Monthly Archives: June 2018

How Enforcement Impacts Trucking Safety

As a professional truck driver, you know, when you are operating on a crowded road or highway, someone is looking out for your safety. And while some truck drivers may inherently take a dim view of enforcement, the individuals who work as enforcements officers on our nation’s roads and highways are completing a critical job.

On average, on any given major stretch of interstate highway, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of commercial motor vehicles on the road. Enforcement officers help to keep both truck drivers and passenger car operators safe. But what are enforcement officers looking for?

Watch Those Brakes

One of the most common things that gets an enforcement officer’s attention is an unreadable front plate. Once rigs are on the side of the road for an inspection, thin brake linings are also a big violation. With big hills winding through narrow mountain passes, thin brakes can be deadly dangerous. Enforcement officers are trained to look for them and they will not hesitate to dial up a violation if serious.

In some cases, if a brake pad on the trailer is stuck to the drum, it may not release when it is supposed to, which could cause major friction problems on downhill runs. Air loss could compound the problem, causing an even greater safety concern.

Here is one thing to note, while all troopers can stop a commercial motor vehicle for inspection, only certified commercial vehicle enforcement officers can complete a full inspection. Still, certified inspections officers can also write big tickets.

Trucks Can Do Damage

With the nation’s infrastructure under increasing strain, the increase in freight traffic does no one any favors. Cities and towns that exist along trucking routes simply don’t have the capital to maintain long term bridge and road upkeep, especially in light of inaction at the Federal level.

But why are big rigs so tough on roads? It is estimated that one fully loaded tractor-trailer is equal to around 1,000 cars on the road. This is where weigh stations come in. Weigh stations are used to collect data for pavement research and inspections.

If municipalities are having problems keeping their roads and highways maintained as it is, how are they going to install new weigh stations and inspection facilities, which can run $7 to $8 million to build up and put into service?

Following the Rules

Fortunately, most truck drivers and motor carriers pay a lot of care to following the rules. Fleets should come up with innovative solutions to addressing enforcement and safety. One such example could be a monthly breakfast where the entire team gets together to discuss new safety initiatives and road conditions.

Many fleets are already turning to this method and combining it with utilizing truckers who have a long-time safety record to coach newer truck drivers on what they should expect from an inspection or enforcement action. It is important to focus more on the safety aspect than the dollars and cents.

If there is one Golden Rule of trucking, it is to never put trucks on the road that shouldn’t be on the road. Enforcement officials do a great job at spotting trucks with low-hanging wires, dirty plates, cracked windshields, or cargo that has not been properly tarped.

The last thing a motor carrier or owner-operator wants is a violation simply because they did not conduct a proper pre-trip inspection and ensure their vehicle(s) was in proper working order before it hit the road. Stay out of enforcement’s cross hairs, but at the same time appreciate the job they do. Because they do it for you.

Necessary Steps To Prevent Cargo Theft

Cargo theft is an ever-increasing problem. The age of technology has provided tools for motor carriers to safeguard their cargo, but it has also provided thieves with new toys in their endeavor to steal freight. Professional freight cargo thieves are sophisticated, whether it be through the use of jamming devices or road obstructions, they aren’t resting on their laurels.

Motor carriers looking to ensure their precious cargo does not end up in someone else’s hands need to employ comprehensive freight security programs and countermeasures. Dispatch should have real-time monitoring of cargo shipments across the fleet through tracking technologies and software programs.

Looking at Embedded Technologies

Covert cargo security measures include embedded technologies. When location, status, time and condition data can be transmitted back to headquarters the moment dispatchers need to know it, cargo theft is mitigated. Even more, partners who have been in the game for a long will offer additional services.

Does the cargo security firm you are partnering with utilize critical activity alerts, cargo monitoring, shipment tracking, and analytical reporting measures? There must be a high level of communication between the end points. Still, there are technological limitations.

Aluminum containers and cargo holds limit the effectiveness of GPS devices. That is where electronic freight security programs come into place. Just as technology has emboldened thieves, companies have stepped into the breach to keep up with them.

Dedicated EFS programs allow the tracking entity to follow the trailer, whether thieves cut a cellular or satellite link or not. Enterprising fleets are taking advantage of GPS units hidden within the cargo or built into a small box on the side of the trailer. Inconspicuous places can be used to hide the critical payload.

Be Discreet

It is important that the tracking method employed is discreet. The last thing a truck driver needs is for a bad guy to circumvent their security measures simply because they weren’t strong enough. It is true we live in a time where finding a safe place to park has become an increasing problem for truck drivers.

Since truck drivers must park where they do, the least a fleet or owner-operator can do is make it difficult for potential thieves to break in. Utilize locking and early warning mechanisms to ensure the trailer isn’t compromised without the operator even knowing about it.

Even better, OEMs on the front lines of trucking security are providing active countermeasures by utilizing systems that send out multiple signal layers, which confuse jammers. The game is afoot as thieves and corporations do each other’s best to match wits.

Team Up

One of the best ways to confound and throw off would-be attackers is to follow the age-old motto: There’s strength in numbers. When truck drivers link up with one another, it is far less likely thieves will prey upon them.

Law enforcement officials should never be considered as adversaries, but instead open lines of communication with enforcement personnel should be encouraged. Since criminals never run out of ways to defeat security systems, truck drivers and motor carriers must be on constant alert.

If a theft does occur, having a rapport already established with law enforcement allows for the investigation to begin quickly and hopefully yield quick results. Gather quick intelligence and be ready to make decisions on the fly in order to keep your cargo safe.

