Teens and Big Trucks: Should They Be Allowed to Drive?

Should teens be able to drive big trucks? Right now you can’t drive a rental car until 25, but you can start driving 80,000 pound trucks at 21 interstate and intrastate(in most states) at 18. If a new law passes, younger drivers may soon be able to drive heavy trucks across state borders. Proposed regulation wants to change the age limit for interstate trucking to 18, with some provisional conditions. What do you think? Will this new regulation help get more drivers on the road or is the safety risk much too great?

The Risks of Younger Drivers

Younger drivers are notorious for getting into accidents. Drivers aged 16-19 have the highest annual crash rate and that’s just behind the wheel of a car, not a heavy truck. In states where 18 year olds are allowed to drive 80,000 pound trucks, younger drivers are 4-6 times more likely then 21+ drivers to get in an accident. Safety experts worry this plan could lead to disaster on the road.

While younger drivers are more likely to get in an accident, they are already on road and driving big trucks. In most states current regulation only keeps them from crossing borders, not from driving. Proponents of the law argue that the regulation changes make sense. Right now teens can drive hundreds of miles around a state, but can’t drive 10 miles across a border.

The Benefits of Younger Drivers

There is a need for more drivers and allowing younger drivers to drive interstate could lower recruiting costs and increase the number of applicants available. With transportation costs on the rise, some hope that younger drivers could help slow the rising prices in transportation (contract costs increased 3-5% this year). The law would potentially give fresh out high school graduates more job opportunities.

The Proposed Regulation

The proposed regulation would allow the FMCSA to create a 6 year pilot program allowing younger drivers to cross state lines. The regulation would allow states to enter into agreements with each other allowing the younger drivers. States would be free to place limits on these drivers (like limiting types of cargo, limiting routes, creating hours they can drive, etc.).

The regulation has passed the Senate, but still needs approval from the House of Representatives.

What do you think about this proposed regulation? Should we allow more teen drivers on the road?

 

The Latest Stats in Trucking

Have you taken the chance to review the Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics for 2015? This handy guide is released yearly by the FMCSA and gives those working the transportation industry an insightful look into the state of the industry. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to check it out, we’ve pulled out a few of the statistics we found most interesting.

Trucks Carry a Big Majority of Our Nation’s Freight

It’s no secret to those working in the transportation industry, but without trucks, nothing would move. In 2012 trucks carried 70.2% of the total weight of freight moved across the U.S. Air (0.03%) and rail (11.1%) can’t even come close to competing with those numbers.

Large trucks accounted for 9.2% of all the 2,988.3 billion vehicle miles traveled in 2013 for a total of 275 billion miles traveled. There are more than 10.5 million large trucks registered in the U.S. (8,126,007 straight trucks and 2,471,349 tractor-trailers).

Seat Belt Use on the Rise

Seat belt use by large truck drivers is on the increase. In 2012, 74% of flatbed drivers wore seatbelts, but in 2013 that number increased to 82%. These increases are exciting, but we hope to see even higher numbers in the next report. If your truck is rolling, you should be wearing your seat belt. The percentage of drivers involved in fatality crashes without a seatbelt has been dropping considerably, down from 14.9% in 2005 to 9% in 2013.

Roadside Inspections… Everything You Need to Know

Make sure you read the section on inspections. There’s a great map that highlights the number of inspections performed by county (hint… California is a big state for inspections) and valuable information about the most common violations (log violations topped the chart). The information in this section can help you ensure that you’re not making common mistakes so you’re ready for your next inspection.

Fatal Crashes Statistics from 1975 to Now

Although fatal crashes involving large trucks have been on the rise the last couple of years, they are still much lower than they were in the 1970s and even in the 1980s. In 2013 there were 3,541 fatal crashes involving large trucks, fewer than the number of fatal crashes in 1975 with almost double the number of registered trucks. Clearly the changes that have been made from then until now have brought about positive change in trucking safety. What changes can we still make to ensure the roads are a safer place for all of us?

Take some time and orient yourself with this valuable information today.

All of these items, and more, can save you valuable money on your insurance. If you have questions on how you can apply this information to your risk management practices, give us a call and remember… Travel with Care!

A Safer Tomorrow Starts Today- 3 Changes Every Trucker Should Make

Here at Western Truck Insurance Services, we want you to “Travel with Care”. We all know that transportation is a risky industry (truck drivers are 5x more likely to die in a work related accident than the average worker), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to reduce your risks and increase your safety. Today we’re sharing 3 doable changes you can make for a safer experience on the road.

Buckle Up

More than 1/3 of truck drivers that die in accidents weren’t wearing a seatbelt. The number should be 0. Hooking your seatbelt before you hit the road is an easy change to make if you aren’t doing it already (and 1 in 6 truckers aren’t). Accidents are a leading cause of death for truck drivers; 2012 saw 700 fatalities of large truck drivers and their passengers and another 26,000 injuries.

Re-commit today to better seatbelt practices. It could save you your life.

Stop Smoking

Truck drivers are much more likely to smoke than the general population. More than half of truck drivers (51%) currently smoke, compared with the U.S. average of 19%. We understand the urge to smoke on a long haul, but that doesn’t make the practice any less risky. Luckily, it is never too late to quit smoking. Quitting at any age has benefits and the sooner you quit, the sooner you can start to heal. Diabetics may notice an immediate improvement in blood sugar control and your risk of heart attack drops steeply after just one year.

