Monthly Archives: August 2017

Safety Update From Trucking

It’s been a busy week in trucking safety. A new report shows that the US trucking industry spends almost $10 billion a year in safety advancements and improvements.

According to an ATA spokesperson, “We know this industry prioritizes and invests in improving safety on our nation’s highways. With the results of this survey, we now can put a dollar figure on that investment and that figure is significant.”

The $10 billion figure breaks down into four components:

  • Technology: Fleets increasingly turn to collision avoidance and mitigation systems, stability control, blind spot systems and more.
  • Truck Driver Training: From safety training to event video recorders, wages, retraining, coaching and more – truck driver training is key to better over-the-road safety.
  • Pay: Are you recognizing your truck drivers with awards and bonuses when they operate safely?
  • Regulations: Compliance is part of our industry today. From motor vehicle and truck driver checks to drug and alcohol testing, there are a lot of ways to not be compliant.

What the $10 billion figure does not include is routine maintenance costs related to things like new brake purchases, drug and alcohol testing for your truck drivers, tires and other items related to routine repairs or replacement.

This number represents a large rise in safety technology adoption over the past decade. In the past two to three years specifically, trucking has seen advanced new systems come online that allow them to enhance safety measures the likes of which had never happened before.

It looks like truck driver safety is going to stay a key part of how the trucking industry operates and we couldn’t be happier about that.

Trucking Gets a Mascot

How can you represent an entire industry as its mascot and have people referring to you as “what’s-its-name” or the “truck mascot.”

Fortunately, Trucking Moves America Forward’s (TMAF) mascot finally can shed those unfortunate labels and go by an actual name: Safety Sammy.

TMAF was conceived of three years ago. The group is designed to promote an image of the trucking industry as one that is safe and necessary for a healthy economy.

TMAF has also been designed to be a continuous movement, rather than a one-time campaign.

Newly-named Safety Sammy was debuted in May and was designed to embody TMAF’s mission, which is to promote and enhance the image of the trucking industry. The group wants to use the mascot at trucking industry events. Safety Sammy has appeared at the Trucker’s Jamboree and to the National Truck Driving Championships.

During the first two days at the Great American Trucking Show, Safety Sammy moved among convention-goers nameless and unknown, even as he posed for pictures and break out into dance.

Then, on day three of the show, the chairman of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) took to the stage just off the convention floor to reintroduce Safety Sammy.  TMAF hopes that Safety Sammy will help amplify trucking’s safety message, especially to those outside the industry.

How They Got the Name

When it was announced that their mascot needed a name, TMAF set out taking suggestions from the public. This social interaction by itself increased engagement with the organization, especially considering the large response they got in return.

In one month alone, the group received nearly 2,000 entries that were sent into TMAF. Out of all the entries they chose five finalists. The other four finalists were:

  • Axle
  • Bob Tail
  • Seymour S. Miles
  • Wheels

Which one is your favorite?

Right after they announced the new name, Safety Sammy was given a nice, new shiny licence plate with his new name on it. With a mascot like Safety Sammy at work on behalf of trucking, surely our industry’s image is in safe hands.


How Virtual Reality Is Changing Truck Driver Training

Imagine getting hired to a trucking company. You just negotiated a great rate and now you’re standing out in the lot looking at a shiny new Class 8 big rig. It’s yours to drive, there’s just one little thing left: Training.

In days of yore, training was conducted on-site and in-cab, with the new employee operating the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) under the supervision of an experienced truck driver or company trainer.

Fast-forward and today we’re looking at virtual reality (VR)-based training. Technologies have matured to such a point that now new truck drivers can enter a machine and experience something not too dissimilar from actually driving a loaded up tractor trailer.

But is VR really the answer? Furthermore, can it provide the same level real-world responses that rookie truck drivers need to properly hone their skills? Potentially yes, and it could possibly do even more than that.

How VR and Trucking Intersect

Advanced tech-based training methods can help the trucking industry in a variety of ways. Not only are these systems a great way to teach new truckers, but they can also help combat the seemingly never-ending employment squeeze.

Offering VR-based training helps expand the pool of candidates. If trucking and trade schools that offer CDL and other pre-licensure training modules also cover new truck driver training through VR, graduates will leave the school far readier for their first trucking job then someone who did not get the same type of training.

Another great aspect of VR-training is that the training environment can be modified depending on the company’s need. If a trucking company must deal with treacherous mountain paths in the winter and heavy city traffic in the summer, the training program can be changed to accommodate the new seasons.

Quite frankly, it’s also a great tool for experienced truckers who would like to brush up on some basic skills and knowledge after years in service. There are a lot of benefits to the new technology, and with big-name players getting in on the game, expect game-changing innovations to continue apace.