The brave new front will always be in cybersecurity. Trucking companies must stay at the forefront of digital security in order to keep their operations shielded from harm. Will your fleet be ready when the moment comes to protect against the bad guys?

Your Latest On Safety From Capitol Hill

ELD exemptions are once again on lawmakers’ radar as they look for ways to further streamline regulations head of the fiscal 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill, since it was not handled within the bill itself.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations issued “report language” to go along with any legislation that is created around ELD or other trucking regulatory exemptions. But what was in this report? What language did the Committee send to the rest of Congress?

Livestock Haulers

In short, the Committee stated that the Department of Transportation needed to clarify the 150 air-mile radius exemption, specifically where agricultural commodity haulers are concerned. As such, the Committee directed the DOT to consult with the industry, as well as the Department of Agriculture, to find solutions to the exemption clarification problem.

They went on to point out that those working in the livestock or agricultural hauling sector operated within unique working conditions. As such, those unique conditions must be taken into consideration when the DOT decides to issue new regulatory guidance or frameworks.

What is more, the House version of the bill explicitly prohibits funds from being used for enforcing ELD use on livestock or insect freight haulers. As usual, the House took a firmer stance on the issue, one that the Senate did not emulate. In fact, the Senate’s version of the bill had no political riders attached to it.

It is likely the issue will be sorted out in Congress, with both sides coming to a compromise. It may even become part of a larger negotiating position. Either way, it is designed to address the larger issue at hand, which comes up on October 1. That is when any trucker hauling living things must turn on their ELD and not drive for more than 11 hours, per the ELD rule.

The Difference

Since hauling living things is very different from hauling non-living things, additional considerations must be made. Ranchers and farmers complain that they have difficulty getting livestock from a place like Montana down to places like Oklahoma.

The problem? During summer and winter months, especially during rough weather, livestock is put at risk. If a truck driver has to take a mandatory 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving, they could be putting the lives of their haul at risk. Honeybees are a prime example of this. They are extremely fragile cargo and are susceptible to heat and cold.

As a result, two Senators have introduced legislation, entitled the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act. As it has been introduced, the bill would increase air-mile-radius exemptions from 150 to 300. Livestock haulers would also be allowed to ignore hours of service rules provided they are within 150 air miles of the destination.

The Senators, John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) and Steve Daines (R-Montana) are sponsoring the bill and have openly voiced their support for extending ELD exemptions beyond the 150-mile air radius. Whether or not it actually passes, makes its way through the House, and is signed by the president is all up in the air.

Although there are many in favor of changing the rule, safety groups have come out saying that this is another attempt to gut the efficacy of the ELD mandate. They state that if more and more exemptions are given, the impact of the mandate will become diluted.

Whatever happens, this will all play out in the halls of Congress and at the White House. With trucking company and safety advocacy lobbying groups lining up, only time will tell if his actually sees the light of day.

How The ELD Mandate Is Affecting Truck Drivers

There are some grumblings among truck drivers regarding how the ELD mandate is impacting their pay and the way they operate on the job. Truck drivers from the pre-ELD era might drive for eight hours, take a four to six hour nap while the truck was unloaded, then drive for another four hours or so before stopping overnight for sleep.

In Practical Use

With the ELD mandate in place, scenarios like that are no longer possible. With the 11 hour limit, some truck drivers feel like it is cutting into their pay. Consider how truck drivers are usually paid: by the mile. When the trucker is not out on the road within the allotted time, it cuts into how many hours they can stay on the road.

Even more, the truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break every eight hours, even if they just spent half the time at an unloading site waiting for their cargo to be pulled off. When you add up all this time, you can see how much a truck driver being paid by the mile can lose.

Compounding the problem, there is a safety issue associated with these concerns. Since most truck drivers are operating on a similar schedule – since they all must comply with the same ELD regulations – they all wind up taking their 10-hour breaks at the same time, resulting in a parking nightmare.

Reports of truck drivers having difficulties finding safe places to park abound. Some openly wonder whether this is defeating the entire purpose of the mandate, which was to improve trucking safety. There has been some uptick in red zone cargo thefts since the mandate went into effect. Certainly, there is nothing to prove correlation or causation, but the trend is there.

What Are the Concerns?

Although the ELD mandate is still relatively young, there is now enough data to provide an initial assessment of how it has effected the trucking industry. According to a recent industry study, productivity is down since implementation, all while the cost of shipping has continued to rise.

While the theory underlying the ELD mandate was sound – that truck drivers were working longer hours to make more money, which could post a safety concern. No one wants truck drivers to operate while they are too fatigued.

Yet, the problem lies in the fact that the Hours of Service rules have remained largely unchanged for nearly a century.

Truck drivers are starting to openly worry whether or not the ELD device usage is creating an unsafe operating environment for them. Some refer to it as a constant race to beat the clock. Some truckers report trying to race to their destination before the mandatory breaks kick in.

Losing Experienced Truck Drivers

The simple fact is this: Money matters. Trucking as a career will become less lucrative for truck drivers who are paid by the mile. A rookie truck driver can expect to bring in around 27 cents a mile. Experienced truck drivers could expect around 44 cents per mile.

Studies done on the impact the ELD mandate has had on truck driver pay shows that there is potential for the average long haul truck driver to lose upwards of $14,000 per year as a result of the new methodology.

With the truck driver shortage already an acute problem, the trucking industry cannot afford an exodus of experienced truckers. Fleets need all the help they can get recruiting, training, and retaining truckers of the future. Will the ELD mandate wind up helping or hurting their cause? Right now, only time will tell.