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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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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Bridging the Gap for Stronger, Consistent Results

I’ve read a LOT of “Driver Safety” or “Fleet Safety” articles over the course of my 27 year career. They all look the same, they all cover the “basics” or “essentials” in the same way.

And many of them miss the mark in the same way.

You see, they’re not bad articles and the tips are meaningful, but instead fall short in one key area: managing the performance of your fleet drivers on a day to day basis.

The articles typically follow the same outline (highlighting import and valuable steps in the process):

  1. Discuss the need fortop management supportfor the fleet safety program 
  2. Stress the need to have a written, enforced policy statement or handbook  
  3. Plead with the reader about recruiting properly, qualifying prospective hires thoroughly and thoughtfully – following any/all applicable regulations, checking MVRs against a standard criteria
  4. Emphasize the need to “train-train-train” the drivers (before they drive, as they drive and after they crash). 

Then, alarmingly, these authors jump to the end of the story and tell you how:

  1. Incentives may influence drivers to pay more attention to their driving
  2. Drivers need to report crashes,
  3. Supervisors need to investigate the incidents with great attention to detail
  4. Management teams ought to calculate their incident rates and benchmark against peers to see if they’re trending up or down.

Looking at this visually, this is the picture I see in my mind:

Banner Typical safety programMy concern is filling or bridging that gap between thorough qualification and orientation/training processes and calculating results or offering incentives.

There’s a huge gap between the initial approach and the off ramp in that visualization.
In between initial hire and final exit interview should be many years of productive activity; therefore, finding ways to actively manage a group relationship with the cadre of drivers during their tenure as a productive employees becomes critical to leveraging consistent results.

The question may be “so how do I do that?” It can be a huge challenge, especially when we recognize that the drivers are largely away from the office for most of their working day. Further, many technological monitoring tools are both expensive (when you multiply the per vehicle per month cost across a larger fleet of vehicles) and burdensome (separating the “urgently actionable” conclusions from the “background noise” of excessive data).

What’s available in the toolbox to monitor and manage driver relationships, combat safety complacency, and promote proper vigilance or awareness on a daily basis?

  1. Driver Communications Plans: Two-Way communication with drivers through posters, postcards, payroll stuffers, tailgate talks, surveys, polls, small group discussions, newsletters, tailored reminder training, targeted refresher training, etc. (see also – “Driver Communication Plans Part One“, “Driver Communication Plans Part Two“, “Motivating Drivers to Make Safer Choices“; “Holding onto the Best Drivers“; “Driver Incentives“)
  2. Driver observations: ride alongs; commentary drives, drive-behinds, how’s my driving alerts (run stop signs, run red lights, improper weaving/passing, etc.), camera-in-cab recordings (hitting things).
  3. Technology: EOBR, GPS, TeleMatics, ELDs for reporting on vehicle activity such as harsh braking, hard acceleration, swerving, speeding. See also “The Vulnerability of Telematics as a Stand Alone Safety Solution
  4. Periodic or targeted MVR monitoring: more states are providing dynamic (through the course of the year) updates to previously purchased MVRs enabling near-real-time updates of driver scores and status. Other systems enable your team to prioritize select drivers for annual, semi-annual, quarterly, or monthly updates based on risk score. See also “Why Order MVRs“; “Deciphering MVR Profiling“; “Digging into the MVR – For Stronger Results“; “MVRs and Risk Scores“; “Do you know if your drivers are properly licensed“; “Identifying Drivers Who May Be “At-Risk” of Becoming Involved in a Collision: MVR Analysis” (Page 8)

Some fleets pick one of these monitoring/managing practices and run with it. This is certainly better than running bare and hoping for the best, but I’d submit that relying on only one strategy presents a pretty wobbly bridge that sways and flexes a lot. Adding layers builds strength and predictability in the program by covering up gaps that any one program may lack.

For instance,

  • if I were to rely on GPS alone, I wouldn’t know about red light running unless the drivers were stopped and ticketed by the police. GPS systems are not equipped to detect red light running.
  • if I were to rely on camera-in-cabin videos alone, I’d only find out about actual collisions in most cases (most systems rely on a triggering event to save the short loop of video and most drivers realize that by hitting curbs during the “break in period” the management team will adjust the sensitivity to the point where the system becomes a post-incident-event-recorder). This does not invalidate the program nor am I trying to dissuade its use, but as a “stand alone” system it may have a vulnerability.
  • if I were to rely only on driver education without other systems to alert me to actual driver habits, I’d be asking drivers to give up productive drive time to train on topics that may not be a fit to each driver’s own habits.

By combining data inputs from how’s my driving, telematics, cameras, etc. I can tailor the coaching and education to accomplish more in less time: train the right drivers on the right topics at the right time (when they really need it).

Here’s how I see the fleet that prioritizes building layers to give a solid foundation to their fleet safety program:

Banner gap filled program

The other very real advantage to drivers is that by being a benevolent “big brother” the management team has the ability to help them modify habits before incurring violations (which are typically paid out of pocket, influence personal/family insurance costs, and negatively affect future employment prospects).

Most critically, when these layers appropriately target drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision, there is a greater opportunity for a “compassionate intervention” by management that could prevent a collision with it’s potential for injuries or death.

The authors who’ve published the “high level overview” of fleet safety programs are brilliant professionals with many years of experience — I don’t doubt their knowledge, ability, experience or caring; however, I wonder why we keep seeing so many of the “same” articles that go on for pages about pre-qualification and on-boarding.

If the average tenure of a driver was under a month or two, it would make sense to constantly be replacing and training drivers as your primary day-to-day safety activity, but we know that’s not reality (or shouldn’t be).

