Electronic Logs for HOS Reporting

Geotab HOSLast month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed electronic log mandate took another key step forward towards becoming part of the regulations.  The proposal still faces it’s comment period and potential legal challenges before it would become finalized.

Still, this 256-page proposal marks a big change in one of trucking’s older “traditions” — moving from paper log books with their “flexibility” to smudge the lines to electronic devices that demand absolutes from drivers.

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A recent article published at truckinginfo.com (click HERE) summarizes the current proposal’s status:

The agency will take comments on the proposal until about mid-May. After it reviews the comments and publishes a final rule, perhaps later this year, carriers will have two years to comply. Carriers that already have recording devices that meet current specifications would have an additional two years to bring their devices into compliance with the new specifications.

The rule will apply to drivers who have to prepare paper logs. Drivers who don’t have to prepare logs may use the electronic devices but won’t have to. Drivers who use timecards will not have to use the devices. And drivers who use logs intermittently can stick with paper logs unless they use them more than eight days in 30 days.

Of course there are many technical details to be addressed:

The technical specifications spell out how ELDs should work.
The basic requirement is that the device record specific information – date, time, location, engine hours, mileage and driver, vehicle and carrier identification – and make it available to inspectors.

The driver must be identified by his full license number and the state where his license is issued.

The device has to be synchronized with the engine to record on/off status, the truck’s motion, mileage and engine hours.

The device will have to automatically record a driver’s change of duty and hourly status while the truck is moving. It also must track engine on/off, and the beginning and end of personal use or yard moves.

The agency is proposing that the devices use automatic positioning services: either the satellite-based Global Positioning System, land-based systems, or both.

Many carriers now have onboard information systems that warn the driver when he’s approaching his hourly limits, but the agency is not requiring that capability in its proposal.

The devices won’t have to print out the log, but may have that feature as an option. They will have to produce a graph grid of a driver’s daily duty status, either on a digital display unit or on a printout. This is the first time the agency has proposed using a printer, and it’s looking for comments on the costs and benefits of that approach.

If your fleet may be subject to this proposal, and you’re not sure where to start to learn about your options, costs and benefits.  SafetyFirst can help.  We work with multiple hardware providers and have found a wide range in costs for similar systems.

Depending on your fleet’s specific operations, you may want to install a more robust offering at higher cost, but for many fleets a basic, proven system is also available that increases productivity, reduces fuel costs, addresses key safety issues and handles the compliance portion in an easy to understand interface.

http://www.geotab.com/gps-fleet-management-solutions/compliance.aspx

http://www.safetyfirst.com/gps-telematics.php

TeleMatics

Incremental Gains Add Up Over Time

The Tortoise and the Hare is one of Aesop’s Fables.

The story concerns a Hare who ridicules a slow-moving Tortoise and is challenged by the tortoise to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, takes a nap midway through the course. When the Hare awakes however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him. (Summary from Wikipedia)

“Slow and steady wins the race” is how I’ve heard the moral of the story expressed.  It’s a simple concept for leaders to embrace.   Incremental gains in effectiveness and efficiency may not seem all that important (or glamorous), but as long as you keep improving in small but very steady ways, you’ll soon leave the competition in the dust.

Consider this article titled; “What Would Happen If You improved Everything by 1%: The Science of Marginal Gains” (Click HERE).  The author, James Clear, paints the picture vividly by recalling the efforts of the British cycling team to win the Tour DeFrance:

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do.

His approach was simple.

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as the “1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.

He was wrong. They won it in three years.

So in business, and in our personal life, small but deterministic changes can lead to bigger and better results.  I think this can be true in safety areas, too.

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287From the driver’s perspective, habits (productive or risky) develop over time from small choices made and small risks taken which are reinforced as acceptable (i.e. speeding daily without having a crash, using a hand held cell phone repeatedly without a crash, etc.)

These choices (good or bad) either take us to better performance (eating more healthy each day, getting more rest from a consistent sleep schedule, etc.) or lead us towards a bad outcome (crashes due to unchecked risk-taking.)  Driver coaching feedback should get drivers to incrementally change to conform to existing policy.  We’re not suggesting letting them break rules, but consistent monitoring and reinforcement of following the rules may work better than trying to get them to change overnight by means of hours of re-training, etc.

