Monthly Archives: September 2017

AAA Makes The Case For More Safety Technology On Heavy Duty Trucks

One of the nation’s oldest insurance and roadway safety advocate organizations, AAA, has come out through their foundation with a report recommending that all heavy duty commercial motor vehicles be equipped with the latest safety technologies. The report is called Leveraging Large Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains.

According to the AAA Foundation, if every heavy duty commercial motor vehicle was equipped with advanced safety devices there would be a potential to prevent up to 63,000 large truck-related crashes per year.

Yet, where do they get the data to back up this assertion? According to in-house studies, in 2015 large trucks were involved in over 400,000 crashes. Of those crashes came over 4,000 deaths and 116,000 injuries. The sobering part? These statistics represent a 4 percent increase over the prior year.

With new safety technologies becoming more ubiquitous in the trucking industry, one can only wonder what kind of significant changes we may see should AAA’s recommendations become reality.

According to David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “This new research shows that the benefits of adding many of these technologies to trucks clearly outweigh the cost.”

Looking At The Details

AAA’s report took a hard look at both safety benefits and costs, including installation and training. They went on to break down the technologies they studied into four categories:

  1. Lane departure warning systems
  2. Automatic emergency braking systems
  3. Video-based safety systems
  4. Air disc brakes

Each of these categories were then broken down by their numbers to determine societal safety benefits, which essentially equates to the economic value of lives saved and injuries prevented. Then, they compared this with the cost of equipping these technologies on all existing large trucks.

What they found should be as no surprise. Per their analysis, the benefits brought by these systems far outweigh their up front costs.

The Breakdown

When you break down each particular category by dollar amount, the AAA Foundation’s initial assertion becomes clear. Taking lane departure warning systems as one example, if every truck were equipped with one, almost 6,400 accidents, over 1,300 injuries and 115 deaths could be avoided each year.

For video-based systems, the numbers are even more staggering. Since these advanced systems can handle a number of functions, their flexibility makes them a useful tool. Per the AAA Foundation’s report, were every truck equipped with video-based safety systems it would prevent up to 63,000 accidents, over 17,700 injuries and 293 deaths on an annual basis.

These are really stunning numbers. Of course, the worst possible outcomes is always death or injury. Fleet bottom line and litigation aside, the more lives that can be saved, the better.

Even addressing braking issues would have an outsized impact. Automatic emergency braking systems installed on all trucks would prevent nearly 5,300 crashes, over 2,700 injuries and 55 deaths.  Even air disc brakes alone could go a long way, preventing over 2,400 accidents, 1,400 injuries and 37 deaths.

Combine them all and the numbers will shock you. Going by AAA’s numbers, over 77,000 accidents, 21,800 injuries, and 385 deaths could be prevented. These surely are astounding numbers, to say the least.

Making this change should seem like a no-brainer, especially considering the public feels the same. A recent survey conducted in parallel with the AAA Foundation’s work revealed that a full six out of every ten adults – or around 61% – feel less safe when driving past heavy duty commercial motor vehicles. They list their main concerns as size, blind spots and unintentional drifting or swerving.

In the end, no matter what the AAA Foundation suggest or what a particular fleet decides, professional truck drivers and passenger motorists alike have a shared responsibility to be attentive and practice safe driving techniques at all times. While trucking companies mull over how much safety technology is needed, proper driving behavior can work wonder.


State Moves In Safety Regulations

States have been increasingly stepping in and adding their voice to the list of interested parties lobbying for increased safety in trucking. While individual states have different approaches, the end result is the same.

Today we will take a look at moves being made in both Washington state and Arizona that will buttress those state’s safety measures. In Washington, they are taking another look at side and rear guards in order to help prevent catastrophic crashes between lower clearance passenger cars and tractor trailers.

But what is in the law? Essentially, it would require side guards and better reinforced rear guards on all tractor trailers. According to Washington state’s research, these new regulations could save the lives of lots and lots of people.

