Category Archives: Trucking

How GPS Tracking Improves Fleet Safety

When a company relies on a fleet of vehicles to keep business flowing smoothly, safety is key. While keeping a close eye on every truck driver and every vehicle in a fleet – especially a large one – is nearly impossible, there are methods a fleet can use to improve their safety measures. One such way is through GPS tracking.

When a motor carrier can track their truck drivers and their vehicles down to a pinpointed location, you can easily see where safety measures can be drastically improved, from the truck driver to the dispatcher level. GPS technology can also go a long way in improving coaching and retention among truck drivers.

Gaining New Insight

Here are some essential questions to ask yourself regarding the truck drivers in your fleet:

  • Do you know how your truck drivers are behaving while they are behind the wheel?
  • Are you confident they are properly operating your expensive fleet equipment?
  • Do you have easy access to the data you need to show the speeds and driving methods involved in company accidents?

If your answer was no to any of these questions, then you may need to consider a GPS fleet tracking solution as an answer to your problems. What if you could receive alerts any time regarding where your truck drivers are or what they are doing? This also goes a long way to preventing truck driver theft.

When you have access to customizable reports and dashboards that quickly allow you to access fleet summaries and other safety-related data, you can develop trends and benchmarks to assist you in creating a proper fleet safety policy.

Want to determine best practices or better influence truck driver behaviors? The best way to do that may be through an on board GPS system. But what can you expect – in tangible terms – from utilizing a fleet wide GPS system?

Lower Insurance Costs

Insurance companies love it when motor carriers invest in GPS systems. They take comfort in knowing that the fleet is monitoring truck driver behavior and going a long way to preventing cargo theft. When a motor carrier implements a GPS fleet tracking solution, they can often decrease insurance premium costs. Does your insurance provider offer a discount for utilizing these services? If so, you may want to consider investing in them. Move into the 21st century with these kinds of technologies.

Lower Maintenance Costs

Face it: Bad driving takes a toll on your fleet’s vehicles. The best way to mitigate aggressive driving is to monitor how your truck drivers are operating their vehicles. Utilizing GPS systems helps you keep track of the wear-and-tear your vehicles undergo. To prevent extensive and expensive repairs, GPS systems help you keep the situation under control.

Lower Fines and Increase CSA Scores

Speeding problems, traffic infractions and accidents not only lead to potential injuries and liability problems, but they can be quite costly. When you can monitor events like excessive speeding, hard braking, unsafe lane changes, and more, you have a better handle on the outcomes that impact the direct maintenance and upkeep of your valuable investments.

Reducing Liability

From dangerous truck driving behavior to stolen cargo to unhealthy vehicles, all of these can play a role in negatively impacting your motor carrier’s bottom line. Why play with fate like that when you can use a fleet wide GPS system to directly impact those outcomes?

Your reputation is also at stake. When shippers, brokers, and other outfits you do business with feel comfortable knowing you are investing in technology that protects your business, they will be more inclined to trust the business you do with them. Why leave your bottom line to a hopeful wish and a prayer. Invest in GPS and do more than hope for the best.

 

Will The ELD Mandate Result In A Higher Grocery Bill?

If there is one thing the ELD mandate was designed to do, it was to improve safety among truck drivers. Of course, it was also designed to prevent fleets and trucking companies from getting hit with errors in paper logbooks, but safety – in relation to hours of service – was also a big driver for the mandate.

Yet now, trucking companies and agriculture trucking companies in particular are saying that everyday consumers could see their grocery prices rise as a result of the new ELD mandate. But does this view bear fruit – pun intended?

Many truckers say the problem stems from the fact that truck drivers are experiencing problems as they switch from paper logbooks to ELD devices. With the ELD mandate designed to keep truck drivers honest about their time on the road, and thus make the roads safer overall, there are unintended consequences, as with any new rule or regulation.

Not Enough Distance

The ELD mandate results in inevitable delays, which means truck drivers simply aren’t covering as much distance or delivering as many loads as they used to. Whether it be in California or Arizona, when less produce is getting to the endpoint, while demand continues to increase, the laws of supply-and-demand create an environment ripe for price increases.

