Posted on March 20, 2020
On March 18, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expanded existing exemptions to further aid emergency relief efforts as the nation grapples with supply shortages. Fleets and commercial vehicles providing direct assistance in emergency relief support efforts benefit from the expanded exemptions. Examples of emergency relief support include:
- Delivering medical tools and supplies to aid in testing, diagnosing, and treating COVID-19
- Delivering sanitary supplies in addition to equipment needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Delivering emergency food supplies to restock grocery stores
- Delivering tools, materials, or individuals required to establish and maintain temporary housing, quarantine, or isolation facilities related to COVID-19
- Transporting individuals identified by Federal, State, or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
- Transporting individuals that perform medical or emergency services
- Delivering any raw materials needed to manufacture the above essential items
- Delivering fuel
The biggest changes to the order include the addition of raw materials and fuel as exempted cargo. FMCSA further stressed this only applies to legitimate emergency relief efforts. Fleets performing routine deliveries that add an insignificant amount of emergency relief items to their load do not meet the guidelines for exemptions.
Fleets that are exempt don’t need to maintain records of duty status (RODS) logs, but FMCSA recommends making a note in the remarks section of activity logs to identify the exempt hours. This will help mitigate confusion or discrepancies in the future. Like the original declaration, drivers must receive a minimum of 10 hours off-duty time after returning from transporting property and eight hours after transporting passengers.
6 Things Not Covered by the Expanded Exemptions
Fleets and drivers must still adhere to several other safety regulations related to the following:
- Testing for controlled substances and alcohol consumption
- Commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements
- Insurance requirements
- Transporting hazardous materials
- Size and weight requirements
- Any other regulations not specifically exempted by the updated emergency declaration
Some states are allowing for temporary changes to weight requirements. Many states are also offering a temporary grace period for CDLs on the verge of expiring, as many government offices are closing to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
Interstate Motor Carriers understands there are more questions than answers in these uncertain times. We are here to help your fleet keep pace with emergency relief demands while keeping your drivers safe and your risks in check. Contact us to learn more.
Posted on March 16, 2020
The DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a national emergency declaration to provide HOS relief (hours-of-service regulatory relief) to commercial vehicle drivers who are transporting emergency relief in response to the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19).
FMCSA’s declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs, such as:
- Food – for emergency restocking of store/grocery stores
- Equipment, supplies and personnel – for creation and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities
- Medical supplies – equipment related to testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
- People – designated by authorities for transport needed for medical, isolation or quarantine
- Personnel – needed to provide medical or other emergency services
The emergency declaration also states that truck drivers must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers, once they have completed their respective delivery for products, services or passengers as noted above.
For more information, visit the FMSCA website: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency/emergency-declaration-under-49-cfr-ss-39023-no-2020-002
Posted on March 11, 2020
As more cases of the coronavirus crop up across the country, fleets need to have procedures in place to prevent workplace exposures, business interruptions, and more. The CDC has issued several guidelines that can help fleet managers implement best practices to keep their truck drivers healthy and their fleets operational. These practices work well for any acute respiratory illness including the flu so fleets should consider making these policies permanent to ensure a healthier fleet.
Best Practices for a Healthier Fleet
- Strongly recommend that sick employees stay home. While this may seem obvious at face value, initial symptoms of the novel coronavirus are mild, and many office employees and drivers may not think they are sick. Another factor to consider is that some employees may return to work when still ill because they can manage their symptoms with medications (i.e. fever reduces or cough relievers). Employees and drivers should stay home until they are symptom-free without the aid of medication for a minimum of 24 hours (though more data may be needed before we completely understand the nuances of COVID-19).
- Adjust sick leave policies. Many sick leave policies are rigid and often punitive when employees exceed their allotted sick leave. While this is often to reduce excessive absences, it may become unrealistic in the event of coronavirus outbreaks. If schools and daycares close, employees will have to take off work to care for their children. Fleets should also forego the requirement of a doctor’s note for individuals exhibiting signs of respiratory illness. Healthcare providers are likely to be extremely busy with the sudden influx of patients and won’t have time to provide these kinds of notes on demand.
