Anger Behind the Wheel

Interesting post from an honest driver who is struggling to do their part in dealing with the frustruations of driving in today’s environment.  Have you ever wondered what’s going through the minds of other drivers?

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Because sometimes it’s totally not my fault that I yell like you can hear me

Maybe it’s just me but I am so hateful when I drive. I hate pedestrians. I hate bikers. I hate the old and the young alike. I hate the speeders, I hate the slow-pokes. The passengers that change my radio station without asking (you know I love Keith Urban why would change it as soon as one of his songs comes on) and the ones that can’t seem to give directions before I have to make the left from the right lane don’t escape my seething quiet wrath either. When there are other people in the car with me sometimes I yell at other cars. Their state plates become their names and suddenly Virginia doesn’t know how to pass and gosh-darn-it Georgia slow cars are suppose to be in the right lane not in the left and for heaven’s sake what…

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New Research Clarifies Large Truck Safety Trends

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has released findings from research of “…variations in safety trends across different classes of large trucks.

The study separated and evaluated a decade of medium- and heavy-duty truck crash records and identified notable crash trends specific to each population.”

More specifically, their press release states:

Using an ATRI-designed “crash rate index”, ATRI isolated specific variables such as vehicle type, crash location, and weather to determine the degree to which certain factors influenced crash trends for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The analysis revealed noticeable differences in safety trends between different truck sizes, with medium-duty generally performing worse than heavy-duty trucks. In addition, the results indicated disparities between interstate and intrastate motor carriers.

“This research also points out that blending medium-duty crash statistics with heavy-duty crash statistics may unfairly drag down the safety gains made by heavy-duty truck fleets,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves. “When it comes to truck safety, clearly one-size solutions do not fit all scenarios.”

This safety data analysis provides important insight for targeting crash mitigation efforts based on different truck size groups, and highlights important opportunities to reduce crashes and improve safety.

To request a complete copy of their research report titled “Large Truck Safety Trends” (FREE), just fill out the online form found at this LINK.

As reported at politico.com, the study found “…more crashes of medium-size trucks but far fewer crashes of the heaviest trucks on the road”

ATRI applied a “crash rate index” system and determined that a major drop in crashes of “heavy duty” trucks (those weighing over 26,000 pounds) during the 2000-2010 timespan was overshadowed by a 38.3 percent rise for medium duty trucks, which weigh between 10,001 and 26,000 pounds

In aggregate, the overly broad category signaled a drop in safety results when the largest vehicles actually outperformed the medium duty class. 

This is significant since vehicles with a GVWR of 26,000+ require specially qualified & licensed drivers, generally receive greater scrutiny and must comply with additional regulations (tied to the Commercial Drivers License).   The smaller vehicles are still regulated, but tend to be concentrated in service industries, local operations, construction entities and non-trucking focused. 

The mixed scores affect how fleets are targeted for audits, and clarifying the data may help poorly performing fleets get more thoughfully tailored safety assistance which could reverse crash trends, save lives and reduce risk of injuries.

 Dan Murray, ATRI’s VP-research, told Fleet Owner (magazine) “The good news here is that heavy-duty truck safety is actually better than we thought,” he explained. “But the bad news, which borders on disturbing, is that combining medium- and heavy-duty crash statistics has masked a high level of medium-duty truck crash rates.”

Murray is also attributed by Fleet Owner to have said ATRI is now focused on “drilling down” further into the crash causation data for both truck types to help determine what specific tactics can help boost safety trends for each class of commercial vehicle.

To request a complete copy of their research report titled “Large Truck Safety Trends” (FREE), just fill out the online form found at this LINK.

SafetyFirst Systems works with commercial vehicles from sedans to tractor trailers — providing driver qualification, performance monitoring, coaching programs (for supervisors) and much more. Our client base consists of a network of more than 75 insurance providers, trade associations and more than 3,800 active fleet clients in all industry types.

