New NHTSA Study

drowsy drivingWhen dealing with a ‘ton of data’ about crashes, causes, contributing factors, costs and such, it can take several years to fully value and understand what it all means.  Why?

  1. First, there’s a lot to analyze.  
  2. Second, not all final crash costs are known until the bulk of medical treatments have been completed and reported.  
  3. Third, data about the source data becomes available during the analysis process (we gain insights as the analysis proceeds — sometimes causing us to reverse and re-examine details).

With these points in mind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a new study of “The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes” that occurred during 2010.

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We wanted to share some select quotes from the study to highlight several key findings.

In 2010, there were 32,999 people killed, 3.9 million were injured, and 24 million vehicles were damaged in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The economic costs of these crashes totaled $277 billion. Included in these losses are lost productivity, medical costs, legal and court costs, emergency service costs (EMS), insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage, and workplace losses. The $277 billion cost of motor vehicle crashes represents the equivalent of nearly $897 for each of the 308.7 million people living in the United States, and 1.9 percent of the $14.96 trillion real U.S. Gross Domestic Product for 2010. These figures include both police-reported and unreported crashes. When quality of life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $871 billion. Lost market and household productivity accounted for $93 billion of the total $277 billion economic costs, while property damage accounted for $76 billion. Medical expenses totaled $35 billion. Congestion caused by crashes, including travel delay, excess fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants accounted for $28 billion. Each fatality resulted in an average discounted lifetime cost of $1.4 million. Public revenues paid for roughly 9 percent of all motor vehicle crash costs, costing tax payers $24 billion in 2010, the equivalent of over $200 in added taxes for every household in the United States.

Clearly, traffic crashes cost a lot of money!

Key contributing factors to the crash data in 2010 included:

  • Impaired (drunk) driving
  • Speed
  • Distraction
  • Seat belts saved many, but some (3,350 people) perished for failing to use their restraints properly/consistently

It is staggering to realize that during 2010, there were more than 3.9 million people injured in 13.6 million motor vehicle crashes (including about 33,000 fatalities).  Alcohol-involved crashes accounted for about 21 percent of all crash costs and a third of all road deaths.

Speed-related crashes (where at least one driver was exceeding the posted limit OR driving too fast for conditions) were connected to 10,536 fatalities (another third of the total for the year).

So, in hindsight, if all drivers had:

  1. worn their seatbelts properly,
  2. avoided driving while impaired and
  3. followed the speed limit (or driven with regard to local conditions)

then, about two-thirds of all road deaths could have been avoided (22,000 lives saved).

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The opening paragraph of the study that deals with speeding says a lot in a few words:

Excess speed can contribute to both the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes. At higher speeds, additional time is required to stop a vehicle and more distance is traveled before corrective maneuvers can be implemented. Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to react to emergencies created by driver inattention; by unsafe maneuvers of other vehicles; by roadway hazards; by vehicle system failures (such as tire blowouts); or by hazardous weather conditions. The fact that a vehicle was exceeding the speed limit does not necessarily mean that this was the cause of the crash, but the probability of avoiding the crash would likely be greater had the driver or drivers been traveling at slower speeds. A speed-related crash is defined as any crash in which the police indicate that one or more drivers involved was exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions, driving at a speed greater than reasonable or prudent, exceeding a special speed limit or zone, or racing.

In short, speeding robs you of needed reaction time – you need to make judgments faster and have less room to maneuver in an emergency.  Each of us can choose to drive slower and buy time to react and respond, but we’re often in a ‘hurry’ to get to our destination, and choose to increase or risk.

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The study reminded us of the urgent need for ALL drivers of cars, trucks, buses to properly use restraints such as seatbelts whenever driving.  Consider these statistics:

When properly fastened, seat belts provide significant protection to vehicle occupants involved in a crash. The simple act of buckling a seat belt can improve an occupant’s chance of surviving a potentially fatal crash by from 44 to 73 percent, depending on the type of vehicle and seating position involved. They are also highly effective against serious nonfatal injuries. Belts reduce the chance of receiving an MAIS 2-5 injury (moderate to critical) by 49 to 78 percent.

