Alternative Compliance Strategies for Motor Carriers

smc 1According to an article in the October 6th online issue of Fleet Owner (click here), the FMCSA is considering comments on whether to construct a plan for alternative compliance strategies for regulated motor carriers.

The article’s tag line sums it up nicely: “Agency to look into whether carriers should get credit for adopting technologies or advanced safety programs

Based on comments from Jack Van Steenburg, Fleet Owner reports an agency interest in “…recognizing carriers for steps they take to increase safety that aren’t required by regulation. Alternative compliance might involve use of safety technologies or perhaps safety management practices – driver health and wellness programs, fatigue management programs or use of the Pre-employment Screening Program – that go beyond what is required.

Simply put, if a carrier goes well beyond the minimums and invests in safety (i.e. wellness, crash reduction, etc.) then their improvement in their Bookend BASICs (Unsafe Driving and Crash Rate) ought to reduce their likelihood of audits or interventions by FMCSA.

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287Central to this issue is the determination of what sorts of programs would potentially qualify carriers to get relaxed scrutiny?  If select technologies or products are highlighted, it could be boon to those manufacturers or resellers.

Countering this idea is the notion that fleets who already go beyond the minimum standards in their quest to reduce crashes also already benefit from lower SMS Scores and would fare well under the newly proposed Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rule which would assign an “absolute rating to each carrier, not a relative score as seen today under [the present] CSA [program]”

I would suggest to FMCSA to consider the value of setting up a voluntary certification program (either self-certification through an online application and validation process or one administered by a third party agency such as CVSA, et.al.)

The Transportation Research Board produced a Commercial Truck and Bus Safety synthesis (#12) on “Commercial Motor Vehicle Carrier Safety Management Certification” waaay back in 2007.  We would expect that the article’s findings should remain reasonably consistent over time.

The stated objective of this synthesis report is:

…to (1) document current information on existing commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety certification, self-evaluation, benchmarking, and best practices programs, (2) identify major common elements and protocols, and (3) critically assess evidence for the crash-reduction effectiveness of the programs….One of the potential applications of safety management certification and self-evaluation programs is as a supplement or alternative to governmental regulatory approaches to carrier safety management. The synthesis specifically examines the possible relationships between (a) results of certification and self-evaluation programs and (b) the more conventional compliance programs.

Synthesis 12Based on these comments, I would think that the entire document would be very pertinent to this present-day discussion.

When I first read this Synthesis article back in 2007, I investigated several of their recommended sources for certification.  Of most interest were the International Organization of Standards (ISO) 9000 certification and the Canadian Standards Association Safety Management System’s standards (“B619-00
Carrier Safety Management Systems”) (Click HERE).

Interestingly, the Minnesota DOT had produced a report as early as 2003 praising ISO 9000’s effects on accident reduction (CLICK HERE).

Trucksafe1Also noted in the original Synthesis report was the Australian Trucking Association’s accreditation program “TruckSafe” (Click HERE) which (as of 2002) had documented that participating, accredited members were “… involved in 40% fewer accidents than non-participating carriers and that participation is also associated with lower worker compensation and maintenance costs

Admittedly, certification programs are not a panacea to permanently solve a fleet’s crash problems. Clearly, a fleet’s management team that becomes dedicated to meeting a higher minimum standard will go through many steps to increase management oversight and control. That stair step improvement process alone would reduce crashes, but could that improved level of performance be sustained indefinitely by merely becoming certified? That’s a good question to ask, but a poor reason to ignore the immediate benefits of certification as a possible mechanism to provide “alternative compliance” with the FMCSRs.

If you are involved with fleet safety, fleet insurance or fleet risk management, I’d urge you to consider the benefit of investigating certification programs — voluntary, self-directed or as part of an association or official standards program.

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Building the Ideal Fleet Assessment Report

NHTSA 2012 OverviewOne of the vital tools used in the insurance world is the initial risk assessment report.  This report helps underwriters get a very clear understanding of the activities of a given company, and how that management team handles safety processes to avoid injuries or physical damage.