Coming to ASSE in June?  Hope to see you there with our newest Driver Education releases available for preview. 

Providing Coaching Feedback for Enhanced Performance

Driver safety programs start with what managers need to do to locate, recruit, screen and train/educate candidates to become qualified operators.  Most of these programs then skip to dealing with crashes and evaluating operator turnover.  The costs associated with letting crashes push the turnover cycle are huge; however, by adopting an assertive and fair coaching mechanism, “at-risk” behaviors can be detected early in the timeline.

Additionally, those drivers who repeatedly appear in front of supervisors for coaching feedback (positive directions on how to avoid repeating the negative performance) could be cycled back through refresher education — a far more beneficial outcome and less costly than having to replace an operator.

Driver Safety Cycles

An often overlooked, but critical management task is monitoring the performance of existing operators and providing timely, relevant feedback to help them eliminate bad habits and replace them with better habits.

Many driver safety experts place a great value on feedback mechanisms for two reasons — when done well they produce great results, and not all driver safety issues can be fixed by more traditional training programs (i.e. 42 minute, online course delivered in three modules, etc.)

Look at this quote from a recent FMCSA document (link):

Additionally, experiences from the insurance industry as reported in trade sources supplement the literature on driver behaviors, suggesting that risky drivers are more than simply those with a lack of skill or inadequate training. In an interview with Peter Van Dyne, technical director for Liberty Mutual, he explains that “many crashes are caused by drivers’ habits and practice, not by their lack of technical knowledge. For example, a driver may be careless about making lane changes, or the use of cruise control, even though he or she knows the proper procedures” (as cited in Leavitt, 2005). This reinforces the notion that safety cannot simply be improved with more training. Often drivers possess the skill and knowledge needed to drive safely, but a bad habit or outside factors, such as a weak safety climate or lack of communication within an organization, will intervene and result in unsafe driving behaviors.

In that same article, it was interesting to read about feedback delivered from technology versus a personal approach:

As in the focus groups, the survey results suggested that, even though drivers may find feedback from technology helpful, they would still like feedback from a real person in addition to the technology. The majority of drivers reported that when it comes to receiving feedback from a person, they would most like feedback from a safety director or their direct supervisor…

The problem facing managers is twofold:

  1. Figuring a time-efficient way to spot and document meaningful (urgently actionable) issues without being overwhelmed by “background noise” data.
  2. Developing coaching skills to deliver feedback in a way that avoids needless confrontation and focuses on improving results without spiraling into a blame-game.

First, multiple mechanisms exist to gather performance issue indicators –

  1. How’s My Driving actually works very well despite the myths and misconceptions about crank calls and wasted time.  Most safety managers who actually use the program have documented that 99 out of 100 call reports are valid and worth the time to investigate and use as a coaching tool.  This is a great statistic since most fleets only get two reports per 100 vehicles per month – that’s one “bad” report every three to five years for smaller fleets.  Best of all, the program is designed to provide helpful feedback to benefit the driver, not penalize them. (80% of the drivers NEVER get a report, but 10% get multiple calls despite having the same sticker as all of their peers in their fleet!)
  2. Periodic MVR review or profiling — pulling the history of police reported crashes and moving violations for each driver enables a fleet safety team to develop a baseline of expected performance and use that as an objective measuring stick.  If drivers are accruing violations for speeding, they should receive feedback before their license is suspended for too many infractions.  Additionally, by combining additional data points such as preventable crashes (reported internally), “automated enforcement violations” from red-light cameras and radar-speed-cameras, andBlended Risk Score how’s my driving events, et.al. the fleet can get a clearer picture of which drivers are taking excessive risks while behind the wheel.  In an article that appeared in Construction Executive driver safety expert Peter Van Dyne states “Annually monitor driver performance to compare each driver’s actual performance against established safe driving expectations. However, such monitoring provides limited insight if the company has not established the right expectations. The company should review the individual’s driving record, crashes and compliance with company fleet safety expectations using a combination of observation, technology and manager feedback.”
  3. Telematics or GPS systems provide alerts on harsh braking, excessive speed, heavy acceleration and excessive sway/swerve.  Some even provide speed limit alerts based on mapping of speed limits throughout the territory.  The issue is that the pile of alerts generated in a given day or week can become excessive, requiring a filter to separate the “urgently actionable” from the “background noise”.  Additionally, it can become tedious to keep repeating “Slow Down” to your drivers if they continue to speed.  Clearly, enhanced feedback strategies are needed to translate “DATA” into “Behavior Safety Results”
  4. Camera in Cabin systems capture video of crashes so that you can tell drivers what they did wrong and why they violated your safety policies.  Typically this leads to hurt feelings, animosity, bruised egos and fear among other drivers that their own mistakes might be documented for posterity (or court).  Still, these programs could be tailored to provide a more positive coaching experience and in those circumstances may be able to provide a long-term, sustainable solution via coaching programs instead of playing “gotcha!” games with drivers.

