21st Century Fleet Maintenance

StepVANSIn  a recent article, titled “How Telematics Has Completely Revolutionized the Management of Fleet Vehicles” published in Entrepreneur (Click HERE), the case is made on how UPS managed to increase maintenance intervals (reduce total number of inspections and PMs) while increasing fleet reliability:

That’s right: UPS went from 240,000 preventative maintenance inspections per year to 120,000. 

Director of automotive engineering Dale Spencer, who oversees the UPS fleet, explains that…For decades, UPS used the same maintenance schedule: changing the oil, fluids and brakes at prescribed intervals, no matter what…[now] UPS has learned to trust the [telematic] data–to monitor every truck remotely, from a high-temperature warning to signals as to whether a driver is wearing a seat belt. “We have the driver data; we know how fast they’re driving, how hard they’re stopping,” Spencer says. “That driver will change bad habits before it costs us money.”

With Telematics, it is easy to spot problems before they’d typically surface in normal PM inspections.  Some fleets are using the GeoTab program to spot failing alternators up to two weeks prior to the anticipated failure — giving them the luxury of pulling the vehicle when it is most convenient for their shop instead of dealing with a roadside failure later on.

It’s more than just cutting PM frequency to save money — it can be a powerful predictor of future recalls and warranty issues:

The software also allows the company to spot wear trends. “We could see certain parts wearing out on the same vehicles too quickly,” Spencer says. That enabled UPS to go back to the vehicle manufacturer and argue for a warranty claim because it was possible to document a pattern. Even a small-business owner with a 10-vehicle fleet might have such an advantage, he says, “as long as they had the data to prove it.”

ntdc truck lineupTelematics can also identify aggressive drivers who wear out vehicles faster than the norm within your fleet.  Drivers who accelerate, brake and swerve in harsh ways tend to kill the lifespan of brakes, burn fuel efficiency and damage steering and control systems. Often, these are the same drivers who top the list of “most crashes” before being asked to drive someplace else.

At the end of the day, the hardware and software your team purchases is important, but even more important will be the customer service support, the hand holding, the networking/benchmarking with other clients and the ability to integrate data into existing systems — all hallmarks of the GeoTab system offered by SafetyFirst (Click Here)

With SafetyFirst, we can integrate:

  • Scored MVRs (using your scoring system)
  • Aggregated Driver Risk Scoring (using crash data, HMD reports, MVRs and telematics)
  • Safety hotline reports (aka How’s My Driving – third generation)
  • Online Training Modules (5-7 minutes, newly produced, tailored to specific issues including speed alerts from telematics)
  • DOT DQ File Maintenance (online)

Further, these are all 100% in-house built systems — not merely a patch work assembly of multiple, third-party products that have been stitched together.

Connected Cars

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.

53 foot trailer

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.

cropped-trucks-highway.jpg

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

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.

CSA Enforcement Up in 2014

cropped-truck-traffic.jpgThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to step up the enforcement of its regulations by targeting the worst performers.   In 2014 the FMCSA has revoked the operating authority of more than 75 unsafe bus and truck companies, as reported by Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT) Magazine.

In a recent article by HDT (click HERE) they profile a recent shutdown of a carrier based in Texas.  From that article:

In the past 12 months, the company was involved in five preventable crashes and has a crash rate nearly 25% higher than what FMCSA considers unsatisfactory. In two of those crashes, FTW Transport drivers were cited with careless driving. The agency also found on 10 separate occasions in the last 12 months, FTW drivers have been cited with violations demonstrating that they were failing to obey fundamental driving safety laws, including speeding and failing to obey traffic signals and texting while driving, the agency said. 

Atri 2011 coverA very clear emphasis is being placed on safety results as documented by driver violations and crashes.  The two activities are strongly linked — drivers with violations are much more likely to become involved in subsequent collisions — a link validated by two studies completed by the American Transportation Research Institute (and summarized on this blog site – HERE and HERE).

Considering that FMCSA is strengthening its resolve to audit and enforce with it’s new targeting system, I would think that enacting a strong “Unsafe Driving Remediation Plan” would be critical for most motor carriers and those companies who are subject to regulations but do not consider themselves in the transport industry (i.e. telecom, power distribution, contracting, etc.)

E-DriverFile(Click HERE to see our article on Safety Remediation Planning).

