Monthly Archives: October 2017

ATA Conference And Federal Safety Updates

The American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference and Exhibition at the Orange County Convention Center kicked off in late-October and there were a lot of announcements and new technologies to evaluate.

Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know regarding the world of trucking and truck driver safety and safety technology.

Truck Driver Wellness

A truck driver wellness app was announced. Called Rolling Strong, the app was created by a company that creates and manages wellness programs for trucking and transportation companies. They also cover owner-operators who are looking for more assistance on operating with health and safety in mind.

The app assists truck drivers in making health decisions while they are on the road. Up to now, there have been few innovative options regarding the topic of health and wellness for truckers, but all that is starting to change.

The Rolling Strong app is designed to help truckers make better health decisions and encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. It also has built-in mechanisms designed to be compatible with a fleet’s current safety management program and is available in both iOS and Android formats.

Personal Safety Systems

Truck drivers will also benefit from an announced personal safety system. A company who provides cargo safety systems has branched out to include truck drivers. Normally, the company provides around-the-clock response for safety, security or medial issues through the simple use of a button push and a key fob entered into the dash.

The technology is designed to help fleets take a more proactive approach to truck driver safety and protection. Both known and unknown safety issues come up almost every day, so having a service on the back end to help manage these situations could be incredibly beneficial.

Finally, technologies like these go a long way towards increasing truck driver recruiting and retention efforts. Professional truck drivers are more engaged when they know their fleets are investing in technologies that help them increase safety and security levels.

Truck Driver Exploitation Bill

There have also been moves in Washington where truck driver safety is concerned. House Democrats have introduced two federal bills aimed at preventing port trucking companies from exploiting their workforce.

While the problem isn’t widespread, there have been instances where lease-to-own contracts basically force truck drivers to work non-stop for what amounts to almost minimum wage.

Called the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act of 2017, the potential law lays down a basic framework for ports who employ truck drivers in daily operations. Whether it be fair pay, labor standards, or otherwise, the bill provides protection from what it calls “exploitative truck lease or rental arrangements.”

According to Grace Napolitano, a Democrat from California, “For truck drivers to be treated fairly and paid fairly, [the proposed law] is a no-brainer. We thought [the companies] would do it without legislation, but that hasn’t happened. So we had to put it in writing.”

Under the proposed bill, federal regulators would be required to create and deploy task forces that would investigate port companies, look closely at employment and lease contracts and potentially weed out port companies that are taking advantage of their truck drivers.

All of this stems from a report produced by USA Today, which showed that dozens of trucking companies operating in Southern California avoided having to pay for their new trucks by forcing their truck drivers on company-sponsored lease programs that were heavily tilted in the fleet’s favor.

Whether or not the bill makes it through a Republican Congress and on to the president’s desk is another story. While time will tell, the fact that people are talking about it raises this issue’s profile, which is only good for truck drivers affected by it.

FMCSA Extends The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee’s Charter

Have you heard of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC)?

Chartered by Congress in 2006, the MCSAC has been given a mandate to provide information, advise and recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding safety programs and regulatory initiatives for heavy duty commercial motor vehicles and commercial buses.

Who Are They?

The MCSAC is primarily comprised of trucking safety, advocacy, enforcement, labor and industry stakeholders. Members are chosen through an FMCSA application process. Each member is selected from a pool who meet two requirements:

  1. They are not employees of the FMCSA.
  2. They are specially qualified to serve on the committee based on education, training or experience.

Upon MCSAC’s creation, then-FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro stated that it was intended to “help FMCSA raise the bar for carriers to enter the industry, maintain high safety standards to remain in the industry, and remove high risk carriers and drivers from our roadways.”

Around the same time, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood remarked in regards to MCSAC that “at DOT, safety is our highest priority. Working with partners who provide us with greater knowledge, experience and ideas will only help us make our nation’s highways even safer.”

Fortunately for the 20-person committee, on September 29 their mandate was renewed for two years. Yet they are operating within an anti-regulatory environment, so what could their mandate possibly be?

