Drowsy Driving Update 2014

National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week runs November 2-9, 2014. Highlighting the need for drivers and safety teams to focus on drowsy driving, the AAA AAFTS Drowsy DrivingFoundation for Traffic Safety has issued a new research report which states that 21% (one in five) fatal crashes involved driver fatigue. Further, the report summary indicates that:

  • 6% of all crashes in which a vehicle was towed from the scene,
  • 7% of crashes in which a person received treatment for injuries sustained in the crash,
  • 13% of crashes in which a person was hospitalized, and
  • 21% of crashes in which a person was killed involved a drowsy driver.

How did we miss the scope of these crashes?  AAAFTS suggests that National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics “are widely regarded as substantial underestimates of the true magnitude of the problem.”  Why?

The statistics reported by the NHTSA are based on data compiled from reports completed by police officers investigating the scenes of motor vehicle crashes. However, unlike impairment by alcohol, impairment by sleepiness, drowsiness, or fatigue does not leave behind physical evidence, and it may be difficult or impossible for the police to ascertain in the event that a driver is reluctant to
admit to the police that he or she had fallen asleep, if the driver does not realize or remember that his or her performance was impaired due to fatigue, or if the driver is
incapacitated or deceased and thus unable to convey information regarding his level of alertness prior to the crash. This inherent limitation is further compounded by the design of the forms that police officers complete when investigating crashes, which in many cases obfuscate the distinction between whether a driver was known not to have been asleep or fatigued versus whether a driver’s level of alertness or fatigue was unknown.

Based on these concerns, many experts have concluded that the NHTSA data was merely indicating the tip of a large iceberg of hidden or mis-coded results.  Compounding this opinion were results from other studies, including naturalistic (camera in cabin, continuously recording) studies showing a much higher rate of drowsy driving related events.

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Of course, this study makes several assumptions and may not present a perfect picture of drowsy driving in the USA.  However, it is reasonable to assertively promote tactics to avoid drowsy driving situations based on the following:

  • drivers are unable to prevent micronapping from occuring – the fatigued body will overpower their mind’s alertness
  • Poor diet, lack of exercise, frequently interrupted sleep periods, lack of consistent sleep cycles all contribute to weak health and drowsiness.
  • Many “home remedies” for drowsy driving may work for a few minutes, but can’t be relied upon for a real solution — many drivers who’ve turned on the air conditioning or turned up the radio still had crashes happen.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is quoted as saying;

Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month,”…“Like other impairments, driving while drowsy is not without risk.”

AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds sums it up nicely;

Unfortunately many drivers underestimate the risk of driving while tired, and overestimate their ability to deal with it.

Find other articles on drowsy driving at https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/?s=drowsy%20driving

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Searching for answers on distraction

dis-enf-10-ever-officials_lo_res-post-72-enThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published a Status Update titled “Searching for answers on distraction.”

This Status Update sheds new light on our evolving understanding of distracted driving, it’s contributing factors and compounding factors.

The article begins with a clear admonition followed by the conclusion of this most recent study:

Using a cellphone while driving is risky and can lead to crashes. Making or taking calls, texting, or interacting with an electronic device in any way can take your eyes off the road at a critical moment…

…A new study by IIHS in partnership with Virginia Tech helps clarify the risk of cellphone use behind the wheel and offers insight into other distracting things drivers do when they aren’t using cellphones. The research points to the need for a broader strategy to deal with the ways that drivers can be distracted.

It seems that as soon as this study and it’s summaries were released, critics came shouting that the study undermines the need to be vigilant in discouraging cell phone use of any type. However, the article makes it plainly clear that cell use isn’t the only issue we need to consider (yes, avoid cells, but no, don’t myopically focus on cells as the sole problem source)

Here’s the rub.  While cell use has skyrocketed, during the same time period, overall crash rates have plummeted.

drop in crashes over time

What does that mean?  From the study:

This doesn’t mean phone use behind the wheel is harmless. Numerous experimental studies have shown that talking on a cellphone reduces a driver’s reaction time, potentially increasing crash risk. Cellphone use also affects how drivers scan and process information from the roadway. The cognitive distractions associated with cellphone use can lead to so-called inattention blindness in which drivers fail to comprehend or process information from objects in the road even if they are looking at them. Studies also have found negative effects of texting on driving performance. The research is still unfolding, but there is a basic conundrum: Why is a distracting behavior not increasing crash rates?

The studies suggest a link between compounding behaviors and crash risk – when distracted in different ways or by more than one type of distraction, crash risk seems to go up.  So “multitasking” while driving = you’re not really driving, you’re busy being productive at your day job instead. Plus, some other behaviors seem to be even more problematic than talking on your phone.

Cell Phone Distraction VTTI IIHS 2014

This simply means we need to work at getting drivers to become more vigilant in their driving duties regardless of the nature or source of their distraction — indeed, put down the phone, but also stop the other distractions, too!

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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

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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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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Blind Areas Around Big Trucks

MirrorPoster_72dpiAll vehicles have areas (or “zones” or “spots”) around the vehicle where it is difficult to see other cars or trucks even with the help of various mirrors. Most commonly, the area immediately behind the driver’s door on the left side (or the passenger door on the right side) present “hiding spots” where other vehicles may lurk out of sight.

At highway speeds, merging or changing lanes can become a disaster if your movement connects with another vehicle that was in your “blind area”.

To help minimize blind areas, some folks install additional mirrors, cameras or even specialized sensors to detect and alert to the presence of vehicles in these blind areas.

For larger tractor trailers, the size, shape and location of blind areas presents special concerns to truck drivers. While they must do their part to scan around their truck, other motorists have a responsibility to cooperate by understanding that their car may be virtually undetectable within the blind area and do their best to keep out of that zone. Passing large trucks promptly instead of dwelling alongside is one example of a productive, courteous step to avoiding crashes.

The Utah Department of Transportation (as one example) has invested in public education materials to help all motorists and commercial drivers reduce crashes by working together. A colleague shared an example of their video on blind zones around large trucks (called “NO ZONES” in the video — as in these are not the zones to hang about in).

Take a look:

Another video in their series is closely related to this topic — since we’re hoping motorists (and other commercial drivers) won’t hang out in the “no-zone”, we also want the to complete their pass or merge safely.  One danger of passing a big truck is cutting them off (cutting directly in front of them).  This robs the big truck of stopping distance in case of a need to stop suddenly and increases the risk that you’d be hit from behind in such an instance.

Take a look:

These are short, easy to understand modules.  More topics can be found at http://www.udot.utah.gov/trucksmart/index.php

Remember, traffic safety is every driver’s responsibility!

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