MirrorPoster_72dpiThe report did not have kind words for the use of motorcycles (however, I could speculate that the authors were concerned for the welfare of riders in delivering their findings in a stark way):

Motorcycles are the most hazardous form of motor vehicle transportation. The lack of external protection provided by vehicle structure, the lack of internal protection provided by seat belts and air bags, their speed capability, the propensity for riders to become airborne through ejection, and the relative instability inherent with riding a two-wheeled vehicle all contribute to making the motorcycle the most risky passenger vehicle. In 2010, 4,518 motorcyclists were killed and 96,000 were injured in police-reported crashes on our Nation’s roadways. This represents 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 3 percent of all police-reported injuries. Motorcycles accounted for only 0.6 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in 2010. Per vehicle mile traveled in 2010, a motorcyclist was about 30 times more likely than a passenger car occupant to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 5 times more likely to be injured. The difference in these proportions reflects the more severe injury profile that results from motorcycle crashes. Over the past several decades motorcycle fatalities and injuries have generally increased relative to those in other vehicle types.

Other observations included a good reminder that intersections continue to be a prime location for crashes since there are so many ways that vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists can interact with each other during turns or even while transiting the intersection (straight across).

SUMMARY

While the data summarizes activity from 2010, we can learn a lot about behavior, choices and safety results.  There’s never an inappropriate time to share safety messages with drivers about obeying traffic laws, using seatbelts and avoiding risk taking (i.e. driving while impaired, distracted driving, etc.)

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Intersections and Crash Risk

sideswipe illustration FHWADriving is, arguably, the most complex task that most people handle on a daily basis.  We interact with other vehicles, struggling to identify all potential hazards in front, to the side, and behind us.

In a idealized, fantasy world, we’d be the only vehicle and driver on the road, but that’s just not reality.

One of the most challenging interactions on the road is dealing with intersections.  These crossroads provide multiple points of conflict with cyclists, pedestrians and other vehicles. Whether going straight, turning right or left, we have to follow the rules and watch out for others who may not follow the rules.  Signals and signs help, but oddly intersecting roads, multiple driveways and alleys can combine to make a very dangerous environment where drivers could become confused (even if they’re not texting and driving).

SafetyZone-Safety GoalThis month’s Ten-Minute Training Topic deals with “Avoiding Intersection Crashes” and includes:

  • Driver Handouts
  • Slide shows
  • Mini-poster to reinforce key points
  • Manager’s supplemental report with talking points, news articles and insights into policy development

One of the trendy recommendations affecting road design is to move away from traditional intersections towards modern roundabouts.  Here are two videos about the benefits of roundabouts:

AND

Traffic safety has to begin within each and every driver – you and me.  Only when we personalize the need to be safe will we talk to our family and friends about “stepping up” to drive consistently according to the rules of the road.

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“Cross This Way”

New York City has embraced a traffic safety plan called “Vision Zero”.  This program aims to materially improve safety results through targeted education and enforcement.  From their website (click HERE):

…approximately 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 250 are killed each year in traffic crashes. Being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14, and the second leading cause for seniors. On average, vehicles seriously injure or kill a New Yorker every two hours.

This status quo is unacceptable. The City of New York must no longer regard traffic crashes as mere “accidents,” but rather as preventable incidents that can be systematically addressed. No level of fatality on city streets is inevitable or acceptable. This Vision Zero Action Plan is the City’s foundation for ending traffic deaths and injuries on our streets.

One of the tools introduced to help school children improve their knowledge of how to cross streets safely is a video presentation with a catchy tune and lyrics that emphasize good techniques.  Here’s the video:
The Vision Zero web page wisely states; “There is no silver bullet that will end traffic fatalities. But previous successes that have combined the efforts of people, their governments and private industries to save lives are not difficult to find.”  We agree.

Traffic safety (pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses, cyclists, et.al.) all share a responsibility to interact with each other in a respectful and responsible manner.  We each have a role to play in preventing collisions by obeying rules and learning how to better practice safe techniques.

