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Course 719 - Fleet Safety Management

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Defensive Driving

While a driver can control his or her own actions behind the wheel, it is nearly impossible to control the actions of other drivers. However, drivers should be trained in defensive driving techniques to avoid a crash in spite of the driving errors of others.

Some skills used for driving defensively include:

  • Scanning
  • Communicating
  • Hand signals
  • Flashers
  • Keeping a margin of safety
  • Adjusting


What you see is important for defensive driving:

  • Good drivers try to see 10 seconds to 15 seconds ahead on the roadway (about one city block). By looking ahead, you might avoid last minute moves such as sudden stops or quick lane changes.
  • About every 10 seconds check the mirrors to see if any vehicle is following too closely.
  • When changing lanes, backing, slowing down or driving down a long hill, it is important to check for traffic from behind the car and in your blind spots.
  • While checking the mirrors, do not take your eyes off the road for more than an instant. The vehicle in front of you could stop suddenly.
  • Always leave yourself an out.

Although mirrors are useful, you should remember they do not show the full picture. Mirrors leave blind spots in your field of vision. Blind spots are the areas near the left and right rear corners of the vehicle that you cannot see using the mirrors from the driver's perspective. Therefore, before you make any lane changes or turns, quickly turn your head and look over your shoulder to see what is in the blind spot. Additional blind spots can be created by glaring lights, dirty windshields, vehicles parked too closely to an intersection, bushes and buildings. In these cases, slowly ease your vehicle forward until you can see clearly. Avoid driving in other drivers' blind spots where it is more difficult for them to see you. Communicating

Communicating means letting others know what you plan to do early enough to avoid a crash. Anytime you plan to slow down, stop, turn, change lanes or pull away from the curb, you should signal your intention. Be in the habit of signaling your movements even when you do not see others on the road. Before you signal, you must first see that your movement can be made safely.

Hand Signals

Hand signals are given from the driver's window, using the left arm and hand:

  • To signal a left turn, hold the arm and hand straight out and point the first finger.
  • To signal a right turn, hold the arm straight out and the forearm and hand straight up, palm facing forward.
  • To signal stopping and slowing down, point the arm and hand down, palm facing back.


Flashing light signals for turns are legal substitutes for hand signals, but there are times when they are hard to see. In late afternoon and early morning, the lenses may reflect sunlight, making it difficult to tell whether the signals are flashing. At night a flashing light signal is much easier to see than a hand signal. Use the type of signal you believe will communicate best. A good rule is to use both hand signals and flashing light signals in the daytime, especially in the late afternoon or early morning when the sun is bright and low in the sky. The flashing light signal is sufficient at night. Signal at least the last 100 feet before turning or stopping. If the speed limit is 45 mph or more, signal at least the last 200 feet before turning. The faster you are driving, the farther ahead you should signal.

Keeping a Margin of Safety

Allow a margin of safety around you by staying clear of other vehicles. Make sure there is enough room ahead and behind to pass or stop safely. Use the two second rule to determine if you are far enough behind a vehicle to react if it stops suddenly.

The Two-Second Rule

The two-second rule says that you should allow two seconds between the time the vehicle ahead of you passes a given point and the time your vehicle reaches the same point.

Drive at a steady speed, and signal well in advance whenever you are slowing down or stopping to warn other drivers from following too closely. If another vehicle follows you too closely, move to another lane and signal for the driver to pass you. Stay in the middle of the lane and leave space on both sides of your car. Allow ample room between your car, parked cars and oncoming traffic.


In situations when you have to deal with two or more unavoidable dangers at the same time, adjust by giving the most room to the greatest or most likely danger. Suppose there are approaching cars to your left and a child on a bicycle to your right. The child is most likely to make a sudden move, so give the child more room. This may mean moving closer to the oncoming cars. If the dangers are equally hazardous, such as oncoming cars and parked cars, you should stop and allow the oncoming cars to pass safely before proceeding.

Struck-By Hazards

Motor vehicles accidents on the highway are the leading cause of transportation-related deaths on the job. Another area for concern is employees being struck by off-highway vehicles or other motorized equipment, particularly on construction sites or in work zones.

By taking a few minutes to follow proper procedures when operating a vehicle, a worker's life may be saved.

Spotter Safety

A spotter should always be used any time a vehicle or moving equipment with a restricted view is operating on site. The spotter's main responsibilities are to look out for himself or herself and look out for all others on the site. Some tips

for the spotter include:
  • Never leave the driver's sight without notifying the operator to stop the vehicle.
  • Always signal in an area the driver can see.
  • Be consistent with hand signals to ensure understanding.

Safe Operation Techniques

  • Do not drive a vehicle/equipment in reverse gear with an obstructed rear view, unless it has an audible reverse alarm distinguishable from the surrounding noise level or another worker signals that it is safe.
  • Workers must be highly visible in all levels of light. Warning clothing, such as red or orange vests, are required; and, if worn for night work, must be of reflective material.
  • Never allow workers who are untrained to operate equipment.
  • Drive vehicles or equipment only on roadways or grades that are safely constructed and maintained. Failure to do so can result in overturned equipment.
  • Make sure that you and all other personnel are in the clear before using dumping or lifting devices.
  • Lower or block bulldozer and scraper blades, end-loader buckets, dump bodies, etc., when not in use, and leave all controls in neutral position.
  • Set parking brakes when vehicles and equipment are parked, and chock the wheels if they are on an incline.

Worker Training

  • Train employees on the specific type of equipment they will operate, particularly the manufacturer's specifications and recommendations.
  • Familiarize all employees with the work site and all vehicle operations. Make sure they are aware of intersections and blind areas in the work zone.
  • If employees are assigned traffic control responsibilities, make sure they are trained in specific techniques, device usage and placement.

Work Zone Safety

  • Use traffic signs, barricades or flaggers when construction takes place near public roadways.
  • Ensure the traffic control zone is divided and maintained in five distinct areas: advance warning area, transition area, buffer area, worker area and termination area.
  • Display properly spaced advance warning signs to notify drivers of lane tapering, shoulder work, paving or other activity.

Vehicle Maintenance

  • Ensure seat belts are in working order and meet the regulations found in OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.601(b)(9).
  • Check vehicles before each shift to assure that all parts and accessories are in safe operating condition. Examples include brake system, tires, emergency brakes, steering and lights.
  • Ensure audible alarms and horns are in working order. All bidirectional machines, such as front-end loaders, back hoes and bulldozers, must be equipped with a horn.