Driver Communication Plans foster two-way discussion about goals and outcomes (results) that can be a valuable tool in getting strong performance (https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/driver-management-communication-plans-part-1/)

smc 1Similarly, from a management standpoint, arriving at a poor BASIC score isn’t (typically) done overnight with one bad event, but over time with holes in the enforcement of policies designed to keep drivers safe, cargo secured, etc.

The discovery that a driver has become a chronic risk taker, or that a management team has developed inappropriate BASIC scores isn’t something that can be changed immediately.  Just as it took time to get to this point, it will take discipline and patience to get everything back on track.

marginal gains

Leveraging your current investment in safety programming (fine tuning for improved performance) is a great place to start.  Details like policy enforcement, training utilization, maximizing vendor relationships, fine tuning management reporting to identify key performance metrics may be mundane, but can yield significant dividends.

You might also consider setting highly tailored, short term objectives related to recent trends in loss (Crash/Injury) activity, and pushing for verified achievement before tackling additional areas of improvement (no one can easily win a wrestling match against an eight-armed octopus — focus and step-wise implementation are important).

TeleMaticsI recently attended a GPS conference where a very large delivery fleet (thousands of trucks ranging from class 3 thru class 8) talked about their success in rolling out telematics.

While they recognized that telematics could help them in hundreds of ways, they focused on one metric to start with and mastered that one thing, then moved on to another until it was mastered also.  Did they “leave money on the table” by not setting multiple goals in multiple areas?  They felt that if they had tried to tackle too many details all at once they might have failed in all areas.  By staying focused and working the incremental gain, they mastered their system and are getting amazing results (with plenty of ROI waiting in the wings, too.)

Communicating each “small win” to the team helps keep them motivated, too.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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Motorist Observation Reports – What’s the Point?

Another traffic picWhen a motorist calls a safety hotline reporting service, they usually call because they’re emotionally upset by what they’ve witnessed.

However, that statement doesn’t mean that the commercial driver “did something wrong” OR that the motorist “was just trying to get someone in trouble“.  Unfortunately, these assumptions lead to blame setting instead of no-fault coaching designed to reduce risk.

For instance, a motorist travelling in the middle lane (of three) is passed by a large commercial vehicle in the left lane.  The motorist looks at his or her speedometer and realizes they’re already five MPH above the posted limit of 65 (operating at 70 while being passed.)  The motorist is concerned since the commercial vehicle then begins to weave through traffic ahead of them without using signals.

  1. The call is made and the interview concludes with an estimate of the commercial vehicle’s speed being around 80 since they passed the motorist so quickly.  In ALERT CSAreality, the speed of the passing vehicle would be difficult to estimate, but since the motorist did check their own speedometer (at 70 MPH) it’s reasonable to estimate a speed in the 75-80 range.  
  2. In the process of making the report, the motorist is asked where this incident took place, and they cite a mile marker that they’ve just passed (even though the incident took place behind them, perhaps as much as 2-3 miles behind).
  3. Finally, the motorist is asked to leave a contact number and their name in case the safety manager would like to give them a call.  Having just seen a movie the night before about stalkers and such, the motorist is unwilling to give their name for fear that a driver might somehow get their information and harass them.

The report is filed with the motor carrier electronically, within an hour of the phone call.

  1. The motor carrier checks GPS records for the time of the incident and confirms that the vehicle was withing five to ten miles of the approximate location mentioned by the motorist; however,
  2. all of the trucks in that fleet are “governed” to a maximum speed of 70 MPH.  
  3. The manager sees that the report was filed anonymously. 

Critical decision time — is the point of the report to:

  1. set blame and initiate discipline for breach of a safety policy?
  2. offer “no-fault” coaching on safety practices to raise safety awareness, record the report in case subsequent reports are received on this same driver for similar situations?

If the goal is to set blame, then the report is a poor mechanism in this instance since there is an apparent conflict with the report of the speed and the “governor” settings (the manager could investigate to see if the settings have been altered), and the manager doesn’t like to deal with anonymous reports since he/she feels that there is a lack of credibility associated with the report.

