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Why In-Cab Cameras Are So Beneficial for Truckers and Trucking Companies

We are going to tell you a story. This isn’t a real story, but the story itself will help us get a crucial point across about today’s topic. So, let’s get started:

Something wasn’t quite right about the vehicle as it pulled up and into the turn lane next to Johnson’s tractor-trailer. As an owner-operator, Johnson is always on the lookout. His truck is his income, so he’s always got to keep his eyes open.

Either way, as Johnson watched, he had a feeling that the driver of the vehicle next to him was just a tad closer than normal. But as the light turned green, the other vehicle slowly entered the truck’s lane and as Johnson turned, the vehicle continued towards the truck until – almost gently – it brushed up against the left fender of the truck.

Of course, both vehicles immediately pulled over and before Johnson’s feet had even hit the ground, the driver of the passenger vehicle was already out in the street, rubbing her neck, and very loudly complaining that the tractor had run into her.

Before Johnson could even reply, the woman made a quick phone call, just out of earshot, then continued telling onlookers that the truck had run into her and she feared she might have suffered a terrible neck accident. As soon as she finished, she turned to Johnson and asked, “Do you have nothing to say for all this trouble you’ve caused? You injured me! This is going to cost you big time,” she stated dramatically.

Finally, and with all the calm of someone who has seen this a time or two before, Johnson jerked his thumb back towards the cab and pointed to a small device just on the other side of the windshield planted firmly in the center of the dashboard.

“Do you see that?” He asked.

“Yeah, of course I do, what is it?” The driver of the passenger car replied, suddenly sounding unsure.

“Well,” Johnson replied, “that’s a forward-facing camera that recorded everything that just happened.”

Instantly, the passenger car driver stopped rubbing her neck, merely staring wide-eyed at Johnson for a couple of seconds before she turned, ran back to her vehicle and fled the scene.

Johnson merely smiled, knowing that his forward-facing camera had saved him before. Once, as he rolled through a traffic light, Johnson’s truck was side-swiped. While the passenger car driver and several witnesses told arriving officers it was the truck’s fault. Yet, when the in-dash camera video was reviewed, it showed that Johnson had the green and it was – in fact – the passenger car who ran the red light.

Cameras Don’t Lie

While this story may be fictional, we can pretty much guarantee you that it is a story told by more than a few fleets. In fact, it is the primary reason many motor carriers completely revamp their safety programs to include in-dash forward-facing cameras.

The fact is, cameras don’t lie. Many carriers will begin with the basics and eventually upgrade to a fleetwide program. Good, in-cab video systems not only help with truck driver safety measures, but they also keep accidents from harming your bottom line because you had no evidence to prove, well, it wasn’t you.

Still, it’s important that you do your research to ensure you are investing in a system that is both reliable and will stand the test of time and hard use. Some systems don’t have functionalities you need, like cloud-based video storage or superior video quality. But even if you don’t invest in the most expensive unit, one thing you can count on is that cameras tell the truth.

Beyond Simply Finding Fault

Even better, in-dash camera systems have evolved considerably over the years. Today, newer systems do much more than simply determine who is at fault in an accident. Beyond capturing vital footage, they can also record things like vehicle speed, type of motion and other truck driver specific actions that were taken at the time of incident.

While many fleets do their best to ensure a proper safety culture is put in place, everyone knows that once a vehicle leaves company HQ, the age-old rule ‘out of sight, out of mind’ comes into play. Yet with in-cab systems recording everything it isn’t hard for a fleet manager to know exactly what’s going on with the truck at all times.

That’s why in-cab video technology systems have gone from nice-to-haves to must-haves. As a matter of fact, signs point to the possibility that the FMCSA could one day mandate that these devices be installed in cab in all big rigs on the road.

Still, fleets find that installing these systems are about more than just a mandate. Many fleets who install in-cab video systems also see their collision and litigation costs plummet. Not only do in-cab video systems invalidate fraudulent claims, but they also dramatically improve the driving skills of fleet vehicle operators.

Video systems can also add solutions beyond avoiding fraudulent accident claims and helping improve truck driver skills. They can also assist fleets address things like cargo security and workers’ comp claims outside the cab. Fleets can better understand the video being produced and integrate video systems with other technological solutions that help them better understand the data.

Distinguishing Between Raw Data and Video Integration

There’s a big difference between gathering video and then being able to offer clarity on the information it provides. In-cab video solutions should be used to integrate data with vehicle sensors, analyze truck driver behaviors and offer feedback and coaching sessions based on said behaviors.