- Consider telecommuting options for office staff. While drivers can’t perform their deliveries from their homes, many backend office tasks can be accomplished remotely. When possible, fleet managers should allow office employees such as dispatchers, marketers, and administrative staff to work from home in the event they must care for children or a sick relative. A disproportionately high number of employees may fall in this category, so fleets need to take steps now to ensure a smooth transition for telecommuting work.
- Stress the importance of good hygiene. Placing posters at all sinks with proper handwashing instructions can cut down on the spread of germs. Posters detailing the proper way to sneeze and cough can cut down on germs in the workplace as well. Many adults fail to do these tasks properly and visual reminders can go a long way toward reducing the unnecessary spread of illness.
- Clean and disinfect all surfaces regularly. For office workers, this means wiping down keyboards, countertops, desktops, doorknobs, and any other surface they touch regularly with disinfectant wipes. For truck drivers, they should wipe steering wheels, gears, door handles, and any other surface they or other drivers may touch.
Fleet managers will need to be ready to respond to an outbreak. They should focus on developing plans that incorporate flexibility and address how work will continue if a significant portion of the workforce has to remain at home. Fleets also need to prepare for the possibility of significant business interruptions should their drivers fall ill. Interstate Motor Carriers understands the challenges fleets are facing and we can help. Contact us to learn more about protecting your fleet.
Posted on February 19, 2020
What is progressive discipline? Progressive discipline is a practice used to deal with job-related behavior which does not meet expected job performance standards. The purpose of the progressive discipline model is to help the employees understand how to modify their behavior to improve performance issues.
Many industry experts think that progressive discipline is an outmoded behavioral policy that often yields poor results. The traditional progressive discipline model has several steps that progress in severity—verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, and eventually termination. While discipline is vital to addressing safety concerns and maintaining a safe work environment, progressive discipline only considers the desired outcome. It doesn’t consider the root cause, whether the issue occurred due to an honest mistake or reckless actions.
Understanding what led up to an incident or safety infraction allows fleet managers to develop strategies that correct a problem rather than forcing it into a progressive discipline model. The following are some of the benefits of utilizing a more effective, behavior-based coaching approach to discipline:
- Fix the actual problem. If an incident is due to an honest mistake (not a reckless mistake), the “three strikes and you’re out” mentality doesn’t apply well. By addressing “why” the incident occurred, managers can discover the root of the problem and fix it. For example, a driver performing a process incorrectly can lead to safety issues (e.g. not performing a thorough enough pre-trip inspection). However, if their instructions on how to complete that process were unclear, management can address the problem at the root cause to prevent it from happening again.
- Build a foundation of trust. The words discipline and coaching evoke very different reactions from trucking employees for obvious reasons. One indicates penalties while the other suggests a learning opportunity. Drivers can become defensive or evasive if they think honest mistakes will be held against them as severely as purposeful misconduct.
- Maintain good morale. Progressive discipline is a blind, zero-tolerance approach to workplace incidents. It doesn’t take into consideration previous good conduct or tenure with a trucking company. This is problematic because valuable, experienced drivers may consider looking for a new employer if they’re suddenly slapped with a first strike and put on notice for future disciplinary action after years of otherwise stellar service. Coaching avoids this problem and allows for a scaled, reasonable response to incidents.
- Provides managers more authority over risks. Some incidents are enough to warrant immediate termination. However, depending on the workplace handbook, managers may be adhering to an outdated progressive discipline model. This means they have to muddle through several dangerous repeat violations when one strike should be the only strike.
