Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Keys To A Stellar Safety Program: Strategy, Training and Technology

In our first installment of The Keys To A Stellar Safety Program, we took a look at the two building blocks of an effective safety management program, company culture and a focused risk assessment program. This week we will look at the next founding principles.

As a fleet manager, once you’ve addressed the cultural and risk-related operational concerns, it’s time to move on to developing a strategy. After all, as a wise man once said, those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

Developing a Coherent Strategy

Once you have laid out your goals, your strategy should be built around reaching those goals and objectives, whether they are short or long term.

Here is an example of a goal and potential strategies:

  • Improve CSA scores
    • Reduce the number of avoidable accidents
    • Improve truck driver training
    • Implement in-cab alerts for speeding drivers
    • Use incentive programs to improve operator scorecards

When you are coming up with a strategy, ensure it includes a specific and actionable safety policy. The policy should be distributed across all company channels as a short document that outlines what the organization considers safe and unsafe behavior.

The safety policy should serve multiple goals, but the main one should be creating a sense of individual responsibility and accountability, no matter what level of the organization you are at. Whether it be the CEO or a front line technician, everyone in the organization must feel engaged with the company safety policy.

To make sure there remains a level of fun and engagement around it, try to incorporate safety recognition or incentive programs to reward specific safety “good behaviors,” if you will. One example could be a reward for the truck driver with the least number of speeding incidents within the desired time period. Whether it be a pair of movie tickets or a dinner out, no doubt the driver will appreciate it and remember their good behavior.

Proper Safety Training

While analyzing culture, detecting risk and developing a strategy all work great on paper, the real rubber hits the road when you need to actually begin training your people on your safety policy. A good program will provide your workers with the tools they need to protect their health and prevent injuries.

An effective safety training program does more than just educates your people, it empowers them to take control of their own safety, whether they are in a cab or in the back office.

Remember, training should not be about training for training’s sake. You must move beyond simple training and create a method for evaluating how successful your safety training program is. You have to make key parts of the program include engagement, reward and retention.

Tapping into Technology

The capstone on your effective safety management program should include the use of technology to improve your safety measures. As we’ve reported on before, technology is changing trucking, and in many ways this isn’t a bad thing.

From scalable cloud technologies to new smartphone apps, there are plenty of ways to transform the way your employees think about safety. Here are some ways you can integrate technology into your safety program:

  • Apps: Whether they monitor driver behavior or provide a quick look into driver scores on a leaderboard, apps can both inform and empower at the same time.
  • E-forms: Ask any truck driver and they will tell you paperwork is a headache. With e-forms the fleet manager can create custom job forms that provide relevant data to both the driver and the back office, almost instantaneously.
  • ELD: Since they are now mandated, ELDs can be used to automate HOS compliance, vehicle inspections (DVIRs) and IFTA. Imagine faster inspections and more accurate data.
  • Last-mile services: New technologies allow for last-mile routing and excellent site navigation, both of which help decrease on-site accidents.

In the end, no matter how you address your fleet safety program and initiatives, always remember that without buy-in, you won’t get very far. Make sure you, your fleet and the decision makers at the top all have safety at the front of their minds.

The Keys To A Stellar Safety Program: Culture and Risk Assessment

Obviously, for any fleet, the safety of their truck drivers and the general public are always of top priority, and there’s good reason for this. When a fleet vehicle gets into an accident, it is costly for several reasons. Not only could a heavy-duty commercial vehicle accident result in costly vehicle repairs and loss of productivity, but it could also end up in injury or even death.

This is why it is so important to have a comprehensive fleet safety program in place. Fleets who aren’t putting enough emphasis on safety may find their drivers CSA scores fall right alongside a non-existent safety program.

There are to primary contributors to vehicle accidents: truck driver behaviors and maintenance problems. When an accident results from either of these two factors, one must consider that it likely could have been prevented. This is what makes them especially problematic. So what can a safety-minded fleet manager do?

Start with Culture

Ensuring a fleet operates with safety in mind starts at the cultural level. If there aren’t a series of shared beliefs, practices and attitudes driving the people within the organization, buy-in won’t get very far.

Creating a strong safety culture isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time. It also takes buy-in, not only from the front-line truck drivers, but from everyone from the executive office to the back office to the shop.

All levels of the organization need to come together and share in the responsibility of running a safe fleet operation. Focusing on safety must become integral to the job function – to everyone’s job function.

The fact is, companies with a solid, mature safety culture can reach zero injury rates. That’s right, it’s not impossible. And when they do, they find that it’s a lot easier for their managers and employees to give safety the deference it is due.

Manage Risk

While culture is endemic, risk is something that can be actively managed. To get started, one first must do a risk assessment. This process involves discovering hazards and analyzing the risks associated with the operation.

The goal of a risk assessment should always be to isolate or remove a potential hazard and categorically reduce the risk associated with said hazard. To do so, one must add control measures or precautions into the system.

The best way to proceed through assessing a risk management program is to ask questions.

