Monthly Archives: June 2017

For Safety’s Sake – And So Much More – Embrace The ELD

It sure is the topic of the day, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. Ever-closer the date looms and now is the time when many a motor carrier – who hasn’t already – will finally decide on investing in an ELD solution.

Not only will they be mandated, they just make sense. At this point, most industry groups, truckers and people up and down the fleet line agree: ELDs are ushering in a new age of in-cab capabilities.

Many owner-operators and small fleets will be trying to figure out how to implement a solution that not only keeps them in compliance with regulations and safety standards, but also offers up a little return-on-investment.

Fortunately, companies manufacturing these products are packing in so much more than the ability to simply log a run or track hours.

From Dashcams to Scanners

Modern ELDs generally stuff plenty of usability into their interface, in whatever form it may come in. There are ELD systems that can now talk to Android and iOS devices, essentially providing dispatch or a fleet safety manager – no matter where they may be – to get in touch with their truck driver.

Other, GPS-enabled devices, collect data from the vehicle’s electronic control module. They can automate a variety of different tasks and collect data on almost anything the user wants data collected on.

Whereas once a fleet was at the mercy of old-fashioned record keeping methods – as well as only the word of those involved if an accident were to occur – now everything is recorded, above board and ready for collection at a moment’s notice.

You can even use an ELD to help you fight a ticket, if necessary. We’re not saying law enforcement or other passenger car drivers are wrong, but if you have an ELD recording all events, perhaps in cases where your truck driver is right, you may get a little reprieve.

ELDs for Safety

One of the best ways you can utilize an all-encompassing ELD is to ensure you invest in one that has safety features built in. This is, of course, if you aren’t already utilizing advanced safety features on your trucks – such as dash cams or collision avoidance systems.

Dispatch can utilize GPS-enabled ELDs to view a truck driver’s location in real time, obtain historical data and even advise on where the next rest stop or fueling location may be. This could be a crucial capability if a truck is operating through a cargo red zone or navigating unfamiliar territory.

Being able to detect what the weather is up to also allows for better route planning prior to leaving headquarters, or even on-the-fly planning on behalf of the truck driver him or herself if things start to look bad.

Advanced ELDs can offer alternate routes and provide suggestions on safer options. If you aren’t seeing it by now, the point is, since you should invest in an ELD anyway, why not go with one that keeps things like safety in mind.

And not just safety. You can even automate your fuel-tax data collection efforts.

Keeping Distance Data Collection Requirements in Mind

This also goes beyond all the capabilities of an ELD and how it can enhance the safety and efficiency of your fleet operations. There are also tax and regulatory issues at stake.

There’s plenty of reason for new trucking industry players to pay very close attention to the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and International Registration Plan (IRP) data collection and tax-reporting process. But what does that have to do with your ELD choice?

You may one day have to go through an IFTA or IRP audit if there is a substantial reduction in either your annual reported mileage (ARM) or a big jump in your miles-per-gallon efficiency level, though these triggers aren’t necessarily written in the books, word on the street is, the information is correct.

So, as always, it’s important to remember that this is about more than just distance and accuracy or ELDs that go well beyond the minimum, this is about how your business operates in the current marketplace. Get the right ELD and give yourself an edge.

What We Gleaned From The Recent FMCSA Stakeholder Meeting

On Monday, June 12, the trucking industry and the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) met – all under the auspices of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at Department of Transportation (DOT) headquarters in Washington D.C. to start a two-day meeting designed to address both accountability and safety within the organizations and companies involved.

Also among the topics were ‘Big Data’, how that data should be used and the different ways in which the supply chain has evolved – and will continue to evolve – over time.

The MCSAC advised the FMCSA on a new five-year plan they had put together. The plan – stretched out across five years – was designed to consider any deregulatory impacts or issues like truck driver retention and recruiting rates.

The New Plan Highlights

The MCSAC plan put the spotlight on the one thing that most legacy industries are attempting to deal with, and that’s technological disruption; the need for fleets, not just with each other, but within themselves, to better communicate.

Motor carriers should be operating within environments where systems are interoperable and speak to each other. Dispatch should be able to seamlessly communicate with any member of the fleet at a given moment, using several different methods.

Tractors and trailers should be tracked, whether by satellite or GPS, at all times. Today, these technologies exist, and the competitive fleets of the future will be using them. Will yours?

The MCSAC committee also pointed out 12 specific regulations which they felt may be outdated and could be under review, depending on the paperwork requirements or alignments of said regulation.

The Most Important Factor

What each players needs to consider as they weigh the different options available at agencies with new heads is how the underlying inefficiencies still built into the trucking industry will respond if decisions aren’t made on better informed data.

