If a truck driver is speeding, it's likely there are some other bad things going on too

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What jumps out at you when you read the SmartDrive annual survey on speeding is that going too fast is just one of many unsafe behaviors engaged in by the truck driver.

The results of the survey, released in recent weeks, shows a tremendous propensity of speeding drivers to take many other unsafe actions. Looking over the data, it's hard to know where to begin. Here's a few:

  • A truck driver engaging in what SmartDrive calls "excessive speed," or more than 10 mph over the speed limit, is also 266% more likely than all other drivers to talk on a handheld mobile phone while driving. The driver is also 241% more likely to text on that phone, and more than 200% more likely to be consuming beverages, food or engaging in "grooming/personal hygiene" while driving.
  • Paperwork can be difficult enough to do while sitting at a desk. But drivers who excessively speed are 171% more likely to engage in it while driving.
  • The most basic statistics is that the drivers in the category of “top speeders” are 69% more likely to be involved in a collision. The moderate speeders that are in excess of the limit but no more than 10 mph over it are 45% more likely to be in that collision.

 

  • In what might be the most sobering statistic, the drivers speeding in excess of 10 mph over the speed limit are also 272% more likely than other drivers to have both hands off the steering wheel. Not one hand; both.

The methodology to identify those drivers is precise. The category of top speeders is calculated by ranking what SmartDrive calls “speeding rate.” The rate is calculated by taking a driver's speeding score--which is produced using four separate "speeding observations measured through video events"--divided by the number of miles driven.

The four tests in the speeding score are one, whether the driver exceeded maximum fleet speed, which is when the driver tops the company's speed limit for three consecutive seconds; two, was the driver guilty of moderate speeding, where the posted limit was exceeded by 1 to 10 mph for three consecutive seconds; three, was the driver guilty of excessive speeding, which is the three-second test for speeds 11 or more mph above the speed limit; and finally, extreme speeding, where 85 mph is breached for 10 seconds.

Slaven Sljivar, SmartDrive's vice president of analytics, said for the purposes of this study's conclusions, the performance against an individual fleet's limit was not included. That's the concern of the individual companies and is provided to SmartDrive's clients, but it isn’t part of the broader study. The study that was released was intended to give a wider overview of the speeding issue for trucks, without individual company standards, as well as the behaviors that sometimes go along with it.

Speeding data is available through ELDs and telematics systems. But what SmartDrive is doing with its findings is using video to match it up to the speeding data, Sljivar said. Telematics data can show that a truck went 15 miles per hour above the speed limit. But as Sljivar noted, it doesn't also show that the truck drifted across a median line while the speeding was going on (and the data shows that the top speeders do that 54% more than other drivers).

While SmartDrive came out with this study recently, it is based on data that is being provided to its clients consistently. "The clients then have the ability to get this information to analyze and use to their benefit," Sljivar said.

SmartDrive cited data from the National Safety Council Driver Safety poll of early 2017 to show that changing attitudes toward speeding might be a challenge. In the survey, 83% of drivers said they believe speeding is a safety concern, but still, 64% said they are "comfortable speeding."

The case for fixing this is not just one of safety. It comes down to economics also. Although some of the costs cited would have been borne by victims of bad driving, rather than the perpetrators of it, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study from several years ago put the cost to employers of speeding-related expenses as $8.4 billion. That is not just from driver injuries, but it is a cumulative number throughout the economy. Right after that was distracted driving at $6 billion in losses.

The SmartDrive study has other economic gains from slowing it down that don't necessarily involve bodily harm. Citing data from the NAFA Fleet Management Association, SmartDrive cited the wear-and-tear on vehicles as being magnified by excessive speed. "Gears, bearings, clutches, suspension and drive trains all wear much faster at higher speeds," the SmartDrive report said. "Increasing speed from 50 mph to 60 mph increases maintenance costs by 38%. Increasing the speed to 70 mph increases the cost by 80%.

Finally, the miles per gallon performance for speeding drivers is 2.7% less than all other drivers, according to the SmartDrive survey. With fuel prices having been on the rise, the impact of that is magnified.

This study was the first conducted by SmartDrive on the issue of speeding, but it has done similar surveys on issues such as distracted driving.