Before the ELD mandate, truck drivers recorded their hours manually. And while may of them did not intentionally falsify their hours, they did have greater flexibility in how those hours were recorded. As an example, if a truck driver was stuck in traffic, or sat behind a construction zone far longer than expected, they may not have recorded that as driving time.

Another example could be a truck driver who knew they were reaching the 11-hour driving limit, but decided to push it just a little longer in order to find a safe place to have a rest. Of course, by the letter of the law, these practices were not legal, but when using a paper log, truck drivers were able to balance road safety with business interest.

Compliance is still a necessary part of a truck driver’s job, and the ELD mandate ensures that, but unintended side effects do occur. As an example, one 12-store grocery chain in the Midwest has seen the cost of goods roughly double since the ELD mandate came into effect. While the company has, for the most part, been able to absorb the cost, items like bananas and lettuce have gone up by 20 percent.

Is it the Device’s Fault?

While trucking industry companies and advocacy organizations undertake studies to determine the safety efficacy of the ELD mandate, many are wondering where the new rules will take us. It appears, at least in the short term, it may be higher prices.

Fleets are concerned that truck drivers who are delayed may try to drive faster in order to make up for lost ground. Will this cause unneeded safety problems? Consider that the amount of time a truck driver can drive has not changed. What has changed is how that time is measured.

With some farms and agricultural providers stating that they are already seeing unintended consequences, prices in the grocery store may be going up. How will this translate into consumer sentiment, no one yet knows.

Gone are the days when truck drivers could “use their best judgement” to determine when it was safe to pull over, depending on road conditions. If prices for every day goods go up at an unsustainable rate, will we see a regulatory backlash against such measures?

 

The FMCSA Embarks On A New Testing Initiative

In 2017, the FMCSA decided to scrap several new rules and regulations set to go into effect governing safety initiatives. Yet, this year, they aren’t just ignoring safety. They have embarked on many tests and studies designed to figure out why truck fatalities on our nation’s roads are on the rise.

Today, we will look at the different safety tests and initiatives the FMCSA is undertaking to bring some clarity to the situation. With technology on the mind and the future approaching, they want to know if the trucking industry can remain safe in the face of near-constant change.

Testing Autonomous Technology

The first area the FMCSA is looking to test and come to a better conclusion on is that of autonomous trucking. The FMCSA believes that autonomous and semi-autonomous technologies may go a long way to significantly reducing crashes and injuries. With trucking accidents on the rise, the agency doesn’t seek to displace the truck driver, but rather bring a new level of safety to trucking through automation.

With autonomous and semi-autonomous trucking on everyone’s mind, a potential revolution is around the corner. Several studies underway in a few states are being implemented with the FMCSA’s implicit backing, including those in Ohio and Nevada.

Still, with autonomous truck driving now entering a critical evaluation phase, what’s next for the FMCSA when it comes to testing and evaluation?

Incremental Changes on the Horizon

While the FMCSA doesn’t plan to revisit many of the Obama administration’s trucking rules, they may make some minor adjustments to the rules currently in place. And while there won’t be a new safety rating system overhaul coming any time soon, the FMCSA is beginning a two-year-long study examining whether the safety measurement system (SMS) is doing what it was intended to do.

The FMCSA is also going to look at changes and ways to strengthen industry cybersecurity and increase adoption of certain safety technologies, from better braking systems to complementary technologies to increase the awareness of areas where truck drivers can both rest and take a break in case they are bumping up against their hours.

Still, these are merely tests, methods by which the agency can make better determinations regarding future rules. Since the Trump administration has embarked on a mission to remove lots of regulations, it is likely that these initiatives will remain in the testing phase until more concrete data can be discerned.

Is the Economy to Blame

One of the primary factors why comprehensive testing is required can be traced back to an improving economy. As the nation’s economic conditions have gotten better, more trucks are on the road, which itself can lead to more accidents. To determine if the problem is with the volume of trucks or something else, the FMCSA has embarked on these new testing regimes.

Evidence of a potential economic component can be seen in the fact that from 2006 to 2009, there was an overall decline in fatal accidents involving trucks. There could also be a correlation between the number of new truck drivers on the road and the increase in accidents.