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Please don’t become a “textpert”

A colleague sent me a link to an odd, funny and “catchy” video (embedded below) that features a pair of rappers who are trying to make a point to “the younger generation” of drivers:

…you may think that you’re an expert at texting while driving (a “textpert”), but you’re kidding yourself that your actions are somehow safe…

Take three minutes to watch the video below.  For some of us it may appear “silly” but if educational efforts make any impact on changing behavior in our teen and young adult drivers, I’m all for it.

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Summer = Road Construction

April showers may bring May flowers, but soon after comes road construction.

Highway work zones are typically seen as a frustration to motorists as they increase congestion and slow our normal commute or delay the start of our long-desired vacation.

For highway workers; however, the signs, cones and barrels provide a whisper thin line of defense separating fast moving traffic from bodily injuries.

Work Zone Awareness USDOT

According to a recent (4/7/2014) study by the Associated General Contractors of America (Click HERE) the danger is very real for both highway workers AND motorists passing through work zones:

Forty-five percent of highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year…Association officials added that the study found work zone crashes are more likely to kill vehicle operators and passengers than construction workers.

“There is little margin for error when you work within a few inches of thousands of fast-moving vehicles,” said Tom Case, the chair of the association’s national highway and transportation division and senior vice president of Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction. “As the data makes clear, not enough drivers are slowing down and staying alert near work sites.”

But Case suggested that the best way to improve safety was for motorists to be more careful while driving through highway work zones: “Ensuring proper work zone safety starts and ends with cautious drivers.”

While National Work Zone Awareness Week was conducted in early April, there’s never a bad time to review educational resources that may save a life.  To learn more about Work Zones check out this web page that is loaded with resources:  http://www.workzonesafety.org/news_events/awareness_week/2014

Medical Registry for Regulated Drivers

From the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

The National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (National Registry) is a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) program. All commercial drivers whose current medical certificate expires on or after May 21, 2014, at expiration of that certificate must be examined by a medical professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. Only medical examiners that have completed training and successfully passed a test on FMCSA’s physical qualification standards will be listed on the National Registry.

Additional details can be found by clicking HERE (National Registry Home Page) and HERE (FAQ about the new program).

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Wrong-Way Crashes

Imagine you are taking your family on a long distance vacation.  In the middle of the night, you see headlights in the distance and then, suddenly, you realize that the headlights are in your lane of a divided highway — coming straight at your car or van.  What can you do?

Thankfully, the number of head on collisions that occur on freeways is (statistically speaking) quite low; however, they often result in fatalities.

Common characteristics of these collisions include (but may not be limited to):

  • driver impairment,
  • confusion over on-off ramp signs, and
  • late night/early morning time periods when people are less alert and prone to mistakes.

Three fatal head-on collisions happened during the past week in Arizona.  Seven people have died, including an off-duty police officer.  All of these deaths were linked by cause — someone driving the wrong way on a divided or limited access highway.

You can investigate the particular details in a series of news reports:

The Arizona DOT has also issued a press release (Click Here) that addresses the concerns and safety issues of “Wrong-Way Drivers

Some ideas or tips that have been considered to address the issue include:

  • Re-positioning “Wrong-Way, Do Not Enter” signs to be closer to driver’s eye level
  • Installing red reflectors in the road way so that any driver trying to access an off-ramp would see the red reflectors at night and get a clue that they’re going up the wrong ramp
  • Install detectors at ramps that sense when a vehicle has gained access to a divided highway and is traveling in the wrong direction — then immediately send alerts to programmable billboard (alert) signs to warn drivers of the oncoming and errant driver
  • Educate drivers about the increased risks of driving at night – especially on Fridays and Saturdays when there is a statistical increase in drunk driving activity
  • Staying out of the far left lane except to pass since oncoming drivers will typically use that lane (they believe that they’re in the far right lane based on their direction of travel).
  • Be ready to move to the right (if it’s clear to do so) to evade oncoming traffic
  • Increase the efforts to crack down on drinking/drugged driving with ignition interlocks
  • Call in a report to 9-1-1 if you witness a “wrong-way” driver so that they can intervene or warn other motorists.

