National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) recently relaunched its Zero Distractions Campaign, which seeks to educate current and future drivers, and their passengers about the importance of active and safe driving on the road.
The campaign first was conceived in 2017 by past Safety & Security Council past chairpersons Candi Coate, K-Limited Carrier’s vice president of safety and regulatory compliance, and Dave Edmondson, vice president of safety at J&M Tank Lines, who were inspired by Carbon Express driver Todd Stine’s efforts to promote active and safe driving while serving as the NTTC’s 2016-17 Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year.
They introduced the campaign at the NTTC Safety & Security Council’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada.
“Now that it’s been realized, we have new goals to strive for,” Coate said during a March 24 webinar.
Most of the record-setting 86,000 collisions on U.S. roads last year involved distracting driving behaviors, according to a 2020 study by mobility analysis firm Zendrive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says more than 65,000 people are killed in car crashes every two years, and one in 10 involve a distracted driver.
In response, the National Safety Council has designated the month of April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to encourage the motoring public to take the pledge and vow to drive free of all distractions.
“As safety leaders, NTTC and our Safety and Security Council are concerned about these incidents, and they want to do the most they can to help end distracted driving,” said Kris Trivedi, NTTC’s office coordinator.
By relaunching the Zero Distractions campaign this spring, NTTC leaders are hoping to remind people about this deadly epidemic, which isn’t going to go away on its own, and reinvigorate members’ efforts to spread the word within their companies and communities, and also their own families to better reach younger drivers.
“Simply put, the only way we’re going to put an end to the distracted driving crisis is to change our behaviors,” Coate said. That means eliminating distractions in commercial vehicles, and within our own cars and trucks, and the most effective way to reduce distractions is not to use cell phones or other devices behind the wheel.
“When you choose to multi-task while driving, you’re making a conscious, selfish decision to put yourself, your passengers and the motoring public in harm’s way,” Coate said.
As the Zero Distractions slogan states: “When you drive distracted, we are all impacted.”
NTTC’s new three-year campaign strategy, which Coate said will be readdressed annually, calls for executing a marketing plan, recruiting ambassadors and building partnerships. Marketing efforts will include social media posts—using the #zerodistractions hashtag—email blasts, presentations at NTTC events and national promotions. Outreach will include two ambassadors from each of the four regions served by the association who will help promote the program and collect pledges. They’ll also assist in NTTC efforts to enlist help from driving schools and associations like the American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association, state trucking associations, high schools and universities, and members of the mobile phone industry.
The goal is to secure at least 500 pledges to practice active, safe driving.
“In order to obtain these goals, we first need full awareness of the actions that lead to distracted driving,” Coate said. “The US Department of Transportation’s NHTSA defines distracted driving as anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. To break it down further, there are three primary categories of distractions. The first is visual, or anything that takes your eyes off the road; next is manual, or anything that takes your hands off the wheel, and the third is cognitive, or anything that takes your mind off the road.”
Examples include heated discussions with passengers, moving things around, talking or listening on a cell phone, adjusting the radio, and even searching for air conditioning or window wiper controls in an unfamiliar vehicle.
Ways to change behaviors include using a cell phone bag like CellSlip that blocks incoming calls and texts; asking family, friends and colleagues not to contact you while driving; creating codes for emergencies, like two quick calls that you let you know to pull over and call back when safe; setting navigation systems before driving; and postponing important conversations with passengers until the vehicle is stopped.
NHTSA releases a distracted driving report every two years. The latest, reflecting 2018 data, shows distracted driving remains an epidemic, regularly leading to injuries and death among our youth and non-occupants. In 2018, 2,841 people were killed and 400,000 injured due to distracted driving, 5% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the accident, and 15- to 19-year-olds represented the largest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes. In addition, 506 non-occupants, including pedestrians and bicyclists, were killed in distracted-affected crashes in 2018, according to NHTSA.
“All of us in the tank industry know the day-to-day struggles,” Coate said. “Our drivers are on the road everyday seeing the best and the worst that’s out there. The No. 1 goal of our drivers and companies is always safety first. Depending on the product we’re hauling, our business can be dangerous, and the risks are high. We need to be correct 100% of the time, and for this reason we’re the safest segment in the transportation industry.
“Most safety improvements in transportation originate in trucking. We collaborate with manufacturers, shippers and chemical companies to ensure safety throughout the entire process. This is also why we support federal laws that prohibit truck drivers from texting while driving, and most companies will terminate employees who are caught engaging in such behaviors.
“It’s also why NTTC, our drivers and our companies think more can be done.”
Coate pointed out Ohio, where K-Limited is headquartered, is one of only four states where texting while driving still is not a primary offense, along with Nebraska, Missouri and Montana, but that soon could change. “In February, our governor (Mike DeWine) reaffirmed his commitment to improve the safety of Ohio roads by including provisions in his executive budget proposal that strengthen Ohio’s distracted driving laws,” she said. “The ‘Hands-Free Ohio’ provisions will make driving while handling any electronic wireless device a primary offense for adult drivers, and increase fines for people who habitually use devices while driving. And in cases where using a device causes a serious injury or death, the penalties will mirror those for drunk driving.
“The NHTSA also reported several states experienced significant decreases in traffic deaths within two years after passing and enforcing similar laws.”
Visit tanktruck.org and click on the Zero Distractions Campaign link under the Safety tab to sign the pledge, download the Zero Distractions toolbox, which includes a presentation, infographics and social media posts, or to find out more about how to help NTTC spread the word as a Zero Distractions ambassador.
“This is an exciting way to get involved with our organization, and in your local community as well,” Trivedi said.