Next time you buckle your seat belt, remember this statistic: 20 to 25 percent of American drivers will have an accident this year.
And next time you try to make a left turn, think about how drivers of UPS trucks don’t make left turns. In order to promote safety, and reduce fuel usage, major delivery companies plan routes to minimize idling and favor right turns.
Information like this is the stock-in-trade for Robert Seabaugh, managing partner for Fleet Safety Network LLC in Skillman. His company aims to combine safety with environmental strategies to help companies reduce collision rates, injuries, and greenhouse gas emissions. “We call it a triple win,” he says. “When we increase efficiencies and benefit the environment, it makes a huge impact on our client’s bottom line.”
Before starting his own firm Seabaugh had worked for Monsanto, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson in the areas of sales operations, fleet management, and fleet safety. “At Monsanto I had been given responsibility for managing the fleet of sales vehicles,” he says. “People were getting hurt and we had a fatality. Auto collisions were becoming the leading cause of fatalities, injuries, and lost time injuries.” Using industry best practices, he framed and implemented global driver safety programs that reduced collisions and injuries by from 25 to 55 percent.
In 2006 Seabaugh went off on his own and assembled a group of consultants. He makes a good case when he comes to potential clients, primarily pharmaceutical firms, and offers to cut down the number of driving accidents that their sales representatives have. “It is not uncommon for 20 percent of their sales force to have an accident every year. OSHA calls them lost work days, but they are a leading cause of workplace fatalities.”
Building on the driver safety program, he is working with Piscataway-based Bruce Wallington, the firm’s environmental sustainability practice leader, to add a “Drive Green” approach — increasing fleet efficiency (miles per gallon) while reducing fuel costs and the CO2 footprint. It is a timely effort, because the Obama administration has set an aggressive fuel efficiency standard. By 2012 passenger vehicles and light trucks will need to get, on average, 35.5 miles per gallon. The current standard is 27.5 MPG.
“Going Green is a hot topic right now,” Seabaugh says. “We are working with a company that is certified in eco-driving in Europe and sponsored by Ford.”
He quotes former EPA head and ex-Governor Christie Whitman. She told a group of transportation managers that, though motor vehicle emissions represent just 25 percent of total greenhouse gases, they represent 50 percent of smog and 70 percent of released CO.
It might seem as if re-engineered cars are the be-all and end-all of improving a company’s eco-efficiency, but Wallington believes that personal driving behaviors are as important. “We have developed a holistic approach that integrates and focuses on the automobile, driver behavior, and the territory in which the car is driven. Focusing on the car is not enough,” says Wallington.
Particularly for a multi-national company, road traffic injuries are a threat to the supply chain, to getting goods to market, and to worker safety. “Globally, road deaths are projected to be the third largest killer of people, behind heart disease and suicide by 2020,” says Seabaugh, quoting statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Worldwide now 2 million people are killed due to traffic injuries, and this costs an estimated $518 billion each year.
Driver training will be needed, and the greatest need for training will be in developing countries. “When you start adding cars to India, Pakistan, and China, you are starting at ground zero with little infrastructure and with new drivers who lack basic understanding of rules of the road,” says Seabaugh. “At a recent international road safety conference, with 300 representatives from around the world, we learned that traffic fatalities are an epidemic that will get even worse unless governments come together with world health organizations, safety organizations, and businesses — to train employees for driver safety and also teach and educate the general population.”
A native of St. Louis, Seabaugh’s father was a chemical engineer and his mother a legal secretary. To reinforce the importance of education, his father got him a summer job in a factory where the ovens were beastly hot. Thus inspired, Seabaugh majored in commerce at St. Louis University, Class of 1972, and earned a master’s in marketing. One of his three children works for a J&J company in Chicago, a second is a CPA at Monsanto, and the third is majoring in mass communications and web design at Creighton University in Omaha.
Seabaugh works from a home office now, but when he commuted to J&J he used to challenge himself to drive up Route 1 without stopping. “If I did it right, if I was using the safe driving techniques, I could indeed make the trip without hitting any of the 25 or 30 lights.” You can’t time the lights during rush hour, he hastens to add, but his scheme did work at non-peak times.
His “Green Fleet Safety Check” contributes to both safety and environmental health.
Keep your tires properly inflated. When the weather warms up tires may become over inflated, which affects fuel economy, tire wear, and your safety. Check your tires monthly. Look for the tire pressure sticker on the door jam or in the glove box.
Maintain your vehicle. A properly maintained vehicle can improve gas mileage by 4 percent. Change the oil and filters, and have your car professionally inspected and tuned for spring.
Remove excessive weight from the trunk. Sales people, in particular, often tote extraneous items in their cars, just so they don’t have to make extra trips back and forth. Spring clean the trunk to remove unnecessary items that cause the engine to work harder.
Plan and consolidate your trips. This will enable you to bypass congested routes, and reduce miles driven and excessive idling.
Avoid quick starts and aggressive driving. A smooth, steady speed saves gas and reduces wear and tear on the engine, tires, and transmission.
“Everyone is selling bits and pieces,” he says. “We help them pull all the pieces together in a holistic program — training, vehicles, communications, policies, management involvement, recognition — a 12 element system,” he says. “We create the road map for them.”
The biggest single factor guaranteeing success? Management participation. If the bigwigs buy into the plan, everyone else does too.