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Using Data and Predictive Analytics to Create a Culture of Safety and Compliance

Are you paying close attention to your safety and compliance metrics? Because if not, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the FMCSA. The days when FMCSA compliance was something you could skate by with the bare minimum are long gone.

Today, the FMCSA, jurors, and even your truck drivers hold you to a higher standard. Fleets have a duty to act if unsafe or non-compliant conditions are prevalent within your trucking company. You must act on these things before a crash occurs, lest you find yourself at the receiving end of an audit. Or, even worse, you could be the subject of a lawsuit if an accident occurs.

The best way to avoid this outcome? To properly utilize the data your operation accumulates every day. Today, motor carriers have access to information that puts them in situation where they should have known before an incident occurs. The best ay to prevent the worst is to ensure you are incorporating data analysis into your safety management program.

Safety Program Essentials for Every Trucking Company

Trucking companies find themselves at different stages of creating a proactive and effective safety culture. To avoid crashes and adverse safety incidents, fleet managers must prioritize the data they need to prevent accidents. Whether it be data on trucks or data on truck drivers, your trucking company could be held accountable if you are not acting on the safety data you gather.

After all, what is the point of gathering data if you are not using it to create better outcomes for your operation? You must utilize a combination of safety management systems and controls and predictive data analytics. Only by taking control of the data and safety measures your organization puts in place can you reduce your potential liability.

Fortunately, the FMCSA provides what they call a Safety Management Cycle. Their model provides the following recommendations:

  • Enact simple and easily enforced truck driver qualification policies and procedures.
  • Set your risk management level and provide policies that enforce proper risk management among your truck drivers, technicians, and other employees.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities to appropriate parties.
  • Provide appropriate training and effective communication so that everyone knows what the expectations are of them.
  • Monitor and track your truck driver qualifications and all appropriate performance data.
  • Offer meaningful guidance and corrective action utilizing coaching, training, and documentation.

You may also want to have a second look at the FMCSRs to see how they may apply to your specific fleet policies and procedures. If something bad does happen, following these guidelines could go a long way to establishing that you were not negligent. Use predictive analytics to correct bad behavior and make sure you consistently enforce your written policies. Not acting on your data can have serious consequences.

Stopping Unnecessary Attrition

If you do not act on your data and create policies to increase safety and compliance, you may wind up with high turnover. Losing valuable truck drivers is a major risk of not creating an effective safety and compliance culture. We live in a tough time for finding qualified truck drivers. The last thing you need is to lose your people over something you have total control over.

Provided you fix the problems gleaned in your data collection, you won’t lose truck drivers. Remember, keeping your current, trained, and knowledgeable truckers is far better than finding new ones and spending valuable resources training them. Improving the working environment of your current truck drivers represents one of the best ways to improve your bottom line and create an effective safety and compliance culture.

Utilizing effective hiring and truck driver management practices represents the best way to keep your retention level high. Whether it be through policies, procedures, hiring criteria, dash cams, ELDs, or telematics data, there is a lot of data available to smart fleet managers. Obviously, not all attrition is preventable. Certainly, there will be truck drivers you must let go, but most of your people will be comfortable in the knowledge their fleet has their back.

Prevent Negligent Behavior

If one of your truck drivers is involved in a crash, you could find yourself negligent if you failed to supervise said truck driver properly. The big settlements and nuclear verdicts occur when negligence is proven. Whether it be a failure to follow written policies and procedures or a lack of effective coaching or remediation, you may find yourself at the receiving end of major litigation and FMCSA audits.

There are specific legal terms associated with a failure to properly manage truck driver performance. The first is negligent supervision. Negligent supervision results when the trucking company does not properly coach their people. Generally, this results in unsafe practices or other issues.

Negligent retention refers to an instance where a truck driver is kept on even after they should have been terminated. And finally, negligent entrustment occurs when a fleet employs a truck driver who does not have the proper qualifications to operate a commercial motor vehicle. This also happens when a truck driver consistently demonstrates poor performance and is still allowed to drive.

It is critical that you catch and correct unsafe and non-compliant behaviors before the worst happens. Only by doing so will you ensure a reduction in costs, liabilities, and litigation impacts. Of course, the best course of action is to prevent the accident before it occurs, but you must still be prepared if an accident happens.

The Costs Associated with Negligent Management

You’ve heard of nuclear verdicts. These are verdicts in the amount of $10 million or more. These kinds of verdicts usually occur when a plaintiff’s attorney successfully convinces a jury that a motor carrier was negligent. Did they put the public at risk because of that negligence?

Nuclear verdicts have become a major headache for trucking companies across the country. And they have increased exponentially in the past several years. In fact, according to a study completed by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) in 2020, nuclear verdicts have been on the rise in a big way.

Their research found that from 2006 through 2010, 26 cases which were settled for over $1 million. That seems like a pretty high number until you look at what happened from 2015 through 2019. During that four-year period, there were nearly 300 cases that settled for more than $1 million. That represents an increase of over 1,000%!

Interestingly, ATRI’s research found that many of these cases hinge upon the actions a motor carrier took before the accident occurred. While crash avoidance is the most important factor, when a crash does occur, inspectors and attorneys will look very closely at what the motor carrier did before the crash to mitigate or prevent it.

Using Predictive Analytics to Prevent Crashes

The key to utilizing your data properly lies in predictive analytics. To avoid crashes, fleet managers must use predictive analytics to parse the data their fleet generates every day. By using predictive analytics, trucking companies not only provide themselves with data to prevent crashes, but it helps maintain a culture of safety and compliance. Let’s look at some examples demonstrating how you can do that.

Modern fleets have a lot of different data sources. Now that trucking companies must use electronic logging devices, they have access to a wealth of data. Hours of service and potential falsification represent easy data points provided by your ELDs. Dashcam and video event recording systems provide critical data on how your truck drivers behave on the road.

Fleet managers should also analyze reports and records. MVRs provide a window into violations, crashes, endorsements, and restrictions. Roadside inspection reports and CSA data allow fleet managers to analyze driver behavior, HOS compliance, and truck driver fitness information.

Once you have gathered the data you want to track, the next step is to build an in-house solution. Or hire a vendor to use the data for predictive analytics purposes. Whether you or someone else does it, you want to aggregate your safety and compliance data, prioritize the riskiest and most non-compliant operators, and then recommend actions and make informed decisions on how to proceed.

You need to make the best decisions for your operation to manage risk and compliance gaps. The key is to conduct an honest assessment of your program and not delay decisions that can protect your business.

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