5 Strategies to Prevent Rear-End Collisions in Trucking

Of the more than six million traffic crashes reported in 2017, roughly one-third were due to rear-end collisions between two vehicles.1 This most common of all crashes can result in significant damage and loss. For instance, in 2017, rear-enders were cited as the cause of 7.2% of all fatalities, 32.6% of injuries and 33.4% of property damage-only crashes.2

Whether you are an owner/operator or manage an entire fleet, it's important to understand why rear-end collisions occur and how to take preventive measures to reduce the risk - and the potential costs - of these collisions.

Why Rear-End Collisions Are So Common

Driving today requires more attention than ever before. There are more people on the road, more congested areas and construction zones that require careful navigation. Added to that, drivers have more distractions, including mobile phones, other drivers, eating and drinking behind the wheel, the radio, and even dashboard controls and in-cab communication devices. Distracted driving is dangerous, claiming 3,166 lives in 2017 alone.3 Any minor distraction that takes a truck driver's eyes off the road could result in a collision with a vehicle in front of them.

Speeding, aggressive driving, following too closely and blind spots, which are risks for anyone on the road, put a trucker at an even greater risk of rear-end collisions. A truck takes longer to stop than a car, and the stopping distance increases with the size and weight of the truck and its cargo. Drivers must give themselves plenty of margin for error to prevent the need for a hard stop and a potential accident.

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5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

These five strategies can help you lower your risk of rear-end collisions now and over the long term:

1.) Encourage advanced planning.

Drivers who plan their routes in advance may be better able to focus on their driving. They can also anticipate trouble spots on the road and take proactive measures to minimize potential hazards or avoid them altogether.

Many states offer 511 traffic hotlines, websites and downloadable apps to inform drivers of real-time accidents, delays, construction zones and congestion. Other helpful tools include navigation apps that estimate travel time, warn of traffic conditions and suggest alternate routes.

As convenient as these services are, they can also be a major distraction to drivers. Be sure to instruct your drivers to find a safe, off-road place to park before checking directions, using a mobile phone or interacting with a GPS device designed for trucks that alerts drivers to potential hazards such as low bridges, dangerous roads and restricted routes.

2.) Invest in collision-avoidance technology.

Truck manufacturers offer a growing number of advanced safety systems to help minimize the risk of trucking accidents and their severity. For example, some systems warn of lane departures and vehicles in the driver's blind spot; use smart cruise control to ensure a safe following distance; and apply automatic brakes if a collision is imminent. Other technologies include rearview cameras that help prevent backing-up crashes and GPS systems that can even alert drivers of stop signs.

These technologies have led to significantly lower crash rates, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Forward collision-warning systems plus automatic braking are particularly effective, reducing rear-end collisions by 50% and rear-end collisions with injuries by 56%.4

3.) Use telematics.

While traditionally used to monitor vehicle location and travel duration, current-day telematics systems provide valuable insights into driving behavior, including at-risk speeding, hard braking, phone distraction and more. You can use this data to recognize and reward safe drivers, and to offer coaching and safety incentives to those whose performance needs improvement, which can translate to fewer accidents and reduced costs for your business.

4.) Install on-board cameras.

Forward-facing and driver-facing cameras can provide invaluable information in the event of an incident, potentially exonerating the driver and your company from costly lawsuits. To get drivers on board, clearly communicate your purpose for adopting the technology, how you’ll use it and how it can benefit them.

5.) Provide regular safety communication.

Provide mandatory training to all new employees and an annual refresher to current employees that stresses the importance of avoiding distractions, maintaining a safe following distance, driving at a safe speed, taking a break when drowsy or fatigued, parking safely and other safe practices. Offer follow-up coaching based on insights from your telematics and video programs, and counseling whenever critical events occur.

Work With an Experienced Insurance Carrier

Northland Insurance® brings more than 70 years of experience to trucking safety, offering truck risk-control services, consulting and driving safety materials to help reduce your risk of rear-end collisions. In the event of a loss, our Claim professionals have specialized, in-depth knowledge of transportation claims and will help you get back on the road as soon as possible. Talk with a Northland agent today to learn more.

1 NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report, Table 29, Crashes by First Harmful Event, Manner of Collision, and Crash Severity, 2017
2 NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report 2017
3 https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
4 Accident Analysis & Prevention. Volume 99, Part A, February 2017, pages 142-152