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The Increasing Urgency of Driver Safety

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Despite crash rates falling to record lows during the recent economic recession, crashes continue to exact a toll on families and businesses.  Consider these factors:

  • The largest spike in fatal crashes ever recorded by NHTSA happened during the first six months of 2012 (click HERE for summary)
  • While crashes lessened for the remainder of 2012, the year end summary showed an increase over prior years (click HERE)
  • During 2013, early indicators showed millions of injuries from Motor Vehicle Crashes resulting in nearly 32,500 deaths.
  • According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the most costly, lost-time worker’s compensation claims (by cause of injury) are from MVCs at an average of $65,875 per claim. (Click HERE for summary)
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a press release that the current minimum insurance requirements for the trucking industry are inadequate based on several factors including average medical treatment costs which have grown at a rate far above the standard consumer price index (Click HERE for additional insights).
  • The FMCSA’s “CSA model” is used to rate each fleet’s regulatory compliance ranking.  FMCSA’s use of the model has resulted in: company shutdowns; enforcement actions/interventions; and an increased sense of urgency among fleet operators to increase their compliance status. Unfortunately, skepticism remains high that this model is failing to have a direct, positive affect on crashes (click HERE)

Considering these factors, many fleet operators (in non-trucking business segments, especially) have been investing in driver safety tools, processes and procedures.  The most frequently asked question raised by professionals concerned about safety has been; “What else can I do to avoid crashes?

Most MVCs are due to a driver’s choices, attitude, and risk taking (click HERE) as determined by a study of about 500,000 driver records. MVCs are not due to a lack of qualification, skill or knowledge about how to drive.  Most drivers are appropriately qualified to at least minimum standards and “know” how to safely operate their equipment. Unfortunately, some become complacent in their safety vigilance, while others may be distracted while driving or suffer some form of impairment (i.e. drugs, drinks, fatigue, illness, etc.).

The real safety challenge presented to managers is monitoring drivers for:

  • compliance with company safety policies
  • compliance with local traffic safety laws
  • compliance with pertinent regulations (i.e. State or Federal)
  • proper driving techniques that minimize risk of becoming involved in a crash (not otherwise governed by policies, laws or regulations)

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The real challenge facing safety professionals is getting and understanding “information” about driver compliance so appropriate action can be taken to “coach” drivers back into compliance before their “behavior” leads to a crash.

In a recent American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study (click HERE), an insightful conclusion was summed up like this:

“By becoming aware of problem behaviors, carriers and enforcement agencies are able to address those issues prior to them leading to serious consequences. The converse is also true, however, as lower priority behaviors, if ignored, may begin to play an increasing role in crash involvement.” 

In other words, if you take the time to look for behavioral issues and do something about them, you can directly influence your crash rates.  Similarly, if you ignore behaviors deemed to be a “low priority” such as failing to use turn signals, they can develop into habits increasing the chances of being involved in a crash.

Safety Management Systems for Driver Monitoring

SafetyFirst’s approach to help our clients is to teach supervisors how to intervene with “at-risk” drivers in a compassionate way (Click HERE for a full article).  We help them develop data inputs, understand algorithms to interpret data, and provide turn-key solutions to put safety first in the attitudes of their drivers.

  1. Insights into a driver’s compliance with safety policies, rules & laws and vigilant, safe driving are developed through:
    1. Safety Hotline Reporting 
    2. MVR Scoring
    3. GPS/TeleMatics Exceptions
    4. Other “agnostic” or “third-party” mechanisms or data inputs (i.e. FMCSA data, video event recorders, etc.)
  2. These insights are funneled into our “E-DriverFile” platform in order to generate:
    1. Another example of a blended scoreA “blended” or “aggregated” risk score calculated from various data points — this highlights a driver’s need for management intervention
    2. A comparison of current versus historical data (i.e. Lagging Indicators”) such as past crashes (i.e. preventable vs. non-preventable, type, root causes, contributing factors, etc.)
    3. Tailored coaching and training modules to match a driver’s Behavioral Modification need (each module is less than ten minutes long, but covers specific risk-taking behaviors and their potential consequences)
    4. A safety history for each operator — noting corrective actions taken in response to concerns raised (closing the loop through quizzes, coaching notes, certificate of completion, etc.)
  3. Assist clients with their efforts at coaching/training/education/intervention
    1. Supervisor’s training program on “how to conduct effective (positive) coaching sessions”
    2. Online, interactive learning management system (tailored topics, each 5-7 minutes, asking for a personal commitment from each driver to modify their own habits).
    3. Monthly Ten-Minute Training Topics to benefit all drivers in a given fleet — keeping safety awareness at heightened levels throughout the year.

