Monthly Archives: September 2016

Drive Safety Through Good Truck Driver Relationships

There are a number of ways to drive safety within your organization. Some say it starts with the CEO. Others say it ends at the safety manager. In reality, the safety of your fleet is driven primarily by its truck drivers. The fact is, your operators hold the keys to the CSA castle.

For many a fleet safety, HR or recruiting manager, things like back-office aspects, from drug testing programs to inspection protocols and e-logs take up the majority of available time. But what many seem to overlook is the truck driver relationship aspect. Is your fleet doing enough to get to know its operators?

To Know Your Truck Drivers

In any situation, people want friends. Getting to know the people that are at the forefront of your fleet’s operations can do only good. It should be considered a perk to get to know your truck drivers. Having experienced truck drivers is something that should be treated with honor and respect.

When you are recruiting a new person, training a new driver, or even doing an exit interview, you want to be able to look someone in the eye and be completely above board with them. Even if a situation arises where benefits or pay have to be cut, when you can be honest with someone, generally they will trust in your word that it will be okay, and you will find them back in the cab the next day.

By operating this way, you ensure veteran truck drivers have the faith in your organization, that they will work harder and be more loyal over the long term. You want to treat them fairly, with respect and dignity.

It’s About More Than Paper

You can’t just write something down and expect it to be just so. Just because you’ve expressed a thought doesn’t mean that your driver is going to go out there and actually implement whatever your idea is. You need buy-in. Those who work for you want to know you care.

Most of all, remember that the bad comes with the good. As a responsible fleet or safety manager, you need to know that whether you have to hire, fire or fuss at, it’s more important that your people are safe than that someone had their feelings hurt.

You also need to keep specific fleet policies in mind. While many may be immediately inclined to let their truck drivers take the vehicle home, you also want to make sure the truck is parked somewhere safe.

Integrating the New and Old

When you are evaluating your relationship with your truck drivers, it’s important to remember that we live in a brave new world. Now you have to cover things like electronic logging devices and advanced safety technologies. You’ve got to make sure your people are bought in to these new ideas.

For most fleets, their truck drivers are sort of on the fence about e-logs. Some might ask what they will do if they get held up at a shipper or receiver. On the other side of it your truck drivers should be reminded that they will have better navigation capabilities, messaging capabilities and in some cases advanced technologies like touchscreen tablets.

While you may run into arguments regarding privacy and such, the fact is this technology is all about safety. If your truck drivers show disinterest or don’t pay attention, it could have an impact on your fleet’s safety.

In the end, the best way to ensure safety is to ensure your truck drivers are motivated to operate safely, and the best way to get them to do that is to ensure you are getting to know them. Only through solid relationships with your people can you help ensure the safety of your fleet.

What Will The Future Of Transportation Look Like?

The trucking companies of today are going to face a whole new world tomorrow. The fact is, no matter how entrenched, the future of trucking is going to require a whole new way of thinking.

And there’s serious danger to trucking companies who don’t see the writing on the wall and make some adjustments in how they do business. As just one historical example, let us not forget that almost 40 years ago deregulation put most of the motor carriers operating at the time out of business.

What was the catalyst for this? Some would blame the regulation, but the truth is that the carriers of yesterday simply weren’t prepared for the sweeping change that reshaped the face of their industry.

Today, the changes will be even greater. Although it may be a hyperbolic to say, the changes in the pipe today rival in magnitude the very invention of the Interstate Highway System. But what changes do we speak of?

A Cloudy Horizon

One need not look further than their own federal government to see the first big danger. If changes aren’t made to the federal budgetary system, we could see it balloon from 12 percent today to up to 50 percent or higher by 2030.

Sure, 2030 is a long time away, you say, but consider that these changes happen over time. What is plain to see is that America’s borrowing habits have got to change.

But how does this affect trucking, you ask. Consider how the government might fix this problem. If taxes rise by an appreciable amount, you may see a contraction of shipping across the country.

Another area that directly affects our industry is that of infrastructure spending. If money for roads and bridges dries up, motor carriers across the country are going to feel it.