Yet, as the federal government gets ready to take up a new debate surrounding state’s rights, infrastructure, and so much more, the trucking industry and related issues are going to come into more focus. Will safety be at the top of the minds of those making the regulatory decisions? The only way to find out is to see what 2018 brings. And we can promise we will be right here reporting on it for you.

How Tanker Specs Can Improve Overall Trucking Safety

In todays trucking safety blog, we want to look at the specific changes happening within the tanker manufacturing industry that specifically impact truck driver and passenger vehicle safety. There are many reasons why this is important. Consider that motor carriers today typically keep their tank trailers for a very long time. As a result, they want to get the most out of these expensive pieces of equipment.

Yet, getting the most bang for their buck isn’t the only thing truck tank manufacturers are focused on. Tanker safety is key. But why is a focus on this aspect of trucking so important? Consider that things change every year. Whether it be a new design on the upper coupler or new and improved landing gear, you must stay on top of what your vendors are designing.

Long life is important, but equally important is fuel efficiency and safety.

What Makes a Safe Tanker Design?

If there is one sector of trucking looking closest at tanker safety, it is the hazmat sector. While tanker fleets tend to look for the best technologies, they are also looking for the safest. While roll stability is the most obvious choice, there are tractor specs that also go a long way in improving a tanker’s safety profile. These include antilock and air disc brakes.

The greatest concern for a tanker lies in the roll over concern. While roll stability and a lower center of gravity help, roll stability control has increasingly become a popular option. For many tank manufacturers, roll stability now comes standard with the tanker.

Tanker fleets looking to further improve their safety measures are seeing client motor carriers increasingly ask for air disc breaks as a way to improve safety measures. While spec’ing advanced braking technology can present a bit of an upcharge in the beginning, these technologies generate big returns when it comes to safety in the long run.

Where lighting is concerned, active driver safety technologies like extra turn signals and high wattage mounted lights provide an answer. Motor carriers operating tankers in high numbers, from 400 on up, see increased safety benefits when they utilize these technologies.

Well-designed and aesthetically pleasing lighting systems also signal to potential clients that your fleet takes safety (and looking good) seriously. When a tanker is equipped with a bright LED that contains to filaments, shines brightly, and looks good, the motor carrier addresses several goals.

Addressing your Wheels

One aspect of tanker safety that is oft-overlooked is that of the tires carrying the tanker. Tankers are often quite heavy, which means most tanker fleets look to aluminum wheels and wide-base tires. Yet, sometimes this setup isn’t the most advantageous.

Many wide-base single tires utilize automatic tire inflation systems, which cause leakage concerns. Tankers require an utmost level of safety. While some wide-base tire manufacturers have come a long way in alleviating these concerns, they must still weigh them against tire wear, fuel economy, and inspection results.

Another area receiving greater focus is that of lift axle usage. Pneumatic tanks retrofitted with lift axles make sense because these operators don’t have a lot of backhauls, which results in greater safety, increased fuel economy, and greater truck driver satisfaction.

The most important part of increasing tanker safety lies in collaboration. Engineers and salespeople from both the manufacturing and fleet management realms must get together and help each other figure out the most effective ways to increase tanker safety. There are so many variables, which seem to change constantly, so ensuring you are on the right side of change ensures greater safety outcomes for your tanker fleet.

The Big Guns Weigh In Post-ELD Enforcement Date

Well trucking industry professionals, the day has come and gone, so how do you feel? Does the fact that the ELD mandate is real and right now change the way you do business? If not, it should. Whether we like it or not, living with the ELD mandate is now a part of everyday life for trucking companies and owner-operators.

And with the date come and gone, some big voices within the trucking industry are weighing in on this new paradigm. American Trucking Associations (ATA) Vice-President for Advocacy Bill Sullivan recently remarked that trucking companies, many of whom are ATA members, can now put the mandate in their review mirror and focus their attention on tomorrow’s issue of the day.

Still, as he went on to point out, many within the ATA and industry believe the data gathered from ELD usage will dramatically change how trucking companies do business, from safety, efficiency and logistical standpoints. In the end, being able to detect technical errors or prevent truck driver harassment are both good things. If the ELD mandate is now the law of the day, trucking companies will have to adapt to it one way or another. Is your fleet ready?

