Maneuvering heavy trucks in urban areas and on highways is a risky business. Even though vehicles have more safety equipment than ever, and motor carriers must satisfy a broad set of safety regulations, there’s more to managing the risks and exposures in trucking than just complying with the law.
Although some may consider current regulations excessive and burdensome, there are benefits in compliance. Regulations in transportation exist for a good reason. They’re there to increase safety and prevent loss of life. Sadly, the number of fatalities in heavy trucking have been increasing steadily in the past five years, reaching 571 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to safer operations, a strong compliance record can improve motor carriers’ financial results and reputation.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation are keenly aware of opportunities to improve safety on the road. Toward that end, they have implemented a variety of rules supported by digital technology. This is a new era for motor carriers, where digital tools can help ease compliance and improve safety. Among the FMCSA and USDOT digital initiatives are:
Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). Between now and December 2019, most motor carriers will need to install ELDs on their trucks to record and monitor drivers’ hours of service. Hours of service regulations are intended to limit the time drivers spend behind the wheel so they don’t drive when they’re tired. Fatigue is a major problem for all drivers, whether they’re hauling a busload of schoolchildren or a semi loaded with 20 tons of cargo. ELDs are designed to facilitate compliance with hours of service rules in a paperless environment.
Safety Measurement System (SMS). FMCSA, which conducts roadside inspections and has authority to investigate and intervene in motor carriers’ safety practices, makes most of its findings available to the public through the online Safety Measurement System. Anyone can look up a motor carrier by name or USDOT number and see its on-road performance in the areas of: unsafe driving, hours-of-service compliance, vehicle maintenance, controlled substances and alcohol, and driver fitness. The only categories not publicly available are crash indicator and hazardous materials compliance. These seven categories comprise what FMCSA calls the BASICs — Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories. FMCSA studies have found that motor carriers’ performance in the BASICs is strongly correlated to future crashes.
To see an example of this online public safety record, look at the performance of Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc. UPS is one of the world’s largest motor carriers, with more than 120,000 vehicles and over 100,000 drivers. It has long been known for excellent driver training and safety, and its SMS record shows that. Across all the publicly viewable BASICs, UPS has the best or near the best possible ratings.
There’s an old saying, “Safety doesn’t happen by accident,” and it’s true. Managing the risks and exposures involved in trucking requires planning and follow-through. A safe motor carrier has a competitive advantage. Safety-focused trucking firms are more likely to attract better drivers and be more profitable. A good safety record also can make insurance coverage easier to obtain, of course.
The flip side is not pretty for motor carriers. Poor safety practices and non-compliance carry all sorts of penalties, up to and including fines and orders to remove vehicles from service. And that’s before tallying up the direct and indirect impact in employee injuries, accidents involving others and reduced productivity. With profit margins in the transportation business already narrow, can motor carriers afford not to take safety to heart?
Auto transporting is an interesting business run by good, hard-working folks. The risks and exposures they face make it harder to grow and sustain their businesses. Having the right knowledge and protection to manage those risks makes their journey a whole lot smoother.
Tokio Marine America has vast experience helping motor carriers to reduce their risks and exposures. That has the dual benefit of making their regulatory compliance efforts easier and improving trucking firms’ business results. We are also a digitally savvy insurance company with deep expertise in transportation logistics and cargo risks. With proprietary needed coverages, motor carriers are better able to manage traditional as well as new risks and exposures. It’s part of our mission to deliver Anshin, the Japanese word for safety, security and peace of mind.
To learn how Tokio Marine America can make a difference in your business, visit our product page.
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