Monthly Archives: July 2017

An Industry Panel Discusses Safety Technology In Trucking

The conversation has been ongoing. Truck manufacturers, regulators and technology firms are increasingly looking to technology to improve their safety measures. Whether it be advanced driver-assistance systems or rollover-sending technology, the push for “safety through technology” is ongoing.

Although technology companies looking to change how trucking gets done are ever-increasingly raising more capital, the view behind whether or not the answer is technological isn’t universally-held.

On one side of the argument you have those who think technology will slow increases in traffic deaths, while those who advocate a slower roll towards full adoption due to increased regulatory, training and cyber-security concerns.

On July 24th, the National Transportation Safety Board alongside the National Safety Council convened a meeting.

This meeting included a panel of everyone from the regulators themselves to insurance, manufacturing and technology providers. The meeting was designed as a brainstorming session on how to better incorporate advanced driver assistance technology into today’s heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles.

While some have advocated waiting on semi-autonomous trucks and smart roads and highways to solve the safety puzzle, others within the industry advocate tackling it today, stating that the technology is there.

Did you know that motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of preventable deaths in America? According to government data, big CMVs are increasingly involved in crashes, rising year-over-year since 2015.

By ensuring advanced driver assistance technology on CMVs at an ever-increasing rate, fleets can answer safety questions while modernizing their fleet at the same time.

So, where’s the problem?

The Small/Big Divide
It’s no secret that the lobbying groups for small trucking companies often find themselves on the opposite end of a debate with their larger competitors. We’ve seen it play out in the ELD debate and more.

The same holds true for adoption of these advanced safety technologies. Small fleets often don’t quite know or understand all the intricacies and interdependent aspects of advanced driver assistance technology.

The disconnect lies in helping those who don’t understand how the technology works to get a better handle on it. Anti-collision systems are not surveillance systems, nor are they intended to go down the road of a “driverless” CMV. No, they are merely software systems that work in concert with the vehicle to ensure optimal safe operation.

The other problem lies with that these technologies often vary from developer to developer, which causes confusion, both among truck drivers and decision-makers, those purchasing the technology.

The fact is, manufacturers are going to have to come to an agreement on some type of standardization model for the new technologies being deployed. If you have a button with a different color for a specific function across multiple devices, that could be a problem.

Explaining the Difference

Smaller fleets go through a certain level of intimidation when it comes to these technologies, and having an inconsistent approach helps no one. Trucking companies also need to know when one type of technology is appropriate and when it isn’t.

If you’ve got sensors on the front of a tractor, putting a snowplow or some other obstruction on the front of it negates the system you’ve put time and money into.

A lot of smaller fleets also still utilize older vehicles in day-to-day operations. Retrofitting these vehicles can be a challenge, considering many of them don’t have the internal infrastructure to handle the added load of the technology itself.

Still, as the panel discussed, they stated that evolving vehicle design and the changing demographics of the buyer signal a shift on the horizon. Eventually, the only trucks on the road will be the trucks rolling out onto dealership floors today.

Increased safety through technology is never a bad thing, something that all on the panel agree to. How it is implemented and adopted are more difficult questions.

The CSA Recommended Overhaul

Well, the time has come and is no surprise to anyone. And now the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has come out stating it. While they reported that the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, is structurally sound, they have recommended that pieces of the law be brought back to the drawing board.

As the industry had hoped would happen, carrier “scores” will remain private in several states. It all came down to an impact study that would need to be carried out before they came forward with that recommendation.

From trucking advocacy organizations to shippers and freight brokers, pretty much everyone was unhappy about some portion or another of the CSA program. Indeed, it came to a head when the information was pulled from public view for fear of being too damaging or even inaccurate. It brought up claims of targeting.

But what does this all mean?

What’s Next?

What this essentially signals is that there will begin a lengthy overhaul of the work the Obama administration did to change how trucking regulations were enforced. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) tested CSA in various states before a national rollout, which was met by backlash from all corners.

Still, the Academy still reported the program as being “sound.” But what does this mean for its future? The Academy went on to specifically state that, “for the most part, that the current SMS implementation is defendable as being fair and not overtly biased against various types of carriers, to the extent that data on MCMIS [Motor Carrier Management Information System] can be used for this purpose.”

The questions surround this MCMIS, which houses a lot of data. Many want to know how that data will be used. Data from several sources, whether they be inspections data, carrier registrations or otherwise, it will all be stored there, and motor carriers want assurances their data is both safe and won’t be used for nefarious purposes.

One thing the Academy acknowledged was that in most cases many factors contribute to a crash. Many of these factors cannot be currently found in the MCMIS, so the crashes can sometimes be improperly logged.

Because of their findings, the Academy went on to advise that the FMCSA should “develop a more statistically principled approach for the task, based on an item response theory model, an approach that has been applied successfully in informing policy decisions in other areas such as hospital rankings,” the NAS said. If that new statistical model performs well in identifying unsafe carriers, “FMCSA should use it to replace SMS.”

Used as an Enforcement Mechanism

When viewed through the lens of enforcement, there are many principles of CSA that are quite appropriate and do come with good intent. Trucking companies do acknowledge it serves as a valuable enforcement tool, but is not without its problems.

Enforcement mechanism or no, the push to keep the scores out of the public domain remains in full force. The main problem is with data reporting and accuracy. Many industry trade groups openly question how accurate the data is.

Some argue that everything to this point as been done on ad hoc basis, specifically when It comes to fleet crash data. As we work through the system, they argue that there is a risk to exposing incorrect data and the Academy researchers essentially agreed.

Specifically, they pointed to problems with the quality of the data and asked that the FMCSA look to even more data points, such as data on miles traveled, truck driver employment rates, and more, since such data could shed light on the overall problem.

