Safety-capable fleet management solutions influence drivers to be more accountable, support the latest initiatives as they continue to evolve and reinforce safety policies throughout an organization.
By Don Diego Padilla II

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an estimated 40 percent of accidents are work-related. Workplace accidents can quickly become a slippery slope for waste and recycling companies with direct and indirect costs. Safety initiatives are critical concern for waste and recycling fleet managers and senior executives.

While many direct costs of accidents are covered by insurance programs, indirect loss costs can be financially draining, resulting in continuous financial leakage to a company’s bottom line. Indirect costs include time and productivity lost due to injuries and damages, resulting in increases in insurance rates, legal costs and jeopardizing the company’s reputation. This means that indirect costs are typically uninsured and unrecoverable. Accidents impact so many aspects of waste fleet and business operations that estimating the true direct and indirect costs is difficult—but the stakes are high and the risks need to be mitigated at all levels of an organization.

In recent years, fatalities and serious injuries in the waste and recycling industry have dramatically increased. SWANA reported 53 deaths in 2019 and 57 in 2018; the waste and recycling industry has become the fifth highest fatality rate in the U.S. “The number of solid waste-related fatalities continued at unusually high levels in 2019,” commented David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director and CEO. “Although there was a small decline from 2018, and that slight improvement has continued into 2020, we remain concerned about the solid waste industry’s overall safety performance. We urge all employers and employees to take advantage of the growing number and variety of SWANA safety resources,” he added.1

One accident can ruin your entire year. Prior to working for FleetMind, I worked for Allied Waste, and I have seen first-hand accidents that have wiped out a whole year’s worth of profits for a division. Naturally, if you have an accident, it can be catastrophic. Nobody wants to even think that there might be a fatality, or that they might harm someone. Secondly, the financial implications are that accidents are extremely expensive. If you do wreck a truck, that is about a $300,000 piece of equipment. And then there is the liability for whatever else may have been damaged, and for other parties involved.

Ongoing Driver Management
Hauling managers also feel more pressure to ensure that they are embedding a sustainable safety culture of safe driving accountability. In order to be truly effective, a fleet safety plan needs to take into consideration how drivers are selected and trained, as well as vehicle inspection and maintenance, and ongoing monitoring and data collection. Important elements of a fleet safety plan should include a formal safety policy with complete management support; clearly articulated roles and responsibilities; ongoing driver management, vehicle inspection and maintenance; accident reporting and investigation; and finally, efficient data collection. In order to support an effective safety, culture, managers need to identify and set policies and performance measures (KPIs). Fleet safety is largely about reducing risk by reinforcing safe driving behavior. Fleet managers who have limited or no real-time visibility into their drivers’ behavior cannot address or mitigate the issues and cannot deal effectively with at-risk drivers. This lack of visibility directly impacts their risk factors, safety records and operating costs.

Waste and recycling firms need to approach safety management correctly, from the start. Then they need to ensure that hauling managers have the tools and information they need to proactively implement fleet safety initiatives and mitigate associated risks. Ideally, a waste hauling manager should approach safety using four key steps:

1. Identify high risk drivers. Who are the drivers that constantly exceed speed limits, drive aggressively, accumulate complaints and are involved in the most just missed incidents?
2. Drivers need to be coached toward safer and more defensive driving techniques. Incentives can be used to help motivate safer driving behavior.
3. Driving patterns and behavior need to be continuously monitored to reinforce behaviors on a daily basis. Changing and maintaining driving behavior is a long-term process.
4. Systems and processes need to be put in place to deal effectively with any accidents that do occur.


Real-Time Visibility into Driver Behavior
Accident management is an important piece of an overall safety program. Fleet management tools can provide managers with real-time visibility into driver activity and behavior. Today’s most effective tools and practices include telematics, digital dashboards, fleet mapping, driver scoring and monitoring, reports and alarms, vehicle inspection and maintenance, and accident management. A fleet management system requires visibility to any given department to access centralized fleet safety data.

The biggest way you can impact driver safety is to impact driver behavior. Fleet management systems do just that. They focus on the driver experience and how to create an in-cab safety centric environment, while giving the driver all the latest technological tools that are driving production improvements within the industry. Three main areas to achieve this include automation, 360 visibility for both driver and supervisors, and real-time business intelligence.

Automation is key as it reduces driver distractions. A fleet management system provides drivers with real-time route data, turn-by-turn driving directions, and service verification, without driver interaction. In cases where the driver wants to interact with the unit by sending a message to dispatch or creating an exception note on an account, the system is configured to only allow these actions if the truck is not in motion. This provides the driver with the tools needed to operate efficiently while allowing the driver to focus on the most important thing—operating the vehicle safely.

360˚ visibility is achieved by the system being connected to as many as eight cameras surrounding the vehicle—all of which are connected to an OBC/DVR solution with alarm monitoring and capturing real-time video from each camera simultaneously. This provides the driver with complete visibility around the vehicle while providing management with real-time video of driver behavior and any incidents that may occur in real-time and historically. The video capture along with a safety dashboard tool available in the suite of back office tools provides a wealth of information for safety managers and supervisors to rate and score drivers on safety practices, coach drivers to improvement, recognize and award drivers for exceptional performance, and mitigate claims if and when they occur. Again, the system is automated so the driver can focus on operating the vehicle safely.


Automated real-time business intelligence allows management the transparency to make assessments that can prevent costly accidents. Fleet management tools are comprehensive solutions that connect to as many as 16 peripherals around the truck, including, but not limited to the ECM, cameras, scales, RFID, actuators, brakes, etc. The system collects this data in real-time and reports it to both the driver and the back-office system for management to have a transparent view of real-time activity on the route. An alarm module can be configured to capture driver behavior alarms, truck behavior alarms and route alarms. These alarms can be delivered to a report or prioritized for real-time notification via e-mail to supervisors. The availability of real-time business intelligence means that management can assess, recognize, and act on potentially dangerous and costly behaviors and incidents quickly. By virtue of a complete suite of safety and productivity tools, management can better coach drivers who are not following corporate safety practices and guidelines before they experience a costly incident or accident. This is all automated, leaving the driver to his primary task … operating the vehicle safely.

A Comprehensive Solution
Safety-capable fleet management solutions will influence drivers to be more accountable, will support the latest initiatives as they continue to evolve and will reinforce safety policies throughout an organization. It is about consistency. You cannot just say ‘safety’ once a month or put up signs. Every fleet company needs to have an onboard and back office fleet safety suite of tools. You have a $300,000 piece of equipment on the road, all day long, and you need real-time visibility along with business intelligence reporting tools to determine what it and your drivers are doing in order to effect durable sustainable change.

A waste industry fleet management veteran, Don Diego Padilla II is Vice President of Sales at FleetMind – a Safe Fleet brand, where he spearheads business and customer development activities. Previously, Don Diego was a Regional Sales Director for Allied Waste (Republic Services), a leading provider of solid waste collection, transfer, recycling and disposal services in the U.S. His industry white paper on fleet safety garnered a Network Products Guide Award in the “Best White Paper” category. Don Diego has been published in numerous industry magazines and is a frequent speaker at industry forums such as Waste Expo, Fleet Management Expo, and regional municipal waste management events (e.g., SWANA). He can be reached at (770) 876-4507 or e-mail