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to optimize your operational costs and measurably lower claims with just video alone. Video clips of operating events that mean something are quite different than unmanaged video streams that don’t include data from telematics sensors and other, equipment control modules and other systems – such as safety control systems like roll control.

Utilizing the proper video system allows you to do a thorough review of the video clips and fully analyze what went wrong – or what went right in coaching situations. Algorithms built into advanced in-cab video recorders can tune in on millions of miles driven and – in tandem with other systems – help fleets predict risk and offer up actionable solutions. Video systems become an active part of a fleet’s risk management and mitigation program.

This is why it is so important for a fleet to understand what they are purchasing. In-camera systems can run anywhere from $650 – $1,500 per unit. When you multiply that across an entire flee, that’s no small amount of money. If the system is working through an existing telematics provider or delivering information through a cellular or satellite link, you may be also looking at a monthly subscription charge.

But what exactly are you getting for all these extra capabilities? And furthermore, how much can you expect from the future tech built into your in-cab video system?

Advanced In-Cab Video Solutions

There are mainly two types of video systems in development today.

  1. Works in conjunction with the driver, where the data is used to generate positive driving habits and help create coaching sessions. These systems offer truck driver assist technologies, whether it be by removing blind spots or providing things like lane-changing warnings to the trucker.
  2. Legacy video systems that trigger only when certain events occur, whether it be sudden breaking or a swerving event. These cameras generally record for about 15 – 30 seconds of video, which is analyzed by the operations center hours later. They are often only one- or two-camera setups.

Yet, as technology continues the long march, even the legacy systems are coming online with far more capabilities built in.

Some are so advanced that they can be seen as superfast computing systems that analyze video using ‘deep learning’. Essentially, these systems record real-time and offer immediate suggestions, rather than recording now for analysis later.

These systems can even go so far as to analyze the types of vehicles driving in front of the truck, their speed, relative motion and more. It can spot traffic lights up to a half-mile ahead and even identify road signs, weather conditions and more. When put together, the computing power at the center of the system offers immediate situational information to assist both truck drivers and those back at fleet HQ to respond to circumstances before they’ve even happened.

This ability to watch and analyze what is happening on the road provides for immediate calculations that can potentially save lives. The fact is, in-cab camera system technology will continue to improve and provide the ability for truck drivers to operate in a safer environment.

Has your fleet invested in technologies such as these? Consider that your competitors may be already researching and outfitting their fleet with in-cab video systems then ask yourself, “Do you want to be left behind as another fleet steals your business because their technology outstrips yours?”

Consider these questions as you shop for big rigs equipped with in-cab video systems, or set about outfitting your fleet yourself.

The Secret Tips to Running a Trucking Business

Running a business of your own is basically part of the American dream. There’s nothing more exciting than the thought of being your own boss and being able to make a lot of money. You’d like to run your own business, but you aren’t sure what kind you’d like own. You don’t want to sell things to other people, and you don’t want to go into the food or service industry. You’ve considered turn-key operations where the money makes itself, but you think you’d want something that’s more hands on.

If you want to try something different, running a trucking business could be the new venture you’re looking for.

A profitable industry

It’s been known that the ability to drive a fleet vehicle is a coveted job skill. Being able to drive a big rig can make you money, but owning a company that sends out the rigs is even more profitable.

If you’re looking for something that’s profitable, the trucking industry could be what you need.

It’s estimated that the industry itself generates around $650 billion in revenue every year, and that number is only expected to grow.

There are over 11 million registered large trucks in the country, so you won’t have an issue finding the equipment you need to get started.

There’s money to be made in the industry, but only if you’re a good fit for the job.

What to consider before running a trucking business

Trucking is a growing and popular industry, but that doesn’t mean that just anyone can succeed in it.

Almost any budding entrepreneur thinks that they would be perfect for it, but a lot goes into being able to manage a fleet.

Aside from having a good business sense you need to have management skills, the ability to problem solve, and the ability to analyze data.

You’re going to be wearing a lot of hats when you’re running your business, and you need to be prepared to handle the workload.

If you want your business to be successful, there are a few things you need to do.

Estimate your costs accurately 

Starting a trucking business isn’t as simple as buying a few fleet vehicles and getting some drivers.

Running a trucking business costs a lot of money that goes beyond the price of the trucks and the employee’s salaries.

Maintenance can cost a significant amount of money.  Trucks need to be examined frequently to make sure that they’re running well.

Some companies take maintenance so seriously that they’ll have a mechanic look at each truck when it comes back from a delivery.

