ASSE Region VIII PDC – November 27 & 28, 2012

SafetyFirst was invited to make a presentation on the topic: “CSA and The Bookend BASICs of Fleet Safety”.  This hour-long presentation was well received and we’re hopeful to participate again next year.

The PDC was located in Nashua, NH and covered a range of great safety topics from electrical safety to dealing with allegations of negligent entrustment and even how to reduce slip, trip and fall hazards.

A copy of our presentation slides will be posted to our corporate website shortly, and a summary of the concept discussed in the presentation can be found here –

Alternatively, the article was also published by the North American Transportation Management Institute (NATMI) and may be downloaded as a PDF by following the link at the bottom of this article.

Bookend BASICs NATMI pdf
Found at

Webbing While Driving

Distracted driving takes many forms….it can range from applying make up or shaving to reading the newspaper….while attempting to negotiate the morning commute.  The types of bizarre activities could make for a funny “top ten list” on late night television, but I believe the biggest threat comes from the most mundane and predictable activities that distract drivers.

Talking on a hand held, “finger dialed” phone is one of the most threatening distractions on the road.  It takes people’s eyes off the road while dialing, and it removes a big portion of their mind’s focus from the highway to the conversation.

A new threat has been on the rise, too.  Checking emails, surfing the web, or using a smart phone for navigation has been on the increase.  Using web-enabled devices, or “webbing while driving” for short, provides a fresh focus on an old problem.

State Farm (among other insurers) periodically performs surveys to see what’s happening among drivers.  The surveys help point out what’s really going on behind the wheel and can help traffic safety professionals rethink policies and priorities.

In a November 16th press release, State Farm summarizes findings from their most recent survey which shows “significant use of mobile web in vehicles”. 

“The July 2012 survey of nearly 1000 motorists shines a light on a growing safety concern: people accessing the internet while driving. Four years of data show a significant increase in the use of mobile web services while driving.”

Also from their press release:

While the distracted driving focus has traditionally been on young people, the data indicate that motorists of all ages are using the mobile web while driving.

For drivers 18-29:

    • Accessing the internet while on a cell phone while driving increased from 29 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2012.
    • Reading social media networks while driving increased from 21 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2012.
    • Updating social networks while driving increased from 20 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2011.
    • Checking email while driving rose from 32 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2012.

For all drivers, the data showed:

    • Smart phone ownership is on the rise, and people who report webbing while driving goes down with age.
    • Accessing the internet while on a cell phone increased from 13 percent in 2009 to 21 percent in 2012.
    • Reading social media networks while driving increased from 9 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2012.
    • Updating social networks while driving increased from 9 percent in 2009 to 13 percent in 2012.
    • Of course, several new models of sedans have been released with “built-in” web connectivity featuring wifi for passengers, but limiting web surfing (using a manual interface) for the driver while the car is in “park”.   

Of course, the range of services is greater for drivers with voice recognition equipped cars.  “Hands free apps” include the ability to obtain turn by turn navigation, but also the ability to have your car read you your horoscope for the day.  Also, you can get stock quotes, vehicle health reports, sports scores, and movie listings while driving.  Is it any wonder webbing while driving is popular among smart phone users?  

So does your company policy (or family policy?) cover webbing while driving?  Should it be expanded to include these features?  Is it OK to use voice recognition to get your daily horoscope?

Interestingly, the State Farm survey also asked about ways to curb the undesirable road behavior: 

“When asked for their opinion on ways to reduce distracted driving, 72 percent of drivers surveyed strongly agree with laws or regulations prohibiting texting or emailing behind the wheel. However, almost two-thirds believe that laws governing cell phone use while driving are enforced to little or no extent.  To a lesser degree, 45 percent were extremely likely to support technology that would prevent texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.”

While drivers are ready to acknowledge that risky driving habits need to be curbed, they are often reluctant to give up the technology that contributes to the very issue at hand.  This has been documented in many surveys where drivers are quick to condemn other drivers, but won’t or can’t acknowledge that their own driving isn’t much different from the targeted “at-risk” behaviors.

The simplest advice is to focus on the task at hand.  Drive with hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and your mind paying attention to signs/signals and the other drivers out there.

SafetyFirst is a driver safety firm that works with most insurance carriers and agents.  We also work with employers in most every industry segment to help them devise and fine tune policies that actually curb unsafe behaviors instead of merely talking about them.  If you’re part of our “in-network” coverage group, we may be able to provide certain programs and services at no cost to you for the benefit of your employee-operators.  If you’re “out of network” we can provide a competitive quote on services ranging from MVRs, telematics, Hotline programs and more.

Thanksgiving & Driving 2012

Thanksgiving is a time here in the USA when families gather to share a meal, watch football and go shopping.  It’s a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, because everyone is traveling to get to their reunion location (or even to go to the mall for supplies, treats or presents) the roads can be a nightmare of congestion and traffic delays due to drivers who may be lost, looking for a turnoff, distracted by traffic apps and navigation systems, or just plain angry that they’re stuck in all this mess.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to remind everyone to buckle up during the holiday period.  While seatbelt use is at all time highs, anyone who fails to wear their restraint is exposed to the same potential outcomes — injuries and even death.  As NHTSA says, “Buckle UP, America!”

Lost?  Stuck in traffic behind a crash? Using apps on smartphones to find alternate routes or directions to grandma’s house may be productive, but only if they’re not being used by the driver while he or she is driving!  Let a co-pilot manage the directions or simply agree to only access apps while safely parked on a side street or mall parking lot, etc.  Distractions also come from passengers who are either excited to be traveling or those who are bored and cranky from being couped up for too long.  Taking breaks on long trips can help the driver in many ways (i.e. fresh air and a little exercise refresh the body and mind — and give the passengers a chance to do the same).

