competitors down the street don’t and undercut their business, you can see why it’s a tough sell.”

Yet Keppler also thinks that beefed up enforcement activity – similar to what’s now occurring in the bus industry – is soon going to take place in trucking, and that he thinks should encourage more devotion of resources towards safety by trucking firms.

“It’s that combination of things – greater enforcement, better targeting techniques, and improve insurance incentives – that will get more of the industry to pay attention to safety, that will create ‘behavior change,’” he stressed. “But it will still be a struggle; it won’t happen overnight.” 

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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