Distracted Driving report calls for fleet action

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OTTAWA, Ont. – A new report from the Traffic Industry Research Foundation (TIRF) is calling for employers to take action on distracted driving, at a time when motor vehicle collisions remain a leading cause of traumatic workplace incidents.

Distracted Driving and Workplace Safety Policies: A Business Case for Employers, released this week, was developed through consultations trucking industry representatives and workplace health and safety officials.

Distracted driving is identified as a factor in one in four fatal crashes, and distracted drivers are more likely to kill other road users than themselves. (Photo: istock)

“In addition to the immeasurable costs for communities and families who experience death and serious injuries due to distracted driving, these collisions have significant costs and consequences for employers,” said TIRF president and CEO Robyn Robertson, in a related press release. “In several Canadian jurisdictions, motor vehicle collisions account for almost 1/3 of persons killed in traumatic workplace incidents.”

“Employers that do not yet have a distracted driving policy in place should make this a priority.”


Distracted driving is identified as a factor in one in four fatal crashes, while a related analysis found that distracted drivers are more likely to kill other road users than themselves. And the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that truck drivers were distracted in 33 of the 548 fatalities involving large truck occupants in 2016.

“Employers that do not yet have a distracted driving policy in place should make this a priority. Employers with a policy in place should focus attention on its implementation, ensuring that it is reinforced through operational practices, and integrated with safety and training programs,” the report recommends.

The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes generally declined between 2000 and 2015, but the 389 trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017 represented a slight increase over previous years, Transport Canada says.

Costs beyond fatalities alone

The costs of such collisions are not limited to fatalities, either. For example, Ontario transportation employees who recorded injuries within a month of a workplace incident lost an average of nine days of work in 2017, according to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

“Investment in the prevention of distracted driving in the workplace has tremendous benefits for employers. It is generally accepted that the development and implementation of orientation and training programs, new safety technologies, and workplace safety programs cost employers in terms of financial and human resources. However, distracted driving collisions, which are entirely preventable, cost employers, and the whole transportation industry, more,” the TIRF report says.

Some fleets are already taking steps to address the issue. TIRF offered examples of existing training initiatives including Bison Transport’s use of a training simulator to highlight the dangers of distracted driving, and Liberty Linehaul safety training videos.

New technologies and telematics are also seen as tools that could help fleets better identify distracted driving incidents and near misses.

“The costs associated with distracted driving incidents are not limited to the time of the crash event and are instead far-reaching. Employers can expect to incur costs over a period of months, if not years, that can impact all areas of their business. Smaller companies have the most to lose since the cost of one distracted driving collision could possibly lead to bankruptcy,” the report adds.

Cited economic losses include liability and exposure to litigation; onsite cleanups, towing and repairs; insurance costs; employee absenteeism; and the need to replace skilled workers.

While many jurisdictions have introduced escalating fines and penalties in the past five years, it can take “considerable time” to put legislation and regulation in place, TIRF notes. And even though police services have been charging at-fault drivers with criminal negligence causing injury or death, high levels of enforcement “is resource-intensive and difficult to sustain” in the face of competing road safety and enforcement priorities.

“More importantly, industry leaders agree that they simply cannot wait for change.”

Industry groups involved in the research included the Canadian Trucking Alliance, Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, and the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association.

“We continue to work cooperatively with governments and share innovative approaches to address distracted driving as part of our 10-point safety plan, which also promotes the importance of driver training,” said Geoff Wood, the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s senior vice-president – policy.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • When I travel the highways as of late I see truck divers constantly either looking at their phones, texting , driving with one foot on the dash. The other factor is following distance. There isn’t any!
    We need to get back to basics of defensive driving and enforce company distracted driving policies.
    With the moronic speed limiter law drivers don’t space themselves properly and run bunched up causing more multi truck collisions. After 45 years on the road as a professional driver I am saddened by the lack of respect drivers now have for their profession and themselves. If you lack that respect how can you expect the public to respect you.

    • When I drove, I wore a headset with microphone and would answer the phone. Only on the open road. Never in cities or towns. Now, I would use a bluetooth drvice. So easy to use and your cell stays where you put it.
      I have seen people use their cell on speaker mode and holding the phone…not safe. You are still distracted. 2 hands on the wheel is the only way, PERIOD

  • Every driver should be at best at all times while driving. That is every driver. Whether driving a moped, Fiat or Peterbilt fully loaded. Todays drivers act as though its a virtual drive down the highway. I went through drivers ed and school bus training and things were brought to your attention with videos with what happens when you are not doing your best at your job of driving. it was not hidden from you at all. The school bus driving instructor could actually bring a person to tears . I saw it happen.
    Seeing drivers today today makes it seem no-one thinks it can happen to them or worse don’t think at all about driving safely.
    I hate laws but what else is going to reduce stupid

  • Had a driver that came in too the terminal I worked at looked like a McDonald’s worker . The guy had a head set on so tried too talk too him as he was new, it was like talking too a kid with a game boy in his hand. All he asked me was do I know the wifi password . Simple but a example of what we call the new generation of driver absorbed in the phone. I find even on the road restaurants most are looking at the phone . Shit happens and no one asks anymore questions like how do I get there safely. The phone has taken over as the driver’s bible. So I don’t even stop too help as they got a phone why stop . No one even helps in accidents or stop in winter. As a old style driver we use too talk too each other now it’s a lack of respect. Generation phone will regret the fact no one talks.