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October 25, 2021

5 Bad Driving Habits Your Fleet Should Avoid

5 Bad Driving Habits Your Fleet Should Avoid

Bad driving habits are bad for business. At best, they lower your fuel efficiency and diminish productivity. At worst, they create serious safety hazards that endanger the lives of your fleet drivers and others. Not to mention they can also hurt your brand reputation and lead to costly downtime.

Here are five bad driving habits that should be addressed above all others, along with tips on how to correct them.

1. “Warming Up” a Vehicle By Idling

One of the longest running myths is that drivers should “warm up” a vehicle by letting it idle for several minutes before operating it. The logic is that giving the engine time to run for a while, especially in cold weather, will minimize wear and tear and make it drive smoother. But this just isn’t the case. 

Not only does idling like this waste fuel, it can actually cause engine problems. That’s because letting a vehicle warm up puts extra fuel into the combustion chamber, which can result in too much getting on the cylinder walls. This, in turn, can dissolve the oil that lubricates the cylinders, often reducing the lifespan of critical components. 

Most experts agree that a vehicle should idle for no longer than 30 seconds after starting it and that simply driving it right away is the most effective way to warm up the engine. Doing so should decrease fuel consumption considerably and should help prolong the life of the engine. And when this is done at scale across a large fleet, the impact can be profound. Therefore, the antiquated idea of letting a vehicle warm up by letting it idle is something that should be laid to rest and an approach your fleet drivers should be discouraged from taking. 

2. Driving While Distracted

According to recent data, commercial fleets have an annual accident rate of around 20%. The primary reason that number is so high is due to the volume of miles fleet drivers log. While the average non-fleet driver travels 12,000 – 15,000 miles per year, many fleet drivers travel up to 25,000 miles per year, which statistically puts them at a greater risk of accidents. 

This begs the question. What are the most common reasons for fleet accidents? 

The National Safety Council reports that it’s distracted driving and speeding — the two bad driving habits we’ll cover next. Driving while distracted presents a major concern for fleet managers because any time a driver is engrossed in anything besides driving, the likelihood of an accident skyrockets. And while distracted driving can include many activities, one of the biggest threats is using a phone. 

Texting or talking while on the road is a massive problem in America and something fleet managers need to put an end to. Fortunately, there’s technology that makes this simple. VQ Safety, for example, automatically locks a driver out of their phone whenever the vehicle is put in gear — forward or reverse, enabling Safe Driving Mode. Once the vehicle is put back in park, they can resume using their phone again. 

bad driving habits

Rather than merely relying on a driver’s word that they won’t use their phone while driving, this guarantees they won’t, which goes a long way for stamping out one of the top bad driving habits. 

3. Excessive Speeding

As we just mentioned, speeding is the second biggest reason for accidents among fleet drivers. And this is understandable when you consider that many drivers are under pressure to hit deadlines, arrive for appointments and make deliveries on a time crunch. This is a natural catalyst for speeding, where even with the best of intentions, drivers may feel the need to hit dangerous speeds just to stay on schedule throughout the day. 

But of course, this is a recipe for disaster and an issue every fleet manager should be diligent about preventing. To achieve this, you’ll want to be crystal clear about what the maximum driving speeds are in your fleet policies. That alone should establish a baseline and deter a good percentage of excessive speeding. 

However, you can take it one step further by using a speed governor to restrict a driver’s speed based on the one mandated in your policy. This provides zero wiggle room with speeding, and drivers are simply unable to go beyond what’s allowed, ensuring they’re never in a position that could place themselves and other drivers in danger.

bad driving habits

4. Rapid Acceleration and Deceleration 

Here’s the scenario: A fleet driver is sitting at a red light and it turns green. Rather than smoothly accelerating and gradually getting back up to speed, they gun it and rapidly accelerate. And when they reach another red light, they slam on the brakes, rapidly decelerating instead of lightly tapping them and smoothly coming to a stop. 

These bad driving habits can be classified as aggressive driving, which is problematic for two key reasons:

First, it increases fuel consumption. According to The U.S. Department of Energy, rapid acceleration and fast braking “can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic.” That can be significant at scale across an entire fleet. So just imagine how costly this can be from a fuel consumption standpoint. If a large percentage of your fleet drivers are engaging in this type of behavior, it’s going to take a chunk out of your profitability. 

Second, it creates serious wear and tear on vehicles, increasing the frequency of major repairs and vehicle replacements. Aggressive acceleration makes the transmission and engine work extra hard, which, over time, can have a cumulative effect that makes them need mechanical work earlier than they should. And hard braking causes the brake pads to wear out prematurely, which dramatically lowers their lifespan and results in them needing to be replaced quicker. 

That’s why smooth acceleration and deceleration should always be a focal point of fleet driver education. Ideally, drivers won’t stop or start too quickly to avoid taxing the transmission, engine, and brakes.

5. Tailgating

Nearly half (47%) of all vehicle accidents were rear-end collisions, according to a 2016 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This statistic illustrates perfectly the perils of tailgating where fleet drivers follow other vehicles too closely. 

Nearly half (47%) of all vehicle accidents were rear-end collisions, according to a 2016 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Click To Tweet

There has been much debate over the years as to what exactly constitutes a safe driving distance. Conventional logic says, for instance, a driver should be at least one car length behind for every 10 mph they’re traveling. So if they were driving 50 mph, they should be at least five car lengths behind. 

While that can be helpful for establishing a baseline of safe speed, DriversEd.com suggests following the three-second rule where, after the car in front of them has passed a given point, a driver should be able to count to at least three (using one Massachusetts, two Massachusetts, three Massachusetts) before they cross the same point. DriversEd.com also notes that the three-second rule should be regarded as the bare minimum, where more space is better if possible. This is especially true when it comes to operating larger fleet vehicles or when there are treacherous road conditions because it may take longer to slow down.

Keeping Bad Driving Habits in Check

A well-run fleet starts with proper driving. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can go wrong, which is exactly why fleet managers need to keep a close eye on driver behavior. Although there are countless factors that can create issues, the five bad driving habits listed here are some of the most common and can have the biggest impact on your bottom line. They are all areas to concentrate on when creating policies, educating drivers, and monitoring their behavior.

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