Monthly Archives: April 2017

Small Trucking Companies Can Now Afford Better Integrated Safety Technologies

When it comes to safety, it doesn’t really matter what size your company is, maintaining a proper safety culture is critical and process improvement should include safety as a mandatory practice.

This could be true no more than businesses running small trucking fleets. The large players have the resources, technology and employees they require for adequate supervision of truck drivers, technicians, dispatchers and everyone else on down the line.

That’s where fleet management tools come in. Is your fleet prepared for the future? The fact is, these technologies have sufficiently dropped in price that small fleets now have the ability to monitor truck driver behavior, vehicle performance, and other operational aspects in ways they couldn’t even ten years ago.

What this means is that the capabilities of the big guys are now in the hands of the small guys. Imagine a fleet of 5 – 10 tractors running the same kind of well-managed and safe fleet of vehicles as some of their largest competitors.

New systems allow small trucking companies to leverage billions of data points collected through fleet management software. Utilizing these technologies can have a definite impact on fleet safety goals.

Evaluating Vehicle and Business Type
Sure, many driving the roads nowadays may see a lot of tractor-trailers on the road, but they probably don’t know that heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles account for far less fleet traffic than they may initially imagine.

Consider that there are 27.6 million service-based vehicles registered nationwide. This whopping number accounts for one in ten of all vehicles currently on the roads today.

These commercial fleets comprise everything from Class 1 – 5 vehicles. Typically, you can expect these vehicles to make up plumbing, heating, construction, pest control and other vehicles of the type.

Now consider that there are a mere 5.6 million heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles on the road, and suddenly everything comes into perspective. This means there are around five service-based vehicles for every one big rig.

What Does It Mean
So, what does this all mean for a small fleet with truckers on the road and employees at home office? It means that, outside the most obvious concern of human safety and well – being – utilizing technology to improve safety measures has not only become practical, it’s become a necessary part of doing business.

Having a hardwired safety control device, whether passive or active, not only helps you improve truck driver behavior, it increases the safety of said truck driver and those in passenger vehicles around him or her on the road.

Prior to responsive technologies, fleet managers employed a ‘hit or miss’ approach to addressing or improving fleet safety measures. Or perhaps they were reacting to an incident, rather than proactively preventing it?

Whatever the case, there’s a real business case for small fleets to invest in technologies that allow them to monitor their fleet in real time, rather than waiting for vehicle downtime or a potential accident lawsuit.

Dropping Costs
The main driver of this new potential for small fleets is the consistent drop in price for such technologies. Components from across industry are now being cross-pollinated, which allows for better price drops.

According to some estimates, costs for technologies of the same abilities and built-in processes constructed ten years ago are now on the order of 50 percent cheaper today. This opens new avenues and potential for fleets of all shapes and sizes.

Think your fleet isn’t ready? Imagine the long-term investment gain as your safety numbers improve, truck drivers and customers are happier, and the feds are potentially off your case.

With prices dropping, you’ve got no excuse to jump on the trucker safety technology bandwagon. Hop on today!

Fleet Safety Starts At The Top, Tools And All

When it comes to trucking safety, a fleet needs to practice what they preach, and to do so, they have to ensure safety culture is coming from the top of the organization.

Sure, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on safety technology these days, but it doesn’t really matter how fancy the technology is your fleet is employing, or how thorough your safety program, if ownership hasn’t bought in, the people working the front lines won’t follow through with proper safety behavior.

What does this mean? It means if a shipper asks to have a load covered, the truck driver says no, but then gets a directive from the top authorizing it, safety is definitively undermined.

Quite frankly, fleet safety should take a back seat to nothing, especially where management is concerned. Also keep in mind that by forcing a truck driver to make a move that could undermine their own potential safety, that could fall under truck driver coercion, which could represent a huge problem for the fleet.

Safety culture must run throughout the company, from the front-line to the C-suite. If that means a dispatcher reports one of their own truck drivers trying to run hot, then there is nothing wrong with that.

If you want your fleet to operate with safety at the forefront of everyone’s mind, the word cannot exist in a vacuum. Safety, operations, maintenance and even back-office work; they can’t all be different things, or mutually exclusive. Safety must be a part of each.

