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NIOSH Publication No. 2003-119:

Work-Related Roadway Crashes -
Challenges and Opportunities for Prevention

September 2003



The prevention strategies described in this chapter are both broad and diverse, reflecting the large number of stakeholders with influence and interest in work-related roadway safety. Some of these strategies are supported by research results, injury data, or field testing, whereas others are offered for consideration and further research. They represent a compilation of proven and promising prevention strategies relevant to employers, workers, manufacturers, government agencies, transportation planners, and safety professionals. If implemented, these strategies can complement the effectiveness of existing standards and regulations.


5.1.1 Employers

  • Provide fleet vehicles that offer the highest possible levels of occupant protection in the event of a crash. In addition to reducing injury severity in the event of a crash, this practice also conveys to workers that vehicle safety is a company priority. (Information about the crashworthiness of a given vehicle make and model is available on the NHTSA web site at

  • Implement a comprehensive vehicle maintenance program that includes pre-trip vehicle inspections for key potential problem areas, immediate withdrawal from service for any vehicle with mechanical problems, and periodic withdrawal from service for comprehensive inspection and scheduled maintenance. Federal motor carrier regulations under 49 CFR 396 contain a list of CMV systems and parts that must be inspected. In addition, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (an organization of officials responsible for enforcement of motor carrier safety laws) has developed out-of-service criteria that may be applied to all types of fleet vehicles [Randhawa et al. 1998]. (Note: these criteria are limited to severe deficiencies and should not be used as sole maintenance criteria.)

  • Develop delivery schedules that take into account the need for periodically taking trucks out of service for scheduled maintenance.

  • Ensure that no worker is assigned to drive on the job if he or she does not have a valid driver’s license. The license should be appropriate for the type of vehicle to be driven.

  • Maintain complete and accurate records of workers’ driving performance. In addition to checks of driving records of prospective employees, periodic rechecks after hiring are critical. Employers can also consider requiring drivers to provide periodic documentation of vehicle insurance and to report license suspensions or revocations as well as convictions for vehicle-related offenses. By law, employers of CMV drivers must review their driving records annually [49 CFR 391.25], but similar reviews are appropriate for other workers who drive on the job.


Table of Contents
Data on Work-Related Roadway Crashes
Federal Regulations and Standards Addressing Occupational Roadway Safety
Special Topics
Strategies for Preventing Work-Related Roadway Crashes
Research Needs

On This Page...

5. Strategies for Preventing Work-related Roadway Crashes
5.1 General Fleet Safety
5.2 Fatigue-related Crashes
5.3 Large-truck Crashes
5.4 Crashes Related to Cell Phone Use and Distracted Driving
5.5 Crashes Involving Young Drivers
5.6 Crashes Involving Older Drivers

  • Implement and enforce mandatory seat belt use policies.

  • Communicate to workers that a violation of company driver safety policy is as serious as (and has similar consequences to) a violation of safety policy on the employer’s premises.

  • Where practical, consider adopting a “one driver, one vehicle” strategy. Assignment to a single vehicle instills a sense of responsibility and ownership. Also, a worker who operates the same vehicle each day may more easily identify potential mechanical problems with that vehicle [Heath 1996].

  • Establish schedules that allow drivers to obey speed limits and follow hours-of-service regulations, where they apply. This recommendation pertains both to workers who drive long distances and to those who make local deliveries.

  • Consider implementing driver safety programs that emphasize the link between driver safety at work and driver safety at home. Safe driving in the workplace benefits the worker’s family by reducing the risk of fatality or disabling injury. In addition, lessons learned on the job can increase workers’ awareness of the importance of safe driving outside of work hours.

  • Ensure that workers receive the training necessary to operate specialized motor vehicles or equipment. This training should address changes in vehicle performance under different conditions. Examples include proper operation of vehicles with anti-lock braking systems under differing weather conditions or changes in vehicle stability, depending on the size of the load.

  • Require newly hired workers to attend performance-based defensive driving courses, with mandatory refresher training at regular intervals.

5.1.2 Workers

  • Use safety belts while driving on or off the job.

  • Before driving a rental car or other unfamiliar vehicle, familiarize yourself with the vehicle controls.

