Driver Safety Tips for Your Interiorscape Company
Driver safety is crucial in a country with a yearly average of 6 million car accidents.
Driving home today, I nearly ended up in a guardrail as a white Honda tried to make a last minute turn onto the exit ramp. If I hadn’t slammed on the breaks while jerking the wheel to the shoulder, I’m positive he would have side swiped my van. Luckily, he either heard the tires squeal or the sound of my horn blaring, and pulled back into his lane.
Unfortunately, close calls like that are a common occurrence on the crazy streets of Jacksonville (and everywhere else, for that matter!).
Whether you’re making floral deliveries, transporting large amounts of material and foliage, driving service routes, or making sales calls, people in the interiorscape industry are on the road continuously. And that amplifies the risk of something going wrong. The more steps you take to be vehicle proactive, the better off your company will be.
Driver Safety: The License
The first step I take is to make sure any new staff members carry a valid driver’s license. To be on the safe side, you may want to do yearly check ins. It’s always a possibility for someone to get a suspended license and not tell you. If you have commercial rated vehicles, the government legally requires you to do a much more extensive annual background check on a driver with a CDL rated license.
Not sure whether your box truck or Sprinter qualifies as commercial rated? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, any vehicle that transports hazardous material or has a gross weight (including trailer loads) in excess of 10,000 pounds must apply for a U.S. DOT number and follow the DOT/FMCSA regulations.
You do the best you can: hiring conscientious drivers, giving regular safety talks about no texting and driving, parking company vehicles and trailers in areas that don’t imped traffic, and the steps to take should a vehicle break down or be involved in an accident. You prepare your employees by taking such measures, but are your vehicles prepared as well?
Driver Safety: The Vehicle
Last month, I was on a sales call far away on the other side of town. I was one of the last people to leave the parking lot at 6:30. When I turned the key … nothing. My battery had died, probably because I left my iPad charging for two hours while I was inside. I did have jumper cables, but the area was desolate. Having road side assistance, I figured I could get a tow truck. That evening, however, both 95 and 295 highways had major traffic accidents. After calling five tow companies, the quickest one to reach me
would be four hours away. Of course, I was very upset, but what if this situation had happened while I was commuting to set up a wedding? That situation would have been disastrous instead of very irritating.
Assemble a Driving Kit
When a company vehicle breaks down, it can have more than just human aggravation consequences. I make it a habit to check my tires and oil before heading out to company projects and timed events. Besides a quick safety check, I keep a break down kit in every vehicle. Before that day, it used to include jumper cables; now, I’ve invested in a portable battery charger that you can purchase anywhere from $50 – $100. A small price to pay should a loaded vehicle break down while on route to a timed rental event. Besides roadside flags, standard medical kit, duct tape, motor oil, battery starter, and fix-a-flat, I keep a gallon of water on hand. The water can be used for over-heated engines or to keep you hydrated in the middle of a Florida summer.
When I lived up North, I always had a bag of salt and blanket in the trunk. Driving through snow and ice is something I don’t miss. Black ice is a major concern on the highways. Many times, I had to use salt or bag of kitty litter to get my tires to grip the road and save myself from being stuck. When battling extreme winter weather, your safety kit should also include such items as antifreeze, snow-scrapers, and maybe even tire chains for heavy box trucks.
Operating company vehicles can be risky, especially in a growing city like Jacksonville. One of my relatives owned a large landscape company where one of his employees was rushing to a jobsite, ran a red light, and hit another car, killing the driver. A tragic situation nobody ever wants to be in. This happened over a decade ago when vehicle tracking devices weren’t available. Today, we have access to several GPS tracking devices and services. These provide real time location, driving statistics, battery levels, services notices, and many other helpful features. Fortunately for business owners, this technology is getting more advanced as well as more affordable. If this fleet service was available during his day, my uncle would have installed every company vehicle with a device and just maybe, possibly preventing that tragedy.
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