  • How does the organization as a whole behave where safety is concerned?
  • Are we quantifying and analyzing our safety behavior?
  • If not, how can we quantify our safety behavior?
  • Are we in full regulatory compliance?
  • Is our CSA profile at or above those of our direct competitors?

Once these questions are answered, you have to evaluate where it is you want to end up and what you want the end goals to be. You can either commit to this undertaking yourself or hire an independent company to do it for you.

No matter what you decide, here are the different risk assessment categories that one needs to be looking out for:

  • Three-year loss/run analysis
  • Loss prevention
  • Incident investigation
  • Claims management
  • Emergency procedures
  • Compliance
  • Vehicles
  • Onboarding and training
  • Ergonomics

Once you have properly laid out and evaluated your level of risk, you will need to create a baseline number for your organizational safety behaviors. It will be important to be able to quantify exactly what the information means.

With this step completed, you will be ready to start putting pen to paper in an effort to create a truly comprehensive safety management program. Just remember to always ensure your goals are realistic and your data is actionable. After all, the last thing you want is to have gone through all that only to have your safety program fall flat.

How Much Do You Know About Truck Driver Risk Monitoring?

Have you heard of risk management and driver monitoring? If not, you may be putting your business at undue risk. Truck driver monitoring is important, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all created equal.

Many solution and service providers try to lump driver monitoring into one idea which only addresses one aspect of how driver monitoring programs are supposed to work.

The fact is, there is a lot of daylight between the myths and realities of a comprehensive truck driver monitoring program, and knowing the difference can decrease your operation’s exposure to risk, litigation and high insurance costs.

But you may be asking yourself what a true driver monitoring program is. Perhaps you want to know how you can utilize it to make your drivers safer. Let’s first take a look at some of the common driver monitoring myths to get to the bottom of this important issue. But first, let’s explore why driver monitoring is so important.

To Gain Understanding

The most important part of a truck driver monitoring program lies in the understanding you gain about the behavior of your employees. Whether the person you are evaluating is a commercial driver, a member of your field personnel, it comes down to three major questions:

  • Do you have your truck drivers’ driving record ready and at hand at all times?
  • What do you know about their driving behaviors when they are not operating within the cab?
  • How frequently do you do a thorough review of their driving records?

Depending on how you answer these questions, your fleet could be exposed to unneeded risk, litigation losses and increased insurance costs. When you know the performance of everyone who is operating a vehicle within your fleet, it is easier to take fast action if you notice any risky behavior.

Considering the vast amounts of data and wealth of new tools at a fleet manager’s disposal, there really are no excuses for not being aware of the safety record of one of your drivers. So let’s dig into the common myths associated with a comprehensive monitoring program.

Hiring Checks Are All You Need

Some think that all you need is the background check and other public records information you received when you first hired the employee. While this information is very important, it isn’t everything you’ll need.

Now more than ever before we have access to public information detailing bits of driver information we wouldn’t have normally had before. Other things you don’t get from violation data alone includes expirations, endorsements and other actions.

That’s why your truck driver monitoring program should utilize a number of data sets in putting together a full picture. For example, in some states a non-moving violation can result in a suspended license. While this information does not shed any light on your employee’s history it may be valuable information none-the-less.

Only Occasional MVR Pulls Are Fine

If you aren’t pulling motor vehicle reports (MVR) more than once or twice a year, your fleet could be at risk. Pulling once a year is the requirement, per the U.S. DOT regulations. But that leaves another 364 days a year that vehicle is out on the road.

What if one of your drivers was recently involved in a pre-adjucated DUI and you didn’t know about it? The last thing you want is for there to be an accident while this employee is on the watch.

In reality, if you aren’t checking once a month, you may be creating a blind spot in your truck driver monitoring program. Fortunately, new technologies allow you to check every month without having to pay high state fees to pull the MVR.

Also, don’t rely too much on ELDs, telematics and GPS. Those also do not give you a full picture of truck driver behavior. Make sure you establish a baseline, monitor frequently and ensure you have a good depth of coverage across your fleet. Don’t be afraid to take action. A properly executed truck driver monitoring program serves as an effective risk mitigation strategy.

What You Need To Know About Heavy Duty Truck Parts

Whether you are an owner-operator or fleet technician, heavy duty truck parts are on your mind. You’ve been wondering whether you should go OEM or aftermarket, or perhaps if one spec is better than another.

The fact is, there is a lot more to consider than just the part. Today, we will dive into all of the different facets of deciding on your next heavy duty truck part. First, let’s take a look at the truck itself.

How Old Is Your Truck?

While the age of the vehicle should not be the sole determinant in figuring out what part you are going to use, it is an important factor. More often than not, fleet managers try to get the most uptime at the lowest price – of course, with the least of amount of risk and a maximum amount of safety.

Truck life cycle is important mainly for value reasons. First or second replacements should be of a higher quality, since you are working with a newer truck that needs to stay optimized. As the vehicle ages, however, the owner may want to dial down to a lower price point.