UPS Enters the Space

If there is a new trend in shipping, receiving, trucking or anything else related to those three factors, you can expect UPS to either be considering it or already testing or using it. In this case, VR is no exception.

By the end of 2018, UPS expects to have 4,000 truck drivers trained on the technology. They are fully investing in training facilities and technology in both Atlanta and Florida, with more in the works for the rest of the country.

Not only will UPS have trained its 4,000 new workers on VR, but they expect to have around 6 percent of its workforce – approximately 65,000 people – trained on the technology by 2018. For now, UPS plans to roll out the technology for delivery drivers only and will reassess their use for heavy-duty Class 8 tuckers once the data has been analyzed and new processes put into place.

The Game’s Afoot

VR equipment has been dropping in price for some time now. As the technology becomes more ubiquitous, electronics manufacturers like HTC have more room to drop their devices to a more desirable price.

As an example, the HTC Vive headsets used to be $599, but can now be found brand-new for around $200. Facebook-owned Oculus Rift announced a similar price cut way back in 2014.

With other companies like VR Motion and Virage Simulation Inc. getting in on the game, producing quality trucker training products, and cutting prices to stay competitive, the truck training VR game is just starting to heat up.

Is There A Problem With Rear Guard Safety?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in Virginia, some of the worst accidents on the road can be prevented. In this case, the group refers specifically to rear underride accidents between a passenger vehicle and a tractor trailer.

Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required rear guards on all tractor trailers, but is it enough?

The mandated rear guards should prevent passenger cars from sliding underneath trailers and potentially endangering the lives of those in the passenger vehicle.

According to the IIHS, the way the laws are written, rear guards may not be as effective as they should be. In their comment on the rule the IIHS said the safety system is in “desperate need of repair.”

According to David Zuby, one of the rear guard researchers at IIHS, there could potentially be a problem with “rust that goes through the thickness of these beams.” He cites that rust as a major cause for concern.

IIHS crash tests reports indicate that many rear guards on the market today might not do enough to stop fatal underride crashes. Even more troubling, testing shows that some of the most common models may fail even at speeds far below the posted highway limit.

Even those that do meet the requirement threshold may not cut it where underride speed is concerned. So, what’s the solution? And are insurance premiums rising as a result?

Stronger Rear Guards

Many have been calling for stronger rear guards, but getting to that point on the regulatory and manufacturing and design level has been more of a challenge. In 2015, NHTSA took a few steps in that direction, issuing a notice of proposed rule making regarding rear guards.

According to an IIHS petition, there was a “woeful lack of data” supporting the current safety standards governing rear underride protections.

In answer, the NHTSA undertook a study that acknowledged fatalities were still occurring in rear end collisions between passenger vehicles and tractor trailers. Still, a year-and-a-half later, there has been no move on the part of the agency to modify or strengthen rear guard regulations.

Still, there is much disagreement between industry players on the matter, with trucking industry lobbyists agreeing that nothing needs to be done yet.

The Industry View

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) said it supports the plan currently in place, designed to ensure US rear guards meet the standard currently used in Canada.

According to the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, nearly one-hundred percent of trailers being made today either equal or better the Canadian rear guard standard, which is why many trucking associations advocate staying the course.

Still, the IIHS has come out strongly against even the revised rules. They cite as an example that non-trailer trucks would still be allowed on roads without rear guards. Trucking companies would also be allowed to certify rear guards for approval without citing any crash tests as proof of their efficacy.

The current standard required that a trucking company put stationary pressure on various points of the rear guard to test it. IIHS objects that stationary pressure on the rear guard does not constitute a real-life scenario.

Still, NHTSA filed documents explaining why it was rejecting any change to the rear guard rule, saying that it was doing so because trucking companies would need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to save only a handful of lives.

While some may say there is no price too high to be placed on someone’s life, economic indicators and revenue models always come into play when the supply chain is under discussion, even when it comes to preventing rear guard crashes – whether through new or strengthened regulations.



An Update To The Apnea Rule And How To Spot The Condition

The Trump administration recently withdrew a proposed FMCSA requirement put to paper a year ago that railroad and trucking companies test employees for obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder believed to be at the heart of a great number of truck and rail crashes over the decades.

In announcing that they were withdrawing the proposal, the FMCSA, along with the Federal Railroad Administration, said they would rather trucking companies voluntarily screen their employees, rather than being mandated to do so.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition. Those who suffer from it rarely get a good, quality night’s sleep. This can result in daytime drowsiness and fatigue. As reported by the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea is a condition that rarely winds up getting diagnosed.

Those that suffer from sleep apnea could find themselves having unintended sleep episodes. They could also suffer from decreased situational awareness and responsiveness, resulting in a reduced capacity to respond to hazards or safely operate something like a heavy-duty Classs 8 motor vehicle.