An assessment report will typically cover all areas of concern depending on the nature of the business being insured:

  • A report for a warehouse operation may focus mainly on the potential for fires, the combustible nature of goods being stored, the controls to prevent fires and the processes in place to provide early/prompt alarm if a fire were to happen.
  • A report for a manufacturing operation may focus on how equipment is safeguarded to prevent injuries, how vapors or fumes are ventilated to prevent explosions or work-related illness by chemical exposure.

When dealing with companies which operate fleets of cars, vans, trucks and/or heavy duty vehicles there are a lot of issues to consider – especially since the drivers and vehicles will be operated out of sight of supervisors who could offer coaching and helpful correction when safety complacency develops or bad habits might be formed.

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I asked peers to give me their perspective on creating the ideal fleet survey report, and I received very gracious and thoughtful responses.  Here are several that characterize the general consensus:

The two most important attributes covered in a fleet Loss Control report would be 1) evaluating the proactiveness of Management 2) evaluating the implementation of an effective fleet safety program.  I feel there are many sub elements that fall under these two categories, but these are the two most important attributes to evaluate.

A solid loss control report must cover several key data points like:  qualifications of the safety director (his/her support, experience, authority); a robust driver qualification process with uniform standards; driver education processes; a program to address the readiness of the vehicles; a review of past losses to identify patterns or trends.

A thorough evaluation of a fleet operation could cover many areas depending on the nature of the business. For instance, a trucking company should be in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations at a minimum; however, a company with mostly salesperson’s cars or executives may need to focus more closely on distracted driving prevention, weekend use, and other factors like passenger policies or permissive personal use.

Considering fleets can have a wide range of exposures to loss, it can be helpful to begin by identifying the nature of the cargo most commonly carried – the attributes of these loads (hazardous chemicals versus boxes of oatmeal) will determine the relative risks in the event of a collision and the need to ramp up management’s vigilance over driver qualification, training and monitoring.

We’ve learned that most crashes happen as a direct result of driver choices, attitudes and habits.  Whether the driver is impaired, drowsy, or just has the flu, can directly lead to a crash from inattention.  In long haul fleets, drivers may be away from their families for two weeks or more – this can lead to additional stress when they call home to find out the roof is leaking again or the oven is broken, etc.  Having an assistance plan in place can help these drivers cope and stay focused on their driving instead of what is simply out of their control at the moment.  Distraction comes in many forms – not just cell phones – and daydreaming can become deadly in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s all about management attitude, leadership, setting and enforcing policies.

Does the account have the following policies (long checklist including cell phone, seatbelt, incentives for crash free driving, permissive use drivers, passengers, DUI forbidden, etc)

How does the account on-board new hires?  Do they have a formal training program, and if so, how many hours in classroom and how many hours behind the wheel?  If they’re not committed to training, they’re likely to have more crashes than the average fleet.

In the past, SafetyFirst has put together example checklists for fleet surveys, and we’ve spoken extensively about the ability to use the ANSI Z15 standard as a self-audit tool for enhancing existing fleet safety programs.  There’s no short answer to evaluating a fleet operation whether it’s five cars or five hundred tractor trailers.  Still, there are many areas that professionals can agree are important to painting a detailed picture for underwriters (and to help offer meaningful guidance to policyholders based on the evaluation process).

MirrorPoster_72dpiI’d suggest the following outline for an example loss control evaluation of a regulated fleet.  It’s NOT intended to be completely comprehensive since every fleet is unique, and we could easily double the length of the outline and still miss some details like asking whether drivers stop periodically to check for cargo shifting, if the policyholder has a formal inspection program to assure that all first aid kits and fire extinguishers are fully stocked/charged, etc. It’s not that these details are “unimportant”, but there’s an upper limit on the patience of a policyholder to remain calm under a relentless assault of questions.

Take a look and offer some thoughts – is this getting a good “big picture” view of most fleet operations?  Is there something in your experience that we’ve missed that should be considered “elemental” and included?  Have we suggested items that you think are trivial?