Progressive discipline is a rigid model that doesn’t address the root causes behind incidents. By digging into the cause of a problem, fleet managers can identify the issue, determine how best to fix it, and coach their truck driver to help reduce risk without putting them into the penalty box. To learn more ways to improve fleet safety, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on January 29, 2020
Truck insurance is one of the top expenses for both large and small fleets. Fleet managers need to monitor insurance rates and coverage options and optimize their safety plans or risk overspending for coverage. Fleets should look at their business as an insurance underwriter would—is their risk level acceptable or are they a hazard waiting to happen? Expensive repairs, rising settlement costs, increasing medical expenses, and more are driving up insurance premiums. To combat this, fleets can take the following steps to improve the likelihood of securing preferable insurance rates:
- Reduce risks across the board. Fleets with a poor CSA score, a significant number of losses, or frequent compliance problems have a big hurdle in their path to achieving lower rates. They don’t look good on paper and simply won’t have access to top-rated carriers. Keeping controllable risk factors in check can resolve this issue over time.
- Leverage telematics. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can become rapidly and inordinately expensive. The injured party can sue both the driver and the company for punitive damages and compensation. One of the leading causes of these costly crashes is distracted driving. Fleets can lean on their telematics data to identify preferable driver traits for hiring, implement safety initiatives to reduce distractions, and install advanced safety equipment to help mitigate these risks.
- Create an attractive profile for underwriters. Talk will only do so much to reduce insurance rates. However, providing proof of positive safety changes can make a difference. Showing receipts for safety initiatives such as better technology, additional safety training, and updated policies can provide proof to insurance underwriters that your fleet risk profile is as low as possible.
- Focus on hiring, retaining and training safe drivers. Driver turnover is a very real problem for fleets, which can lead many to turn a blind eye to questionable safety traits. While it puts a much-needed driver behind the wheel, that fleet hired a long-term safety problem. Fleets need to make sure they provide incentives for their qualified safe drivers to stay while avoiding hiring problem drivers for the sake of expediency. And ongoing training to reinforce safe driving practices is a must.
- Change the perspective. In previous years, some fleets had the perspective of “That’s why we have insurance” when thinking about accidents and claims. In today’s trucking environment, this attitude can result in higher premiums as the fleet’s loss ratio suffers. Trucking companies should not approach insurance as their safety net for hazardous drivers or lawsuits, they should look at it as an opportunity to improve safety and reduce costs.
Insurance premiums can swiftly become an unmanageable expense if fleets don’t take safety efforts seriously. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor carriers to learn more about improving your fleet’s safety and reducing fleet insurance premiums.
Posted on January 13, 2020
Several major cities have floated the idea of congestion pricing as a means to ease the number of vehicles choking already busy streets. The idea is simple—much like tolls on highly traveled highways, cities would begin charging fees to drive in the city center during peak travel hours. For trucking companies, this may have several significant implications.
Pros and Cons of Congestion Pricing
Some industry experts think these fees may make it even more difficult to for smaller firms to compete with major fleets that can absorb those added expenses with less difficulty. Larger operations might be able to more adeptly transfer the costs than smaller trucking businesses or owner operators. Winners in the congestion pricing paradigm shift will theoretically benefit from less traffic and easier deliveries.
There are additional benefits to congestion pricing. In crowded cities like New York City, truckers face the very real risk of incurring parking tickets due to limited legitimate parking and overly congested streets. With congestion pricing, there should be more available parking to eliminate this headache.
Looking to Other Cities for Insights
With New York City poised to enact congestion pricing in 2021, lawmakers are comparing other congestion pricing practices to ensure a smooth process. Major cities such as London and Stockholm have established such laws with relative success, but they also identified pain points to avoid. In the beginning, for example, London exempted or discounted several types of vehicles due to their lesser effect on the environment. Emergency service vehicles, motorcycles, and taxis are exempt while disabled people, city residents, and low-CO2 vehicles can apply for a significant discount.
London encountered some trouble with the rise of ridesharing. Since taxis are exempt, London offered the same exemption to ride sharers. However, the number of these vehicles on the roads doubled over the course of the decade, so London amended the exemption.
