Editor’s note: Written by Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance at Zonar, a smart fleet management technology provider. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.
In every industry, people share myths and urban legends among themselves. When it comes to operating motor vehicles people believe hands-free phone calls are safer while driving, but they’re not. They think red cars get pulled over more frequently — also not true.
The trucking industry also has its fair share of axioms that aren’t true.
During my 25-year career with the Washington State Patrol, I came across three myths about the industry that experience taught me are especially important to dispel. Not only are these beliefs false, but they also may cause drivers to act in an unsafe manner. They also can inadvertently cause inefficiencies and cost their companies money down the line.
In other words, the following three myths can have the opposite impact of what drivers and managers want.
MYTH 1: SPEED
I have talked to many drivers who believe they improve efficiency and profits by driving faster. On the surface, it makes a certain sense: The sooner you arrive at your destination, the sooner you can leave for your next one.
But, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding contributed to 26 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2017, of which 4,761 involved large trucks. Speeding increases your risk of a collision. It also increases your chances of being pulled over, which could lead to a citation. That, in turn, can spark a full inspection, which often takes hours. Once cited, you can expect your insurance rates to go up. So much for the idea that speed increases efficiency. Planning your route strategically and obeying the rules of traffic will help you reach your destination faster.
MYTH 2: ELD COMPLICATIONS
Many drivers claim the updated recording standards like the ELD Mandate have made the process needlessly complicated. This complaint is becoming more frequent as the Dec. 16 deadline for commercial vehicle operators to transition from grandfathered automatic on-board recording devices to electronic recording devices approaches.
While there’s a learning curve for anyone who needs to use a new device or system, the truth is the mandate makes it easier to log hours-of-service data and other information that drivers once did by hand. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that ELDs can save drivers up to 15 minutes of HOS paper logs each day, or 20 hours a year spent on paperwork. Plus, ELDs can potentially decrease the amount of time spent on roadside inspections. That allows drivers to get back on the road sooner.
A tip: A good ELD provider will help fleet managers ensure drivers receive the training needed to use their devices correctly. Choosing the right vendor goes a long way in easing drivers into the mandate.
MYTH 3: INSPECTOR QUOTAS
You often hear truckers say inspectors care more about quotas than safety. This, I can assure you from experience, just isn’t true. Inspectors want safe roads for the same reasons you do. Inspectors spend more time behind a wheel than many American workers and look forward to returning to their families after a shift. They are no happier than you that more than half of the 3.5 million trucks inspected across North America last year had violations.
As for quotas, there are already too many vehicles on the road and too few inspection officers for violation numbers to be a concern. The better prepared you are for an inspection, the sooner an inspector will let you go and inspect other drivers. For example, one of the top vehicle citations concerns brake adjustment. Checking brake adjustment regularly will reduce your possibility of being placed out of service. Also, maintaining your brake air pressure is important to ensure your vehicle’s brakes are operating at full capacity. Another thing officers typically notice are lights. A simple check to make sure your lights are clear and working pays off in time, money and, most importantly, safety. By conducting thorough pre- and post-trip inspections, a driver is less likely to have to endure a long, costly inspection.
Being able to separate fact from fiction, or opinion from data-supported information, might not help you become a good storyteller – but it can definitely help save your fleets time and money. By doing a little digging and myth-busting, managers and drivers can help keep the highways and roads safer for everyone behind the wheel.
Editor’s note: Written by Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance at Zonar, a smart fleet management technology provider.
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