ATA President and CEO Chris Spear was also quoted saying the following:

“The time has finally come to retire decades-old, burdensome paper logs that consume countless hours and are susceptible to fraud and put the safety of all motorists first. The benefits of this rule exceed the costs by more than $1 billion, making it a rule the ATA can firmly support and easily adopt. Today marks the start of a new era of safety and efficiency for our industry and we thank the champions in the Department of Transportation and Congress who have gotten us to this point.”

In later statements, Spear went on to state that his organization believes the ELD will further validate trucking companies who are operating within the hours-of-service guidelines and take compliance very seriously. He cites the potential for less accidents, better safety scores, and an overall increased benefit for truck drivers, fleets, law enforcement and other interested parties.

Adding to the list of voices advocating that the industry accept this change and learn how to embrace it is the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) association, which recently expressed its satisfaction that the mandate has now taken effect.

In their released statement, NTTC President Daniel Furth was quoted saying the following:

“The technology ultimately strengthens the partnership between carriers and shippers by prioritizing safety and compliance in the era of well-documented capacity constraints in the trucking industry. More importantly, ELDs offer professional tank truck drivers–particularly owner-operators–the ability to better manage day to day workloads, ensure accurate pay practices, and improve CSA scores. I think it’s critical to note that ELDs don’t change the existing hours of service rules, they just ensure compliance with those rules which should be the common goal of drivers, carriers, and shippers alike.”

Still, that doesn’t mean everyone is happy. The Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and other trucking interests continue to voice their dissatisfaction. Fortunately, there is a soft enforcement period in effect now through April 1, 2018. Although truck drivers still using paper logs will be facing a potential citation if they are caught, the violation will will not be recorded to their CSA scores until after the April 1 soft enforcement implementation period.

Now the question is, what kind of safety impact can trucking companies, passenger drivers, and others on the road expect from the ELD mandate? Certainly some are happy and some are mad, but as long as people are operating safely and effectively, change isn’t always a bad thing.

Truckers Take To The Streets As Washington Reshapes Trucking Safety

Every so often we like to update you on the latest changes coming out of Washington, especially where safety is concerned. No matter who makes what change – we take no sides – it is important to report on it and keep you, our loyal readers, up-to-date.

Part of your latest update from Washington comes from December 4, when around 3.5 million truck drivers showed up in Washington D.C. and statehouses across the country hoping to somehow stop or slow the impending ELD mandate that goes into effect on the 18th.

Many of the truckers were hoping the current administration would halt or delay the ELD mandate, but it doesn’t appear that will happen. The ELD mandate will replace paper logs, which have been in place as the trucking standard since shortly after the Great Depression.

While the argument remains from some corners that implementing electronic logging devices is expensive and not practical for small fleets, there doesn’t seem to be much appetite in Washington to roll it back, despite some moves to roll back other trucking regulations from the previous administration.

What Are the Arguments?

Many truckers say the hours of service rule – which mandates a workday must end 14 hours after it starts – does not factor in long wait times at the shipper or receiver or other road delays. Since most truck drivers are paid by the mile, those wait times (along with being forced to end the day at the time mandated) can eat into what a truck driver takes home.

Still, this view comes primarily from smaller trucking companies. Larger trucking companies stand on the other side of the argument citing safety and logistical reasons. This is where trucking safety advocates say the ELD mandate helps prevent accidents related to things like fatigue.

Under the Obama Administration, the FMCSA worked with trucking industry players and advocates to draft the ELD mandate as a way to help fleets screen and treat truck drivers for sleep apnea, but that particular regulation was reversed under the current administration.

Another regulation change that gave truck drivers against the ELD rule hope was the quiet shuttering of the motor carrier safety rating system overhaul. Another change came when the speed-limiting device rule was canceled. Rules governing underride guards and automatic emergency braking on trucks also appear to have been placed on the waiting list.

The turnaround on these regulations has trucking safety advocates wondering what the future of trucking safety will look like. They point to statistics that show trucking-related crashes and injuries are on the rise, with that number now going over 4,000.