Other programs could include supervisory ride alongs, road trailing (following behind company vehicles to make discreet observations) or incorporating feedback from customers.

Secondly, once a data gathering program is in place, supervisors need to develop practical skills on how to provide feedback on a regular basis.  This is best characterized as delivering material coaching on critical performance issues (i.e. complacency, failure to adhere to policy, excessive risk taking, et.al.) to an operator with the intent of helping them enhance their performance before a truly negative outcome occurs (i.e. crash, injury, etc.)

CoachingWhen it’s time to talk to the driver, it’s important to have a strategy.  Many supervisors don’t know where to start and quickly end up putting the driver on the defensive – unwilling to consider whether they could change their own habits to prevent injuries or crashes.  Drivers who fear coaching sessions because they’re perceived to be unhelpful, masked punishment will push back through defensive arguing and negotiating over the details of the incident regardless of how the data was developed (i.e. how’s my driving versus telematics — the driver will argue that the system failed in some manner and that the driver is blameless).  The key is to avoid blame setting by either the supervisor or driver, and focus on getting both parties to agree on what the expected level of performance must be and how to establish a goal to keep performance within those boundaries.

Coaching Tips TitleSafetyFirst has produced an online, interactive training module, a stand alone video and numerous power points and word documents to help supervisors prepare for coaching sessions.  In addition to these proprietary resources, we often recommend articles on providing feedback such as the recent one featured in Forbes (click HERE for the full article).

In summary, the Forbes article, titled “Are You Making Any Of These Common Feedback Mistakes?” covers five key mistakes folks make when providing feedback.

