As a fleet manager, ensuring the safety of your fleet vehicles, drivers, and the general public is your top priority—but hard braking and acceleration can put that safety at great risk.
What is hard braking and acceleration? How can these harsh driving behaviors make your fleet operations riskier and less efficient? How can you track if these poor habits are developing in your fleet, and if you don't, what could happen? Here's all you need to know about hard braking and acceleration, why monitoring it matters, and how to do so effectively.
What is Harsh Driving?
Essentially, harsh driving (a.k.a. bad driving habits) can be described as a vehicle's sudden change in direction or speed. Rapid acceleration, hard braking, and taking corners too quickly can all be considered harsh driving.
Harsh driving is also an excellent predictor of accident risk. As noted in a Science Daily article analyzing a study of speeding and auto accident risk, "When the crash cases were compared to the control cases using a sophisticated penalty system for the four kinds of bad driving, speeding emerged as the key difference between them."
What is Hard Braking?
Hard braking occurs when a driver applies more force than normal to the vehicle's brake system. When you’re talking about drivers of big rig trucks, hard braking becomes particularly precarious, considering that a loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 40 tons and can’t stop on a dime.
In fact, the total stopping time for a truck traveling at 55 mph is roughly six seconds, meaning that the truck will continue to travel approximately 510 feet. Considering that a football field, from goal line to goal line, is only 300 feet, you can see what this means in terms of stopping rapidly without leaving a safe distance between the truck and any vehicles in front of it.
There are some natural instances where hard braking cannot really be avoided, such as stopping short to prevent an accident or getting out of the way of an accident that has just occurred. However, unnecessary hard braking typically occurs when a driver needs to stop short because they were not paying attention to the flow of traffic. This is a big sign of aggressive driving; if your drivers are doing it, it is dangerous and a money drain.
What is Hard Acceleration?
Hard acceleration occurs when more force than normal is applied to the vehicle's accelerator. An example of this would be when a driver slams on the gas pedal to make it through an intersection before a traffic light changes. Hard acceleration is also frequent when drivers are waiting at a traffic light—some drivers slam the accelerator to get moving as quickly as possible as soon as the light turns green.
This is both a road safety issue and a fuel efficiency problem. Hard acceleration wastes fuel as the throttle is opened more than necessary. Also, speeding through intersections increases the risk of car collisions when vehicles run red lights.
Why Bad Driving Habits Matter
As a fleet manager, you should be thinking about safety with regard to your business and staff. When you have drivers out on public roads, you also have a corporate responsibility to the public in general. If your drivers are practicing reckless behaviors or unsafe habits, they aren't just putting themselves, your vehicles, and your inventory at risk.
They are also endangering other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on and around the road. In order to keep everyone safe and avoid the risk we just mentioned, it is essential that you're prioritizing safety in your fleet.
Why Monitor Hard Braking and Acceleration?
There are many reasons you should pay close attention to any event resulting in hard braking or acceleration. These events will increase safety for your drivers and the general public and ultimately save you significant amounts of money in the long run. Here are a few examples:
Decrease the Risk of Accidents
If any of your drivers fail to maintain a safe distance between their truck and the other vehicles that are traveling around them, the chance of an accident occurring can increase dramatically. For example, should a driver try to avoid colliding with any vehicles that pull out in front of them by performing a hard brake, or if the road is icy, they may end up jack-knifing across the road or highway, leading to devastating and potentially deadly results?
If your drivers plan their routes, anticipate weather changes, drive with caution, and pay close attention to changes in traffic, hard-braking incidents and major accidents can be significantly reduced. And by avoiding accidents, your organization can avoid expensive lawsuits, medical costs, and increased insurance rates resulting from these events.
Save on Fuel Costs
Studies say that you can save an extra three miles per gallon if you can eliminate hard braking and acceleration. Imagine the fuel savings that will occur if all of your drivers are avoiding these events! Since fuel costs are typically one of the biggest expenses for vehicle fleets, this can be incredibly beneficial for your bottom line and make budgeting easier.
Reduce Your Environmental Impact
More harmful gasses are released from trucks and into the atmosphere when drivers "put the pedal to the metal" and perform hard acceleration. If you want to have more environmentally-friendly business practices, preventing hard braking and acceleration can help.