 

Loss Control Report
Company name: DOT number:
Location:
Contacts: Phone/email:

Overview of Operation

  • Description of company focus, operations, scope of service territory, multiple locations/terminals?
  • Workforce stats
    • Number of drivers (Full time vs. Part time (if any))
    • Balance/percentage of OO vs Company drivers
  • Equipment types operated (reefers, tanks, dry van, tautliners, etc.)
  • Describe commodities hauled – typical versus occasional (define occasional)
    • Are there forbidden cargo types (describe) how monitored?
    • Hazardous Materials and Oversized loads being hauled? If so, how much/how often
    • (include report supplement)

General Management Controls, Policies/Procedures

  • Safety Director
    • Chain of command (where does safety fit in)
    • Authority of safety to make and implement recommendations
    • Qualifications (ongoing professional development)?
    • Networking?
  • smc 1Any examples of recent changes made to improve safety processes?
  • Who authors and revises policy/handbooks, etc.
    • Revision schedule
    • Benchmarking of best practices by peer group?
  • General controls
    • How are control policies memorialized?
    • How are control policies communicated?
    • How are control policies acknowledged by drivers/operators?
    • How are control policies enforced?
    • Provide an overview description of each of following:
      • Cell Phone/Texting/Distraction
      • Fatigue/HOSMotor Carriers Guide to Improving
      • Wellness/EAP
      • Substance abuse
      • Family support
      • Communications program
        • Methods (newsletter, emails, surveys)
      • Education Program (describe each, vendor used, frequency, etc.)
        • New hire
        • Ongoing
        • Post Crash
        • Other?
      • Incentives/Bonus?
    • Standing Safety Team/Committee?
    • Post Crash Review Processes
      • (team, individual?)
      • Preventability (standard used?) versus at-fault

Regulatory Concerns (CSA)

  • Some parallels worth examiningWho monitors SMS/BASICs (satisfied with current score?)
  • Last login within past 30, 60, 90 days?
  • Describe audit history
  • Any notice letters within past 24 months?
  • Familiar with and using Safety Cycles for BASICs?

Asset Controls

  • Describe approach to maintenance – in house, OO, contracted, etc
    • Describe controls over maintenance operation – how does management know it’s getting done
    • Annual FHWA inspection process (If in-house Annual Inspections are being completed are the mechanics properly trained?)
    • Provide garage/mechanical/fuel/body shop/warranty services to others? (if so, attach supplemental report)
  • DVIR processes used – who maintains and purges records?
  • Participate in CVSA programs?
  • Equipment replacement program (owned assets)
  • Any example of corporate changes that affect assets, specifications, retention, etc.?

Featured Image -- 1451Drivers

  • Recruiting
    • Internal/external team
    • Sourcing types
    • Job descriptions
    • Stated Minimum-qualifications (what are they, how enforced?)
    • Are exceptions granted (if so, under what circumstances and sign-offs?)
    • Recycle rejected candidates? Black box candidates?
  • Qualification/Onboarding
    • CoachingIn-person interview?
    • Application form used is detailed?
      • Online capabilities?
    • Pre-hire MVR review? FMCSA PSP Program Review?
    • Describe orientation process; follow up interviews/surveys, etc.
    • Mandatory initial training? (topics, duration, etc.)
  • Renewables program (DQF Maintenance)
    • Who handled DQF processes – methods, practices, self audit?
    • Describe annual performance review process
    • COVR reconciliation
      • MVR Criteria used for acceptable vs probation vs suspension
      • Any legal assistance program to help drivers fight tickets?
    • Disciplinary Process for Company Drivers? (what triggers? How enforced?)
    • What could cause company to break a contract with OO?
  • Communication Program?
  • Controlled substance program overview
    • Process for positive tests
    • EAP offered or termination on positives?

