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Understanding the impact of harsh driving on fleet safety and costs

Harsh driving – involving sudden braking, harsh cornering, and rapid acceleration – significantly impacts fleet safety and operational costs.

Often underestimated by safety managers, these behaviours contribute to the majority of road safety issues and financial burdens for fleets. The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) highlights that up to 84% of road accidents in South Africa are due to poor driving behaviours, including speeding and distracted driving, emphasising the need for a focused approach on managing harsh driving within the logistics, transportation, and delivery sectors.

By recognising and addressing these behaviours, fleets can not only enhance road safety but also optimise their operational costs. In this article, we will discuss harsh driving, various events that fall under harsh driving, and their impact on your fleet’s bottom line.

What are the various types of harsh driving events?

Harsh driving, as defined within the context of fleet driver safety, encompasses behaviours that result in sudden, unanticipated changes in a vehicle’s trajectory or velocity. Such actions may include excessively rapid acceleration, forceful braking, or taking corners at speeds that dramatically alter the vehicle’s directional course.

Harsh acceleration

Harsh acceleration occurs when a driver uses excessive power to accelerate from a complete stop. This behaviour is often a result of drivers not paying attention to traffic flow or feeling the need to rush away from a stop line. It can also be a consequence of a distracted driver who fails to realise they are on a collision course with another vehicle, person, or object, forcing them to take quick action to avoid a major accident or harm.

Harsh braking

Harsh braking refers to the act of a driver applying more force than necessary to bring a vehicle to a stop. This behaviour is often indicative of distracted or aggressive driving, which can lead to increased tyre wear, various maintenance issues, and, in some cases, costly insurance claims. Harsh braking is commonly observed when drivers fail to maintain a safe distance, increasing the likelihood of rear-end collisions.

Harsh cornering

Harsh cornering occurs when a driver accelerates aggressively while navigating a turn or bend. This manoeuvre exerts excessive force on the vehicle, particularly putting top-heavy vehicles at risk of flipping over. In telematics, harsh cornering is often identified by strong lateral acceleration or rapid changes in data recorded by the device’s accelerometer.


What are the effects of harsh driving events?

Dangers of harsh braking

  • Overheating of Brakes: Frequent harsh braking leads to excessive heat generation, which can diminish brake performance over time.
  • Glazing of Brake Pads: The high temperatures from constant harsh braking cause brake pads to glaze, significantly reducing their effectiveness.
  • Reduced Lifespan of Braking System: The additional strain shortens the overall lifespan of the braking system, necessitating premature replacements.
  • Activation of the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS): Harsh braking can trigger the ABS unnecessarily, potentially reducing its efficacy in actual emergency situations.
  • Increased Wear and Tear: The braking system experiences elevated stress levels, increasing the wear on critical components.
  • Higher Maintenance Costs: These conditions contribute to increased maintenance expenses due to more frequent repairs and part replacements.
  • Vehicle Downtime: Required repairs from harsh braking practices may result in vehicle downtime, impacting fleet productivity.
  • Increased Fuel Consumption: Harsh braking can lead to inefficient fuel use, contributing to higher operational costs.
  • Financial Impact: Collectively, these issues can negatively affect the bottom line through increased costs and reduced vehicle efficiency.


Dangers of harsh acceleration

  • Necessitates Harsh Braking: Harsh acceleration often leads to scenarios requiring harsh braking, compounding the negative effects.
  • Environmental Impact: Increased fuel consumption from harsh acceleration contributes to greater emissions, harming the environment.
  • Safety Risks: There’s a heightened risk of injury to all parties involved, including the potential for accidents affecting other vehicles, pedestrians, and public property.
  • Maintenance Costs: Similar to harsh braking, harsh acceleration elevates vehicle maintenance costs due to accelerated wear on various components.
  • Vehicle Downtime: The need for repairs from damage caused by aggressive driving can result in downtime, affecting fleet operation efficiency.
  • Fuel Wastage: Harsh acceleration increases fuel spend and wastage, further inflating operational costs.
  • Bottom Line Effects: Ultimately, these practices can substantially impact the financial performance of fleet operations, highlighting the need for effective driver training and monitoring systems to mitigate these behaviours.


Dangers of harsh cornering

  • Overturning: For fleets consisting of big trucks, this is a critical point. Harsh cornering dramatically increases the risk of vehicle rollovers due to intense inertia and centrifugal forces. Rollovers are often a deadly scenario for drivers in any vehicle. At the very least, your driver will face pain, inconvenience, and serious consequences.
  • Losing Control: Even if they stay upright, drivers can easily lose control of the vehicle. While tyres are meant to minimise the impact of your turn’s centrifugal force, harsh cornering leads to a loss of vehicle control when tyres can’t cope with the forces, causing skids or slides.
  • Encountering Obstacles: Limited visibility and high speed make it difficult to navigate or avoid obstacles during turns. Even if your driver isn’t moving fast enough to cause one of the above situations, their reckless cornering is still a problem.


Tips to keep your drivers from harsh driving

Now that you know what harsh driving is and the effect on your bottom line, what do you do if you identify a driver who is regularly identified as a harsh driver? Here are seven key tips for preventing these bad behaviours in your fleet.

  • Implement Ground Rules: Set clear guidelines for safe following distances and speed to account for unexpected events and emergency stopping distances.
  • Emphasise Training: Use practical training sessions to instil these rules, making safe following distances and speeds habitual for drivers.
  • Monitor Driver Behaviour: Keep a record of all driving incidents to identify patterns and address bad driving habits effectively using a fleet telematics solution.
  • Leverage GPS Tracking: Utilise GPS technology to proactively monitor and correct dangerous driving behaviours in real time.
  • Allocate Adequate Time for Deliveries: Ensure drivers have enough time for their routes to reduce the need for speeding and subsequent hard braking.
  • Consider Speed-limiting Devices: Explore using speed-limiting technology to maintain safe speeds and comply with potential regulatory changes.
  • Reward Safe Driving: Acknowledge and reward drivers for safe driving practices to encourage adherence to safety standards.


How can technology help?

Fleet telematics systems and solutions give you a clear view of the driving styles of all drivers – whether they are meeting and exceeding safety expectations or need coaching to remind them to slow down.

The data collected will provide insights into your drivers’ behaviour. If you have a safe driver who gives themselves the proper distance to brake, slows down to turn and takes their time during acceleration, you will see this reflected in your driver safety scorecard.

Want to hear how using fleet tracking technology can help you prioritise safety across your fleet? Get in touch with Netstar to schedule a demo.

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