  • If possible, map out the route in advance when driving in unfamiliar places.


5.2.1 All Employers

  • Incorporate fatigue management into safety programs. Consider adopting nonregulatory approaches (e.g., the Fatigue Management Program under development at FMCSA, or similar programs) if they are found to be effective.

  • Provide drivers with detailed information about company policies related to driver discretion in scheduling start times, delivery times, and rest breaks. Employers covered by motor carrier regulations should permit drivers a reasonable degree of latitude in their work schedules to allow them to take rest breaks when they feel fatigued.

  • Avoid requiring workers to drive irregular hours or to extend their workday far beyond their normal working hours as a result of driving responsibilities.

5.2.2 Motor Carrier Employers

  • Establish schedules that allow drivers to obey speed limits and follow applicable hours-of-service regulations [NIOSH 1998].

  • Nondriver workers with responsibilities for scheduling, dispatching, or supervising drivers should know and comply with regulations that govern scheduling [49 CFR 392.6] and hours of service [49 CFR 395.3].

  • Support modifications in delivery schedules when necessary to ensure that drivers get adequate rest [Hartley 1997].

  • Minimize the amount of time drivers must spend loading and unloading cargo. This may reduce risk of overexertion injuries (e.g., because of lifting) and may also reduce fatigue.

  • Consider installing electronic on-board recorders to monitor compliance with hours-of-service regulations, given that research has shown widespread violation of these regulations in the United States. In the European Union, mechanical tachographs have been required since 1985 and are used to track driving time, time spent doing maintenance and administrative work, on-duty waiting time, rest time, and break time [FHWA 2000].

5.2.3 Policy Makers

  • Support field studies to determine the safety consequences of revised FMCSA hours-of-service regulations that will apply to property-carrying CMV drivers beginning January 4, 2004.

  • Encourage Federal and State agencies that provide rest areas for truck drivers to coordinate their efforts and ensure that adequate numbers of parking spaces are available. These entities should also coordinate with the private sector as appropriate. Drivers who must spend off-duty periods on the road should have access to secure rest areas located at regular intervals.

5.2.4 Transportation Planners and Traffic Engineers

  • Recommend wider use of shoulder rumble strips to alert drivers that they have left the roadway. Research suggests that shoulder rumble strips placed on high-speed, controlled-access rural roads reduce the number of run-off-the-road crashes by 30% to 50% [NHTSA 1998a].


5.3.1 Safety Professionals

  • Incorporate information about safely sharing the road with trucks and other large CMVs into driver education courses, State driver’s manuals, and workplace driver training programs. The Share the Road Safely Campaign offers safety materials that can be used to supplement driver training (see

  • Incorporate into truck driver training programs information about common unsafe driving practices of motorists in the vicinity of large trucks [Stuster 1999].

5.3.2 Motor Carrier Employers

  • Consider compensating truck drivers for time spent on required safety inspections to increase their incentive to perform them thoroughly. This recommendation applies to drivers who are paid by the mile as well as those who are paid by the hour.

5.3.3 Transportation Planners and Traffic Engineers

  • Assess whether the number of access points to State and U.S. highways might be reduced to minimize the number of situations in which CMVs and local passenger vehicles entering the stream of traffic may collide. Entrances and exits should be clearly marked and placed so that all highway users have optimum visibility of other vehicles.


5.4.1 Workers

No preventive measures have been developed specifically for workers because research is lacking on cell phone use during work-related driving. However, preventive measures for the general driving public are also relevant to the workplace and are recommended for workers as follows [Buschman 2000; Lissy et al. 2000; Stevens and Paulo 1997]:

  • Avoid placing or taking cell phone calls while operating a motor vehicle, especially in inclement weather, unfamiliar areas, or heavy traffic.

  • Place calls from a stopped vehicle if at all possible.

  • Allow a passenger, not the driver, to handle phone calls if possible. Alternatively, allow incoming calls to roll over to voice mail.

  • Be aware of any local regulations governing cell phone use.

  • Avoid other activities such as eating, drinking, or adjusting noncritical vehicle controls while driving.