There’s also the cost of employee benefits and insurance. Both vehicles and employees need to be insured for a variety of things.

On top of this, there’s rental costs for your lot and business, and other costs are bound to pop up along the way.

Talk to a financial adviser so you can determine what you’ll need money wise to start your business.

This is important because you’ll need to…

Get a good loan 

 

When you’re discussing your budget with your financial adviser, make sure to talk about the loan amount they think is best for you.

Since you’re getting a loan, it’s also important to make sure that you look like a great potential investment to your lender.

Take some time to bring up your credit score before you apply.  Also, consider asking someone with stellar credit to co-sign your loan if you’re worried about your score.

Consider subcontracting truck drivers 

Now that you’ve spent some time considering finances, you may be wondering how you can afford to pay your employees.

If you want to save money on operating costs and still have good drivers, you may want to consider using subcontracted truck drivers.

These truck drivers are hired per contract for specific jobs, they’ll only work when you need them to.

This can be the ideal set up for people that are interested in running a trucking business but want to start their company with less capital.

Data and software are your best friends

When people think about running a trucking business they usually don’t think about software.  But the right kind of software and data collection methods can ensure that you’re running your business in the best way possible.

The right kind of software can make managing finances a breeze.  You’ll have one place where you can keep all of your paid and outstanding invoices, employee payment information, account balances, and more.

Collecting data from trips is equally important.

Find out how often drivers are stopping to fill up, and how much fuel costs them in each state.  See which routes are the most efficient and which ones seem to take more time.

Having all of this data on hand could help you find more efficient routes for your drivers or could help save you money on fuel.

Perform maintenance frequently 

Remember how we mentioned that some companies will perform routine maintenance on every truck after it gets back from a delivery?

That may seem like too much, but it helps ensure that all fleet vehicles are in top running shape.

When you’re running a trucking business, it’s important to keep in mind how much wear and tear can occur on a running big rig.

Some of these truck drivers are running their vehicles non-stop for hours at a time while they travel across the country. Even trucking businesses that stay local can put some serious miles on their rigs.

If certain issues go unnoticed for too long, your rigs can get seriously damaged.

A loose belt or low oil may go unnoticed in a regular car for a few weeks or even months depending on how much it’s driven. All it takes is one long trip for damage to become apparent in a big rig.

Aside from having professionals routinely handle truck upkeep, it can be helpful to train your truck drivers in simple maintenance. Their dashboard can only tell them so much about the state of their vehicle.

Always put safety first 

Overall, it’s important to make sure that your trucking company and your drivers are compliant with all safety standards set by the American Trucking Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

There are rules about hauling certain kinds of materials, equipment usage, and nearly every aspect of trucking you can think of.

The trucking industry on average produces 5,360 fatalities and 142,000 injuries each year. When you’re running a trucking business safety should be your number one priority above all else.

Highway and driver safety clearly is a priority. Your truck drivers need to observe safe driving practices when they’re on the road. Drivers that constantly take shortcuts, speed, or drive aggressively shouldn’t be a part of your company.

Driver safety is only a small part of the issue. There are other hazards associated with trucking people can forget about.

Unsafe loading and unloading practices have the potential to harm employees or damage products. Drivers should also be thoroughly trained on hauling hazardous materials if you choose to go into that industry niche.

Find good clients 

The key to running a trucking business is to have a lot of clients you can rely on.

Some owners lull themselves into a state of false security once they land their first big contract. But it’s important to remember that the 6 or 7 figure contract you have today may not be there tomorrow.

Even if you have an excellent client you think will be with you for decades, you still need a solid business development plan to ensure that you’re bringing in new work.

If you can’t devote yourself to finding new clients you need to hire someone that can handle sales. Look for someone that specializes in the trucking industry and may already have some connections.

Bring on good talent 

Running a trucking business will be hard if your drivers have a reputation for being late or rude to clients.

Your truckers are going to represent your business on each trip, and you want to make sure you hire people that are up for the task.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring people that are new to the industry, but you may want a seasoned vet or two on your team in the beginning.

They’ll know the ins and outs of the industry, and they could even serve as a mentor for newer drivers.

Don’t risk bringing on someone with a bad driving history. They may have their CDL, but you should look into their personal background.

If they have speeding tickets, road rage incidents, or any charges involving drugs or alcohol, they probably won’t be good for your business.

Wrapping up

As you can see, running a trucking business requires a lot of work. You’ll need a good mix of reliable employees, the right equipment, and a mind for business if you want to succeed.