Eliminate Aggressive Driving
If any of your drivers are overly stressed or mad, they are likely to take out their frustrations through driving. If you monitor these occasions, you can take immediate action to avoid an escalated situation that will put your driver, other drivers, on the road, and your vehicle and the assets it carries at risk.
Reduce Unnecessary Wear and Tear to Your Vehicles
Drivers who consistently use hard braking on their daily routes put excessive demands on brakes, tires, springs, and shock absorbers. Once again, this is a driver-created situation that not only makes the vehicle less safe to drive, it increases the cost of maintaining the vehicle. Brakes and tires are the two areas most impacted by hard braking.
- Brakes. Repetitive heavy braking drastically decreases the brake system’s operating efficiency and substantially reduces the life of the equipment. Hard braking causes the brakes to overheat. When this heat is not allowed to disperse, brake pads become damaged and rotors may warp.
- Tires. Driver performance has a substantial impact on tire tread wear. Along with other aggressive driving behaviors, hard braking causes tire treads to wear much faster, adversely impacts tire performance and substantially reduces tire life.
Lowered Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Ranking
The FMCSA's CSA program aims to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles. This safety enforcement program collects data from various sources, including roadside inspections, accident reports, investigations, and registration information.
Companies and drivers are both held accountable for incidents and encouraged to comply with safety concerns before they lead to detrimental consequences. All of the data acquired by the FMCSA is published on their website and updated monthly. The FMCSA then focuses on the fleets found to be among the highest safety risks on the road.
Hard braking is an aggressive driving behavior considered unsafe in the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC). A high score in this category is highly undesirable. CSA scores include the number of inspections, accidents, and out-of-service periods and can be viewed by customers and competitors.
Complying with the safety recommendations needed to improve a CSA score is now strictly enforced and accompanied by stringent reporting requirements. If a fleet fails to improve, they run the risk of increased penalties and downtime.
How Do You Detect Hard Braking and Acceleration?
Now that you know the many negative effects of hard braking and acceleration, you're probably wondering how to detect these behaviors before they result in an accident affecting your entire fleet and its daily operations.
Luckily, modern technology makes it possible to detect instances of hard braking and acceleration in your fleet remotely and in real time. Many GPS tracking units now come equipped with built-in accelerometers, a technology that used to be incredibly expensive to include but is now relatively standard in most modern devices.
Fleet managers can use data from accelerometers to identify when a particular driver is making a habit out of hard braking or acceleration and monitor fleet-wide trends. When you equip your fleet vehicles with these tracking devices, their accelerometer features can determine:
- When the vehicle is engaged
- In what direction it is traveling.
- How much it has moved.
- How quickly it is traveling.
How Can You Report on Hard Braking and Acceleration with RASTRAC?
There are reports in RASTRAC that enable you to monitor if one of your drivers has an event of hard braking or hard acceleration. You are also able to setup a notification to immediately be notified via text message and/or email when one of those events occur.
The Event Report
The Event report shows all updates received that contain the specified event. You can run the report at any time or schedule it to be sent to you every day at a certain time.
Receive Instant Notifications
The Notifications in RASTRAC allow you to schedule notifications by email or text message to send when one or more of your vehicles trigger them. These notifications may be scheduled to be sent for many reasons, including triggering an event or hard braking or hard acceleration.
7 Tips to Keep Your Drivers from Hard Braking
Now that you know how to monitor harsh driving behaviors and report on them, what do you do if you identify a driver who is hard braking regularly? Here are seven key tips for preventing hard braking habits in your fleet.
Tip #1: Set Some Ground Rules for Follow Distance, Speed, Etc.
There are several reasons a driver might have to slam the brakes during a drive—and not all of these are wholly within the driver’s control. Things like animals in the road, the vehicle in front suddenly stopping, or speeders making dangerous lane changes are unexpected events that necessitate sharp braking. But, these are the exception, not the rule.
It is more common for drivers to not allow enough space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them. Many drivers severely underestimate the stop distance they need in an emergency situation. On average, a truck traveling at 55 mph needs at least 510 feet to come to a stop over the course of six seconds. This figure assumes an alert driver with a good reaction speed.