The Timing is Wrong

Although some have looked to these rollbacks as a sign that the ELD mandate may be jettisoned, their timing may be off. The ELD mandate was well into being implemented by the majority of large trucking companies, many of whom had already spent the capital to outfit their fleet, so they were firmly on the other side.

Now the question is, will the ELD mandate be proven to have a significant impact on trucking safety outcomes? Perhaps. But at the same time, our government is still operating in an anti-regulatory environment. For how much longer the current regulations will stick, or whether others will be created, is all up in the air.

We should know more once President Trump’s new FMCSA administrator Ray Martinez is confirmed by the Senate, which will likely have happened by the time you are reading these words. Although the trucking safety landscape looks set for more change, one thing looks sure: The ELD mandate is here to stay.

Is Excessive Commuting A Trucking Safety Problem

Have you heard? The FMCSA has come out stating that they believe “excessive commuting” by truck drivers may be a problem and they are seeking public comment on the matter. They also plan on surveying commercial truck and bus drivers to see what their commuting habits are. But what is excessive commuting?

According to the FMCSA, any commute that takes 150 minutes or more is considered excessive. In the FMCSA’s statement on the survey, which they have forwarded to the White House Office of Management and Budget for permission to complete, they stated the following:

“As the number of workers has increased and the distance to affordable housing has also increased in most metropolitan areas, commuting times have increased in the U.S. According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours (42 hours per rush-hour commuter).”

If the Office of Management and Budget ends up giving the all-clear for the survey, the FMCSA will put together an online system designed to poll up to 12,000 truck drivers regarding their commuting habits.

In providing a notice on the survey, which was published on November 27 in the Federal Register, the agency specifically pointed to Section 5515 of the Fixing America’s Surface Infrastructure (FAST) Act. Section 5515 specifically requires the FMCSA to conduct a study on whether or not commutes represent a safety problem in the trucking industry.

The survey will be designed to gather specific details about:

  • How much excessive commuting occurs within the trucking industry, data will include overall number and percentage of truck drivers?
  • How far truck drivers travel during their commutes?
  • Did they cross any time zones?
  • What method of transportation are they using in their commute?
  • Is there an impact on safety or fatigue from long commutes?
  • Are there other ways the FMCSA can impact long truck driver commute times?

The FMCSA also stated that long commutes can negatively impact truck drivers in a number of ways. They also provided additional background on the survey in this comment:

“In the past two decades, as the number of workers has increased and the distance to affordable housing has also increased in most metropolitan areas, commuting times have increased in the United States.”

The areas where commuting delays can have a significant impact on truckers were found to be in missing or compromised off-duty time due to long commute and negative impacts to overall truck driver health.

In supporting these initiatives, the FMCSA went on to say:

“Long commuting times can reduce a driver’s available off-duty time for sleep and personal activities. This can lead to excessive fatigue while on duty, creating safety concerns for both the CMV driver and other drivers on the roads. A recent study was conducted that monitored 4,297 adults from 12 metropolitan Texas counties. In this region, 90% of people commute to work. The study found that the drivers who have long commuting times were more likely to have poor cardiovascular health and be less physically fit. This study showed that people who commute long distances to work weigh more, are less physically active, and have higher blood pressure.”

Now the question is, what do you think? With the public comment period open, don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts with the FMCSA. After all, these are the rules and regulations that directly impact your job. Do you feel like excessive commuting impacts you or perhaps you think it isn’t that much of a problem?

Either way, follow this link to leave your opinion on the survey page. And as usual, we will be right here reporting on the final results when they are released.

Your November Holiday Safety Update

With millions of people set to hit the nation’s roads during a busy holiday season, safe driving practices are never more necessary, and that goes for both passenger car operators and truck drivers.

The high volume of vehicle traffic on the road during the holidays creates a complex problem for those on the road, from increased congestion to a major reduction in overall speed.

Safe Holiday Travel Tips

This high volume of road traffic makes safe driving measures more important than ever, especially as individuals make their way across the nation to see loved ones. One trucking safety advocacy group has even come out with an Instructional Video that spreads trucking safety messages to motorists.

