Category Archives: Trucking

Advanced Safety Tech Recommendations Are Back In The Spotlight

Have you heard? The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security – better known within the industry as the Trucking Alliance – has come out stating that in order for fleets to qualify for membership, they must adopt what the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety calls “critical” to reducing crashes and fatalities.

The qualification standards surround four trucking-specific safety technologies:

  1. Lane Departure Warning Systems;
  2. Video Safety Systems;
  3. Automatic Emergency Brake Systems, and;
  4. Air Disc Brakes.

In their statement in support of these initiatives, the Trucking Alliance specifically mentioned situations wherein such technologies could make a significant difference were there a potential accident.

Lane departure warning systems reduce on-road crashes by helping to keep truck drivers in their lanes if they get drowsy or distracted. Technologies that utilize video and sensor systems are helpful for truck driver recruiting, training, retention, motivation, and so much more. They can also be used in real-time to alert the truck driver of potential safety situations.

Advanced sensors systems also alert truck drivers and technicians in situations where a mechanical failure is imminent. All of this combines to form a more effective level of safety for both truck driver, fleet, and every-day drivers on our nation’s highways.

While they are still not widespread in adoption, automatic emergency braking systems can detect when a tractor is in danger of hitting an object in front of it. If needed, the system can apply the appropriate amount of brake pressure independent of the truck driver. Air disc brakes play a similar safety role, by the simple fact that they are far superior to drum brakes.

In arguing their position on this, the Trucking Alliance’s Steve Williams stated that, “These technologies can make the highways safer for our drivers and the public and [that’s] why the Trucking Alliance carriers are installing them on new trucks. The AAA Foundation report shows how these automated technologies can help commercial drivers and motorists avoid accidents and return home safely to their families.”

One thing the AAA Foundation does highlight is that a good percentage of today’s modern fleets are already incorporating these technologies into their standard operating practices. Still, the Trucking Alliance is the first to make adoption of these technologies a requirement for entry into membership with the organization.

What Was in the Report

The AAA Foundation report took a careful look at these technologies and how they have made an impact on trucking safety measures. When the data is broken down, it isn’t hard to see why the Trucking Alliance felt this was a good time, and good issue, to take a stand on.

As an example, the report found that if automatic braking systems and air disc brakes together were installed on every truck, it would prevent:

  • Over 7,700 accidents;
  • 92 fatalities, and;
  • 4,200 injuries.

The report also took a look at the kind of different universally-installed on-board camera and sensor and lane departure systems were installed. Per the report, this change would prevent:

  • Over 69,300 large truck crashes;
  • 408 fatalities, and;
  • 24,105 injuries.

These are truly staggering numbers. Imagine the difference this would make in people’s lives. Of course, the AAA Foundation was overjoyed at this development, as can be seen in their statement in response to the move.

AAA president and CEO Marshall Doney was quoted as saying that, ““AAA applauds the Trucking Alliance for taking such an important step toward improving safety on U.S. roads. Adding key safety technologies to fleets is critical if we are to reverse the growing rate of crash deaths on our roadways.”

While no one expects these technologies to receive industry-wide adoption any time soon, every step closer and every new fleet that adopts one or all of them takes one step closer to better safety, which is good for everyone.

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.




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.


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.