Pre-Loss Safety Practices

  • Asset-based tech
    • Camera-in-cabin? (who sees videos, retention period, coaching process, documentation?)
    • GPS for safety issues (type of alerts, thresholds for alerts, who monitors alerts, when do they intervene with driver, how do they coach, retraining, documentation of corrective actions? Retention of records period?)
  • HOS Enforcement and Monitoring Processes
    • Electronic Logging Devices or EOBR used?
    • Toll Pass program?
    • Log book reconciliation with tolls, etc.
  • Driver (Admin) based programs
    • Pyramid 2011 for blogHow’s My Driving?
    • MVR Monitoring (pull program, etc.)
    • Incentive program?

Post-Loss Processes

  • Define “crash event” (anything that changes the material appearance of the vehicle, or something else?)
  • Define “Major Event” as opposed to “DOT Recordable” (if different)
  • Familiar with Claim Unit processes and expectations?
  • Education of all drivers on what to do at the scene of an accident? (frequency, content, vendor-based?)
  • Post-crash documentation kits (pouch? Camera?)
  • Crisis Response Team?
    • Who investigates accident scenes? Qualifications?
    • Lawyer hotline (for driver? For management team?)
    • PR-crisis management training or firm on retainer?
  • DOT Crash Register for past three years
  • Incident rate per million miles
  • Trending and pattern analysis?
  • Recap of recent “Major” crashes, lessons learned, communication to drivers about incident?

Additional Reading:

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Preventing the tragic consequences of unsecured loads – Department of Transportation

Yesterday (10/7/2014), the Department of Transportation posted a blog article that was very interesting.  Here is a link to the source document — Preventing the tragic consequences of unsecured loads – Department of Transportation.

SafetyFirst has previously published “ten-minute training topics” on load securement and on dealing with “road debris” crashes.  While most commercial drivers are well trained and experienced in securing the cargo they carry, some drivers may be in a rush or may make risky assumptions:

  • “it’s a short trip – nothing will go wrong”
  • “this junk is pretty heavy — it’ll stay put without moving around”
  • “I don’t think we need to use a tarp — this stuff won’t fly out at road speeds, besides we won’t be going that fast”

Many drivers do take chances, and tragically it can lead to crashes, damages, or injuries.  Take a look at this short video from the Washington State Patrol:

MVR as Medical Cert?

Did you realize that individual state governments are in process of holding the details of FMCSA regulated drivers’ medical records?  And that these details will be provided through enhanced MVR reports?

Heavy Duty Trucking provided an excellent overview of this new approach in a recent article (click HERE)

E-DriverFileOur E-DriverFile program was modified and tested to receive the new medical details two years ago!  We’re ready to pass this information as individual states complete their processes to collect and distribute this sensitive information to regulated motor carriers.

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Autonomous Technology for Backing

There are a growing number of manufacturers developing autonomous driving features. Some focus on enabling the vehicle to drive down the road with the driver relaxed or reading a book.  Others have different goals or benefits.

One project being developed by ZF Friedrichshafen AG enables their “ZF Innovation Truck” to be piloted remotely through a touch-sensitive tablet device.

I could imagine a time where a tractor trailer driver has to back into a narrow space with obstacles on either side.  Instead of using mirrors and spotters, he or she could hop out of the cab and use their tablet device from outside the rig.  This would enable them to visually inspect clearances while maneuvering the rig into the precise spot needed.

Check out the video.

Additional details on this project can be found in the September 2014 issue of FleetOwner magazine (page 46 – Technology Column)

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Commercial Vehicle Insurance

SafetyFirstAn interesting article titled “Insurance: You Can’t Avoid Risk” appears in the September 2014 issue of FleetOwner.

This article caught my attention at the second paragraph:

Crashes involving trucks and the resulting insurance claims can grab quite a chunk from the bottom line of any motor carrier [or any company operating a fleet of vehicles – SF]. According to data compiled several years ago by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the cost of a crash involving one Class 8 tractor pulling a single 53-ft. trailer runs to $172,292.  If just one person gets injured in such a crash, the average cost balloons to $334,892.  And if a fatality occurs in such a crash, the average cost skyrockets to over $7.6 million.