The eight-minute video features professional truck drivers and provides a comprehensive look at different safe-driving habits that directly impact truckers. Fortunately, the video has already been seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Every trucking safety advocacy group will tell you their goal is to ensure the safest highways possible, and considering the trucking industry invests billions in safety technologies, the last thing they want is for that investment to be in vain.

The following safe driving tips apply to both professional truck drivers and anyone else sharing the road with them this holiday season.

  • Make sure to buckle your safety belt.
  • Ensure maximum visibility by removing snow and ice from your vehicle before hitting the road.
  • Drive slower than necessary, especially in cold, windy, icy or snowy conditions.
  • Remember that when you drive faster than surrounding traffic, you triple your chances of winding up in a collision.
  • Always be mindful of your blind spots, whether you are driving a passenger car or heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle.
  • Stay focused on the road, as distracted driving is one of the major reasons for road accidents today.
  • Avoid cutting people off, especially large trucks.
  • Always check your vehicle to ensure wipers, fluids, and other critical maintenance items are all in working order before you get in and turn the key.

You also want to make sure you are getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated. Spending long hours in a vehicle can be more taxing on your system than you may expect. Be prepared by preparing ahead of time.

Volvo Doubles Down on Safety

In the world of trucking industry safety advocacy, Volvo Truck’s Traffic and Product Director Carl Johan Almqvist recently presented at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition. During his presentation, Almqvist stressed a common-sense approach to tackling trucking’s most vexing safety dilemmas.

“Every year, about 1.2 million people are killed in road traffic accidents worldwide. That’s the equivalent in lives lost to having 10 airliners crash every day. If that were to happen, we would ground all airplanes,” he said.

He went on to point to the fact that we should never be okay with a feeling of complacence, or persistent thought that “it will never happen to me.” He stressed that even one highway fatality is one too many, and noted that Volvo’s vision is to produce trucks that can lay claim to zero accidents.

He also outlined a 2017 report that found the most important focus areas for increased safety in trucking. They included:

  • More seat belt use;
  • Better truck driver awareness;
  • Better visibility both inside and outside the cab;
  • Direct feedback coaching and training initiatives, and;
  • Active safety system development.

The fact is, the trucking industry can still do much more to improve safety outcomes both on and off the road. It is good to see manufacturers getting in on the action. All players within the trucking industry have a stake in seeing improved safety on our nation’s roads.

So, as you set out this holiday season, please take greater care on the roads. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

The NTSB Makes New Recommendations

There is a lot going on in the world of safety-in-trucking and we are right here ready to report on all of it for you, our loyal readers.

In our latest blog post, we wanted to cover in greater detail some of the new guidance released by the NTSB. Let’s dive in.

NTSB on Collision Avoidance Systems

According to a recent statement released by the director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Highway Safety, Rob Molloy, collision avoidance technology could dramatically improve the safety of both truck drivers and those on the road around them.

His comments came during a November 15 meeting of the NTSB designed to report on progress in addressing the NTSB’s 2017-2018 Most Wanted List. Released November of 2016, the List was created to identify the areas where safety improvements can make a large impact.

They outlined the following:

  • Aviation;
  • Highway;
  • Marine;
  • Pipeline;
  • Hazardous materials, and;
  • Rail.

The goal is to see safety improvements on each of those factors and across the various modes of transportation they utilize.

According to Molloy, the highest truck-related accidents the NTSB investigation uncovered happened when a truck doesn’t stop in time and hits vehicles in front of it. He then went on to site an incident where a truck that could have had safety equipment installed but didn’t crashed into a passenger car and killed the occupants.

What Else is on The List?

While the focus of Molloy’s comments were on collision avoidance systems, he also touched on other priorities on the Most Wanted List, which included:

  • The safe shipment of hazardous materials;
  • Reducing truck driver alcohol and drug impairment;
  • Requiring medical fitness certificates;
  • Finding ways to further decrease incidents of distracted driving;
  • Strengthen occupant protection inside the cab;
  • Expand the use of event-recording technology, and;
  • Improve intermodal oversight, specifically in the area of rail transit safety and loss of control in aviation.

The NTSB further goes on – in its list – to recommend that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require all heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle operators to install video-event recorders. This recommendation will go a long way to providing actionable data both fleets and inspectors can use in real-time.