Do any seasoned trucking business owners have advice for people new to the industry? Tell us about it in our comments section!

If you have questions about trucking services, contact us so we can answer them.

 

An Update On Trucking And Military Truck Drivers

There’s been a lot of movement lately where military truck drivers are concerned. It appears the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is setting out to clarify and seek comment on several new proposals related to military truck drivers transitioning into the civilian trucking industry.

First up, the FMCSA is looking to launch an interstate pilot program designed for military-trained truck drivers who happen to be under 21 years of age. Proposed in mid-August, the FAST Act-stipulated program would clear the way for truckers under 21 to operate their vehicles across state lines provided they have prior experience operating large vehicles in the military.

Under-21 Pilot Program for Military Truck Drivers

The current rule only allows for under-21 CDL holders to drive intrastate. Now open for public comment, the agency wants to know what you think about this proposed change. Of course, there are other details to consider.

As part of the proposal, the FMCSA mandates that any under-21 truck drivers in the pilot program must be sponsored by a motor carrier. The same motor carrier must also have an over-21 truck driver with similar training and experience operating as part of a control group.

At the end of the three-year pilot, the FMCSA will then look at the safety records of both groups. If it appears that there are safety issues in the under-21 group, it might be determined that age does represent a critical safety factor.

Motor carriers participating in the pilot program must have an electronic logging device installed in all the vehicles used by either the pilot or the control group. The FMCSA is also considering requiring carriers to install onboard monitoring systems, but hasn’t finalized that yet.

CDL Waiver for Military Truck Drivers

The second dive into military truck drivers and transitioning into the civilian workforce surrounds the CDL test. Currently, states can waive the general knowledge test needed to obtain a CDL if the person taking the test has either current or former military experience.

On October 27, the FMCSA issued a two-year exemption to that rule. The exemption essentially allows military truck drivers to list their time operating a military vehicle as training credit. The FMCSA acknowledged the many hours of classroom and practical skills training military truck drivers undergo every day.

The new exemption still leaves the power in states’ hands, however. State driver licensing agencies will be able to choose whether to waive the knowledge test. States will also be given assistance in setting up programs to verify the eligibility of applicant participants.

There are also requirements surrounding who can apply for the extension:

  • Current or former military members
  • National Guard
  • Reservists
  • Have been regularly employed within a year of the application
  • Have received formal military training related to the duty being applied for

This rule is yet another rule designed to help military personnel ease into civilian life and get jobs within the trucking industry.

The FMCSA has also given military personnel who drove large commercial vehicles a full year to apply for a skills test waiver. This is an increase over the prior rules 90 days.

The new rule also allows states to accept applications from active-duty military members provided they are stationed in that state. States will also be allowed to administer a learner’s or CDL written and skills test, and then electronically transfer the results to either the applicant or the licensing board, if the state so wishes.

Overall, these changes represent positive moves from the FMCSA, designed to make it easier for the hard-working men and women of our nation’s armed forces to get secure, rewarding jobs with motor carriers and build their trucking careers. That certainly can never be a bad thing.

Should Truckers Be Forced To Take A Sleep Apnea Test?

Have you heard? If the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) gets its way, truckers – under certain conditions – may have to be screened for sleep apnea to get a green light to hop in the cab.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the industry agrees this was the right move. The FMCSA had initially proposed this rule, but it first had to be held up by the FMCSA’s Medical Review Board and Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, which it now has done.

What is BMI?

So, what’s the deal here? Will every trucker have to undergo a sleep apnea test? Well, no. The criteria will be based upon a truck driver’s Body Mass Index (BMI). If a trucker has a BMI higher than 40, then they will be flagged for a sleep apnea screening.

BMI is a measure of body fat which is based upon an individual man or woman’s height and weight. While largely accurate, it is not without its limits. In athletes, for instance, who may weigh more because of muscle, rather than fat, BMI can be deceiving. It may also underestimate fat in older people who have lost muscle mass over time.

The BMI chart reads as:

  • < 18.5 = Underweight
  • 5 – 24.9 = Normal weight
  • 25 – 29.9 = Overweight
  • > 30 = Obese

Considering a reading above 30 is considered obese, some argue that requiring a sleep apnea test at 40 is not an overly onerous burden. Others claim that the FMCSA is using far too strict guidelines in how they determine who gets a test.

When a Test is Required

Some point to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) when advising the FMCSA on how to proceed. The FAA prohibits using BMI as a sole factor when issuing flight cards. The FAA once even wanted to do exactly what the FMCSA is proposing to do, but ended up reversing course.

