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.
Posted on August 07, 2019
Safety is always a hot topic in the trucking industry. With 4,761 fatalities caused by large truck collisions in 2017, there is obvious room for improvement. While previous years showed steady decreases in fatalities, 2017 saw a 9% increase compared to 2016.
The overwhelming majority of those deaths were among public drivers involved in accidents with large trucks—72%. Commercial truck drivers accounted for 18% of the fatalities and the remaining 10% were individuals outside of a vehicle (i.e. pedestrians and bicyclists). The cost in human lives and actual dollars is astronomical. Experts within the industry believe the answer to safe trucking lies in new technology, while not overwhelming drivers with high tech gadgets.
Truck drivers already have technology available to them to improve safety. For example, lane departure warnings and lane assisting technology are remarkable in their ability to prevent collisions. Technologies such as those below, which are current or imminent, can be leveraged to improve trucking safety:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Automatic emergency braking
- Blind spot detection
- Automated parking with anti-rollaway technology
- Facial recognition solutions (to monitor driver alertness)
However, industry insiders are quick to point out that inundating drivers with multiple new technologies at once can be overwhelming. It’s best to incorporate new technology incrementally, especially technology which drivers can readily understand. For example, drivers that are comfortable with lane departure warning technology would likely adapt well to lane assist technology. These new safety innovations are very close to becoming a reality as trucking companies continue to put safety at the forefront of their agenda.
Interstate Motor Carriers strives to help trucking companies in their safety efforts. Contact us today to learn how we can help your fleet mitigate risks and losses.
Posted on April 23, 2019
With Distracted Driving Month in full swing, fleets should use the month of April to identify and rectify common sources of distraction while behind the wheel. The leading and most obvious distraction is technology. Technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, it has also led to a massive upswing in traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities. With easy access to cellphones, the temptation to text or talk while driving is undeniable.
Many drivers think it’s acceptable to glance at a text if they don’t reply to the text. Their logic is that it only takes a few seconds to read a text, which they perceive can be done quickly and safely. However, when traveling at highway speeds, a few seconds can translate to a lot of distance traveled without their eyes on the road. Trucks traveling at 65 miles per hour will cover 285 feet in three seconds, that is almost an entire football field with drivers not looking at the road. A lot can happen in that distance!
A simple first step fleets can take it to prohibit drivers from using cellphones for texting or talking altogether while driving, including hands-free. Just because drivers aren’t using their hands to hold the phone and talk doesn’t mean the call isn’t diverting their attention. Having the distraction present increases drivers’ risk. The following are several other steps drivers can take to improve safety:
- Pull over if they need to take or place a call
- If pulling over isn’t possible, allow calls to go to voicemail or have a passenger answer if there is one present
- Identify and refrain from other distractions behind the wheel including eating, drinking, or using on-board telematics devices that aren’t vital to operating the truck
- Learn how to recognize the signs of other distracted drivers (i.e. weaving in and out of lanes, visibly on the phone or texting, food or beverage in hand, reacting too slow to traffic changes, etc.)
- Practice defensive driving to remain aware of all potential hazards that could lead to an accident
Improving drivers’ attention isn’t just a safety concern. In addition to human lives, distraction-related accidents cost fleets a significant amount of money. The fines alone can add up to $11,000 for distracted commercial drivers involved in an accident.
Fleet managers need to take precautions to ensure they aren’t pressuring drivers to operate their vehicle while distracted (i.e. conducting business while behind the wheel) and fully investigate all crashes to identify if they were related to driver distraction.
Pinpointing sources of distraction is a vital part of managing risk. However, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to implement change. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carrier to learn more about improving transportation safety within your fleet.
