Quick Transport Solutions Inc.

Welcome To A New Age Of Trucker Health

We’re going to provide you with an example of something you may experience in the not-too-distant future. Join us as we step into a new age of trucker health.

The Future is Now

John is a trucker who has been on the road for some time. It’s time to rest. Has he shuts down his vehicle and sings out of his e-log, a soothing voice suddenly emanates from speakers within the cab.

“John,” a calm female voice says, “your body temperature is 100.2 degrees. Blood pressure has dropped a bit in the last 30 minutes and you are experiencing elevated breathing levels. You may want to consult a doctor.”

John, sensing something may have been amiss, removes himself from the ergonomic driver’s seat that contours to his body throughout the day to help reduce joint and back pain and climbs into the back of the cab where his bunk awaits.

He taps a wall panel above his sleeper bunk and immediately a video screen appears. “Please call the doctor,” John says.

Instantly, an onboard computer dials up a virtual physician – after all, it is 2:00am – built into an interactive website designed to help truck drivers deal with specific health problems when a human doctor is unavailable.

John describes his symptoms to the virtual doctor and answers a few follow-up questions by tapping the same video panel. John’s entire medical history is made available to the virtual physician, as well as the biometric data provided by John’s advanced driver’s seat.

John presses his palm to the screen and opens his mouth so that the built-in camera can get a view of his throat. In a short few minutes the “doctor” comes back with a full analysis of John’s condition.

“Hi, John,” the virtual physician says. “Although we are unable to obtain a throat culture, I can see you have a few white, ulcerated patches at the back of your throat. This indicates that you may have a case of strep throat. An antibiotic prescription will be transmitted to you. I recommend you see Dr. Smith at your earliest convenience.”

Within seconds of the call ending, a text arrives to John’s phone with a pass code in it. A wheeled drone then pulls up outside his truck with an antibiotic prescription filled at the truck stop. He taps the screen to authorize payment and receives his medication.

It’s Not Science Fiction

Even five years ago, this story would have seemed like science fiction. And yet today, even those who are tech-skeptical would agree that this is something conceivable in today’s, and tomorrow’s, environment.

In an age of big data, drones and advances medical technology, it’s only a matter of time before these types of advanced diagnostics bring capabilities like these to the forefront.

These changes will be so profound that they will alter the way not only people access medical information and address their health. But they will be particularly effective in the trucking industry, where truck drivers have historically had little access to advanced healthcare options, simply because of the type of job they work.

Still, don’t automatically assume that machines will override human judgement. The adoption of these technologies will follow a similar curve as other advanced technologies, safety and ELD tech as just a couple examples.

As these types of systems become increasingly commonplace in the cab, truck drivers’ health and wellness should increase dramatically. These types of advancements can only mean good things for the people they impact, all the way down the line. How long until we see them commonplace is something only time can tell.

Why Increased Safety Isn’t Following Trucker Insurance Premiums

Ask anyone, or look at any number of trucking-related data sets, and you will see that safety technology has drastically reduced crash rates, injuries and fatalities over the last ten years. Yet if you look at the average cost for insurance – including settlements – you will see that rates have been on the rise for some time.

The main reason for this is that fleets are not doing anything with the data produced by the safety technologies they employ. In many cases a fleet safety manager may be utilizing an advanced technology, but have no idea how to diagnose or address specific issues related to the data said technology produces.

Know the Technology

Take, for example, a truck driver who hears an incessant beep coming from the dash, but has no idea why the beep is occurring. This could be a truck driver with a stellar safety record, yet by running a report, the safety manager could glean that the truck driver routinely leaves less than two seconds stopping distance between them and the vehicle in front of them.

In this situation, it could be that only the truck driver knew the beeping was occurring. If no alerts are sent to the safety crew, no one knows there is a problem. Instead the eye stays on the worst truck drivers, rather than realizing even million-mile truck drivers are human and can make costly mistakes.

While many safety managers might have a plan in place for those with the worst record, many overlook the fact that safety issues could arise anywhere down the line, from the worst operator to the best.

So, what’s an intrepid fleet safety manager to do?

  1. First, make sure you train your truck drivers on new systems that are installed. Equipment and the safety expectations related to said equipment must be set before the truck driver is expected to use them and know what they mean.
  2. Second, make sure to inspect everyone, no matter how great their record may be. Don’t focus on just a few truck drivers. The entire fleet must be evaluated.
  3. Third, ensure you have comprehensive corrective action plans in place for potential problems. How will you address actionable data? Make a plan and stick to it.

Utilizing Proper Training

Fleets are on the right path quickly adopting collision-mitigation, lane-departure warning and other advanced safety systems, but if the truck drivers behind the wheel don’t now to respond correctly.