Sure there’s turnover, but what are safety managers doing in between that initial driver training class and the next accident investigation?

It seems to me that if a realistic “driver management” program were in place (as suggested by ANSI Z15 and illustrated by the multi-layer program, above), then the safety manager would spend much of his/her time working that program to PREVENT collisions, injuries and moving violations.

Summary

Drivers are bright, caring people doing a difficult job in most circumstances. Likewise, safety managers genuinely care about helping drivers be safe.  We need to be vigilant in all areas of our driver safety programs to be effective.

The missing bridge between effective driver qualification and minimized crash events is an effective driver management program!  Layering multiple data inputs and washing them through a database to deliver “tip of the iceberg” conclusions helps managers focus their time and energy on those drivers who need the most urgent attention on specific topics. As you re-evaluate your current program, look for gaps in developing key data that would be useful in helping zero-in on select drivers for meaningful coaching interventions.

Similarly, ensure that your front line supervisors are versed in conducting positive coaching sessions designed to illustrate the cooperative nature of safety teamwork — drivers and managers working together to be safe instead of playing the “blame game”.

Coaching

New Video Releases (July 1, 2014)

SafetyZone-LMS

SafetyFirst’s Learning Management System (LMS) assigns focused training modules to individual drivers based on their risk taking behaviors such as weaving in traffic, excessive speeding or running stop signs.  These behaviors can be reported using our Motorist Observation Reports (MORs) SafetyFirst TeleMatic Alerts (TMAs), or Motor Vehicle Records (MVRs) from enforcement violations.

Our LMS is designed with the flexibility to function as a stand alone product offering, or to work seamlessly with our other driver safety programs (i.e. Safety Hotline System, E-DriverFile, MVR services, etc.) so that when a driver’s individual risk score changes (due to a new violation, etc.) our system can automatically recommend/assign the right module.

Based on past experiences, we recognized that having “more titles” (that drivers don’t pay attention to) isn’t the goal when promoting a Learning Management System.  The best system is the one that gets used, and the one that drivers actually enjoy working with (i.e. current, captivating and concise content).

Looking to find that right balance between highly engaging content and covering the needed range of topics, we’re always working on new modules. We have several in post-production editing presently.  A preview trailer of these new topics is embedded, below.

Our approach to learning content is to keep it simple, make it personal, and ask the affected driver(s) for a commitment to drive differently tomorrow based on today’s message.

At 5 to 7 minutes in duration, our videos (and their respective 10-question quizzes) are highly engaging and deliver the key content without losing your driver’s attention.

Currently Available:

  1. Tailgating (English/Spanish)
  2. Improper Lane Change (English/Spanish)
  3. Honoring the Right of Way (English/Spanish)
  4. Driving Too Fast for Conditions (English/Spanish)
  5. Running Red Lights / Stop Signs (English/Spanish)
  6. Aggressive Driving
  7. Distracted Driving (Cell Phone/Text)
  8. Drug/Alcohol Use
  9. Drowsy Driving
  10. Faulty Equipment
  11. Driving Too Slowly for Conditions (Impeding Traffic)
  12. Exceeding the Speed Limit (supports GPS monitored fleets)

To be released July 1st, 2014:

  1. Rules of the Road
  2. Parking Lot Risks
  3. The “Other” Driver
  4. Hydroplaning
  5. Distracted Driving (all sources)
  6. Intersection Collisions

To learn more about our online program, please visit http://www.safetyfirst.com/interactive-training-modules.php

SafetyZone-Safety Goal

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

 

 

CVSA Article on CSA’s “Safety Accomplishments”

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) publishes a periodical called “Guardian”.  In the most recent edition, there is a feature article titled “Three Years of CSA Brings Impressive Safety Accomplishments:  FMCSA Program Engages Stakeholders in Saving Lives”

The article, which can be found in it’s entirety by clicking HERE, lists a series of notable accomplishments:

  • “Data from roadside inspections show motor carriers and drivers have improved their safety compliance.  Additionally, vehicle and driver violations per roadside inspection are on the decline.
  • “…(FMCSA) shut down 52 bus companies and placed 340 operators out of service.  Inspectors targeted these carriers for investigation using the CSA prioritization protocols.
  • “CSA interventions range from warning letters for carriers with emerging problems to Onsite Comprehensive Investigations for carriers with serious compliance issues.
  • “…FMSCA has sent warning letters to more than 86,000 carriers, alerting them to safety performance problems”
  • “Motor carrier awareness is at an all-time high with 68 million visits to the CSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) site – 20 million over the year before and twice the number of visits [from] two years ago.
  • “…data from at least 3.5 million inspections and 130,000 Police Accident Reports fee into the SMS to identify noncompliant and at-risk carriers.

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What’s coming next?  The FMCSA is working on two new studies:  one to validate whether the current models are properly prioritizing the carriers with the highest risk to safety, and smc 1the other examines the effectiveness of current interventions — are the interventions having the right impact?  Also scheduled for later this year is the expectation that the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rule will be published allowing more carriers to be targeted and removed from service.

From a carrier’s perspective, it’s important to be keenly aware of your present BASIC scores, and be working on ways to keep those scores as low as possible.  The Bookend BASICS are key to keeping everything under control (Unsafe Driving and monitoring your Crash Rates).  We’ve previously published articles on these “Bookend BASICs” at this site.

For a complete web site of “all things CSA” — click here — http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/default.aspx

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Driving and Vision Disorders

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers many resources for a wide range of safety concerns.

Here is an example of one of their latest videos:

You can find many more video based resources at NHTSA’s You Tube page — http://www.youtube.com/user/USDOTNHTSA