For truckers who have a BMI over 40, the FMCSA would force them to get a 90-day medical certification. During the 90 days, they would have to either do an at-home or in-lab sleep study. If they receive a positive diagnosis, they would then have to begin treatment, again within the 90-day period.

In situations where a truck driver tests out with a BMI higher than 33, they would be subject to screening if they meet three other qualifiers. One such example of three other qualifiers includes being male and being over the age of 42 – neither of which are statistics in short supply within the trucking industry. For a postmenopausal female truck driver aged 42 or older, a flag for high blood pressure or a history of diabetes or heart disease might trigger a test.

If a trucker is diagnosed with moderate or severe sleep apnea, their medical certification can last no longer than a year. This replaces the standard two-year certification window for those who don’t suffer from sleep apnea.

Other Changes

While much of the FMCSA’s original idea came through the advisory board’s final analysis, there were some changes made to the criteria surrounding when a truck driver should be immediately disqualified.

A driver could be disqualified if they:

  • Are reporting excessive sleepiness while behind the wheel
  • Are involved in an accident related to falling asleep while driving
  • Have been seen by someone else sleeping while operating a commercial motor vehicle
  • Are not in compliance with existing sleep apnea treatment guidelines

A medical examiner could also disqualify a truck driver if they deem said driver to be high risk. They would then be out of service until they can get treatment, and would be required to be treated for two weeks before they can get behind the wheel.

Of course, many in the industry are not happy with this ruling. While some say it goes a long way to increasing truck driver safety and overall wellness, others say it is an intrusion that leaves a ton of unanswered questions, not-the-least-of-which being who foots the bill when a truck driver has to be removed from the road and sent for testing. In the end, only time will tell how this shakes out.

Fleet Management – How To Master Total Cost Of Ownership Through Accessories

Trying to figure out how to get the most out of your fleet? The fact is you can minimize your total cost of ownership without impacting safety, performance or appearance.

From permits to licensing and truck driver education, managing a fleet of trucks is no easy job. Routine maintenance can be hard enough, let alone everything else an enterprising fleet manager needs to do. Still, with the right truck accessories, it isn’t difficult to fully optimize your operation.

Costs and Value

When you are considering the total cost of ownership for your equipment, the key formula is to keep costs in check while still getting the best value out of whatever equipment you are using. When a fleet makes a purchasing decision, it does so based on the total cost of the vehicle weighed against fuel and maintenance costs.

To further manage cost against value, purchase managers need to spec their equipment properly, and this is about more than just picking the right OEM, it’s also about durable components that add both safety and value.

With the right selection of options a fleet can both save fuel and decrease maintenance costs. With the wrong selection, however, there results can be nothing short of catastrophic. Let’s dig deeper into what you need to keep an eye out for.

Why Appearance Matters

When it comes to outfitting your vehicles, exterior accessories matter. Whether you are talking about mud flaps or truck fenders, motor carriers need to ensure these items are there not just for aesthetic reasons, but to improve safety and performance as well.

Still, that doesn’t mean appearance doesn’t matter. You want to make sure prospective customers see clean, polished and current equipment, otherwise they may look elsewhere for their freight movement needs. The fact is the better a vehicle looks, the better a potential customer’s overall impression will be of your business, and the more likely they will be to sign on.

From the paint job to how shiny the wheels are, the condition of your equipment is a direct reflection of your brand in others’ eyes. Do you want that perception to be one of great service and quality or one of shoddy work and a lack of focus?

Keeping CSA in Mind

Did you know that the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program includes vehicle maintenance as a scoring factor? The Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement (BASICs) scores are intended to provide fleets with a base level evaluation regarding performance, but many fleet managers don’t consider maintenance.

If they knew that as much as 80% of CSA violations are in the truck maintenance category, they would pay more attention to things like accessories. Better mud flaps and tougher fenders do a better job at keeping the truck in tip-top shape and good working order.

By properly accessorizing your fleet vehicles, you may end up with less CSA citations, which means more time and money in your pocket and on your divers’ time clocks. Well maintained trucks also carry a positive image of their owners, thus increasing the cache of your operation.

A Matter of Choice

There are a lot of different truck accessories out there doing a number of different jobs. From vortex generators to aerodynamic flaps, there are a number of different applications being met by new and advanced versions of truck accessories.

In the end, it’s important that your fleet managers take a look at the applications your trucks will be being used in. Only then will you be able to make the right decision on accessories.

Practice careful consideration and shop correctly, and the right truck accessories can both accelerate your reputation, safety and truck driver happiness.

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