How do you address this disconnect? Through proper training. One cannot assume that these technologies will just magically make sense to the truck drivers who must understand what they are saying and act on the information.

Here’s what you need to know to ensure you are staying on top of the problem, fleet-wide:

  1. Never assume that your truck drivers simply know how to change duty status and edit their logs on a touchscreen, especially if all they’ve known previously are paper logs.
  2. While these systems are useful, they can send signals that can be distracting. A truck driver must be aware of where the sound is coming from and why to avoid potential safety issues.
  3. The time for a truck driver to learn how a collision-mitigation system works is not when a collusion is about to occur. Truck drivers must have the knowledge before-hand, that way their reactions are appropriate and timely.

The fact is this: You can’t create a paper manual out of YouTube video. You’ve got to have a comprehensive training program in place to ensure your truck drivers are on top of the systems they are using. Only by following these principles will you ensure that as your safety numbers rise, your insurance premiums drop.

Keeping A Truck’s Uptime In Mind

The fact is this: The industry has gotten a lot better at keeping trucks on the road and out of the shop. Even though the learning curve has been a steep one, fleets have been doing a far better job than they were even five to ten years ago.

One of the biggest problems has been the difficulty in making sense of confusing messages and misleading information. Once the diesel fuel particulate filter appeared, fleets countrywide have been doing their best to diagnose specific issues and make necessary repairs.

As new generations of vehicles and engines hit the market, new fault codes, alerts and specific troubleshooting methods muddied up the picture for many a fleet technician. But how bad was it?

A Sea of Codes

Go back to pre-EPA-07 and you’ll find anywhere from 200 to 300 codes emanating from a specific electronic control module. Today? A comparable engine meeting 2014 greenhouse standards might have over a dozen different controller modules, which each one producing hundreds of different codes. The result? Thousands of fault codes to wade through.

Still, the picture is changing. Manufacturers have gotten a lot better at scaling back the information they present and how they present it. Once upon a time a truck driver would dread turning on the dashboard light, for fear it would simply add to the misery of trying to figure out what’s going on.

In turn, the shop would be in a quandary trying to figure out if they should have the truck driver stop or not. So, what was the eventual solutions?

Solving a Code Problem

As advanced telematics and truck-to-terminal communication methods have become more commonplace within the industry, it’s easier for truck drivers to sort through codes and message truck drivers about specific problems.

So even though fleets are creating more data, they are getting far better at analyzing and acting on the data. Even fleets with thousands of vehicles and multiple service locations are better able to centralize the data and act on specific problems unlike ever before.

New challenges include figuring out how to quickly address repeat problems and make it easier for a fleet technician to pull up an internal database and find a solution.

While before a technician might pull up a YouTube video, today fleets can create their own library of diagnostics and repair videos. Distributing these videos across the network makes it far easier to individual technicians to address problems in real-time.

Using Technology the Right Way

One way in which technicians are helping to increase truck uptime is through the use of tablets. Before advanced technological solutions, technicians would have to wander around the shop to find answers to specific problems.

Today, when all the information can be provided conveniently on a tablet, technicians no longer have to walk back and forth just to find an answer to a problem. Troubleshooting trees, code answers and wiring diagrams can be easily accessed and fault code data analyzed on the fly.

From tablets to in-house videos and databases with relevant information, fleets have far more tools at their disposal than they used to.

By utilizing these tools and this vast amount of data, fleets can prevent problems before they crop up, and act much faster when specific issues arise. From making sense of data to weeding through the fault codes, keeping functional trucks on the road has never been easier.

As technology moves forward, motor carriers learn the hard lessons of yesterday and apply today’s solutions to tomorrow. An extra hour spent working through an issue can keep your vehicle on the road for some time to come.

Welcome To Trucking Energy Workers

We’ve reported on it before. Even as the oil industry was cratering in 2016, trucking was eagerly poaching workers from an industry in peril. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. These good people need jobs and trucking is here to give it to them.

As the economy continues to improve and freight options rise, the job prospects are looking increasingly pleasant for displaced energy workers. Let’s take a deeper look at how industry employment is panning out and the opportunities afforded to displaced energy workers looking for jobs.

A Downturn and Upturn

Although there’s been a two-year downturn in the oil and gas industry, there are plenty of opportunities downstream from these jobs, including in trucking. Jobs available to former energy workers run the gamut.

Whether one is looking to be a truck driver or go back to school for a two-year degree, job opportunities abound. With a slowdown in the energy upstream, jobs down the line have an opportunity to play catch up.

But what has spurred the change? With the large drop in natural gas prices and a huge abundance of supply in the market, the energy sector has seen tens of thousands of energy-related jobs essentially evaporate.

According to recent labor statistic numbers, in one year the U.S. energy sector contracted by a full 18 percent. That represents a peak of over 852,000 jobs in 2014 down to just under 700,000 in 2016.

