Can you believe that we are already in the latter half of 2018? Each year seems to fly by faster than the last and it is hard to keep up with the changes. Even as the trucking regulatory and technological landscape shifts beneath our feet, it is more important than ever that motor carriers keep up with the near-constant change. But what should a fleet be focused on as we move into the new year?
Trucking companies have a lot on their mind, from the ELD mandate to safety. Yet, for most fleet managers working within the trucking industry, no matter the application, risky driving behaviors remains the number one concern. In fact, according to a study completed by fleet management software company Omnitracs, nearly half of all respondents reported unsafe driving as being their main concern going into the new year.
Other concerns included:
- Optimizing fleet operating costs;
- ELD compliance;
- Improving maintenance;
- Decreasing road incidents;
- Increasing fleetwide fuel economy;
- Improving overall fleet asset utilization;
- Preventing unnecessary downtime;
- Creating better truck driver incentive programs;
- Increasing truck driver retention, and;
- Better tracking truck driver behaviors.
Generally, fleets with more than 50 commercial motor vehicles but less than 500 viewed eliminating risky operating behaviors as the most important factor to them going into 2019. Not surprisingly, fleets with more than 500 commercial motor vehicles listed fleet optimization costs as their number one concern.
No matter the fleet size, factors such as tracking truck driver behavior and installing video cameras into vehicle cabs did not rank high. Yet, there is something to be said for trucking companies to focus on these factors. It has been shown that paying close attention to truck driver behavior and installing video and advanced safety systems helps truck drivers avoid dangerous driving activities, such as speeding, accelerating, hard braking and hard cornering.
The fact is, many trucking companies are still trying to determine if video solutions are helpful or harmful. While many thought 2018 would be the year to work that out, fleets are still struggling with the issue as the new year approaches. One of the main concerns facing motor carriers is how to deal with claims when an accident occurs – which we will discuss a little later when we get into litigation.
Fleet CEOs, owners, partners, and other interested parties still view driving behaviors and operating costs as their main concern, while fleet managers have a singular focus on improving maintenance. In fact, all these factors are critical to ensuring safe fleet operations. By a comprehensive fleet management solution, motor carriers can ensure they are meeting many of their top goals for 2019.
For many fleets, reducing harsh driving events such as speeding, acceleration, hard braking, cornering, lane departures, and other potentially disastrous driving behaviors will be critical. Not only do reducing these incidents decrease the chances of an accident, but they reduce maintenance costs by nearly 20%.
Fleets Focus on Data in 2019
There is a reason why data is such a hot topic within the trucking industry. Motor carriers are using it to create innovative solutions and create better outcomes for their incentive programs. Data-driven incentive programs provide truck drivers with the tools they need to improve their driving behaviors and ensure top-notch CSA scores.
Developing a data-driven incentive program does require some back-end planning, however. Motor carriers must pay close attention to factors such as gamification and competition between truck drivers to incentivize better behaviors. Focusing on these factors also improves truck driver retention. By creating a better atmosphere. Truck drivers feel far more valued when they know fleets are paying close attention to their overall development.
With fleet management systems growing in popularity, many motor carriers have pointed to 2019 as the year they take the digital plunge and add a comprehensive fleet management solution to their portfolio. Studies have shown that using a comprehensive telematics solution can help fleets save up to 15% in fuel costs and prevent unnecessary road incidents within the first year.
With compliance, efficiency, and safety at the top of many motor carriers’ list of concerns, utilizing data in concert with a comprehensive fleet management solution can make all the difference in the world. The economy is expected to continue growing at a steady clip in 2019 and fleets will need to pay close attention to how they compete in a crowded marketplace.
ELD Concerns Don’t Go Away
As evidenced in the Omnitracs survey, ELD and HOS compliance will remain a top concern in 2019. With many fleets still operating using grandfathered AOBRDs, 2019 will be the year they need to make the change, especially considering that is the federal deadline to switch over to an actual ELD. What is worse, three out of every 10 fleets are not currently in compliance with the ELD mandate.
With so many fleets still investigating a potential solution, 2019 will be the year to make a final decision. In some cases, motor carriers have settled on an ELD solution but are not satisfied with it. It is no great secret that companies popped up all over the place offering an ELD, but not all of them are created equal.
A cheap ELD solution is oftentimes offered as a minimal solution for simply meeting the requirements of the ELD mandate without doing much more. Yet, single-purpose ELDs don’t offer comprehensive solutions designed to address other important business requirements. Motor carriers will be actively searching for comprehensive ELD solutions in 2019.
As the survey shows, many U.S. fleets struggle with the same concerns, regardless of the industry they work in or their overall size. Yet, as more trucks hit the roads and accidents rise, motor carriers are also looking at litigation as a big problem in 2019. But how do they plan on dealing with it?
Protecting Your Fleet from Litigation
The fact is this: No matter how experienced a fleet’s truck drivers are, accidents happen. Fleet managers can pour all their energy into comprehensive safety programs, but accidents are inevitable. So, when an accident happens, how does a motor carrier protect themselves from a lawsuit? This will be a major question in 2019, especially as the economy continues to expand and more and more trucks hit the nation’s roads.
According to numbers released by the FMCSA, over 4,300 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2015, while over 87,000 were involved in injury crashes. To put that in perspective, that amounts to over 11 fatal crashes and 238 injury crashes every single day data was being collected. And with distracted driving being the number one factor, there are big costs associated with large commercial motor vehicle accidents. To a motor carrier, the average cost is nearly $200,000. If a fatality is involved, that number could swell to $3.6 million.
Even more, it doesn’t really matter who is at fault in these situations, as nearly 100% of the time, the costs will be absorbed by the motor carrier. This is significant because the vast majority of accidents are not caused by the professional truck drivers themselves, but rather are the result of actions on the part of passenger car drivers.
According to a study completed by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, passenger car drivers contributed to a whopping 81% of crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles. Only 26% were caused by the truck drivers themselves. So, why do the motor carriers almost always foot the bill for a crash? Mainly, this is due to large mega verdicts that have been levied against motor carriers in the past few years. Attorneys have become very good at using the fear of a large 80,000-pound vehicle against fleets during trials.
In these cases, even if the passenger car driver is responsible, attorneys use what is called the “Reptile Brain” theory to focus on the truck driver’s behavior and make the jury believe that the truck driver or motor carrier are responsible, whether through negligence or unsafe behavior. Rather than focus on the accident at hand, they will bring up a motor carrier’s safety record, maintenance programs, training regimen, and management decisions to make the motor carrier look as bad as possible.
The fact is, even one judgement against a motor carrier can put it out of business. With incidents like these on the rise, and a wave of new truck drivers entering the workforce, motor carriers will enter 2019 trying to figure out the best way to mitigate the damage from costly litigation resulting from an accident. For many, video-based systems will be the best option.
Even when an attorney does his or her best to make a truck driver or motor carrier look bad, it is hard for a jury to deny video evidence that clearly shows who is at fault in an accident. If the evidence shows the passenger car driver is the guilty party, it is far less likely the jury will come down in their favor.
With so many hot-button issues on motor carrier’s plates, it will be interesting to see what the new top concerns will be in 2019. Whatever they are, you can rest assured will be reporting on them for you right here at the QuickTSI blog.