The agency wants access to actionable data that can be used to assess performance, safety measures, and other critical metrics and indicators.

The Black Box and Sleep Apnea

Another member of the NTSB’s review board, Bella Dinh-Zarr, stated that the agency does not “have the event data recorders in trucks that we have in many vehicles. It’s quite unpopular because people think it’s Big Brother. It’s a way to ensure truckers keep themselves safe, as well as everyone else on the road.”

What Dinh-Zarr was referring to were the devices known within the trucking industry as “black boxes.” These diminutive devices are essentially near-constant data recorders that track everything that happens with the vehicle. They can be used to find useful information in the event of a crash.

Finally, the NTSB issued a statement on sleep apnea, recommending that the FMCSA devise a program that will allow investigators to pinpoint truck drivers who may be at a greater risk for sleep apnea. It then recommends the FMCSA require that drivers who are singled out get a medical clearance certificate from a medical professional. Approved databases of such medical professionals are made available to fleet truck drivers.

So, what’s next? Well, the NTSB is an independent federal agency and its recommendations are the largest tool in its toolbox. Does this mean industry is forced to comply? No, but generally when the NTSB makes recommendations, the industry needles move.

Advanced Driver Assistance Safety Technologies Save Lives

Here is the plain truth: Advanced driver assistance systems could save the trucking industry millions of dollars, but more importantly they can help save thousands of lives. Yet, while the trucking industry increasingly embraces these technologies, there are still a lot of outliers that question their feasibility.

There is Room for Improvement

Can we do better? Certainly. In a 2015 study completed by the Boston Consulting Group, it was found that when driver assistance safety technologies are used, nearly 30 percent of crashes could be averted. When you consider that in 2015 there were over 4,300 large truck-related crashes where there was a fatality, that 30 percent suddenly becomes quite significant.

You can also factor in the whopping $2.4 billion in property damage and nearly $50 billion in societal harm. Even more disconcerting, up to 90 percent of those crashes can be attributed to human error. If a fleet can install a system to lower that number, everyone benefits.

There are several different types and categories of driver assistance safety technologies. They include:

  • Forward collision warning systems;
  • Collision mitigation systems;
  • Blind spot monitoring and alert systems;
  • Lane departure warning systems;
  • … and more!

To see these technologies make a significant impact in the annual accident rate, we will need to see widespread industry acceptance and adoption. Although technology companies are making huge progress in developing these systems, many trucking companies have yet to catch on to the trend. This is especially true for smaller fleets.

But why?

Follow the Money

As with just about anything else in this world, if you want an answer to a tough question, it’s best to follow the money. When it comes to advanced safety systems, fleets have one question: How will this pay me back?

Of course, it is easier for larger fleets to take the long view on advanced safety system return on investment. Larger fleets have the resources to step back and take a holistic look. Asking how an out-of-commission tractor factors in to down-time cost should be a factor in choosing to utilize advanced safety systems, but it is harder for smaller operations to come around to that view. The smaller the fleet, the longer the time it takes to recoup large investments in equipment or technology.

The problem is this: When a fleet decides to either forgo safety technologies or use cheap, untested versions, they are doing very little to lower their risk level and, if anything, may be raising it. If a truck driver relies on a poorly manufactured technology and it fails, that could increase the risk of an accident.

If there is one safety technology that is seeing an uptick in adoption – outside of ABS and electronic stability control, which is mandated in many instances – it is that of forward collision warning systems. Adaptive cruise control is also becoming more popular.

The best part? For fleets who have put the time, money and effort into investing in these technologies, the dividends are paying off in real-world ways. Schneider, as one example, reportedly eliminated 70 percent of the rear-end collisions they were reporting as a result of adopting collision mitigation systems. Even more astonishingly, the severity of crashes that did happen were reduced by a whopping 95 percent.

Still, there is a long way to go. Small fleets must be given a greater profit-motive for adopting these technologies. Furthermore, technologies such as lane departure and lane keeping systems, have yet to catch on in any real meaningful way.

Yet, as the economy continues to expand and the trucking industry puts more and more trucks on the road, we will have to reach a point where a critical mass of industry players, both large and small, see the benefit to advanced safety technologies and finally make the switch.