An August test in the state by the Institute for Highway Safety shows that a technology called the “Angel Wing” could potentially be life-saving in these situations. In the test, a vehicle crashed into the back of a semi going 40 miles an hour and the Angel Wing prevented the car from sliding under the rig and ending in fatality.

What is unclear is if the bill is going to end up on the floor in the Washington legislature. It could also end up in a combination bill or be brought up again by itself in the coming weeks.

According to Washington officials, they want to make sure they “take our time to get this right considering the lives at stake. Still, not everyone is on board.

The Truck Trailer Manufacturer’s Association came out saying the the”Angel Wing” would add so much weight that trucking companies would either have to remove freight from the payload or add more trailers, which could potentially negate the safety impact in the first place.

Will Washington state put this rule into law? Furthermore, could we see other states follow their lead? At this state, only time will tell.

A Trip to the Southwest

Meanwhile, down in Arizona, the state is seeing success exporting its transportation safety program to neighboring states that may be in need of that type of course material. The Arizona Department of Transportation provides the course for commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Now, with the course in New Mexico, ADOT is doubling the number of sessions planned. According to ADOT Director John Halikowski, “Trade with Mexico is one way our highways are Key Commerce Corridors that drive Arizona’s economy. With the support of officials in Sonora, Mexico, we are expanding a program that’s boosting international commerce while ensuring that commercial vehicles are safe.”

Representatives from the Governor’s offices in both states were responsible for pushing the program, which teaches commercial motor vehicle operators what to expect during an inspection, how to communicate with inspectors using WhatsApp.

The program also allows qualified truck drivers to capture photos of potential safety problems. Participants who have gone through the program have spoken to its efficacy in preparing them for better safety on the road.

According to ADOT, the program works quite well, resulting in fewer border inspections over the past years. This, in turn, has led to more trucks on Arizona roads, a boon to the industry and the state, which has grown its economy in the meantime.

Will we see more states sharing their programs like this? As more programs come online and show success in both truck driver training, retention and overall fleet safety measures, it is likely we will see cross-pollination across states as we are seeing here.

Fortunately, these changes signal more innovation in trucking safety, which is good for all parties, from everyone else on the road to the fleets themselves. Which state will be next?


Using Key Performance Indicators To Up Your Safety Game

The fact is this: Fleets have to work harder and harder these days to find that next revolutionary safety tool. It is what’s called “safety leveling” and was first outlined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) report issued in April.

According to the report, fatal crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles dropped from 6,007 in 1979 to 3,193 in 2009. That represents a total decline of 46 percent. Obviously, safety advances were making an impact.

Yet, the numbers look worse from there on out. From 2009 to 2014 fatal crashes increased from 3,193 to 3,649, a 12 percent increase. What accounts for this rise in fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles?

Digging deeper into the numbers, look at the crash rate per 100 million vehicles and you’ll see that the numbers level off there as well. Tracking the data from 1979 to 2009, the crash rate fell from 5.6 to 1.1. From 2009 to 2014, they rose from to 1.3, representing a 0.2 percent increase over the reporting period.

What will it take to see another major drop in the numbers? Many say video systems are the answer. Others say advanced collision avoidance or mitigation systems may hold the key. There are so many different safety systems available for commercial motor vehicles today, fleets need only take their pick.

Video Provides a Cost-Effective Answer

Still, many say video is best because it not only provides evidence, but can usually be installed for minimal cost. It also assists fleet managers in  ensuring their truck drivers are properly coached to good behaviors.

When truck drivers are stymied by behaviors of people driving passenger cars, they appreciate it when video vindicates them from responsibility if something happens. Evidence of sudden braking or illegal lane changes help prevent litigation, truck driver suspension or worse.

Another area where fleets can find safety measures hidden in the numbers is through the use of Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs.

Using KPIs to Increase Safety

There is a saying in business that “it is difficult to improve what you do not measure.” This is why Key Performance Indicators are used to measure standards of performance.

KPIs present themselves as objective measurements of the overall performance of a fleet. When it comes to utilizing KPIs, there is no one right answer or way of doing it.