The article also comments that insurance costs to cover premiums and out of pocket costs can be as much as 4% of the total cost of operation (TCO).

PoliceFleets looking to reduce their costs can ask for discounts and creative payment plans, but in order to materially reduce insurance expense, the only long-term solution is to earnestly work to reduce their risk of loss through aggressive and tailored crash-avoidance strategies.

Naturally, we can’t control how the general public drives on any given day, but as transportation safety professionals, fleet management teams can work with their commercial drivers, insurers, and current safety vendors to increase results.

Ideas to consider:

  1. Smash through the most common barrier to results: complacency. Many fleet teams think they’ve done all that they can and sometimes it can be hard to re-evaluate and re-tool programs to get better results.  “We’ve always done it this way” and “don’t fix what isn’t broken” are dangerous phrases if you’re sincere about enhancing risk results. It’s easy to assume that everything is working well and focus on trying “new stuff” just because it’s new and trendy, but sometimes it’s the underlying (un-sexy) tasks that are slipping through the cracks.  Be honest in evaluating what’s working and what could work better.
  2. Increase vigilance and safety awareness – just as consciously scanning the road ahead for possible hazards and motorists who may cut off trucks is critical to safe driving, management teams also have a responsibility to forecast ways to increase safety in their operations and processes.  Careful analysis of past crashes and understanding what might have contributed to them happening from a process and systems standpoint may uncover opportunities to improve your management strategy.
  3. Develop an even stronger communication strategy with drivers – not just talking at them or demanding more from them, but also learning to listen carefully to their feedback about what’s working and what’s failing to work as well as it could or should. Understanding what processes and systems keep drivers from excelling at their job and helping them with appropriate assistance could be an area to leverage.
  4. Integrate technology where it will help the most.  Technology can be applied in most fleet operations to help deliver insights into ways to increase efficiency or improve safety factors.  The trouble is that for most fleets technology can be disruptive as well. There’s a learning curve to adopting new systems and there must be vigilance in translating these data packets into meaningful management action.  If the follow up isn’t helpful to drivers or other team members, then it may not be worth the effort. One example could be adopting an online education program to refresh drivers on basic safety issues.  If the program is difficult to access, or the videos are tedious, too long, boring or poorly executed then drivers won’t pay attention or change habits.  Investing in a system that is easy to use and has interesting, short programs may be a better course of action.
  5. Actively monitor / manage your CSA scores.  While the CSA score isn’t the best indicator of operational excellence, your team shouldn’t ignore this score, either.  The Bookend BASICS have been discussed elsewhere on this blog — Unsafe Driving and Crash Rate.  When the bookends are firmly managed, the stuff in the middle tends to sort itself out, too.
  6. Don’t be shy in asking for help from your insurer.  Most insurers offer loss control support in various ways — consultants, technical bulletins, and other resources are available but only if you ask for them.  Agents can review your current policies to make sure you have appropriate coverage, and help you navigate the service offerings that come with your policy to be certain you’re getting the maximum benefit for the cost you’ve already agreed to pay.
  7. Leverage your existing safety vendor relationships. Many fleets already work with safety support vendors on issue ranging from log auditing to DQF maintenance.
    1. Are you using the most current service offering from each vendor?
    2. Are there new benefits or features that you could be using?
    3. Does your vendor offer a support network, webinars, or other meetings that could introduce new ideas or help you network with peers in order to increase safety results?
  8. Join, and participate in, a vehicle safety networking group.  Hearing about other peer’s experiences can help you save time, get to decisions more quickly and leverage other professionals learning lessons (why make the same mistake, or why not benefit if they’ve already proven something works well?)  Of course, this commitment works best when you’re an active participant – sharing with the group your own experiences.  It won’t work as well if you join and then lurk in the shadows quietly.

Managing insurance costs is important.  You want to have the right coverage for when things go wrong unexpectedly, but you also want to do whatever is practical to avoid claims or keep their costs as low as possible.

There are many safety articles at this blog site to give you more ideas on ways to prevent crashes.

Let us know what you do that works well at your fleet!

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