Your Guide To Creating A Proper Collision Procedures Plan

If you examine Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) numbers, you’ll see that the average commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accident resulting in property damaged came in around $18,000.

If there was an injury involved? Expect that number to jump to $331,000.

Also bear in mind that neither of these numbers take into account potential loss to reputation, damage to materials, insurance costs and other costs associated with the crash.

The fact is, accident costs are on the rise, and your fleet needs to have a plan in place to handle the situation should an accident occur.

Consider that a serious collision could completely sink a small business and it isn’t hard to understand why having adequate procedures in place could be the life or death of a business.

While you may be using technology, such as video-based solutions, that’s great, but you’re going to need more than just a video feed, you’ll need a plan.

Contact and Information Exchange
Your plan should include a place where your truck driver can immediately pull over and assess the situation. If there are injuries, major damage, or a liquid spill, the first thing in the procedure should be for the truck driver contact the authorities.

Next, the trucker should contact dispatch and alert them of the situation. Everything must be properly documented, from the location to the time, date and circumstances of the collision. It is important that crucial aspects of what happened be recorded while they are still fresh in the mind.

It’s also important that your truck driver not discuss the incident with anyone at the scene outside law enforcement or emergency personnel, and people directly involved with the crash.

Insurance Notification
In this case it’s likely going to be someone in the back office who handles the insurance claim, but this is an important part of the process as they will want to begin their investigation immediately.

The insurance company themselves will decide whether to send an investigator or adjustor out to the scene. Don’t be surprised that – if called – the investigator may want to speak to other people within the organization, such as the truck driver’s manager or perhaps the dispatcher who was on duty when the accident occurred.

Ensuring your insurance company is quickly notified and that accurate data is sent to them will be vital in making sure your claim comes through clean and without error.

Handling Personnel
Depending on the situation, you may need to send additional personnel to the scene. Is there a load currently out there that will need to be picked up?

Furthermore, do you want to send a supervisor to the scene? Of course, you will be instructing the truck driver, but perhaps you want someone to help gather witnesses or corroborate accounts, or maybe survey the scene for other evidence or bits of information.

An important tip, whether for the truck driver or the person you send to the scene, is to create a “Witness Checklist” where they can document everything from the direction on skid marks to traffic signs and road conditions.

Managing Disruption
The key to figuring your way through situations like these is to learn how to properly manage disruptions that may come as a result of the accident.

These include disruptions on the financial side due to increased costs, disruption in the shop due to a potentially very large repair coming in, disruption to the internal supply chain and the list goes on and on.

If you can manage it all with little to no disruption, you’ve developed a great network and are likely to get yourself through an accident crisis with little to no problem.

As long as you keep all of these tips in place, you’ll be ready for anything!

Proper Health And Trucking Safety Go Hand-In-Hand

Sure, you may wonder what eating a balanced diet must do with trucker safety? A lot.

Truck drivers who do not take what they eat seriously enough, may suffer from other health afflictions that can cause potential safety problems while behind the wheel. From falling asleep to the actual long-term well-being of the trucker themselves, trucker health and trucker safety go together.

Look, while not getting into a bad accident is very important, ensuring truck drivers are healthy enough that such a danger doesn’t even present itself in the first place is most important.

According to the most recent numbers, 7 in 10 truck drivers are obese. This means they likely struggle with things like heart or cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea or other health conditions that could impair their driving.

The fact is, driving a big rig is as fun and rewarding as any career. A great many make trucking their final career and there’s a reason for that. Still, it requires that the person behind the wheel, much like the person who sits at a desk for the entirety of their career try and live a healthy lifestyle.

It takes a lot of work to stay in shape and stay healthy when your job requires that you sit in a chair or big rig seat for prolonged periods of time.

But what’s a trucker to do today to ensure they stay healthy while remaining efficient and being the best they can always be? Whether it be for themselves in their own business or for their employer in theirs, keeping on top of one’s health is of utmost importance.

Fortunately, it isn’t hard and it starts with both the trucker and those supplying the trucker with what they need to get them through the day.

Going Beyond the Donut

The major problem facing almost every trucker is easy access to healthy, inexpensive food. The key word there is healthy. Inexpensive, yet also healthy food isn’t easy to come by, though some say larger games are at play when Amazon decided to make a bid for Whole Foods. That’s another topic altogether.

Still, when a truck driver goes to a convenience store or gas station designed for passenger cars, they might often see fresh fruit or chopped fruit in a container, even if it may not be of the best quality.

At many – but not all – truck stops? Giant candy bars and corn dogs, if anything at all.

Still, truck drivers are getting creative in how they deal with the issue. There are ovens available the size of tackle boxes that can be plugged into a cigarette lighter.

Meals can be prepared ahead of time at home, then put on ice and cooked at whim on the portable oven, which can easily be stored in the cab either behind or on the seat next to you.

By using tools like these, you not only save yourself both time and money, but you are living a healthier life on the road.

Bring Back the Brown Bag

The other option is to bring the meal. Why not make something healthy at home? And while we understand it may not sound appealing, give a kale salad a chance!

The point is getting into the habit of getting what you need from the grocery store so that you can plan out your meals and have them ready for the road. Spend some time at the store when you get home getting and prepping the ingredients. This could even translate into more integrated family time if you are preparing meals together.

While to some this may seem like a lot of tasks after you’ve been on the road, trust us. You don’t want to come off sitting in your cab seat straight into sitting down on the couch. Preparing your meals is a great way to stay active, save money and be ready for the road.

Maybe your family is what you need to stay busy, maybe it’s grocery shopping to prep for your next road time. Whatever it is, you got this. Hit those online recipe books and get started!