Do Results Count?

Many insurance carriers and private fleets have validated the impact of our programs through studies that show a 10-30+% reduction in claims (results vary but are tied to client participation — those who work the program more vigorously tend to get better results).

Supervisor testimonials also indicate that the SafetyFirst programs are easy to implement, maintain, and manage.  Our utilization, completion and reporting rates are among the highest in the Motorist Observation industry and Online Training community.

Comments from clients:

  • In first year, 25% reduction in claim costs, 24% reduction in claims/100 vehicles…It may seem basic but it’s what we know and how we hold our employees accountable (National Arborist)
  • As a national utility construction and maintenance contractor we have over 1,500 vehicles operating on the roads every day. The Safety First program provides us with the ability to cost effectively monitor and measure our fleet and driver performance in virtually real time. The Safety First program is an essential element in our approach to improving our fleet safety performance. The program has played a key role in our achieving a 54% reduction in incidents and accidents over the past three years. The Safety First programs reports and information assists us in recognizing our safe drivers and identifies those areas of our fleet safety program that need improvements. This allows us to focus our time and resources on the areas that will best improve our fleet safety and corporate image.
  • Those clients enrolled in SafetyFirst “…achieved a 9.2% better loss ratio than the total NP [Non Profit] book…the costs per claim would be $1055.00 representing a 73% reduction in cost per claim” (Insurance Carrier)
  • …not long into the program we started seeing measurable results. There is a definite sense of heightened safety awareness. The sticker on the back of the vehicle has the same effect on the operator as seeing the police car in the rear view mirror. (Arborist)
  • Working with SafetyFirst has been a breath of fresh air. The quality of service and value of the program are far superior to our previous driver safety vendor. All of the account transitions were completed seamlessly, resulting in positive feedback from policyholders.  (Insurance Carrier)
  • Since partnering with SafetyFirst, we have observed an increased interest and excitement in the program by our Field Staff. The tools and resources provided have proven to be valuable to both policyholders and Risk Control staff. (Insurance Carrier)
  • Our employee’s safety is paramount to us, and the return on investment is significant whereby the SafetyFirst program is an integral tool assisting us to reduce our losses related to motor vehicle accidents. (Electrical Services and Construction Firm)
  • The strength of the SafetyFirst Driver-Monitoring Program is that it gets people thinking and talking about their driving behavior PRIOR TO AN ACCIDENT. (Arborist)
  • I have to confess that I had some initial concerns about the program; the reduced accident numbers being projected seemed overly optimistic, and I was worried that my field management staff would fail to support the program and maintain it properly. Now that we have worked together for several months, I want to report that my concerns were overcome by your team’s effective communication with our field managers.  To summarize our results within our 400 unit fleet:  our accidents are down 15-20%; the field has bought into the program (measured by closeout of reports and coaching of drivers); we are rewarding drivers for proper performance. (Bulk Gases Distributor)

 Come learn how we can tailor a package that will reduce your claims, increase your insights, and help streamline the recordkeeping process.  We even blend your current vendor partners with our systems. (www.safetyfirst.com)NEw logo

How do we address idling for fuel economy?

A recent article by GEOTAB offered some interesting insights on idling and ways to effectively improve fuel consumption.

The article deconstructs idle time into sub-categories to better understand “WHY” idling is occurring and whether it is “acceptable” or could be curbed by the driver.

They compare two fictional drivers:  Driver A and Driver B.  Driver A logged 300 minutes of idling, and Driver B logged 250 minutes.

idle-2While the immediate assumption is that Driver B was a better manager of idle time, a closer look at their records revealed that most of their idling occurred during their “pre-trip” and “post-trip” time periods.