Take truck driver retention as one example. In an environment where we are still woefully short of the truck drivers we need, the industry itself – and some say the regulatory environment – serves as an enemy against itself.

But why, you ask?

Many studies have shown that a trucker could wind up anywhere between one and eight hours at one location – say, a weight check, which is not an entirely unheard-of scenario.

Or you could have a shipper who just isn’t ready and leaves the truckers waiting far too long. How many of us have seen that Facebook update from someone we know who has a trucker friend posting that they are waiting somewhere for someone who is extremely late with the load.

In this excellent look at what “the last mile” really means, truck driver James Benson argues that if the trucking industry is to get any safer or more efficient, they have to set and keep appointment times. Not doing so, as he puts it, as a “ripple effect” on the entire chain.

The “Driver” of Economic Growth

The fact is this: The trucking industry – a healthy supply chain – these are the drivers of economic gain. Yet there are many headwinds keeping the industry from reaching its full potential.

Whether truckers are dealing with long delays at ports or supplier docks or trying to make sense of the new Hours of Service regulation, our nation’s truck drivers are laying it out on the line for us. Trucking is the “driver” of economic growth. Let’s treat it as such.

With the Electronic Logging Device mandate and other rules perhaps under new consideration, could we see yet another change? No matter what happens, safety must always be kept in mind.

Are Guard Rails The Answer To Trucking-Related Accident Injuries?

There’s a new debate happening between trucking industry groups and trucking safety advocates. This time it has to do with tractor-trailers equipped with side guard rails, which auto safety groups say mitigate serious crashes when a passenger vehicle collides with a tractor or trailer.

On the other side, the trucking industry asserts that there is already technology in place to prevent such situations and that resources can be better used elsewhere.

As it stands, federal law requires that if you are operating a heavy-duty Class 8 big rig, you’ve got to have rear underride guards already installed. These are designed to prevent passenger cars from winding up beneath the truck in the event of an accident.

Citing passenger death figures from 2015, safety groups reported that 301 passenger occupants were killed when they struck the side of a trailer in the car they were riding in. But are guard rails the answer, or are groups trying to find an answer merely for the sake of doing so? Obviously, 301 deaths is a terrible number, but a measured approach must be taken.

Testing Current Technologies

The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from where this type of equipment is concerned. In a recent test using a device consisting of a steel rail covered with fiberglass mounted onto the trailer resulted in a dummy surviving impact at 35 miles per hour in a mid-size car.

Without the guard rail? The crash sheared off the roof of the vehicle and wound up wedged underneath the trailer. This type of scenario would most-certainly have been fatal had it been a real-life crash.

While some guard rails consist of steel beams with fiberglass overlays, others offer inflatable options tied to sensors designed to inflate when a crash seems imminent. Still, the trucking industry itself continues to have an internal conversation regarding the merit of these devices.

According to the American Trucking Associations, there hasn’t yet been any industry-wide consensus regarding guard rails because there are other aspects to consider when installing the technology, from weight to aerodynamic flow, never mind any other add-ons that may be presently installed.

Avoiding Crashes to Begin With

The most ideal scenario would be to employ the guard rails in situations where the cost and application merits it, but in the meantime support industry-wide safety efforts.

From automatic braking systems to forward-collision alerts, there are a number of both budding and mature technologies to choose from.  These technologies are designed to prevent a passenger car from ever having to worry about whether a guard rail is installed or not.

Of course, all crashes are tragedies, and here at the Trucking Safety Blog, we would never want to insinuate that an applicable safety technology NOT be installed for the purpose of financial efficiency, however some methods may be better for some fleets to invest in than others.

While guard rails are great at preventing vehicles from sliding under the trailer, the overarching goal should always be to prevent the crash in the first place.

Still, is your fleet considering side guards? Always remember that there are specific federal regulations that need to be adhered to when installing such equipment.

While the equipment OEM, dealer or shop it is being installed at should be able to properly handle installation instructions and verify the correct dimensions for the guard rail’s application, follow this link to get more information on how guard rails work, the different types and how they can be implemented, both in the United States or in other markets across the world.

The Roadcheck Is Coming! Is Your Fleet Ready?

Now in its 30th year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual International Roadcheck will be running June 6 – 8. Will your truck drivers be ready for it?

During the Roadcheck, authorities will be conducting around 17 Level I inspections PER MINUTE across the United States, Canada and Mexico. That’s a lot of inspections.

As we mentioned in a prior blog, this year they will be paying special attention to cargo securement, although they will have their eyes peeled for other potential violations, as well.

Don’t be fooled by the misconception that only flatbed trailers require cargo inspections. In fact, inspections will be required on all vehicles with the exception of sealed cargo or cargo that is a logistical challenge to inspect.

