According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 38,600 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2020. Even as the U.S. imposed tight restrictions and Americans drove less, deaths from traffic accidents increased. The three most common causes of fatalities on the road were impaired driving, speeding, and not wearing seat belts. Employers directly or indirectly bear the cost of these accidents, whether they occur on or off the job.
Accidents have far-reaching financial and psychological effects on employees and their families, as well as their coworkers and employers. Similarly, when USPS® employees are involved in motor vehicle accidents, the United States Postal Service® absorbs those costs. Employees’ lives and finances are often adversely affected.
Whether you manage a fleet of vehicles and drivers, or drive yourself, basic safe driving practices can greatly reduce the risks associated with a motor vehicle accident. Focusing on motor vehicle safety provides the following benefits:
- Saves lives and reduces the risk of life-altering injuries.
- Protects both human and financial resources.
- Guards against potential financial liabilities associated with employee accidents.
Many accidents are caused by distraction or haste when inexperienced employees drive unfamiliar vehicles in unfamiliar territory or when experienced employees fail to follow established safe driving procedures. Today’s technology tempts us to make phone calls, send texts or emails, and update social media while driving — all actions that contribute to distracted driving.
By reviewing accident data and analyzing the results of driver observations, Postal Service™ management identifies and addresses unsafe driving practices and provides training to help Postal Service drivers avoid tragedy. Data for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 showed:
- Postal Service employees had more than 26,000 motor vehicle accidents in FY 2020. More than half of all motor vehicle accidents involved employees with little USPS driving experience.
- More than 11,000 USPS motor vehicle accidents occurred when the vehicle’s line of travel was straight.
- Almost two-thirds of USPS motor vehicle accident fatalities involved employees not wearing seatbelts.
The data indicates that the Postal Service can prevent motor vehicle accidents by addressing the following issues:
- Driving in inclement weather.
- Avoiding collisions caused by distraction or inattention.
- Wearing seatbelts.
Additionally, the Postal Service offers stand-up talks for employees that focus on:
- Defensive driving.
- Distracted driving.
- Winter driving.
- Postal industrial truck (PIT) safety.
Motor Vehicle Safety Includes Forklift Operation
The ability to drive a car or truck does not qualify you to operate a forklift. A forklift operates differently from other motor vehicles. It cannot stop as quickly, can tip over more easily, and has a different turning radius. Unsafe operation of a forklift can cause it to tip over, the load to collapse, or could result in bystanders being struck by the machine, the forks, or the load. PIT operators must be properly trained and licensed for the type of vehicle that they will be driving. The vehicle must be maintained in a safe operating condition and must be inspected by the operator before each operational tour.
Here are some reminders about safe forklift operation:
- Use your inspection checklist before operating the forklift to determine if it is in good working order and safe to operate. If it is not, remove the forklift from service until it can be repaired.
- To lift the load, put the forks all the way in. After slowly lifting the load, tilt it back so it will remain on the forks. Keep the forks low so you can see where you are going and to prevent tipping accidents. When the forklift is empty, the forks must be pointed downhill.
- Observe the speed limits and slow down for corners, rough or sloping surfaces, and large loads. Honk the horn at intersections.
- Use extreme caution around the edges of loading docks. The bridge plate must be secure before driving onto the truck you are loading or unloading.
- When driving with a load, go forward up a slope, but back down the slope.
- When backing up, look in the direction the forklift is moving. Constantly scan the area for pedestrians or objects and proceed very slowly.
- Stay inside the operator’s cage: keep your head, arms, and legs inside, and never reach through the mast. Always wear a seatbelt.
- Do not pick up passengers because they can easily fall and be crushed by the forklift.
Always stay within marked forklift travel lanes and aisles, and slow down and use the horn to alert pedestrians when you travel across any marked or customary pedestrian traffic lanes.
Be Part of the Solution
The Postal Service can reduce motor vehicle and PIT accidents with training and by emphasizing the importance of basic safe driving practices. By doing so, we not only reduce our accident counts, but also ensure that our employees feel prepared for their jobs. Workplace driver safety programs not only make good business sense, but also engage and empower employees.
By changing attitudes about driving behavior and improving driving skills, the Postal Service can create and sustain a safety culture where everyone understands that “Safety Depends on Me.”
For more information, see the following driver safety-related resources:
- Safety Depends on Me videos: blue.usps.gov/corpcomm/uspstv/safety-and-health/welcome.htm.
- Handbook EL-804, Safe Driver Program: blue.usps.gov/cpim/ftp/hand/el804.pdf.
- Handbook EL-814, Postal Employee’s Guide to Safety: blue.usps.gov/cpim/ftp/hand/el814.pdf.
- Handbook EL-801, Supervisor’s Safety: blue.usps.gov/cpim/ftp/hand/el801.pdf.
- Informed Mobility Safety Observation Tool (IMSOT).
- National Traffic Highway Safety Administration: nhtsa.gov/press-releases/2019-fatality-data-traffic-deaths-2020-q2-projections.
- PS Form 4584, Observation of Driving Practices: blue.usps.gov/formmgmt/forms/ps4584.pdf.
- Delivery Management System (DMS): dms.usps.gov/delivery/driverexceptions.
- National Safety Council: nsc.org/road-safety.
— Occupational Safety and Health,
Human Resources, 3-10-22