From The Top to Tools Down

When it comes to a safety culture, you have safety managers that are also doing this work. Are they investing in the right equipment? Consider that it is one thing to buy the right equipment, but you have to ensure your safety manager and those operating the equipment have safety first-and-foremost on the mind.

Sure, you can try to get the most out of these devices on their own, but if you aren’t properly following up on what they are teaching you, they may be as useless as a downed power inverter.

You could have all the safety technology in the world installed on a truck driven by a truck driver with bad habits. This is why coaching and a proper safety culture is so important. The most proactive safety tool is the example being set by those in charge.

Don’t just use safety videos to nail truck drivers to the wall, but also use them as good examples. Were you a truck driver once? Perhaps your safety manager can get behind the wheel and record some good behavior. Tools can be used to help truck drivers learn what is good just as much as they can be used to castigate them for doing something wrong.

There’s a reason why the old adage is spoken so often, and not just in the trucking industry. Where safety is concerned, are you “practicing what you preach?” In the end, advanced systems are meaningless if the people operating them aren’t living by the principles these devices communicate.

Executive Leadership

As the leader of a fleet, whether large or small, it is important to lead not just in shareholder value, but in incorporating a proper safety culture.

Have you considered popping in on training sessions to share safety best practices or anecdotal evidence regarding your own safety experiences?

Perhaps one-one-ones with truck drivers to get their ideas on what works and what doesn’t will help increase their buy-in and involvement in the entire safety process.

The fact is, this goes beyond CSA scores. Having a safety culture that works is about walking the talk. Do you have a top-down safety culture? If not, it’s time to take a second look at your operation.

What’s Happening With The CSA Program?

Could it be that the future of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, otherwise known as the CSA program, is in doubt? This Obama-era rule was designed to radically alter how US trucking regulations are enforced. Yet, it could now be in danger of losing its bite.

As of last week, US regulators essentially scrapped a rule that would have been the essential part of what gives the CSA program its regulatory muscle.

What Happened?

The notice, published in the Federal Register, by the FMCSA, withdrew the proposal that was issued in January of 2016 to create a new safety fitness determination system. The system was essentially designed to assign specific safety ratings to trucking companies, which would in turn govern whether or not they could operate.

So, what happens now? In essence, the CSA program is now on a hold until the National Academy of Sciences revisits CSA’s methodology and data. Depending on the outcome of the report, CSA could be significantly changed. This follows years of complaints from nearly every industry-trade group and participant who operates within its guidelines.

But what were the main sticking points? Among shippers and brokers, the main problem was a fear that vicarious liability lawsuits would target them for hiring “unsafe carriers” and rely on CSA data to do it.

While CSA scores have been removed from public view, shippers still feared that regulators weren’t clearly spelling out what their responsibility should be in light of the rulemaking.

What Was Supposed to Happen

The SFD rule was initially designed to increase safety investigations on part of the FMCSA. But trucking groups, including the American Trucking Associations, argued that the data was unsound.

The problem that resulted in the CSA rulemaking was that a large number of brokers – up to two-thirds of them – had no safety rating at all. Not having CSA in place could lead to shippers not having a clear determination on who they should or shouldn’t use when it comes to hiring a broker.

Many report that they don’t have a problem with the CSA program specifically, just how it is currently designed. Many refer to working with the program as nothing more than reading tea leaves. So, what’s the problem? Most refer to a “flawed foundation” of data related to trucking violations. Considering the data is applied from across a wide range and over a number of states, they argue there are inconsistences in the numbers.

A Request Was Made

The process of removing CSA’s effectiveness came when a number of industry groups petitioned the new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, to amend the rulemaking.

Now that the proposed rule has been removed, it doesn’t mean that CSA is gone altogether. The proposed rule leaves in place the system of assigning a rating, although once the NAS has completed their review, that too could change.

What isn’t clear is how the program will evolve over the years. CSA got its start under the administration of George W. Bush, but grew under the Obama administration and went live across the country in 2010.

The fact is, the NAS report will ultimately determine how the system will be changed over the coming years. Until then, the FMCSA will wait, stating that they are not close to finalizing a rule, instead content to wait for the NAS to finish their analysis.

As the FMCSA determines what the changes will be, trucking companies will have to work under a system under constant flux. Whether you agree with the decisions made by various political administrations, the constant change certainly doesn’t make anything easier.