The proposed rule was part of a requirement instigated by the December 2013 derailment of a Metro-North train in New York. The train jumped the tracks on a curve designed for 30 mph travel. It was going 82 mph when it derailed, killing four people and injuring many others.

When the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash, they determined that the train engineer had undiagnosed sleep apnea. There is also some belief that sleep apnea may have played a part in the New Jersey Transit commuter train crash that killed one person when it hit the end-of-track barrier going twice the speed it should have been going.

Still, this doesn’t mean that sleep apnea is totally to blame. The NTSB also reported that both crashes could have easily been prevented by using a Positive Train Control system, which automated the process of slowing or stopping the train when the situation requires it.

How to Uncover if You Have Sleep Apnea

There are a number of ways to spot if you might have sleep apnea. The problem is, most people are sleeping when the signs exhibit themselves, so they may have no idea they have it.

If you find yourself waking up in the morning with a headache, feel lethargic throughout the day, or wake periodically throughout the night?

If so, you may have what is technically called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People who suffer from OSA find their airways closed off and breathing interrupted, thus depriving you of oxygen periodically throughout the night. Usually, an individual’s partner will be the first person to spot the signs of OSA.

If you are being witnessed waking up repeatedly during the night, even if you have no recollection of it, this may be a sign of OSA. For someone who has severe OSA, this can happen repeatedly up to hundred times or more throughout a given night.

According to some estimates, OSA impacts more than 18 million Americans. If you feel you may suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep study can help you firmly make that determination. Snoring or loud breathing during sleep is often the most common sign of OSA.

Still, that majority of people who snore don’t necessarily have OSA.

No matter who is in the White House or what regulations may or may not be in play tomorrow or today, it is important to take a good measure of your own health and ensure you are properly diagnosed if you may be suffering from a condition that could impact your ability to safely operate a heavy-duty Class 8 commercial motor vehicle.

Safety is always paramount, and there’s no reason your motor carrier wouldn’t work with you if you think you may suffer from OSA.

Speeding Rule Among Other Safety Rules Suspended

Whatever the reason was, in September of last year, U.S. officials proposed requiring speed-limiters be mandated on all heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles. Then, as politics is known to do, with a swipe of the pen, President Donald Trump put that and a number of other trucking safety regulations on hold.

The main driver of this remains the executive order that for every regulation created, two must be removed – even if they are backed by industry, Congress and the public at large.

One such example of this is at the Department of Transportation, where the regulatory process on a number of measures that have been years in the making have been thrown into limbo, whether supported by the industry or not.

The speed limiter rule, CSA program, and even certain aspects of the hours of service regulation have come under increasing question. It remains to be seen whether these efforts will result in meaningful change or not.

What Congress Mandates

One huge consideration is that nearly half of all pending regulations are required, whether wholly or in part, by Congress. Any significant moves to halt or stall those efforts would likely have to come through Congress in order to be amended or removed.

There are a number of specific provisions, from rollover enhancements to motor coaches to safety upgrades for public transportation systems across the country. The question now lies in where the public benefit comes into play.

According to Bloomberg Review, of the 43 proposed rules subject to review under the executive order, 34 directly relate to safety.

The interesting thing is that some of these rules have nothing to do with trucking specifically. Two would impact operations of oil trains another two are aimed at improving airline pilot performance. A majority of the actions were in response to recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Will There Be Any Impact?

Considering almost half of the regulations set to come up for review are required by Congress in some way, shape or form, there isn’t a huge amount that the new administration or transportation secretary can do.

The fact is, it isn’t only trucking-related measures that remain stuck in regulatory limbo. Whether it be finalizing rules or moving forward with new ones, there’s been a bit of a logjam.

We aren’t taking a specific side here, but are merely reporting on what’s going on within the industry. In many cases the slowdown has vexed even industry insiders themselves.

Take lobbying groups related to drone usage. They are advocating quick action regarding how drones are regulated when it comes to operating them in the air, whether over the job site or in any other capacity.

Still, there are plenty who advocate that the regulatory backlog isn’t an attempt to block safety measures that would benefit the public.

Instead, they point out that it has been far too long since anyone has evaluated the best way to relieve onerous paperwork and processes that are not at all streamlined. If regulations can be removed and fine-tuned, then the thinking goes that job growth will follow, even while these technologies are adapted.

Could it be that these changes will force agencies and companies alike to become more efficient and streamlined in regards to how they do business? Major technological change is never easy, but no matter where you stand on a number of these issues, it’s going to come no matter what.

Will the trucking industry, government regulators and other industry players be prepared for new ideas germinating on the horizon? With safety in mind, we certainly hope so. Everything should be built around the safety of truck drivers and those on the road with them.