While the oil-and-gas industry does suffer from cyclical supply and demand, a huge number of retirements has left the industry needing to fill 5,000 openings, with very few qualified workers to be found.

The Turnaround

Still, things are turning around, especially where trucking employment is concerned. Could it be that as the United States becomes more energy independent, job gains will actually increase?

Consider that industry like pharma, fertilizer, plastics and other industrial and manufacturing-related industries still rely on their goods to get from one place to another and it’s not hard to see where the jobs are.

With trucking not going anywhere anytime soon, jobs are plenty. Fleets across the country are looking for truck drivers. And when you can reliably get a commercial driver’s license in five weeks, it isn’t hard to imagine a displaced energy worker finding their new home in a cab.

Government Programs

Many out-of-work energy sector workers are finding that government grants exist to help them find a new home in a different profession. One such government-funded scholarship program covers the cost of retraining for coal miners and other energy workers who have lost their jobs.

The fact is, a growing number of workers who once worked in coal, oil or gas, and found themselves at the wrong end of an economic downturn are finding a home in trucking. These people come from good-paying jobs. This ripple effect has been felt across the industry.

For those looking to go back to school, a waiting list may greet them when they try to qualify for scholarship money. Yet, the trucking industry awaits, with plenty of jobs in the wings.

With a huge number of companies waiting in line for qualified workers, displaced energy employees can easily find a new home in trucking. And with the trucking industry struggling to find truck drivers, the downturn in energy may be the upturn trucking is looking for.

While some say there may be a looming problem if the economy gets too hot, goods and services will need to be moved for a long time to come, and there may be no better type of person to haul those services than former oil and gas workers.

Why Your Electrical Maintenance Program Matters

While basic electrical maintenance may seem like a thankless and time-consuming job, it still requires a high level of discipline and willingness to follow proper procedures. Yes, it may not be rocket science, but it is very important. It’s also important to consider that basic electrical maintenance is not the same as electronic troubleshooting.

The point of a proper electronic maintenance program is to keep the juice flowing. Ensuring proper voltages and current is crucial for proper maintenance. Any fleet technician will tell you, keeping flow clear and restrictions minimal is key to ensuring wires do not get corroded and can still conduct electricity well.

A Primer on Electrical Maintenance

When current is limited to a particular component, take an electric actuator as an example, unexpected problems can arise. You may wind up with a temperamental turbocharger or shifter servos. The fact is, it’s easy to misdiagnose an electrical problem.

It’s not hard to imagine a tractor being pulled and overhauled for something like erratic shifting only to find that it wasn’t the hardware at all, but instead was a low-voltage problem. Obviously, that’s a pretty expensive mistake.

The way to avoid mistakes like these is to ensure basic electrical maintenance procedures are followed. It takes a certain level of discipline for a fleet technician to ensure they aren’t taking shortcuts to diagnosing a problem.

Doing something like battery maintenance may seem routine and benign, and many techs will tell you it isn’t their favorite job, but it is vital to ensuring a problem isn’t misdiagnosed, resulting in a huge – and quite unnecessary – repair bill.

Deciding on whether or not cables should be disconnected or connectors cleaned shouldn’t be left to chance. Load testing the batteries shouldn’t be a ‘maybe.’ These essential procedures must be done right every time.

Dielectric Grease and Compounds

And yet, conventional wisdom says that you should use things like dielectric grease and anti-corrosion compounds on battery terminals, but that may not always be the case.

Consider that you can lose two volts right at the terminal posts if there is any dirt or dust inside the connection. Anti-corrosion compounds are also quite messy and difficult remove if you need to remove any components and clean the terminals. Finally, you don’t want to find yourself getting a false sense of security and neglect something because you think an anti-corrosion compound is doing it for you.

Another area to consider is in cable routing. When pre-delivery inspection is completed, cable routing should be at the top of the list of things to check.

Since manufacturers may miss something when tying off cables or wiring may rub up against metal components, it is vital that these items or checked. By overlooking them, you may wind up with a fire in your brand new rig.

Cable Repairs

Cable repairs is another overlooked area that requires careful attention. While modern connectors are made weatherproof at the start, old practices can undermine a connector’s ability to keep out moisture.

As we mentioned before, avoid globbing dielectric grease on new AMP connectors. They don’t need any additional protection and if you use too much, you risk popping the neoprene seals, pretty much canceling out any positive effect you may have gained.

Once you have proper electrical maintenance and troubleshooting figured out, you will be able to minimize problems that could cripple a vehicle.

While many a fleet technician may equate electrical maintenance with just about as much excitement as brake and tire work, it is a crucial aspect of any fleet’s maintenance program. By investing properly in your electrical system, you can ensure the power stays on without resulting in a costly breakdown or misdiagnosis.

About QuickTSI

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