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 February 26, 2020
The rate of technological advances has kicked into overdrive and many concepts which were once the subject of science fiction, are much closer to becoming reality. Is your fleet ready to handle these changes? Let’s look at two major potential technology disrupters which are expected to impact the transportation industry.
Things like lane departure warnings, lane corrections, and assisted braking didn’t shake things up in the trucking world in an overly dramatic way. While they certainly improved safety, it was still a human performing the bulk of the work. Autonomous vehicles, however, is a game changer. While the technology isn’t yet fully operational, many experts within the industry expect to see regular use of driverless trucks within the decade.
Drone deliveries are also an eventuality that will disrupt the industry. There was a time when waiting weeks for a delivery was a hassle, but the norm. Now, customers expect one or two-day delivery if not same-day delivery in some areas. With drone technology, same-day delivery could become a real possibility, even in more remote venues. While major players like Amazon floated the idea, some companies are already deploying the technology. One such company, Wing, has been making drone deliveries since 2014. As of 2019, they’re registered with the FAA and operate as an airline. With the first successful launch of drone delivery technology, more companies are sure to follow in Wing’s wake.
Technology is making high speed changes in trucking and the rate of innovative advancements is increasing exponentially. As these technological improvements gain traction and become mainstream, trucking companies will need to be ready to adapt and compete.
Fleet managers have a long list of responsibilities to juggle, including freight scheduling, adapting to new technology, driver safety, fleet maintenance, recruiting and retention, cost control and fleet insurance. The experts at Interstate Motor Carriers can help ease the burden. Contact us to learn how we can help improve your fleet’s operation.
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 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 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.
Posted on October 25, 2019
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has several major changes coming down the pipeline that fleets need to keep on their radar as they affect compliance and safety issues. The two biggest announcements include FMCSA-sponsored training guides for transitioning from automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) to electronic logging devices (ELD) and the open enrollment period for the Congressionally mandated Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.
Preparing for the Final Stages of ELD Compliance
With the ELD mandate reaching a new compliance milestone, FMCSA announced the creation of two interactive ELD courses to help motor carriers train and refresh their knowledge regarding ELD compliance. Come December 16, 2019, the final phase of the ELD mandate will go into effect, requiring a full changeover from AOBRDs to ELDs. The first iteration of the ELD mandate grandfathered in AOBRD devices, but that grace period is ending. The guides cover such topics as:
- The difference between an ELD and an AOBRD
- Different methods of transferring data
- How to maintain and troubleshoot ELDs
FMCSA is also providing recordings of a live Q and A session regarding ELDs as well as a look at the training officers receive when reviewing ELD data and hours of service (HOS) information.
Unveiling the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
Although Congress mandated the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, it aligns with FMCSA’s goals to improve driver and highway safety. Anyone who wants access to the clearinghouse will need to register. Authorized users include CDL and CLP holders, CDL driver employers, third party administrators, medical review officers, and substance abuse professionals.
While drivers don’t need to register right away, they will need to in response to an employer’s request as part of their pre-employment background check. Full inquiries will require registration as well. The clearinghouse is vital to cutting down on drivers who violate drug and alcohol laws while operating a commercial vehicle across state lines. Registration is free and is a simple step toward improving highway safety across the nation.
For decades, Interstate Motor Carriers has dedicated itself to providing creative solutions to the unique challenges and risk trucking fleets face every day. Contact us to learn how your fleet can better manage risks and maintain compliance with FMCSA regulations and mandates.
Posted on October 15, 2019
Fleet managers and truck drivers know that using their cellphones to text or make phone calls while driving is a recipe for disaster. However, not many are as familiar with the safety risks of using hands-free technology. While the technology allows drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, it is nonetheless a distraction.
Using a hands-free device is safer than physically holding the mobile phone; however, it still compromises truck driver attention. It is impossible for the driver to devote their full focus to the conversation, the road and their surroundings. Furthermore, many drivers that use hands-free devices tend to do so to free up their hands for other risky behaviors such as eating while driving.
Digging into the telematics data, the industry has shown drivers who use hands-free cellphones are more likely to engage in other distractions. Simply stated, more distractions translate into greater collision risk. Some of the most alarming statistics include:
- A 10% increase in the total number of incidents of drivers using a hands-free device to engage in another risky behavior.
- 23% of drivers engage in multiple risky behaviors at once.
- Drivers are most likely to use hands-free cellphones while going 65mph. This is most likely because drivers set the cruise control and feel a certain degree of comfort.
- Drivers who eat behind the wheel are more likely to remove their seatbelts or follow other vehicles too closely.
- Drivers who don’t wear their seatbelts are the most likely to experience a collision.
Some of the statistics may seem more like a correlation than causation; however, accident history has consistently proven these statistics to be accurate. Take the seatbelt issue as an example. If a driver shows a disregard for his or her own personal safety by opting not to wear a seatbelt, he or she is also not likely to care as much about other safety factors. Studies have shown repeatedly that seatbelt use is a hallmark indicator of a driver’s overall safety. Drivers who wear their seatbelts are less likely to engage in other risky behaviors because they recognize the importance of the device for their own safety.
Fleet managers need to make sure their drivers understand the risks associated with all distractions behind the wheel. For example, encouraging and training drivers to make their calls and appointments prior to hitting the road can help reduce cellphone use while driving.
Improving fleet safety is an ongoing effort, and Interstate Motor Carriers can help. With over 75 years of experience in trucking, we can help reduce your trucking risks.
Posted on September 17, 2019
A rise in technology and shifting customer expectations have dramatically changed the landscape of the trucking industry. As a result, many of the trends driving business decisions in the trucking industry are leaving fleet managers and carriers frustrated and with fewer options. However, it isn’t all bad news as fleets learn to navigate the changes affecting their businesses. The following are leading trends influencing the trucking industry:
- The driver shortage. This has been a challenge for years and trucking companies have taken numerous steps to try to address it. Some opted to entice new talent pools such as veterans or women. Others are trying to change regulations to allow drivers under 21 to operate on interstate highways. Now, nearly two-thirds of the industry are increasing benefits, pay, and more, to try to entice qualified drivers.
- Competition undercutting prices. When polled, 66% of trucking companies reported losing contracts to unprofitably low competitor offers. Fleets need to continue to find unique ways to improve efficiency and economies of scale to lower costs.
- Confidence in expansion. Not every trend is negative for fleets. Over a third expect to expand by 11-25% despite a predicted economic slowdown for the industry.
- Reducing costs with technology. Technology has been able to save fleets money in a variety of ways. With ELDs and telematics, fleets are able to identify gas-guzzling behaviors, pinpoint unsafe drivers, and provide better maintenance. Not only does technology help fleets stay on top of preventative maintenance, but it can also provide predictive maintenance suggestions as well. For example, artificial intelligence can run detailed analytics to compare the service history of fleets and isolate moments when brakes, tires, or other components will likely need servicing or replacement to avoid blowouts and accidents.
Keeping up with the latest trends affecting the industry can be a challenge. While not all trends withstand the test of time, some have been a thorn in the industry’s side for years such as the driver shortage. Interstate Motor Carriers knows that fleets have enough things to keep track of without adding new and challenging developments to their plate. Contact us to learn how we can help your trucking business.