  1. The Pillow Effect – sometimes we’re so concerned with the potential emotional response (or bruising) that could happen when delivering feedback about negative performance that we go overboard in placing “pillows” of false praise to cushion the blow of the actual feedback.  Sometimes referred to as the “Sandwich” of praise, criticism and more praise, this approach more often confuses the operator because we’re sending mixed signals.  The article states “Studies have shown that this type of feedback leads to confusion, and causes a distraction from the essential problem that needs to be fixed. Just as bad, the feedback can come across as insincere and condescending. If you’re the recipient of such feedback, you’re generally just waiting to get to the real point — and preferring to be treated like an adult who can handle the truth. In fact, the only person who feels better from this approach is the one giving the feedback.”  Instead of trying to cushion the blow, be direct and honest.  Explain why this coaching session was triggered (we don’t want anyone getting hurt and we take safety seriously, etc.) and outline the ideal outcome of the session.  Perhaps the start of the conversation might sound like this:  “I’d like us to talk about and agree on a plan to do things differently to reduce the chances of a crash – part of that plan will need to include no-fault training that offers a basic refresher on key topics – not because you’re at fault, but because we need to document actions taken and because it’s never a bad time to get a refresher on safety.”  This is clear and avoids the “good news, bad news, good news” sandwich that leaves operators confused as to what’s actually happening – did I do well or poorly?  Am I in trouble and don’t really know it yet?
  2. Lack of specificity – as supervisors and managers, the more precisely we define the issue, the more constructive the conversation can be.  Saying things like “you need to be more careful” don’t help most operators very much.  Explaining why most drivers don’t realize that they’re following too closely can get them into trouble with inadequate reaction time and stopping distance is more helpful when trying to help drivers curb their tailgating habits.
  3. Wrong type of feedback feedback is not a one-size-fits-all effort.  The article states it well “When people are new at a task they need more positive feedback. As they move to a higher level of experience, they crave constructive criticism to stay sharp and increase performance.”  So a rookie driver may need more details and examples of how to do it right, but a seasoned vet may need a blunt discussion about following the rules instead of taking liberties with policies that are in place to protect them from getting hurt.  The article references a skills versus will chart to help us diagnose whether the underlying issue is one of skills (don’t know what to do or how to do it correctly) versus will (knows how to do it correctly, but isn’t willing to follow the procedure due to complacency or other issue).  http://www.primarygoals.org/general/skill-will-matrix/
  4. Wrong setting – “Where you give feedback matters greatly. The adage to praise in public and punish in private exists for a reason. Giving feedback in a collective environment, like a weekly meeting, can cause embarrassment and stress. Even if you as a manager don’t think it’s particularly harsh, that doesn’t mean the recipient feels the same. A quick, critical comment about an employee’s performance can have a disproportionate impact.”  Giving your operator a head’s up about the need to have a coaching session gives them time to prepare, but it also gives you time to prepare yourself to focus on the benefits of improved performance, elimination of sloppy habits and the reduced chances of being hurt due to a crash – even if it’s another driver’s “fault”.
  5. Over-reliance on positive or negative feedback – “Depending on our personalities, some of us find it easier to provide one kind of feedback over the other. For example, some highly analytical people tend to lean on constructive feedback, and can find positive feedback to be fluff. It’s important to know what you gravitate towards, and to shore up your weakness so you provide a balance of feedback.”  Regarding safety issues, it’s important to avoid the blame game and instead focus on working as a team to set short-term, highly achievable goals that reduce risk, comply with policy and encourage the operator to leave the session empowered to do their job in an expert manner – for the benefit of both the operator’s well being and the company’s mission.

Training Matters

Many employers are sending their operators to online training modules as refreshers.  This is a good approach, unless the training is boring, tedious or feels like punishment.  The average online training session for driver safety issues runs about 42 minutes long!  The average adult attention span is under 15 minutes, and most television ads have been cut from 30 seconds to 15 seconds in recent years.

The selection of training content could undermine all of your coaching feedback efforts in an instant.  How?  If you ask a driver to submit to a mind-numbing series of modules on why they should be using their turn signals consistently it will surely feel like punishment after the fact.

SafetyFirst has pioneered a series of HD, broadcast quality videos that combine live action, talking heads, onscreen animations, and limited text presentations which engage drivers and give them the reminder in less than 5 minutes.

The programs have been praised by safety managers as comprehensive and by drivers who feel respected as professionals by the brevity of the presentation.

The ten-question quiz must be passed with a minimum score of 80% and is unique to each driver (pulling randomly from a pool of twenty questions, and presenting the answer choices in randomized order each time).

The program has been through an extensive beta-test to increase the “user friendliness” for drivers and their managers.  For those fleets who need i-pad support, our programs are NOT flash-based and will work on any hand-held device (for those “gather around” meetings at job sites where all can group around a laptop to watch the presentation and then take paper-based quiz sheets to document their understanding of the content).  We have twelve topics in English and the five most common driving issues available in Spanish, too.

Current Safety Hotline (blue sticker program) clients can pay the upgrade fee to turn on the system, or they can purchase DVDs of individual titles if they’re not set up for online training due to firewall/IT issues.