How Their Mandate is Changing

According to President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, agencies are required to relieve businesses of burdensome regulations. As such, the FMCSA gave a presentation to the committee regarding which federal highway safety rules might be eliminated.

FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne stated as such when he was recently quoted saying the presentation was intended to “introduce a new FMCSA assignment to the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee members, agency staff prepared a short PowerPoint presentation outlining some possible ‘regulatory relief’ candidates that could be suggested or included in response to the Presidential Executive Order. MCSAC, which is comprised of a broad representation of all of FMCSA’s stakeholders, is now tasked to come up with their own independently derived recommendations.”

During the presentation, the FMCSA pinpointed 12 rules governing commercial motor vehicle use that they recommended be scaled back or eliminated. Making MCSAC’s job even harder, each of the rules slated for the chopping block are intended to improve trucking safety. How does one pick which safety initiative is better or worse than another?

One way is to first look at rules that are so old they may now be outdated or others that may no longer be enforced for whatever reason. One example of this are the Motor Carrier Routing Regulations found under Part 325 of the FMCSRs.

These rules are nothing more than the remnants of the now-shut down Commerce Commission. Some ask whether they even serve a purpose anymore. In their presentation, the FMCSA stated that eliminating the rules could simplify regulatory burdens while having little to no economic impact.

The agency also singled out rules and reporting requirements governing everything from medical records to road test results and state cooperation agreements. In conclusion, the FMCSA recommended a three-step process for the MCSAC to consider as part of the regulatory reform process:

  1. Contact additional industry stakeholders and conduct more outreach and solicit opinion.
  2. Seek public comment on the Federal Register through a DOT notice.
  3. Move forward with FMCSA rule making and planning.

Of course, DeBruyne did stress that the MCSAC should act independently in order to come up with the best recommendations while remaining in line with the executive order. In short, they are urged to recommend the elimination of the 12 rules, but are not bound to do so.




New Moves In Trucking Safety

There are a number of interesting bits of news this week in trucking safety. The first comes out of Utah, where the Federal Highway Administration opened a commenting period for the public to weigh in on a truck-climbing lane in Utah.

The news comes on the back of an announcement by the Utah Department of Transportation that it plans to install a truck-climbing lane on a steep section of Interstate 80 approximately 15 miles from Salt Lake City.

The climbing lane will stretch for around 3 miles, cutting across and over the mountain pass known as Parley’s Summit. You may be wondering, “Well, what’s so special about Utah?”

The main reason this is big news is that Interstate 80 is a major route between San Francisco and New Jersey. Many people who travel cross-country wind up taking this route.

Now, the FHWA plans to seek judicial review on the matter before March 5 of 2018. According to a UDOT spokesman, the purpose of the project is to reduce the amount of truck congestion currently on the highway. It is also meant to limit accidents that involve other motorists or wildlife.

The wildlife problem will be addressed with the installation of a wildlife crossing over the I-80. Since there a lot of deer and elk in the area, this bypass should help alleviate accident risk and save wildlife.

Ian Peterson, who is the COO for a Utah-based trucking company, was quoted as saying “I don’t see a downside to that. It’s a pretty heavily traveled canyon.  There’s a lot of truck traffic in that canyon, but then there’s also a lot of commuter traffic.”

A big problem with the area is that commuter traffic has exploded as people have moved to the area in droves. According to the U.S. Cencus Bureau, Utah is the fastest-growing state by population. Surrounding communities, from Jeremy Ranch to Park and Heber City are seeing exponential growth. Unfortunately, this expansion is crowding out the route, which runs three lands in each direction. ‘

Again, Ian Peterson. “That’s really added to the number of cars on the road, especially during peak driving hours. I think it’ll make it safer because there is a lot of traffic. I think it’s a positive thing.”

New Low-Cost Safety Solution 

On another safety front, a company out of Anaheim, California is addressing a problem truck drivers face during drop and hook operations. Many believe this to be a completely overlooked cause of worker compensation costs and lost productivity within trucking.