Today, trucking pays around 3 to 5 cents per mile towards infrastructure work, in the form of user fees. In the future, the real work may end up costing the industry anywhere from 15 to 20 cents per mile more.

Is there a possibility that over the next couple of decades trucking could see an increase of anything up to $2.00 in user fees? But while it looks like all doom and gloom, are there changes on the horizon that could benefit the industry?

Savings by Automation

While some say semi-autonomous trucks and smart highways are nothing more than a pipe dream, that pipe dream is rapidly becoming a reality.

Should we see semi-autonomous trucks operating on the nation’s highways by, say, 2030, future fleets could save anywhere up to $1.00 per mile on truckload linehaul operations. Still, on the flip side, you could see price of moving freight cut in half.

Once technologies like truck platooning come fully online, you could see some major industry disruption. And with so many big players stepping in to develop the technology, it’s likely we could see it mature sooner rather than later.

The Future of Intermodal

Of course, freight doesn’t only get around by truck. The United States also moves goods by rail and sea. Some say the rail freight industry is facing a tough road ahead.

The main reason for rail’s woes lie in that it spent the last several years focusing on efficiency, cost reduction and major rate hikes. In the end, for freight by rail to be viable, the industry has got to find a way to lower rates and steal freight opportunities from trucking as costs go down.

Where intermodal freight is concerned, many believe that more innovation needs to take place. For intermodal to become a true competitor, it has got to modify how it currently functions.

The fact is, advanced trucking technologies are going to turn highways into intermodal-like roadways. The main concern for intermodal will lie in whether or not it can branch out from dealing with customers closer to the terminals and better handle mid-range and short-haul markets.

How will the changes in these other industries have an overall affect on trucking? Only the future can tell.



Keeping An Eye On Your Braking System

When it comes to safely operating a heavy-duty commercial vehicle, your brakes are one of the most important components. A big rig’s size and weight requires hefty brakes that can stand the wear and tear of both city, regional and long-haul driving.

Today, the path to safer semis starts with new technologies and advanced braking systems. But beyond simply using the right components, the braking system must be supported by comprehensive training and technical aptitude.

Keep Maintenance in Mind

The braking system is a complex system, and things like friction selection, air system and components upkeep all play a part in ensuring the safe operation of a commercial motor vehicle.

Does your vehicle – or fleet of vehicles – utilize drum or air disc brakes? Depending on the application, it’s crucial to know when and what types of friction are needed depending on how the vehicle is being used and in what conditions.

One of the most important things an enterprising fleet technician can do is to check regularly for cracks or missing pieces. Always ensure the drums are maintained at an adequate thickness. Double check for any signs that the brakes may be dragging or perhaps the linings are overheating.

An Eye on Air Braking Systems

It is important that clean air is maintained when working with a an air braking system. Ensure checks for moisture are completed monthly.

In some cases, the shop can use oil-coalescing air dryer cartridges to keep the system clean. The best way to prevent any problems in the system is to spot them ahead of time. Do this by focusing on air leaks and brake modulating valves.

Today’s modern air braking systems are composed of a complex number of components. Technical aptitude is essential when providing maintenance on these vital components.

Keep Adjustment in Mind

Far too many vehicles lie out of commission – making zero dollars for the fleet – because of wheel ends that are beyond the maximum allowable stroke. The fact is, if a truck driver’s wheel ends are are out-of-adjustment, that truck driver or fleet operation can be fined up to 25%.

The best way to prevent a fine – and keep your truck drivers safe – is to perform wheel measurements that check the distance starting from the chamber, then follow it all the way out to the large clevis pin. Of course, ensure the brakes are released. Once the alignment has been checked, don’t forget to re-charge the system.

If the system is using automatic slack adjusters, make sure you don’t adjust them over and over again. If you find repeat adjustments are necessary, there may be another problem at hand.

More Than the Machine

When considering the braking system of a heavy-duty commercial vehicle, it’s important to remember that learning and knowledge are just as important as components used.