Here are some examples of KPIs you can set up as measurements of how your fleet is doing:

  • Parts cost per mile;
  • Fuel cost per mile;
  • Cost per delivery;
  • On-time delivery rate;
  • DOT accident frequency;
  • OSHA accident frequency, and;
  • Maintenance facility audit scores.

When you have made a final decision on which units of measurement you want to track, you have to set a threshold of acceptable performance. When it comes to fuel cost per mile in relation to cost per delivery, what percentage is acceptable to your operation? Only you will know which measurement applies to your business.

These considerations could be measured based on the type of freight being hauled, the terrain it is being hauled over, how much detention time you can expect at the dock and other mitigating circumstances.

Choosing KPIs for Maintenance

There are a variety of benchmarks you can choose to rate against your maintenance needs. The maintenance of your vehicles plays a critical role in the safety of your fleet.

For instance, a fleet technician could keep track of tire mileage to see if there is truck driver error involved in the usage of the vehicle. Does a maintenance program need to be adjusted a bit to account for issues related to equipment and customer needs? Consider that rarely does a fleet find a one-size-fits-all approach, especially if there are different vehicle applications at play.

In the end, when it comes to utilizing KPIs to improve safety, the most important aspect is your unit of measurement. Focus on fleet optimization and you’re sure to get the most out of your data.

Tips For Passenger Vehicle Drivers About Safe Driving Around Big Rigs

We all can’t wait for that moment when we are first put behind the wheel. Or perhaps its the moment we get the keys to our very own first car. Whatever the reason, getting to drive is a huge deal, yet it seems like as we get older we take it for granted.

It becomes easy, over time, to assume that because you have learned the basics and proven you can safely operate a passenger car, you don’t need to really pay attention anymore. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if you are commuting over highways where you are often driving among big rigs.

Consider that there are over 2 million tractor-trailers traversing the roads today and it can seem as though there is one popping up to get in your way at just about every other leg of your journey. That’s why it is so important for passenger car drivers to be extra diligent.

The fact is, Amazon cannot yet deliver a chain saw through a drone, so until we get FAA regulations opening the door to such arrangements, trucks will still be on the road playing a critical role in the delivery of goods and services.

With this in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what passenger vehicle drivers must do to ensure they play their part in keeping the roads safe for everyone.

Give Them Space

You know how they say we all need some space? Well, big rigs especially need their space. An 80,000 pound Class 8 commercial motor vehicle (CSV) requires 550 feet to come to a safe complete stop from 55 mph. A mid-size sedan, by comparison, only requires approximately 180 feet to come to a complete stop from 70 mph. That’s why it is important to ensure  big rigs are given plenty of room.

Avoid “Grillegating”

What is grillegating? Well, it is pretty much as it sounds. Imagine tailgating, but at the other end of the vehicle instead. More specifically, it’s when someone passes a big rig, then pulls in 25 feet in front of them going the same speed. This kind of behavior does not give the truck driver enough time to respond to an emergency should one occur. Always try to avoid cruising between two semi trucks that are only 100 feet apart.

Don’t Camp Near a Big Rig

If there is one thing that truck drivers would tell you they don’t miss it’s the propensity of random strangers in passenger cars to hang out beside the truck on highways. If you need to pass a big rig, get on with the passing move and then continue on down the road. There is no reason to hang out next to or behind a big rig and risk a collision of some type.

When Merging, Don’t Match A Semi’s Speed

When approaching and merging via a highway onramp, avoid matching the tractor’s speed. Whether your freight truck is speed limited or you simply need to perform better  due diligence to ensure you aren’t sticking around. Leaving the large CMV in your rearview mirror will make everyone happy.

Always Pass On the Left

Whenever possible, ensure you are passing large tractor-trailers on the left side, even if it means waiting for a few extra moments in order to complete the move. Why? Because you don’t want to find yourself stuck between a tractor and the curb, wall or other obstruction should the CMV have to take any evasive action or make any sudden moves.

In the end, we could sit here all day and cover the different ways passenger vehicle drivers can ensure their safety and the safety of those around them, but at the same time we understand it is up to the truck driver as well. Safety, after all, is a two-way street.