Beyond New York City, congestion pricing is catching on across the nation in other high-traffic urban areas. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers to learn how we can help with your manage risk and improve your bottom line!
Posted on December 17, 2019
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) held its annual national Brake Safety Week this fall. Of the 34,320 trucks CVSA inspected, 13.5% received out of service violations. While brakes are just one element of typical inspections, they are one of the leading causes of accidents. Failing to inspect brakes properly before driving long distances is a significant safety concern that CVSA highlights during its annual brake inspections. Inspectors noted the following as the most frequent tubing and brake hose violations:
- Thermoplastic hose chaffing: 1347 violations
- Thermoplastic hose kinking: 1683 violations
- Rubber hose chaffing: 2567 violations
- General misapplications of rule §393.45 of the FMCSA Regulations: 2704 violations
In promising news, highway fatalities are on the decline for the second year in a row. However, fatalities related to large trucks increased slightly. With the goal of zero highway fatalities, there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to trucking safety.
How to Inspect Truck Brakes
Seasoned drivers may think their experience means they don’t make pre-trip inspection mistakes, but time has a way of eroding skills. Reviewing what officers look for during inspections can help prevent an unexpected out of service order. To get started on inspecting their brakes, drivers will need to do the following:
- Check brake adjustments when the truck is cold; heat expands the brake drum and can yield inaccurate results
- Inspect the brake chamber to ensure the size is correct
- Determine if the truck has standard or long-stroke chambers as this affects adjustment limits
- Measure the brake’s applied pushrod stroke
Depending on the final test results, drivers can learn if their brakes are out of alignment, by how much, and calculate if they’re within adjustment limits. If not, they can take the next steps necessary to realign the brakes during routine maintenance.
To learn more about improving trucking safety, driver safety and truck insurance, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on December 10, 2019
It’s common knowledge that new driver turnover rates are high, which compounds the on-going driver shortage problem. A recent survey by Stay Metrics illuminates just how bad turnover rates have become. Stay Metrics surveyed more than 3,200 new drivers and unearthed several insights into driver turnover. In the first 90 days of employment, 35% of new drivers quit. The trend continues for the first year of employment as well as only 36.5% of new drivers stay with their carrier for a full year.
The survey asked drivers questions after their orientation and again several weeks later. Then they checked in to see if the drivers were still with the company at the 90-day mark to draw conclusions between their answers and subsequent turnover. When surveying new drivers, analysts determined the following questions provided the greatest insight into turnover rates. Here are a few examples:
- Did the recruiter accurately describe what it would be like to drive for the carrier?
- In orientation, did the driver learn how much settlement he or she would receive?
- Would the driver recommend this carrier to another driver?
If drivers answered these questions in the affirmative, they were more likely to stay. A strong, common theme is the need for transparency. To retain drivers, recruiters need to make sure they are providing clear and accurate descriptions of the work. Overpromising or hiding the truth of the job will yield unhappy drivers who aren’t likely to last long.
What Drivers Had to Say
The language drivers used during the survey also provided insight into whether they would stay or leave. When looking at the final question, which is a significant indicator of the driver’s loyalty to the company, drivers most often used words like Work” and “Pay”. These words both showed up with frequency regardless of whether the driver would or would not recommend the carrier. What this tells trucking companies is that the work, the pay, and the drivers themselves are of significant importance and influence retention as well as turnover.
This leads back to the first four questions and the common theme of transparency. If drivers are misled about the work or pay, they’re more likely to leave and not recommend the carrier. If recruiters are truthful in their descriptions of what to expect for trips as well as compensation, the driver is more likely to stay and recommend the carrier.
Recruiting and retaining drivers are some of fleets’ greatest challenges. While transparency is a must, there are other things fleets can do to make themselves more competitive and appealing to drivers. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers to learn more about keeping your trucking company and truck drivers safe.