However, if the goal is coaching/re-training, then the manager can:

  • have a face to face meeting about safety.  Even if the conversation is something as simple as:  “tire blowouts are caused by under-inflation and high speed operation which heats the sidewalls, tire blow outs are a primary contributor to truck rollovers, & truck rollovers are a key crash type that ends in fatalities not just simple injuries; therefore, you should be very careful to always check tire pressure and stay at or under the posted limit while not impeding traffic.  Additionally, signaling and proper passing technique is important to avoid side swipes and merge/pass collisions.  For CDL holders improper passing is also a disqualifying offense because it is such a serious safety issue”  This conversation would, naturally cover any specific company policies related to pre-trips, speeding and time management (not rushing due to poor planning, etc.)
  • schedule online refresher modules.  Many online programs are available that highlight risk-taking such as speeding, weaving in traffic, etc.  Our programs are focused on the possible consequences of such behavior which doesn’t focus on blame setting, just awareness by asking for a renewed commitment to drive professionally.  Our programs are also kept to 5 to 7 minutes out of respect for your driver and the need to be productive, too.
  • Another example of a blended scorekeep the report on file in case of subsequent reports for similar situations in the future.  Maintaining a file doesn’t have to imply punitive action against the driver, but without records, we’d never know if the driver may be slipping into a repeated pattern of habits.  
  • connect this report with the affected driver’s history of violations and past collisions. This report may be another piece of a complex puzzle indicating a need for management’s compassionate intervention.

Coaching Tips TitleTo ignore the report or delete the report shows the least care and concern for the professional driver — it says that we don’t care enough to offer safety coaching to help minimize the chances of becoming involved in a collision — preferring to wait for a violation (affecting their personal insurance rates, out of pocket fines, etc.) or waiting for an actual crash event to recognize the need to intervene.

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287The National Transportation Safety Board has previously issued written recommendations over this issue of deleting all anonymous reports.  The NTSB offered their opinion that while the individual report credibility may be called suspect, if subsequent reports of similar nature (anonymous or not) were later received about this same driver for the same (or similar) described habits, then there’s ample justification to provide “no fault” re-training in order to preserve the highest regard and practice of safety awareness within the professional driver population.

Other food for thought from very recent client case studies (past two years)…..

  • One of our clients operates 12,000 trucks.  They installed GPS.  They ignored the GPS alerts about speeding for the first year.  During the second year, all speed alerts (driving more than 80 MPH) came to us to be processed as MOR – none could be deleted, all must end up with coaching offered to the driver.  By the end of the second year, they had decreased GPS speed alerts by 600% (From 1700 down to 174).  This was by “no-fault” coaching instead of discipline and termination.
  • Another client with 450 tractor trailers (over the road trucking) has GPS.  They got 470 reports in the first year on the program (more than one per tractor!) – out of these only five were ‘inaccurate” based on GPS readings for location/speed at time of report – that’s 1% considered inaccurate and all remaining reports were used for coaching.  Their accident frequency has not changed, but severity per claim is “significantly lower” than the prior year and they believe it’s due to the drivers being aware of their surroundings and using the training we’ve provided to modify their habits. Further, the number of reports per month is dropping steadily as drivers modify their habits to be less aggressive as they maintain their productivity through careful route planning and time management.

These are just some of the tips and techniques that we provide to our clients, and the examples above are highly abbreviated versions of what we actually share.

So how about you?  Do you see a Motorist’s Observation as a chance to help a driver be safe or merely a punitive exercise?  

We think that it’s akin to a “near miss” report that’s actionable from a prevention standpoint that helps the driver avoid collisions and stay productive.  

This is based on a dozen+ studies conducted by both fleet managers and insurers who provide the hotline (and monitor the reporting over the shoulder of the enrolled fleet).  Those studies showed 20-35% reductions in frequency and larger savings from severity reductions.  When coupled with automated MVR profiling, GPS alerts and Online Training, the improvements increase.

www.safetyismygoal.com

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Tank Truck Rollover Prevention Programs from FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has developed materials to help prevent tank truck rollovers.  They’ve dedicated a web page to this program — http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/hazmat/rollover-prevention.aspx

Their program is titled “Keep the Load on the Road:  A Driver’s Guide to Cargo Tank Truck Rollover Prevention”  This is a free, 17 minute video featuring driver tips on how to:

  • Avoid sudden movements that may lead to rollovers
  • Control your load in turns and on straight roadways
  • Identify high risk areas on roads
  • Remain alert and attentive behind the wheel
  • Control speed and maintain proper “speed cushions”

You can find the video embedded here or by going to this link – http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/hazmat/cargo-tank-video.aspx

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