It is important to remind folks that drinking and driving related crashes tend to spike around holidays.  “Buzzed Driving = Drunk Driving” (see the embedded video, below.  It was produced by NHTSA and the AdCouncil about a Thanksgiving holiday crash).  As a responsbile driver, no one should be tempted to use the excuse “but it was only one drink” — one drink too many leads to tragic outcomes.  Drinking and driving is a choice, not a chance — luck should never be a factor someone depends on when avoiding crashes.  Designated drivers save lives.

Eating too much Turkey?  Drivers who drive “drowsy”, especially during late night or early morning hours could easily fall asleep behind the wheel without realizing what’s happening until it’s too late.  Exercise, fresh air and a balanced diet can help with this issue.  Coffee is at best a “band-aid” for drowsiness and not dependable!  Be vigilant so that driving home after a long feast doesn’t become the last trip you ever make.

Now, no one wants to think about morbid issues like traffic fatalities during festive celebrations, but the shocking reality of getting “the phone call” that a loved one is never celebrating another holiday feast with their family, friends and neighbors isn’t on anyone’s wish list either.

Make time to remind your family and friends to be extra vigilant with their driving during the holidays – it’s a good use of your time and it shows that you care about them.  Don’t let a failure to wear seatbelts, a text message, rushing to get there, or “one-drink-too-many” tragically ruin what should be a time of celebration and thanksgiving for all the freedom, privileges and gifts we enjoy as a nation.

Here are a collection of tips and facts provided by NHTSA for you to consider and to share:

  • Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective way to save your life and the lives of your loved ones while on the road this Thanksgiving holiday.
  • One of the best ways to ensure a safe arrival at any destination is to buckle up, every trip, every time.
  • With the help of highway safety advocates and local law enforcement officers across the country, we can increase seat belt use and save lives on our roadways.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2010 alone, seat belts saved more than 12,500 lives nationwide.
  • With proper seat belt use, research shows that the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent. 
  • Yet, nationally in 2010, 51 percent of the 22,187 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in motor vehicle crashes were NOT wearing seat belts at the time of their fatal crashes.
  • During the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday (which ran from 6 p.m., Wednesday, November 24, to 5:59 a.m., Monday, November 29) 337 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes nationwide, and 55 percent of those killed were unbelted. 
  • Nighttime hours are the most dangerous.  In 2010 nationally, 61 percent of the 10,647 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes overnight (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the fatal crash, compared to 42 percent during the daytime hours.
  • Unfortunately, nighttime fatalities spike over the Thanksgiving holiday. During the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 64 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes were unbelted, while only 41 percent of daytime fatalities during those same days involved unbelted passenger vehicle occupants.

SafetyFirst Systems provides comprehensive driver safety programs to commercial and sales fleets throughout North America.  We help more than 3800 active fleet clients to mitigate collisions in such diverse businesses as telecomunications, food & beverage, local delivery, construction, HVAC, human services, arborists and municipalities.

Sustainability – not just a buzz word in transportation

Today, I found an article titled “Sixty feet of controversy” about a new tractor-trailer design that helps retailers conserve fuel, make fewer trips by carrying more cargo per trailer, and yet it generates controversy among experts.

For many retail store distribution operations (e.g. snack foods; general merchandise for retail department stores; food products, etc.) the current trailer designs are maximized for structural strength and their ability to carry a large weight of goods.  These retailers often stuff the current style of trailer full, but it’s nowhere near maximum weight.  This requires additional trailers running additional trips which is wasteful for several reasons:

  • Each outbound load also generates a return “empty” trip that only burns fuel and generates no productive revenue for the company
  • Because the trailer is designed to carry extra weight, there’s extra emphasis on structural support beyond what is needed to make the trailer “safe” to operate — the added (but un-needed) support beams add dead weight that burns fuel on both the outbound and return trips.
  • If there had been a way to stuff more light-weight cargo into the trailer, more product would arrive efficiently.

What would help these operators is a trailer designed to provide an emphasis on cubic volume rather than a focus on weight of cargo.

This new “supercube” design (link to image) is being tested on a very limited basis in Canada.  It is only seven and a half feet longer than most trailers on the road, but can carry 28% more cargo by volume.  It includes several interesting design changes to manage this feat.  According to the article; “A lowered floor and 126-inch interior increases trailer capacity by 28%, offering 5,100 cu.-ft. of storage, and a drome box mounted to the back of the cab adds another 521 cu.-ft. of carrying capacity.

By placing an emphasis on a custom design, the shipper can move more cargo efficiently.

While other proposals for LCV (Longer Combination Vehicles) focused on double trailers or even triple trailers pulled by a larger tractor with greater horsepower, there has been a concern expressed for the safety of a string of trailers being driven in mixed traffic (i.e. next to smaller cars and light duty trucks) on existing highways.

One of the concerns expressed over the supercube design is that it might be used to haul heavy goods and become a safety threat if improperly employed in the future.

While the supercube may be a perfect fit for some shippers, it is not hard to imagine that a truck fleet, already operating on thin profit margins and dynamic fuel costs, might try to use supercubes improperly.  This brings up controversy from safety professionals, and transportation industry insiders.

Regardless of controversy, shippers will not stop looking for their holy grail of trailers.

What do you think about supercube designs versus LCV combinations?  Are they coming to a road near you soon?  Is there a legitimate safety concern associated with these monster trucks?  How do we deal with any real safety issues — more regulations?  Specialized Training?

Let us know at our discussion group on!