Manager: David Guess
Fleet: National Distributors Leasing, Sellersburg, IN
Operation: National and cross-border truckload carrier
Accidents are bad news for any fleet, large or small, especially in terms of the risk of injury or death to the persons involved. And that's before sheet metal damages are factored in.
So it's not surprising that David Guess stays focused on seeking out new ways to reduce potential accident expenses for National Distributor Leasing (NDL).
He especially stays on top of new truck technology and the ways it can reduce the physical cost of accidents to the truckload fleet's equipment. “Obviously, we look for ways we can eliminate crashes completely or at bare minimum, reduce the frequency and severity of them,” Guess explains.
“The biggest reason to do this is to save lives,” he continues. “But there are other savings as well. Take maintenance: If we can go from completely writing off one of our $109,000 Freightliner Columbia tractors being totaled in a crash or doing serious reconstructive work on it to just repairing cosmetic damage, we would save ourselves a ton of money. That's the maintenance value you derive from safety equipment.”
About nine years ago, Guess witnessed a demonstration of Eaton's Vorad (Vehicle On-Board Radar) system by McKenzie Tank Lines and thought it offered a good safety option for NDL and its drivers.
After a demonstration project that elicited strong approval from the company's drivers, NDL began spec'ing Vorad as a factory-installed option on all of its new Freightliner Columbia tractor purchases starting in 2002.
As the carrier buys 30 new tractors per year, to date roughly 200 to 300 trucks are equipped with the system, which offers forward collision warning, blind-spot detection, a ‘SmartCruise’ feature to automatically maintain a safe following distance, and accident reconstruction capability.
“It gives our drivers another tool with which they could drive safer, reducing the chances of a crash or at least the severity of one if an accident occurred,” Guess says.
In the first year of use, NDL saw a pretty good return on that investment. “Over the first 12 months of use, DOT-reportable accidents dropped about 20% throughout our fleet and I felt Vorad contributed to at least 50% of that total accident reduction,” Guess states.
In terms of maintenance savings, the results were even clearer: no major wrecks to repair.
The clincher in that regard came last October. A driver heading home past midnight on I-71 in Kentucky going 65 mph hit the brakes when his Vorad alarms went off, then swerved when he saw an overturned Honda Civic ahead of him. Despite nicking the rear end of the car with his trailer hard enough to turn the sedan right-side up again, the seat-belted woman behind the wheel walked away without a scratch.
“He would never have slowed down without that initial alarm warning — and that allowed him to swerve before hitting the car,” says Guess. “If he'd plowed into her going 65 mph, she most likely would have been killed and we'd still be in court. But purely in terms of maintenance costs, we'd have completely totaled a tractor.”
Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.