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Three Steps for Maintaining a Safe Utility Vehicle Fleet

By Raven Honsaker

Every day, companies work to create a safety-focused culture. Grounds managers in institutional and commercial facilities push to achieve a zero-accident policy, knowing that even a single minor incident could result in large expenses for the company and long-term injury for the person hurt. With more utility vehicles (UTVs) on jobsites than ever before, making UTV safety a top priority is one way to help keep the crew safe. Here are a few tips to consider for any UTV fleet.

Follow maximum weight guidelines. Accurately loading a UTV helps ensure that its operator and all passengers remain safe in transit, and prevents unnecessary damage to the vehicle. But correct loading practices can easily be overlooked as workers hurry to a jobsite, leading to dangerous conditions for both the crew and vehicle.

Overloading UTVs is a frequent mistake made by operators. It happens when the operator forgets to account for passenger weight when calculating total vehicle payload. For example, a vehicle with a total payload capacity of 1,500 pounds is often filled with as much material in the bed, before the two-person crew even takes a seat. This means the vehicle is operating with a payload above the recommended maximum. That extra cargo weight is costly — putting both workers and vehicles at risk. While many UTVs don’t have maximum capacity indicators on the vehicle body, crews need to be aware of each vehicle’s recommended capacity.

Maintain appropriate speed. Getting the job done quickly means higher overall productivity, but speed should never come before crew safety. This is especially true of navigating the rough terrain of a construction site.

When driving a UTV loaded to maximum capacity, it’s important for crew members to drive slowly and turn smoothly to avoid an overturn. Both high speeds and sharp turns increase the risk of a vehicle turnover. In addition, driving on steep slopes should be avoided, unless absolutely necessary.

Some UTV manufacturers are installing ground speed governors to help with this. The mechanical device enables site managers to set a maximum flat ground speed for vehicles and prevents the engine from exceeding that speed.

Enhance safe practices with optional accessories. The most popular adds-ons are accessories that alert others when vehicles are in use. Taillights, brake lights, reverse alarms, work lamps and side mirrors are simple, low-cost additions. They go a long way to ensure operator safety, especially during the early morning or on worksites where tall foliage may shield a vehicle from view.

A rollover protection system prevents passengers from injury in the event of a rollover. In addition, an occupant protection system protects operators when a vehicle tips over. These accessories may not come standard on some vehicles, so it can be a worthwhile upgrade for vehicles that work on larger construction sites.

Another option is a full-cabin enclosure, which ensures passengers’ arms and legs do not hang out of the vehicle in the event of a roll. If a vehicle starts to tip, it’s instinctual to reach out an arm to brace the fall, but this can lead to injury. Similarly, a wind stopper/rear screen creates a barrier between the cab and bed and prevents materials from entering the cab area, which could hinder the driver’s vision.

UTVs play an important role in productivity on many construction sites. But they should be used with care. Promoting safe vehicle usage will go a long way to fostering a culture of safety on the jobsite, ensuring the crew and equipment stay out of harm’s way. A firm understanding of how to use UTVs safely — and the responsibilities of the operator — will go a long way toward creating a safer environment for everyone.

Raven Honsaker is the director of product strategy for Cushman at Textron Specialized Vehicles. She focuses on Cushman’s industrial and commercial products, driving the product roadmap and working closely with research and development to ensure that the product strategy aligns with development and marketing.