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Painting a fleet safety picture to reduce habitual speeding, driver fatigue

Sept. 1, 2020
Trucking companies can improve their driver Compliance, Safety, Accountability scores by leveraging the data and historical research available to them to help reduce the risk of collisions.

Commercial truck fleets are often inundated with data points that are essential to helping them improve their driver Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores. The trick for many, however, is breaking down that data into actionable points to increase safety.

One area in which trucking companies can improve their CSA scores is by pinpointing habitual speeding, which Mike Soricelli, senior product manager for Trimble Transportation, referred to as “the gateway drug of the road” and the number one cause of fatal crashes. During the recent Trimble virtual in.sight user conference, Soricelli suggested that fleets leverage the data and historical research available to them to help reduce the risk of collisions caused by speeding.

Video, which shows fleet managers what is happening on the road in real time, is a good place to start, Soricelli said. “There are so many different data points that need to come together that we want to put together a story that is bulletproof, especially if we are presenting this to a driver or a group of drivers that we are training, and hopefully reducing risk within your fleet,” he emphasized.

Soricelli also pointed to fatigue monitoring as another important aspect of a fleet’s safety plan. Trimble recently partnered with Pulsar Informatics to help fleets monitor driver fatigue.

“Hours of service, as it relates to fatigue, is one of those leading causes that increases risks and crashes,” Soricelli said. “We see that 18 hours without sleep is like having a blood-alcohol content of .05. When you up that to over 20-plus hours, it’s like legally being drunk.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also put its support behind the development of Pulsar Informatics’ Trucking Fatigue Meter, which helps trucking companies not only evaluate driver fatigue but provide actionable feedback in near real time.

“Industry adoption of the Trucking Fatigue Meter directly supports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's stated mission to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries by reducing driver fatigue and increasing safety on U.S. highways,” stated FMCSA. “This project is relevant to individual drivers to mitigate the negative effects of fatigue due to job stressors. It is also relevant to trucking companies by providing tools to mitigate overall fatigue risk.”

Pulsar Informatics is developing enhanced capabilities for the Trucking Fatigue Meter, which provides carriers with quantitative feedback on how fatigue risk impacts driver safety, performance, and cost metrics. The solution will support integration either at the level of the carrier or the third-party telematics technology. The company has already completed technical integrations of its technology with various telematics and electronic logging device vendors, FMCSA noted.

“The expanded capabilities of the technology will also support the automatic collection of wearable sleep data from drivers, the selection of operational fatigue countermeasures, and the provision of driver training in the domain of fatigue risk management,” FMCSA noted.  

In addition, FMCSA offers the following tips to help commercial truck drivers stay rested and well while on the road:

  1. Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel: Drivers must get an adequate amount of sleep each night. If possible, they should not drive when the body is naturally drowsy, between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Driver drowsiness may impair a driver’s response time to potential hazards, increasing the chances of being in a crash.
  2. Maintain a healthy diet: Skipping meals or eating at irregular times may lead to fatigue and/or food cravings. Also, going to bed with an empty stomach or immediately after a heavy meal can interfere with sleep. For drivers who are not well-rested, induced fatigue may cause slow reaction time, reduced attention, memory lapses, lack of awareness, mood changes, and reduced judgment ability.
  3. Take a nap: If possible, truck drivers should take a nap when feeling drowsy or less alert. Naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally a nap should last up to 45 minutes. Allow at least 15 minutes after waking to fully recover before starting to drive.
  4. Avoid medication that may induce drowsiness: Most drowsiness-inducing medications include a warning label indicating that you should not operate vehicles or machinery during use.
  5. Recognize the signals and dangers of drowsiness: Pay attention, as indicators of drowsiness include: frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision.
  6. Do not rely on "alertness tricks" to stay awake: Behaviors such as smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window, and other “alertness tricks” are not real cures for drowsiness and may give drivers a false sense of security.

Overall, when it comes to evaluating safety, Soricelli expressed the importance of rewarding drivers. “It is very important to get driver buy-in, and rewarding them for a job well done is a great way to do that,” he said. “Another great thing to have is with established key performance indicators to manage all your drivers within your fleet to the same average or same goal that has been set so that you are comparing apples to apples.”

“Analyzing data makes it much easier to confidently make actionable and effective decisions,” Soricelli added. “One or two data points might win the battle, but aggregated data analysis will win the war.”

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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