5.4.2 Employers

  • Avoid pressuring workers to routinely conduct business on a cell phone while driving.

  • Monitor workers’ crash experience related to the use of cell phones, in-vehicle Internet, and other technologies.

  • Modify company policies on use of these technologies while driving if safety concerns demand it.

5.4.3 Manufacturers, Human Factors Professionals, and Policy Makers

  • Provide consumers with educational materials about the dangers of driver distraction during use of cell phones and other technologies. Incorporate similar information into driver education programs and workplace driver training programs [NHTSA 1997].

  • Consider the safety implications of combining cell phones with other information systems in vehicles. Equipment designers should consider developing systems that can temporarily divert incoming calls or potentially distracting visual displays when traffic conditions demand the driver’s full attention [Burns and Lansdown 2000; NHTSA 1997; Parkes 1993].


5.5.1 Employers

  • Ensure that young workers who are assigned to drive on the job have a valid State driver’s license.

  • Require successful completion of a State-approved driver education course (where State laws provide for such courses) and require that the worker have a driving record free of any moving violations at the time of hire. For young workers who have not completed a driver education course, expedite their enrollment in driver training courses offered to all employees.

  • Set policy according to State graduated driver licensing laws (particularly restrictions on night driving and the number of teen passengers) so that company operations do not place young workers in violation of these laws.

  • Keep a driving log to ensure that young drivers do not exceed the maximum number of hours that may be driven. Even if the employer is not covered under FLSA, the provisions of this act nonetheless provide useful guidance for appropriate assignment of driving tasks to young workers.

  • Assign driving-related tasks to young drivers in an incremental fashion, beginning with limited driving responsibilities and ending with unrestricted assignments. This recommendation extends to young drivers aged 18 or older who are still in the process of acquiring driving skills and experience—not just to those under age 18 who are covered by FLSA.

  • Strictly enforce policies that require workers to wear safety belts in all vehicles (drivers and passengers). Since adolescents and young adults are less likely than older adults to wear safety belts, be particularly vigilant about enforcing safety belt use in this worker population.

5.5.2 Employers

  • Provide supervised performance-based training, especially for young workers who are expected to operate specialized vehicles or equipment.

  • Look for driver training programs that address hazard perception skills that may be lacking in young drivers.


5.6.1 Employers

  • Offer periodic screening of vision and general physical health for all workers for whom driving is a primary job duty. Consider increasing the frequency of screening for workers aged 65 and older, but make sure that any such policy ensures fair treatment of all workers.

  • Base decisions to restrict driving for older workers on assessments of actual driving ability—not solely on general medical screening or on an arbitrary age limit.

  • If a worker’s ability to drive on the job is impaired temporarily or permanently, make every effort to accommodate that worker to other job duties if he or she is able to perform them.

  • Consider providing vehicles with features that may ease the driving task and decrease the risk of crashes and injuries among older workers. Such vehicle features include power steering and brakes, automatic transmission, clean and properly adjusted headlights, side air bags, and new technology such as crash avoidance systems and night vision enhancement systems. However, employers should be alert to the potentially negative effects of new technology, as older drivers may find it difficult and stressful to adjust to new aspects of vehicle operation [Holland and Rabbitt 1994; Maycock 1997].

  • For older drivers, consider offering training sessions in which a skilled observer or driving instructor provides feedback on driving performance [Holland and Rabbitt 1994].

5.6.2 Transportation Planners and Traffic Engineers

The following changes in highway design, signage, and traffic control devices will help all drivers, and especially older drivers:

  • Consider widening the pavement markings.

  • Use large, well illuminated and maintained road signs and traffic control devices that convey simple, concise messages.

  • Use directional turn arrows at busy intersections.

  • Use positive barriers in crossovers and transition areas in highway construction zones.

[FHWA 2001; Maycock 1997; Sivak 1985]

5.6.3 Safety Professionals

  • Develop driver training or refresher courses that are tailored to older workers and that provide information about age-related changes that may affect driving performance [Holland 1993]. These courses should address the driving situations that are most likely to pose difficulties for older drivers (e.g., driving at night, driving in intersections, and yielding the right of way). The courses should offer strategies for coping with these situations.


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