Tip #2: Use Training to Make Following the Rules Habitual!
One of the first things you can do to prevent hard braking is to establish firm rules for how closely your fleet’s vehicles can follow others and at what speeds. Reiterate these rules by having drivers practice them in training whenever possible.
Training is your chance to reaffirm the rules with drivers before they operate unsupervised with your company’s vehicles and reputation on the line. The sooner using proper follow distances becomes a habit, the better.
Tip #3: Keep Track of Which Drivers Have Incidents Behind the Wheel
Every business with a vehicle fleet should keep track of any and all incidents in which their vehicles are involved, no matter how minor. Keeping these records helps you identify patterns of bad driving behaviors among your drivers—letting you reward good drivers who have few or no incidents on their records and focus retraining on drivers who need it most.
Simply knowing that you’re tracking road safety issues such as rapid acceleration and hard braking can do a lot to deter dangerous driving habits.
Tip #4: Use GPS Tracking Devices
While tracking incidents is a reactive method of identifying bad drivers, using GPS tracking solutions for your vehicles is a proactive way to monitor every driver’s behavior behind the wheel, good or bad.
With GPS tracking for fleet vehicles, it’s possible to actively monitor your entire vehicle fleet's top speed, acceleration, braking, and cornering habits in real time. This can let you spot drivers who engage in dangerous driving before they get into an accident or get pulled over. Armed with this information, you can quickly reach out to drivers and correct bad driving behaviors.
Tip #5: Give Drivers Enough Time to Reach Their Destinations Safely
Even the best, most habitually safe drivers may fudge safety rules to try to meet an aggressive timetable. If a driver has exactly 6 hours to complete a 6-hour drive, with no time allotted for changing traffic conditions, time spent at the destination, or other necessities, they’ll feel enormous pressure to try to shave some time off the trip by speeding. Unfortunately, speeding often leads to hard braking.
The easiest fix for this is to arrange fleet timetables to give drivers some leeway on delivery times. This helps reduce the pressure to get there fast so drivers can focus more on safety. However, this should be combined with GPS location tracking to ensure that drivers don’t waste time behind the wheel.
Tip #6: Consider Using Speed-Limiting Devices
According to news coverage from Truckinginfo.com, a new bipartisan bill is forwarding the idea of enforcing a speed limit on large, commercial-class vehicles. The article states, "This legislation would officially enforce a long-awaited speed limit of 65 mph on large trucks and reduce the number of preventable fatalities on our busy roadways." So, it may be a good time to investigate the use of speed-limiting devices in trucks or other vehicles to comply with the proposed rule.
By capping the top speed of your vehicles, you can make it less likely that drivers will be able to tailgate other vehicles in normal traffic conditions. However, it is worth noting that there are concerns that such devices could keep drivers from matching the flow of surrounding traffic, which could be dangerous as well.
Rather than physically limiting the top speed of your vehicles, it may be easier to use GPS to track the speed of vehicles in certain areas to see if they’re speeding excessively and investigate if such speeding is dangerous based on the road conditions.
Tip #7: Recognize and Reward Good Drivers
Safe, efficient drivers enhance a company’s reputation for reliability and safety while also keeping operations on track. Rewarding these drivers is a must if you’re going to get others to follow their example.
Whether it’s a pat on the back or a more formal awards ceremony, recognizing safe drivers and giving them a quick reward for being a good example to others is a great idea. This can help inspire others to emulate good driving behaviors and keep your best drivers working for your fleet instead of competitors.
Safety should be a priority for everyone involved with fleet management. With all of the materials and modern tools available to help ensure you have a safe operation, there aren't many excuses as to why you wouldn't want to know what your drivers are doing when they are out on the road and proactively correct unsafe habits.
An agile and reliable GPS tracking and fleet management solution can help you accomplish these goals to the best of your ability and keep your vehicles, drivers, inventory, and the general public safer.
Contact us here at RASTRAC for more information or to schedule a free, no-obligation demonstration of the powerful solutions we have to help you improve road safety for your vehicle fleet.