Further, the clear link between violations and crash rates should encourage carriers to fine tune their MVR review programs — tightening standards for MVRs can directly reduce crash rates by curbing unsafe driving and disallowing the ongoing accrual of violations by drivers. (Click HERE for our article on Digging Deeper on MVR Review)

cropped-more-thanksgiving-traffic.jpgSafetyFirst has been a leader in providing a single portal system to warehouse, sort and report on violations, compliance, at-risk driving events (telematics) and remedial efforts to improve behavioral results.

Our system can automate your annual performance reviews; pull and score MVRs (to your standards) and even assign multiple, tailored refresher training modules based on newly received violations or risk-taking alerts.

Another example of a blended scoreAll of the activity is documented to provide a paper trail that escalates to top management and highlights those drivers who are burning your scores within CSA’s SMS.

Even if your fleet isn’t regulated, but you need to mitigate your fleet safety losses and strengthen results, our system has been deployed with great success at non-regulated corporate fleets, too.  Compliance with corporate safety policies and tracking results gives you the ability to track your team’s efforts for full accountability.

SafetyZone-LMS

 

 

Idaho to raise max limit to 80MPH

Heavy Duty Trucking recently reported (click HERE) that:

Legislation signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter allows an increase of up to 80 mph along interstate routes and 70 mph along state highways, but trucks would continue to be limited up to 10 mph slower. The law leaves the final decision for any increase up to the Idaho Transportation Department, once it has competed studies to see if the routes could handle the higher speeds.

The typical arguments (“Pro-Con”) for this change include:

  • motorists are already driving this fast, so let them
  • increased productivity by allowing cargo to transit the state more quickly
  • other states are doing it and the “leap” from 70 or 75 to 80 isn’t likely to significantly increase crash rates beyond the current rate (which is arguably higher than when max limits were at 55 MPH)
  • split speed limits for trucks and cars means more passing events due to the differential in speed and more interactions between extra heavy and light duty vehicles
  • the new maximum limit would only be approved for certain segments of highway as deemed acceptable by the state DOT.
  • prolonged running at 80 MPH increases the risk of blowouts if tires are under-pressure
  • prolonged running at 80 MPH increases fuel consumption to maintain that speed (especially if encountering head winds)
  • prolonged running at 80 MPH increases carbon emissions 

Texas and Utah already allow 80 MPH on select routes and Wyoming is considering the same.

How do you feel about raising speed limits on rural highways?  

How about split limits for trucks?

Rear-End Collisions

NAFA FS 4 2014In the April, 2014 issue of “Fleet Solutions” (a publication from the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA)) the topic of rear-end collisions was closely examined.

In most cases, the driver who contributed to the crash wished he/she had “just one more second” to react and avoid the collision.

“You want to teach something in terms of prevention that is much more addressed to the holistic fact that there are many, many things you can do that can help prevent crashes,” explained Paul Farrell, CEO of SafetyFirst Systems, LLC

Indeed, there are many options to get drivers focused on their duty – – from showing them the potential consequences of distracted driving to explaining why the company policy is written as it is (to protect the employee and the company) to using technology that actually alerts the driver of impending collisions.

Simply stacking driver education course upon education course is likely to lead to numbed and bored drivers who fail to incorporate the lessons into their daily habits — we need a smarter approach that respects the driver, asks for a real commitment and plainly shows them the consequences of making the wrong choice or taking one too many risks.

Again, more training isn’t the answer, but the “right” training may be the answer.  One online training provider boasts 400 titles on fleet safety alone — at their average course length that’s 280+ HOURS (or almost 38 business DAYS) of content.  Yet, their clients do not have the time to take advantage of those courses, nor do they typically see a material decline in collisions — because it’s not just about VOLUME or DURATION — it’s about a tailored, thoughtful approach to changing habits:

  1. Driver qualification (MVR review and scoring)
  2. Driver performance monitoring (GPS/Telematics/How’s My Driving)
  3. Driver Coaching on spot issues as they occur
  4. Escalated Coaching on recurring issues with short refresher courses (online)
  5. Building a culture of “safety awareness” within your organization through monthly reminders, payroll stuffers, posters, micro-messaging (starting meetings with a safety reflection)
  6. Investigation of post-collision data to learn lessons, share insights, benchmark with peers and monitor trends in rates

Take time to check out the original article at NAFA’s web site or by Clicking HERE

TeleMatics

SafetyZone-LMS