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Commercial vehicles: Eight safety essentials for your fleet

January 23, 2024

If you’ve ever had an employee stranded on a dark desert highway in their work truck, chances are your vehicles now require many, if not all, of the items on this list. For small business owners and fleet managers who’ve never experienced trying to change a tire – without a flashlight – in a torrential downpour – on a roadside shoulder exactly half the width of a smart car – this list is for you. Here we’ll cover the safety items every driver should have on hand.

Commercial vehicle toolkit: Safety essentials every fleet driver should have on hand

1. Fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers top the list of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. They are a crucial tool to have because fires tend to be undetected and unanticipated until it’s too late. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, in 2022 there were 188,500 vehicle fires – 13% of all fires that year. “Fire departments responded to an average of one highway vehicle fire every 2 minutes and 47 seconds.” Don’t run the risk of your employees becoming a statistic. Fire extinguishers are inexpensive and easy to find. Every vehicle in your fleet, from service vehicles to sales vehicles, should be equipped with one.

2.  Tool kit with a flashlight

This one seems obvious, but is often overlooked. Nearly every driver has experienced the frustrations of not having the proper tool for a given situation. Therefore, it’s vital to equip your drivers with the most common tools they might need, starting with a flashlight. Not doing so can be a costly mistake and might waste time and resources that could have been avoided. Ensuring your drivers are well-prepared can ensure that jobs get completed with utmost efficiency.  

3. Extra fluids

Providing your drivers with back-up fluids, like oil, coolant, and antifreeze, can save the day if an emergency arises. Your commercial vehicle drivers may not always be near a service station or mechanic, so it’s important for them to have a surplus of necessities. If a warning light comes on, drivers can simply replace any liquids they need, bypassing the need to search for a store, and eliminating the risk of running out.

4. Navigation system and road atlas

Even if your commercial vehicles aren’t equipped with a GPS tracking system and/or onboard navigation system, it’s likely that your drivers use a navigation app on their cell phone. Even so, phone batteries die and navigation systems fail. It’s best to have a back-up plan in the form of a city map or a road atlas for every truck, van, or car in your fleet.

5. Jumper cables and a portable battery jump starter

Jumper cables are great when there are other drivers nearby who are willing to lend a helping hand. But what about a dead battery on an empty highway? There are now lithium-ion powered jump starters that can provide up to 80 jumpstarts with only one charge. Some models offer built-in extras like LED flashlights/warning lights and USB ports to charge a cell phone or laptop.

6. Reflective gear and high-visibility clothing

Reflective equipment, like emergency triangles and flares, warn other drivers of a vehicle emergency. The Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration requires drivers follow certain placement protocols for warning devices on different types of roads. For two-lane, undivided highway, the subsequent protocol must be followed:

  • Devices must be placed within 10 minutes of stopping,
  • One device placed on the traffic side of the vehicle 10 feet away,
  • One in the middle of the lane, 100 feet behind the vehicle, facing oncoming traffic,
  • And one in the middle of the lane, 100 feet in front of the vehicle, facing away from oncoming traffic.

These items, in addition to high-visibility apparel, are critical for employees or drivers attending to a vehicle on the roadside. Make sure your emergency roadside kits contain these items.

7. Food, water, and spare clothes

If driving conditions are bad or if your workers are spending a great deal of time in rural or remote areas, they will be glad they have food, water, and a change of clothes. There are a myriad of situations that could cause a driver to be stranded. Taking every precaution is just good business sense for you and your employees.

8. Personal protective equipment (PPE), and spill response kits

If your work trucks carry any hazardous materials (i.e. pesticides, fuels, caustics, etc.), it is essential that your fleet is adhering to all local and national transportation safety laws. Personal protective equipment, like eye protection, hard hats, and gloves, are essential to keeping drivers safe from hazards on the road. A spill response kit is a must-have item in case of an accident or mechanical failure resulting in a hazardous material spill.

Adding these items to your work trucks may just help to protect your bottom line while keeping your employees safe and operational in the field.

WEX speaks the language of small business operators. Whether you’re looking to modernize your insight and reporting efforts, save on fuel costs or take advantage of the latest GPS tracking technologies, WEX offers solutions to simplify the business of running a business. To learn more about WEX, a dynamic and nimble global organization, please visit our About WEX page.

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U.S. Government Code of Federal Regulations
National Fire Protection Agency
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Editorial note: This article was originally published on March 27, 2019, and has been updated for this publication.

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