The company, UltraLift Technologies, aims to help reduce the number of repetitive stress injuries truck drivers face.  The low-power tool they have developed represents a safer alternative to hand-cranking whenever a truck driver needs to raise or lower the trailer’s landing gear.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety, “upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders are one of the four most common types of workplace injury. They can also be some of the most costly.

Still, far too few trucking companies pay close enough attention to these types of injuries. Instead, so much effort has been put into distracted driving and reducing traffic accidents, that many forget there are plenty of safety concerns at stake when a truck is parked, as well.

UltraLift enters the market claiming that their tool is the first of its kind and can be used on any trailer type, whether hydraulic, pneumatic or electrical. All that is required is around 5- 10 minutes of installation time.

Since fleets have the option of quickly and easily retrofitting their fleet with this technology, with very little downtime, UltraLift is aiming to see its technology reach widespread adoption across the trucking industry.

With fleets continually trying to cut costs and add more to their bottom line, minimizing costs, injuries and workplace safety issues can go a long way. Is your motor carrier taking these problems seriously? We operate in a new age of safety. It’s time to get prepared.


Why Preventative Maintenance Should Be Part Of Your Safety Program

Why does preventative maintenance matter? Because it could be the major mitigating factor when it comes to the safe operation of your fleet’s heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles.

The fact is, fleet vehicles need to be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Without proper preventative maintenance, your operation could be spending wasted dollars on reactive maintenance, which does nothing to help your bottom line.

For professional truck drivers, preventative maintenance should be a constant fact of life. When one works with a vehicle day-in and day-out, they need assurances that the safe operation of that vehicle is paramount.

Avoiding Unscheduled Maintenance

Routine vehicle servicing shouldn’t be in question. It is unscheduled maintenance that can cause problems on the road. What if a tire blows out because it wasn’t noticed that a lug was at risk for blowing out?

If that tire blows while on the road, the truck driver could be at a greater risk for accident. The last thing your fleet needs is a safety issue because you weren’t able to discern when a tire needed to be replaced.

The Department of Transportation regulates preventative maintenance under Section 3496.3 of the FMCSRs. This means that you are required to have a preventative maintenance program in place at all times.

The Key Steps to Road Safety

For every fleet or motor carrier in operation, road safety is the number one priority. Road safety includes everything from frequent maintenance to scheduled services and vehicles repairs and inspections.

Trucking companies make significant and valuable investments into their fleets. Investing similarly in preventative maintenance saves a fleet from paying costly regulation violation fees. As a result, preventative maintenance should be an integral part of every fleet truck driver training program.

A scheduled fleet maintenance program will focus on ensuring that the vehicles in the fleet are in good condition 100% of the time. Although your maintenance schedule may vary, a calendar or checklist will help you keep track of which vehicles are in need of attention, whatever the kind.

What to Tell Your Truck Drivers

But how do you train a truck driver to take preventative maintenance seriously? It starts with the senses. When you explain to your truck operators the incentives behind operating their truck at peak operational efficiency, it isn’t hard to get their buy-in on the program.

Tell them to consider the following questions:

  • Do you smell something strange coming from inside or outside the vehicle?
  • Is there water trapped underneath the carpet?
  • Does their appear to be an electrical malfunction?
  • Are you hearing any strange sounds coming from underneath the hood or within the cab?
  • Are there any fluids leaking out from underneath the vehicle?
  • Do you hear any rhythmic clicks or taps at any point during vehicle operations?

What is most important is that your fleet implements a road safety program as soon as possible. However you address the individual needs of your fleet, make sure safety is at the top of the list. Ensure you are keeping adequate records and that you put a capable person in charge of the program.

Are you wondering how to take your safety initiatives to another level? Consider preventative maintenance as an essential key in this process. By ensuring your trucks are in good working condition and your truck drivers are trained, you’ll ensure safe marks for your fleet for some time to come.