Specifically, Driver B idles while doing his/her walk around inspections and setting up his/her route plan.  That idling in the yard or at the terminal could have been easily avoided.  Driver A’s idling happened during heavy traffic while on dispatch.

From the article

The majority of preventable and actionable idle time happens during the before trip and after trip segments. This idle time can be reduced by the use of idle reduction campaigns which establish peer pressure, one-on-one communications with drivers, and continuous feedback using idle reports.

Idle time can be reduced by instilling a culture that prohibits the running of the engine during pre-inspections, filling out of paper work, or any activities where the running of the engine is not necessary.

Idle time during the trip can be used in route planning because it can indicate travel conditions for a given route or area. Idle time during the trip is normally attributed to traffic conditions, traffic signals, and driving conditions. While drivers most likely do not have direct control of this idle time, the route and time-of-day can be evaluated to ensure travel delays (idle time) is reduced as much as possible.

To really maximize your efforts in reducing idle time, clear reporting can help you dive deeper to distinguish unavoidable versus avoidable idling.  Productive drivers who are admonished to reduce idle time without distinguishing these factors can easily become frustrated while other operators are wasting fuel during pre-trip inspections or other scenarios.

Selecting the right partner to help you quickly spot these trends also makes a huge difference.  While some firms charge an arm and a leg for telematics “data” (which amounts to “background noise”), receiving superior “insights” (on the most urgently actionable areas) can translate to immediate savings. 

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Electronic Logs for HOS Reporting

Geotab HOSLast month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed electronic log mandate took another key step forward towards becoming part of the regulations.  The proposal still faces it’s comment period and potential legal challenges before it would become finalized.

Still, this 256-page proposal marks a big change in one of trucking’s older “traditions” — moving from paper log books with their “flexibility” to smudge the lines to electronic devices that demand absolutes from drivers.

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A recent article published at truckinginfo.com (click HERE) summarizes the current proposal’s status:

The agency will take comments on the proposal until about mid-May. After it reviews the comments and publishes a final rule, perhaps later this year, carriers will have two years to comply. Carriers that already have recording devices that meet current specifications would have an additional two years to bring their devices into compliance with the new specifications.

The rule will apply to drivers who have to prepare paper logs. Drivers who don’t have to prepare logs may use the electronic devices but won’t have to. Drivers who use timecards will not have to use the devices. And drivers who use logs intermittently can stick with paper logs unless they use them more than eight days in 30 days.

Of course there are many technical details to be addressed:

The technical specifications spell out how ELDs should work.
The basic requirement is that the device record specific information – date, time, location, engine hours, mileage and driver, vehicle and carrier identification – and make it available to inspectors.

The driver must be identified by his full license number and the state where his license is issued.

The device has to be synchronized with the engine to record on/off status, the truck’s motion, mileage and engine hours.

The device will have to automatically record a driver’s change of duty and hourly status while the truck is moving. It also must track engine on/off, and the beginning and end of personal use or yard moves.

The agency is proposing that the devices use automatic positioning services: either the satellite-based Global Positioning System, land-based systems, or both.

Many carriers now have onboard information systems that warn the driver when he’s approaching his hourly limits, but the agency is not requiring that capability in its proposal.

The devices won’t have to print out the log, but may have that feature as an option. They will have to produce a graph grid of a driver’s daily duty status, either on a digital display unit or on a printout. This is the first time the agency has proposed using a printer, and it’s looking for comments on the costs and benefits of that approach.

If your fleet may be subject to this proposal, and you’re not sure where to start to learn about your options, costs and benefits.  SafetyFirst can help.  We work with multiple hardware providers and have found a wide range in costs for similar systems.

Depending on your fleet’s specific operations, you may want to install a more robust offering at higher cost, but for many fleets a basic, proven system is also available that increases productivity, reduces fuel costs, addresses key safety issues and handles the compliance portion in an easy to understand interface.

http://www.geotab.com/gps-fleet-management-solutions/compliance.aspx

http://www.safetyfirst.com/gps-telematics.php

TeleMatics