Summary

Feedback is critical to assuring success in any driver safety effort.  For fleets of company cars, supervisors may want to examine MVR data (provided and profiled by our E-DriverFile program) for coaching and refresher training.  Other fleets may use telematics or How’s My Driving hotlines (like our “Blue Sticker Program”) to target drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision if their behaviors are ignored.

When you invest time to help supervisors improve their feedback skills, you’ll get a much larger dividend than from safety coaching alone – they’ll be better equipped to provide feedback on all sorts of performance issues (i.e. idling, customer service, etc.)

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Dangers of running on empty (from AAA)

fuel-gaugeWe’ve been through a tough economy and while things are improving, people are still looking for ways to stretch every dollar.  A common temptation is to run their vehicles down to empty before refilling — maybe while shopping around for the best price for fuel.

Running your vehicle out of fuel can actually damage the engine.  Check out this informative video from AAA on the subject. 

SafetyFirst works with about 4000 active fleet clients in a range of industries. We provide driver safety services, automation services and custom database development for MVRs, at-risk driver profiling, e-training, DVD based remedial training, driver coachign programs and optimizaton of existing telematics deployments (getting beyond the “third year of a six-month pilot”, etc.)

Give us a call at 1-888-603-6987 toll free.

CSA Operation Quick Strike – Who’s Next?

Motor Carriers Guide to ImprovingFollowing a series of tragic, high-profile motor coach crashes, the CSA set out to target the passenger carrying industry with a “quick strike” round of targeted audits.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made this announcement back in February, summarizing their intent to intervene with “high risk” bus companies as part of a “national safety sweep”.

Teams of auditors were specially trained by early April and out on the roads visiting carriers whose scores indicated a potential safety threat to the public.

A May 3rd press release states:

“Bus companies across the U.S. should know that if they put the traveling public at risk, we will put them out of business,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will not tolerate bus companies disregarding safety regulations that protect the traveling public from harm.”

Today’s action marks the fifth shutdown of a passenger carrier following the deployment earlier this month of more than 50 specially trained safety investigators targeting high-risk passenger carriers. In the past ten days, FMCSA investigators have shut down bus companies in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Ohio and New York. Since the beginning of 2013, FMCSA has shut down a total of 12 bus companies and seven trucking companies. The agency has also declared three commercial driver’s license holders as imminent hazards, blocking them from operating in interstate commerce.

This is good news.  The CSA is putting teeth into enforcing its rules against those carriers that amount to scofflaws — ignoring their responsibilities to adhere to minimum standards of safety performance.

ALERT CSAIn a recent article by Overdriveonline.com, they quote an FMCSA official speaking on background who noted “…that truck fleets could be certain that lessons learned from the experience also would be applied to them – and sooner than later.

Further, the article states:

Agency Transportation Specialist Courtney Stevenson outlined the parameters that define “high-risk” carriers relative to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability compliance ranking system for attendees of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance workshop April 22 in Louisville, Ky. “FMCSA has a congressional mandate that we investigate high-risk motor carriers,” she said. A high-risk carrier is one “that has a Crash or Hours of Service or Unsafe Driving [Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category, or BASIC, ranking] greater than 85, plus another BASIC” above the intervention/alert threshold. And, she added, “any company with four or more BASICs” above threshold is also considered high-risk. Carriers that meet these standards, the agency says, show crash involvement rates double the national average…

A carrier is high-risk if

  1. Its ranking in the Unsafe Driving, Hours of Service Compliance or Crash Indicator BASIC exceeds 85 and
  2. It has a ranking above intervention/ alert threshold in one other BASIC.

Or…

  • It has rankings above intervention/ alert threshold in four or more SMS BASICs.

A link to the full overdriveonline article can be found HERE.

Summary

All regulated fleets should be monitoring their CSA BASICs on a consistent basis — challenging any incorrect data and working closely with their operators to minimize the number of violations received for either unsafe driving or vehicle deficiencies.