Posted on November 27, 2019
The winter months are very hard on commercial vehicles, especially trucks that experience heavy use. Without adequate maintenance and care, failure rates can skyrocket. Frozen fuel lines, poor traction, and stranded truck drivers are all real possibilities if drivers fail to meticulously winterize their trucks and their fuel. Truck drivers should follow these key tips to keep trucks in optimal working order this winter:
- Be vigilant about tire pressure. Tire pressure changes with the temperature, and the change can be significant. As temperatures oscillate, they can result in dangerous changes to tire pressure. During the colder months, drivers should perform pressure checks with greater frequency. Without proper inflation, tires don’t grip well. In wintry conditions, proper traction is vital to safety.
- Stay fueled. While having half a tank of gas may seem sufficient, drivers shouldn’t allow it to drop below this point. When tanks are less than half-full, water vapor can collect, make its way into the fuel line, and freeze.
- Keep an eye on fuel ratings. Most gas stations carry a 2D blend of fuel in the warmer months while offering a 1D and 2D blend during winter months. While this blend isn’t as efficient, it’s less likely to cause engine problems during the winter. Drivers should make sure they’re using the best fuel for their weather conditions.
- Choose fueling stations wisely. While truck drivers running low on fuel have fewer options, staying on top of fuel volume allows them to be picky about where they refill their tanks. Drivers should try to fill up at larger truck stops. These locations move high volumes of fuel, which can help prevent gelling.
- Keep filters fresh. Fleets should replace fuel filters often and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Particle buildup can lead to gelling.
- Drain air tanks and fuel water separators. As temperatures steadily decline, it’s easier for water to condense in fuel tanks. From there, it can make its way to the filter, which is the only thing protecting the engine from contamination. When temperatures drop to extreme lows, drivers should perform this task daily.
In addition to preventative maintenance and proper fueling practices, truck drivers should carry a roadside emergency kit for winter weather conditions. Even the most veteran drivers can experience unexpected conditions. For more tips on improving trucker safety and ensuring your truck has the right truck insurance coverages, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on November 13, 2019
It’s an established fact that it costs more to fix a commercial vehicle on the side of the road than it does in a shop. Fleets are paying an increased cost for the repair service to come to the truck’s location. The mechanic often increases the rate as well because performing work on the side of a highway is much more dangerous. Fleets are also at the mercy of retail service rates, as breakdowns require immediate attention. In general, trucking companies can expect to pay almost four times as much for a roadside repair than they would in a shop.
Costly Facts About Roadside Repairs
Roadside repairs are only getting more expensive as the years pass. By the end of 2017, fleets were shelling out around $311 every time they had to place a call for a roadside repair. By the end of 2018, that expense was up to $334. In addition, those numbers don’t include tire-related incidents. Those always cost more and drive the numbers up even further.
On average, truck breakdowns happen every 10,000 miles. Given that a full-time driver can travel around 650 miles per day, this means their truck could break down after fifteen working days. That statistic is far too high and too frequent, pointing to a larger problem in the industry. Of reported repairs, the most frequent related to the following:
- Hubs and bearings
- Lighting systems
Another factor increasing the cost of roadside service is a shortage of techs. With fewer trained individuals able to respond to emergency maintenance requests, the cost increases accordingly with the demand.
Telematics for Better Preventative Fleet Maintenance
Fleet managers know that preventative maintenance is critical to reducing roadside breakdowns. However, many fleets attempt to avoid the costs associated with maintenance, especially if they are unsure which parts need servicing. While there is a general timeline for maintenance, wear and tear don’t always happen in a linear manner.
With telematics, fleets can enhance their preventative maintenance efforts. The technology can provide key insights into which parts need servicing and provide better projections on future maintenance needs. Smart preventative maintenance allows fleets to perform essential tune-ups to reduce risk without wasting money. To learn more about improving your fleet’s safety, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.