There are specific responsibilities that the truck driver and the fleet manager must undertake. First and foremost, the operator must be familiar with the system controls, blinking light fault codes, damage control, and more, to ensure safe operation.

One example of where knowledge is key is in the operation of anti lock braking systems (ABS). These systems utilize warning lights to provide information regarding what is going on in other areas of the systems. Often, wheel speed sensors are built into the braking system. If the truck driver isn’t familiar with these systems, a serious safety concern could be presented.

Ensuring pre-trip checks and system leak tests are completed regularly should be included as regular duties in any professional truck driver’s daily routine.

The Final Inspection

When checking your brake system, be sure to check for loose hoses, complete a visual inspection of the wheel ends and make sure the air chambers, and slack adjusters are all in good working order.

Be sure to double check the steering axle and other air brake components. Double check your air pressure and loss – if any.

In the end, the final inspection can be the determining factor in how safe you are on the road. Always remember that it’s your brakes that provide ultimate control over your vehicle. Keep that in mind as you keep your brake system in good working order.


The Latest On The FMCSA Sleep Apnea Review Board Recommendations

As anybody who sits for a prolonged period of time for their work will tell you, sleep apnea can be a real concern. Now, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking the topic head on.

They have now convened a group of top medical advisers to take a close look at sleep apnea and make a list of guidelines in regards to the condition, with a decision already upon us.

What to Expect

It is likely that truck drivers will be required to undergo diagnostic sleep tests if they are showing a body mass index of 40 or higher. They may also target those who have experienced excessive fatigue or have been in a sleep-related accident.

The medical review board, after some deliberation, issued a specific set of recommendations during a two-day session on August 22nd and 23rd. Their goal was to help the FMCSA come up with clear guidelines that medical examiners can use to handle cases of severe cases of sleep apnea.

The board also suggested that any truck driver at risk for sleep apnea could receive a conditional 90-day medical certification. The validity of this certification would be pending the sleep study treatment and potential diagnosis.

Fortunately, there’s still time for the industry to digest the full report, as the FMCSA has reported the new rule would not come until sometime next year, after the new administration takes office.

What Are the Factors?

The review board also pinpointed specific factors in determining if a truck driver should be required to undergo a sleep study. The target body mass index range is 33 to 40.

Here is what they are looking at:

  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Male neck size > 27 inches
  • Female neck size > 15.5 inches
  • History of stroke
  • History of coronary artery disease
  • History of arrhythmias
  • Excessively loud snoring
  • Small or recessed jaw
  • Visible apnea symptoms
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Over 42 years of age
  • A male
  • Post-menopausal female
  • A small airway

The board went on to recommend that any truck driver diagnosed with sleep apnea after testing should not be given a medical certification lasting more than a year.

One of the advisory board members. Brian Morris of Quadrant Health Strategies Inc., tried to get the board to require four risk factors instead of three, but he was overruled. He was worried that in only going with three risk factors, a large number of drivers might be sent for screening for no reason.

Consider that some of the factors, such as gender or age, are somewhat automatic. For example, truck drivers are usually over 42 years old and male, so those are two risk factors already counting against the individual – things that are outside their control.

On the other side of the argument, other board members believe these recommendations will help to clarify uniform standards concerns regarding medical examinations and when a sleep apnea determination is made.

Some Nagging Concerns

The American Transportation Research Institute did a survey of 800 truck drivers and found that the overall average for the cost of a sleep study is around $1,200. This includes both out-of-pocket costs and any time missed from work.

Another item of concern among those receiving the recommendations is that medical examiners could have something to gain financially by sending drivers to sleep labs.

As far as how to treat the condition, the board recommended a preferred method of treatment called PAP, or positive airway pressure. To this day, PAP remains the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.

Although the board did say it would allow oral devices for apnea treatment, some members pointed out that many of these alternate treatments have not been medically proven to work.

In the end, the board updated a list of recommendations from 2012. Their methodology included up to 77 written statements from physicians and industry stakeholders.

So what will the final word be on sleep apnea and costly sleep studies? For that, and as to how the these recommendations will be implemented, only time will tell.