Posted on August 07, 2018
Many within the transportation industry scoffed at the notion of autonomous vehicles, and they weren’t alone. The idea of self-driving vehicles seemed like science fiction at best and dangerous at worst, yet the technology is here and already in use. Budweiser shipped over 50,000 cans of beer in a self-driving truck, and Uber, Waymo, Tesla and Embark are all running live pilots with autonomous trucks. While the technology isn’t 100% ready for the public at large, it’s rapidly becoming a reality. High tech tools and futuristic technology are dominating recent transportation publication headlines with solutions like these, which are all available today:
Telematics and GPS Fleet Tracking Systems
Simply said, telematics encompasses the software and devices that power the electronic features found in all vehicles including trucks. GPS is one of the key applications in telematics, and includes:
- Navigation, fuel monitoring and route planning
- Driver behavior applications including braking, fast acceleration and speeding
- Complex route planning and arrival/departure alerts
- Automated tracking and analytics productivity reports
- Trailer tracking and historical routing
- Idle and start/stop driving reports
ELDs and Trucking Software Applications
ELDs provide the wireless tools and technology to ensure that truckers and fleets maintain compliance with the FMCSA ELD mandate.
Self-driving Trucks and Platooning
As mentioned previously, self-driving truck testing is well underway. Platooning is also being tested by manufacturers including Daimler. Platooning extends self-driving technology by wirelessly tethering trucks together, allowing them to operate in a tighter highway formation (convoy) than would be possible with human drivers at the wheel.
Tesla is the big name when it comes to electric vehicles, and Tesla Semi, the automaker’s electric truck division has been accumulating many reservations over the last few months. Tesla is expected to produce all electric trucks in 2019. But they aren’t alone, as many major manufacturers are actively working on completely electric trucks. Volvo has announced two new fully-electric trucks designed to take the place of urban delivery and refuse collection vehicles. Both will be available in the European market in 2019.
What to Expect in the Coming Years
As if the list above insufficiently represents the dramatic changes happening in the trucking industry, there are some seemingly imminent and impressive technologies expected to impact truckers and fleets in the near future. These include:
Heads up displays (HUDs) are nothing new for vehicles, but augmented reality is about to take them to the next level. BMW is working on a HUD that can superimpose real-life objects from the road onto a truck’s HUD to allow drivers to navigate obstacles with greater ease.
Trucks require ongoing maintenance and recalibration to perform at their optimum level. However, new technology will allow software to make these calibrations without ever pulling into a repair shop.
Trucking companies need to prepare for these dramatic changes, and Interstate Motor Carriers can help. Contact us to learn how we can help protect you today and in the future.
Posted on June 20, 2016
Yet another fatal and tragic trucking incident has brought into focus the staggering settlement costs growing increasingly common in industry litigation. Five nursing students from Georgia Southern University died in a recent tractor-trailer incident that has the country and the industry asking a lot of questions, not least of which is how settlement costs could total more than $70 million.
The details of the case are as follows: The driver (John Wayne Johnson) has admitted fault in the accident. Though he has a record of falling asleep at the wheel, he insists he was awake at the time of the crash, and that systems in place to prevent these incidents were not functioning properly (including proximity warning sounds). Johnson and his employer, Total Transportation of Mississippi, have been indicted on numerous counts.
Johnson will be facing five counts of homicide by vehicle in the first degree and serious injury by vehicle, and one count each of reckless driving, failure to exercise due care, and following too closely. These are substantial charges that could keep Johnson behind bars for many years.
Total Transportation is indicted separately, as it is a corporate entity. The charges include one count of serious injury by vehicle in the first degree and one count of criminal responsibility of corporations. A statement from the attorney representing one of the victims’ family members has indicated that said family alone would receive $14 million in a settlement with Total Transportation. Extrapolating this settlement across all five victim families would bring the total cost of legal fees and settlements to over $70 million.
These costs are representative of a dramatic trend in the industry. But are they justified? Insurers and industry experts largely say no – the implications of which are significant. Most transportation businesses don’t have the cash reserves to cover such a settlement, which makes plain the importance of liability coverage. Yet insurers are equally concerned. Several transportation insurance carriers are reducing coverage limits, raising rates, or dropping clients entirely. Many freight carriers will now need two or three insurance policies to procure $10 Million or more in liability coverage. What will the future of trucking legal settlements and damages look like? And how can safety and risk management practices reduce insurance premiums and the likelihood of such tragic and costly events? Contact the trucking insurance experts to learn more.