What do you plan to do with your vehicle once you are ready to dispose of it? That will also play a role in deciding what parts you go with. If you are replacing a part in the 47th month, the part you choose will probably rely more on who you are selling the vehicle to than anything else.

If slapping a low-grade brake shoe is what will get it out the door to a less discerning buyer, there’s nothing wrong with going with a lower quality part. Just remember, you never want to compromise safety, no matter how less discerning your buyer is.

Does Brand Name Matter?

In all reality, who you are buying the part from is more important than the name that is on the box. Generally, it is up to the dealer or distributor to be up-to-date on where the parts come from, if they are current and what their quality is. Once it reaches the technician’s hand, that should already have been worked out.

Still, if you do recognize a brand name, there is nothing wrong with going with it. Just remember that even big brand name companies can put the wrong part in a box. This is also why it is up to the distributor to have that figured out ahead of time.

The moral of the story? Though branded parts are great, and generally are held to a higher standard, don’t be fooled by a good-looking box and a fancy name. Always check inside the box for correct type and quality level.

Can You Source Your Own Parts?

For many a fleet manager, the internet has opened a brave new world of heavy duty truck part sourcing and upfitting. Still, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just go online and order a random part from a foreign country and expect a plug-and-play experience. Never safe a dollar at the expense of your safety.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself. Just make sure to do a great deal of research and always try to go with someone you have worked with in the past. Someone you can trust.

Since it isn’t up to the fleet manager to know what is being shipped in, you have to have confidence in the guy selling it to you.

Rebuilt or Remanufactured?

You may have heard one of the two terms. The fact is, there is a difference between the two. When a part is remanufactured, it is taken apart and each component is inspected individually. If improvements can be made, beyond just fixing damage, they will be. When it is rebuilt, only a certain piece of it may have been inspected or fixed.

With remanufacturing, you are actually increasing the quality of the part, rather than just replacing a damaged component. Depending on the application, investing in a remanufactured part is not a bad option.

So next time you are out looking for your next heavy duty truck part, make sure you take more than just the part into consideration. From cost to safety, there’s a lot to think about.

Welcome To The Age Of The Safe Truck

While autonomous trucks have often been the topic of conversation, the new guy on the block is the “safe truck.” Without even getting into the technological details, the fact is heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles are safer today than they’ve ever been.

Take Volvo as one example. They have gone so far as to create drivetrains that drop down and behind cab interiors in the event of a crash. They also design the cabs to ensure structural integrity isn’t compromised if there is a high impact accident or piece of road debris that might strike the vehicle. But all the innovation isn’t only happening under the hood.

External Safety and Control

The big shift in manufacturing and design lies in the external improvements making their way to heavy-duty commercial vehicle designs. There’s a technological revolution happening in this sector.

Whether you are talking about lane departure warning systems, advanced camera setups or predictive cruise control, these technologies seemed to get more advanced and powerful by the day. The digital age leaves nothing untouched.

As manufacturers test advanced truck designs, collision avoidance systems are finding their way into fleet service. But while these advances are great, is there enough integration among the different players to keep away industry fragmentation?

The result of integration efforts has been the introduction of vehicles that can react faster and assist the operator in an emergency. The next evolution is going to be in vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) systems. These systems will be able to work together at machine-thinking speeds to react to events around them on the road.

Government Regulation

Imagine all the vehicles on a road talking to each other and accurately and safely plotting coordinates each and every time. As control over these systems proliferates, it is likely that government intervention will increase, resulting in more regulations. So getting ahead of the game is important.

It is likely that forward collision warning systems and intelligent emergency braking systems will be first up and into the regulatory barrel shot. These systems are already tested and are easy to install and design into current manufacturing methods.

So as you look at the big picture, it should become apparent that the industry is moving in the direction of advanced safety technologies. As the world enters the age of the ‘safe truck’, will you be prepared to capitalize on it?

Tackling Truck-Chasers

There’s a strong case to be made – both financially and technologically – for the use of advanced safety technologies. These systems have come a long way in the last decade and fleets must think broadly about how and when to implement these technologies. But what exactly are we looking at?

There are plenty of law firms out there that specialize in finding people they can use to litigate against trucking companies. So ask anyone who defends the fleet, and they will tell you that having advanced safety systems installed on the truck can make a huge difference between how much you may be liable during litigation.

Even in cases where it is the truck driver’s fault, you can save time and expense in the long run by using your data to simplify the process and quickly move to a settlement phase. Turn a drawn-out courtroom battle into a smooth process when you have the safety system information to back you up.

What’s The Return Investment?

Some fleets will want to see a return on investment. Just like other advanced systems, consistent adoption will only improve overall outcomes.

Take the electronic log books as an example. Costs associated with logbook violations fell dramatically after the mandate went into effect.

The fact is, whether or not you are looking at the bottom line, adopting advanced safety systems is good for business. So why wait? Get ahead of the game and up your safety system investment.