The use of performance monitoring systems like How’s My Driving, telematics, and camera systems can have a positive influence on violation rate and crash rates, but only if the data developed from those systems is taken seriously and used with urgency to coach drivers on their behaviors in a productive, compassionate manner.

Coaching programs are seldom supplied by technology providers since they are experts at engineering and electronics, but coaching requires a soft-skill connection to become effective.

Coaching Tips TitleTranslating data into behavior change doesn’t have to be difficult, and that’s why we have partnered with safety managers from our 3800 fleet customers to build a supervisory training program on how to conduct effective coaching sessions for our How’s My Driving program.  SafetyFirst’s training was the first developed back in 1998 and has been continuously revised each year since.  Available to current customers, the DVD and online, interactive versions have been extremely popular and effective.

SafetyFirst deals with operator safety programs:  accident reduction, telematics, safety hotlines, MVR profiling, DQF online systems and more.  “Best In Class” solution for the insurance industry with a network of more than 75 providers, and working with 3,800 active fleet clients in a variety of programs.

http://www.edriverfile.com

http://www.safetyfirst.com

1-888-603-6987 toll free

Share the Road with Motorcycles

Shre the road with motorcyclesDid you know that May is “Motorcycle Awareness Month”?  Motorcycles have grown more popular each year, and the Spring season brings out riders just like the April showers and warm sunshine brings “May flowers.”

Unfortunately, on a per vehicle mile basis, motorcyclists are over 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured.

MirrorPoster_72dpiSafetyFirst has previously published Ten-Minute Training Topics on sharing the road with motorcycles.

We recognize two factors at play — one that we don’t want commercial drivers becoming involved in collisions with motorcycles (regardless of fault/cause) and even if there’s no physical contact with a rider, the wind disruption from larger commercial vehicles could (in theory) cause an inexperienced rider to fall.

Giving riders a wide berth, and educating riders about driving safely near larger trucks are both good strategies.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a dedicated web page just for motorcycle safety issues.  (http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles)

Further, NHTSA offers the following urgent reminders:

  • Road users are reminded to never drive, bike, or walk while distracted.  Doing so can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
  • A motorcycle has the same rights and privileges as any other vehicle on the roadway.
  • Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.
  • Because motorcycles are small, they can be difficult for other road users to see them, or judge their speed and distance as they approach.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
  • Because of its smaller size, a motorcyclist can be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always   check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
  • Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals may not be self-canceling and motorcyclists sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
  • Allow more following distance — three or four seconds – when following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

Additional insights for both riders, motorists and commercial operators can be found at http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/newtsm/op-motorcycles/TalkingPointsFactSheet2013.doc

Construction Season Reminders

The Federal Highway Safety Administration (FHWA) recently posted a press release reminding all drivers to show extra care and caution when driving through or near work zones on highways.

The memo was to celebrate National Work Zone Awareness Week, but the message is appropriate at all times of the year:

National Work Zone Awareness Week is held each April at the traditional start of construction season, when the number of workers on roads and highways increases. Though highway workers are often among the victims of such crashes, it’s important for drivers to understand that four out of five victims in work zone crashes are actually drivers and their passengers. In a typical five-day work week, an average of seven motorists and one worker are killed. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone or do not pay attention to the changing road conditions and run into other vehicles, highway equipment, or safety barriers or drive off the road completely.

The problem is getting worse, too.  Consider that during 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 587 people died in highway work-zone fatalities – an increase of 11 fatalities compared to 2010.

“Workers put themselves in harm’s way to help the rest of us by building and maintaining the roads and bridges that get us where we need to go as safely as possible,” said FHWA Administrator Mendez. “When it comes to keeping highway workers and drivers safe, we’re all in this together.”

To learn more about National Work Zone Awareness Week, navigate to this link — http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/outreach/wz_awareness.htm.