Frederick Smith, Chairman and CEO
Dear Mr. Smith:
I recently watched one of your drivers enter a busy intersection while typing and holding his cell phone to his face. When he came to a stop, I spoke up. He angrily responded, “I’m just doing my job” before taking off again, phone to face.
When I reported this to your FedEx Driver Complaint line (800-463-3339), I was instructed to hang up and call a “Customer Advocacy Team,” number. I gave up after it rang for about 10 minutes.
Your personally signed introduction to the 2016 FedEx Cares “Safety Above All” report warns that roadway fatalities are expected to rise to nearly two million worldwide by 2020, and promises FedEx’s commitment to reversing reckless driving behavior. You state that FedEx integrates safety into everything you do, and promote your involvement with traffic safety research and consumer-focused campaigns including How Not to Get Hit by a Car, Moment of Silence and Take Action Against Distraction.
If safety is your number one priority, why does FedEx tolerate driver cell phone use?
Fatal and injury crashes involving large trucks and buses are rising -- with speeding and driver distraction the most common driver behaviors cited in these incidents.
In 2015, over 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in approximately 3,600 fatal crashes -- an eight percent increase from 2014. Truck and bus-related injury crashes have increased by 62% from 2009 to 2015, after years of steady decline.
The profound dangers of hand-held and hands-free phone use while driving are established fact, documented by every leading research organization, and highlighted in your own FedEx Cares consumer education materials:
● Driving while using a cell phone reduces the brain activity critical to safe driving by 37%.
● Drivers who use cell phones are more likely to engage in a variety of additional reckless behaviors, like red light running and speeding.
● Phone conversations of any type decrease reaction time and increase variations in speed, lane deviations, and steering wheel control.
● When conversing on mobile devices, either hand-held or hands-free, drivers increase their risk of a crash two to four times.
● Drivers who text are eight times as likely to be in a crash or near crash as drivers who are not texting.
The likelihood of a cell phone-related crash disproportionately affects truck drivers.
According to a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, car or light truck drivers who use an electronic device while driving face a crash risk 1.4 times higher than those driving distraction free. For truck drivers who use or reach for an electronic device behind the wheel, crash is 6.7 times higher than that of a non-distracted driver.
And because truck drivers carry twice the amount of vehicle weight compared with the average car or SUV, they risk a higher probability of causing injury or fatality in the event of a crash. National Bureau of Economics research suggests that a 1,000 pound increase in striking vehicle weight raises the probability of a fatality in the struck vehicle by 47%. The average FedEx truck weighs 12,000-16,000 pounds.
Federal regulations prohibit commercial drivers from texting or using handheld phones while driving. And using a hand-held phone in any way is illegal in California, and 14 other states. (The U.S. Department of Transportation defines texting as: manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device, e-mailing, instant messaging, or accessing a website.)
A number of Fortune 500 and National Safety Council member companies have adopted more stringent National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, banning all portable electronic devices, including hands-free cellphones, for all of their drivers.
The wisdom of this decision is born out in Strength in Numbers, a Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) fleet benchmarking study of 45 global leaders in the transportation, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, packaging, manufacturing, food and beverage, and insurance industries. The study found that companies with the best road safety performance were those who imposed and strictly enforced total bans on mobile phone use. In the words of one NETS member, employees and contractors understand that “if you break the rules, you don’t work for us.”
Exxon Mobile, Shell, Cargill, Owens Corning, and nearly 30 other Fortune 500 companies included in the NETS study, chose to implement bans after concluding that driver cell phone use did not mesh with company safety culture.
When Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning, with 16,000 employees worldwide, implemented a cell phone ban, CEO Mike Thaman lead the way by forgoing cell use at all times while driving. While part of Thaman’s motivation was to explore the initiative’s impact on productivity, his leadership also built morale, as employees recognized they were pioneering a significant public health initiative. And Thaman discovered that company productivity actually rose after the cell phone ban was established -- a result also found in 19% of the Fortune 500 companies surveyed by NSC.
As a highly visible, global leader, FedEx and each of its drivers set examples every day for better or worse.
You have enormous potential to either fuel and promote a treacherous status quo, or model and deliver meaningful change in cell phone policy and driver behavior.
Which will you chose?
We Save Lives Advocate
Founder and President of We Save Lives