It might be a good idea to enroll your fleet in a cargo securement training program. Truck drivers typically respond well to these types of programs and appreciate the extra effort the fleet is putting into ensuring they don’t receive any hits during the annual roadside inspection or any others.

What Are the Inspectors Looking For?

The last time Roadcheck focused on cargo, which was in 2015, they issued 2,439 violations for load securement, no small number indeed. Most common of all the load securement violations was the truck driver’s failure to prevent shifting/loss of load.

Failure to secure truck equipment, damaged, insufficient or loose tie-downs rounded out the top for violations.

As with any load securement check, the first thing they will be looking for is to ensure the proper amount of load securement is in place. They will be checking the condition of the straps, making sure they aren’t overly worn out and looking for things like nicks or cuts.

They will also be looking to make sure there is edge protection, that way they can ensure the straps won’t be cut or compromised by the load itself.

You’ll also want to ensure your spare tire is secure. This one is often overlooked, but winds up being a common violation due to how easy it is to overlook.

Although this may not seem immediately related, if there is dirt, gravel or other loose material on the deck, inspectors will consider that loose or blowing cargo. If you don’t ensure you’ve swept your deck of any loose material after hauling a piece of machinery or other piece of cargo that could leave something behind, make sure you sweep it up lest you want to be at the wrong end of a ticket.

Also pay attention to load length. It’s not just weight and cargo securement that you have to consider, but also the number of linear footage on the load. Inspectors will want to ensure it matches up not only with the load you are carrying, but the paperwork involved.

For someone who has never dealt with linear length before, this area can be confusing, which is why training is so important.

Knowing the Trick to Tie Downs

We did a recent piece on cargo securement, which you can find here, but the one thing to remember is this: To meet the safety requirements, you must use at least 50% load securement of the total weight of the cargo you are carrying.

Put simply, if you were carrying a 10,000-pounds piece of steel, you would need a 5,000-pound working load limit in place. There are even tie-down calculator apps out there to help you determine what proper load bearing securement should be.

More than anything, ensure your truck drivers know that the inspection is almost here and they will have to be ready for it. Proper training always helps.

How Company Habits Impact Safety Culture

How Company Habits Impact Safety Culture

There are a few different companies to look to when talking about effective safety culture. One of those is the world’s largest aluminum manufacturer Alcoa. What’s their lesson?

If you want to run a fleet that not only turns a profit, but operates safely, it’s vital that it starts with your company culture. Sure, this sounds like a simplistic solution, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

The fact is, once a bad habit has seeped its way into your company culture, it’s extremely hard to change. In these cases, the challenges lie in ensuring cultural bad habits are replaced with good ones and then embedded within the safety culture of your organization.

But where do you start? Surely, there’s a method to establishing a safety culture to be proud of. Indeed, there is, and we can help.

Giving A Cue

When you give a cue, you are providing your people with a tip that starts a habit. One example here could be a pre-trip safety check. Perhaps a warning light is on. Have they noticed it?

Safety managers should be out there in the field, testing and re-testing the safety culture of the fleet’s organizational competency. What if there’s a last-minute change to the makeup of a load? Will the truck driver or other employees involved be prepared?

When you provide a cue, you are alerting your people to the potential for a spot inspection at any time. You are cueing them in on your alertness, letting them know that you are paying attention. This is vital to ensuring the next step in the process is set in stone.

Setting up a Routine

Once you have provided your cue, you want your employees’ and truck drivers’ actions in response to that cue to become a routine. Has your truck driver established a routine composed of safety measures?

If you’re truck driver is running through a standard safety checklist, does that mean you can say to yourself, “Well, I know this already, he knows this already, so I’m just going to go back to my office.”


The point of his exercise is to standardize the routine not only in your truck drivers but in yourself as well. Whatever your largest safety concerns are, focus on them during that safety check. If a safety check doesn’t include the challenges sitting atop the list, then it isn’t a proper safety check.

Providing a Reward

All of the above steps will make your people feel like you are micro managing them, when in fact, you are doing the opposite. You are preparing them for freedom. Therefore you need to reward the routine.

You want your truckers to feel as though they will be rewarded for discovering a safety issue and reporting it. The reward portion comes at the end of a loop

  • The Cue: The trucker discovering a safety issue
  • The Routine: The trucker reporting or correcting the issue
  • The Reward: The trucker being rewarded for correcting or reporting the issue as quickly as possible.

Changing the safety culture within your fleet is not impossible. In some cases, it may be quite necessary. And while there are many different ways to approach it, perhaps you needed a fresh set of eyes to look at it from another angle.

Take Alcoa as the example. Read up more on how they used this method to become one of the safest heavy manufacturing and commodities retrieval companies on the planet. Think you can’t emulate their success at the fleet level? Think again. After all, what have you got to lose in trying?