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)

Pyramid 2011 for blog

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

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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. 

TeleMatics

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

Risks of Driving On Borrowed Time (Recalls)

car recallsA recent article summed up a growing problem in the USA — millions of vehicles have been recalled, but drivers are not getting to the dealer to have essential repairs done.

In fact, about a third of all recalled cars and trucks don’t get repaired, and estimates place about 36 million defect-laden vehicles in operation right now.

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There are several reasons to account for these alarming numbers:

  • Many disregard notices in the mail, assuming that the letter is an advertisement or other form of “junk mail”
  • Some never receive the notice since they’ve moved since purchasing the vehicle, and no longer have forwarding services for mail.
  • Some bought the car used from another private person, and are not in the recall notification system files
  • Some drivers know about the recall and simply disregard the risk of continued operation (perhaps figuring that it doesn’t sound very serious, they just don’t have the time, etc.)  The article included a quote from a driver in this category — “…I’m well aware of the potential problem,but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t get scared by the headlines. I can assess the real risk and I’ve driven a lot of miles with no issues. I don’t expect it to happen in the next month.”
  • Some drivers are concerned about getting stuck with additional repairs at the dealership that they didn’t budget for and are not covered by the recall.

The consequences can be significant depending on the system(s) affected.  From the article:

Donna Voag’s 20-year-old son, Christopher, was driving his 2001 Hyundai Elantra to the gas station from their home in Bethlehem, Pa., late one evening last August when the front suspension collapsed. He had no idea the vehicle had been recalled four years earlier [emphasis added] for that defect, she said.  “Thank God he was going slow and decided to go to the gas station first, or otherwise he’d have been on the highway,” said Voag, 54, who manages a family shoe store. “He was very upset when he came home. He said. ‘Something really bad happened to my car.’ It was very dangerous.”

safercar govIf you’re concerned that you might miss a recall notice for your (light duty) vehicle(s) you can visit safercar.gov to proactively search current safety issues, OR sign up for email notifications tied to your make and model year (http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions)

At that same page, you can sign up for notifications about child restraints (car seats); tires; motorcycles/helmets/related equipment and even school bus recalls!

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Dynamic Duo: Healthy Pay & Respect

moneyAmong the most common search terms used to find this blog site are “incentives”; “bonus” and “rewards”.  There is, evidently, a lot of interest among fleets to tie safety performance (and tenure) to incentive or reward programs.

While we’ve offered articles on those topics in the past (“Driver Recruitment and Retention: A Winning Combination” for example, or just use our search function at this site if you’re curious about other articles), we figured it was time for another update.

Recently, Heavy Duty Trucking published an article titled “Finding and Keeping Driver With The One-Two Punch: Pay & Respect” (Click HERE to see the entire article). While their article was more concerned about recruiting and retention than safety, some of the themes and advice could apply to safety issues as well.

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A couple of interesting quotes from the article include:

  • Large truckload carriers have seen their turnover rate hold above 90% for eight quarters in a row, according to the latest figures from the American Trucking Associations.
  • Generally drivers cite two main broad reasons for jumping from one company to another: pay and respect. And the same factors that can keep drivers with your company can also help attract new drivers to your company – especially when you consider the importance of word-of-mouth and referrals.
  • More companies are avoiding across-the-board mileage pay increases in favor of various incentive packages, bonuses and incentives that reward the best performers.
  • Fuel economy is a major driver of these types of programs. But perhaps just as important is safety and compliance.
  • “Driver retention comes down to having quality relationships with your drivers,” says Andrew Winkler, director of operations at Nebraska-based Grand Island Express, which had a driver turnover rate in 2013 of 36%.  “Happy drivers don’t leave good carriers. Treat them with the respect they deserve…and that starts at the top. Our president insists on meeting face to face with each new driver or orientation class.”

SafetyFirst

Telematics in Non-Trucking Markets

The use of telematics to help manage fleet operations has been growing over the past thirty years for several reasons:

  1. The cost of the systems has been decreasing
  2. Long term contracts have given way to month-to-month packages (allowing easier upgrade paths as technology improves)
  3. The amount of valuable data developed by the “typical” system has been increasing
  4. Early adopters (aka “pioneers”) have worked out the “snafus” and overcome initial obstacles thru trial and error
  5. Case studies have evolved from “sales pitch stories” to helpful, detailed accounts of how peer fleets are using the data to modify their operations for improved efficiency and effectiveness
  6. Management reporting has evolved from simple “data dumps” to dashboards and metrics that help managers understand the trends more clearly
  7. Specialty applications for targeted niche markets are becoming affordable as simple “add-ons” instead of fully customized adventures
  8. More industry segments that use “wheels” in their daily operations are identifying ways that telematics packages can help them streamline and enhance their daily practices.

While Over-The-Road truckers were the main group of early adopters, many other types of commercial fleets are expected to eclipse this segment in the next five to ten years:

  • Municipalities (to track completed operations like plowing, salting, trash collection, etc)
  • Taxi/Limo/Bus operations (to integrate into consumer apps that enable automated pick up requests, routing, peak equipment utilization, etc.)
  • Construction fleets (to locate equipment and manage the distribution from job site to job site, etc.)
  • Local delivery operations (to take advantage of the pioneering work of the long-haul fleet experience)
  • Service Industries (to keep consumers happy with on-time arrivals, updates on wait times, etc.)

Even school bus fleets are seeing tremendous benefits for issues like accounting for student pickups and drop offs, bus ETA, wait times, etc.

It can be difficult to accurately estimate the number of fleets using telematics as there are different ways to count “active use” — it could mean “has a fleet ever installed a single unit”? Or it could mean “has a fleet installed a test group of units”?

Regardless, most estimates place 1 in 5 fleets having tested or deployed telematics in some format (whether testing of a handful of units or something greater).

The benefits and applications of telematics are many.  To summarize these efficiently, we echo the “four pillar” concept that we’ve learned from GeoTab:

  1. Compliance – telematics can provide electronic logging of hours of service, and can prove your fleet’s movements with accurate time/location mapping (and we can integrate data into our E-DriverFile platform for efficient data management, too)
  2. Fleet – fuel economy, idle reduction, remote diagnosis of engine details, and equipment utilization are key to most operations
  3. Safety – driver behaviors in the form of aggressive driving and overt risk taking can be monitored and used to trigger appropriate coaching and educational programs (and our integration of Training and MVR solutions can maximize the GPS data value in both identifying and addressing risky behaviors)
  4. Productivity – knowing when your drivers go off route, backtrack to missed stops or simply dawdle at lunch time can increase your productivity immediately.

From the earliest satellite platforms that cost thousands of dollars per truck to implement and maintain to today’s “plug and play” packages that start around $35-$40 per vehicle per month, your fleet can benefit from telematics applications.

The key concerns are typically identified as cost, ease of installation, ease of use, driver acceptance, quality of reporting and avoiding “hidden charges”, but all of that comes from selecting a partner who provides trustworthy service, supports your team, helps with analysis and can integrate your data into additional portals for enhanced reporting.

SafetyFirst has decades of experience in driver safety programming, and we’ve been integrating telematics data into our existing programs since 2001 as a data aggregator for enhanced reporting.  We have the “know how” and the “can-do” attitude to support your expansion into telematics.