Quitting isn’t going to be easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Call 1-800-Quit-Now for phone help (a great option wherever your next load takes you) or visit SmokeFree.gov for resources (including a free chat with a live help information specialist).

Put Down Those Cellphones

Did you know that commercial drivers that text are 23 times more likely to experience a safety incident (like an accident, near accident, or inadvertent lane change) than those that don’t? Not 2 times, not 3 times, but 23 times. Isn’t that reason enough to put down that phone?

Texting is illegal for all commercial drivers. What exactly is texting? The rules might be stricter than you think. You are prohibited from manually entering text or reading text while driving. This includes sending a text, reading an email, IM’ing, visiting a web page, dialing a phone number (pressing more than a single button to initiate a call), etc. The penalties are hefty (up to $2,750 or driver disqualification for multiple offenses, not to mention the impact on your SMS score), but pale in comparison to the risk of accident or death. Put down those phones and drive safely.

Make the commitment today to make a few safety changes for a safer tomorrow. Trucking might be a dangerous industry, but there are things you can do to make it safer.

Do You Have an Accident Prevention Plan?

If you don’t have an Accident Prevention Plan, each day on the road is just an accident waiting to happen. This might sound extreme, but the truth is, trucking is an industry with a lot of safety risks and potential hazards; if you aren’t actively preventing accidents, the potential for injury, including serious injury and death, is exponentially increased. What can you do? Create a safety plan and use it. This can help you find and eliminate potential safety problems before an accident or injury occurs. If you don’t have a plan, you need one. Create one today.

Accident Prevention Plan- A Legal Obligation?

An accident prevention plan is a good idea for any trucking operation, no matter the size (owner operator, small fleet, large fleet, etc.), but for many companies, it is actually a legal obligation. A workplace injury and illness prevention program is encouraged/required by a majority of states (learn about the requirements for your state here)and OSHA recommends that every workplace have one.

If you don’t have a safety plan, not only are you putting yourself (and your employees) at risk for an injury, you’re also exposing yourself to unnecessary liability should an injury occur.

Starting an Accident Prevention Plan- First Steps

Creating your first accident prevention plan can seem overwhelming; we’ve broken the process into a few easy first steps to get you started.

·         Look for Risks– Spend a few days looking for hazards and make a list. What safety risks are you or your employees likely to encounter? Getting your employees in on the brainstorming process can help you to identify more potential hazards. Past records of accidents, injuries, safety inspection violations, etc.  can be a valuable resource in pinpointing specific problems you’re facing.

·         Create Solutions to Risks– Once you have a list of risks, work on creating policies to eliminate or reduce these risks. How can you reduce the safety hazards you face?

·         Consider Training– A written policy is important, but so is training. If you notice safety violations or unsafe practices, consider some training. Knowing how to properly tarp, chain up, use PPE, etc. are essential skills every driver should possess.

·         Choose a Safety Supervisor– Who is in charge of safety? While safety should be something on everyone’s mind, it is a good idea to have someone actively in charge of company safety to ensure that it remains a priority. This person can also be a point of contact should illness, accidents, or injuries occur.

Resources to Get You Started

The following resources will be helpful tools as you create your accident prevention plan.

·         Guide to Developing Workplace Injury Program (California)- The State of California has created a comprehensive guide for developing a workplace injury program. While the information isn’t specific to the transportation industry (the guide was written for all employers), you’ll find it is easily adapted. This is a great resource no matter what state you live in.

·         Sample Plan (Texas)- What should your plan look like? You’ll want to adapt things to the way your  company does business, but this sample guide from the State of Texas can give you a good jumping off point.

·         OSHA Information for Transportation– The transportation industry has some unique hazards. This guide from OSHA will help you identify some of the risks, hazards, and training requirements you should address in your plan.

Do you have a safety plan? Create one today for a safer tomorrow.

 

Report Claims Quickly and Get the Most from Your Policy

Crunch… it’s a sound no one likes to hear, especially when you’re driving a commercial vehicle.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen, even to the best drivers. In 2011 the FMCSA noted more than 5 million accidents reported to police with 273,000 involving large trucks. Safety can play a big role in helping you avoid these accidents, and when they do occur, knowing how to properly report your claim could be essential in getting you the most out of your truck insurance policy. When you have a claim make sure you report it quickly and thoroughly.

  Reporting a Claim- The Do’s and the Don’ts

  Do…

  ·         Get as Much Information as Possible– After an accident get as much information as possible. This will make it easier for your insurance company to figure out fault and ensure quick resolution of your case. Get as much information as you can from other drivers and passengers involved. Also make a note of any potential witnesses with their contact information.

  ·         Take Photos– A picture’s worth a thousand words, especially after a truck accident. Take pictures any damage (both vehicle and property), the accident scene (skid marks, vehicle positions, debris, etc.), the area where the accident occurred (road signs and markers) and any identifiers (license plates, insurance cards, etc.).

  ·         Contact the Police– While police may not come out to every accident scene, it is always a good idea to advise them of an accident, even if it seems minor.

  Don’t…

  ·         Delay– Report claims as soon as possible after an accident or event. Many truck insurance providers require that claims be reported within 24 hours or a higher deductible will apply. Having to pay double your deductible can greatly increase the cost of an accident. Save money by contacting us as soon as possible after an accident. We’ll help you deal with your insurance company.

  ·         Don’t Admit Fault– Never admit fault for accident, even if you think you might have caused it. Without understanding the complete picture behind the events, you don’t know whose fault an accident is. It’s possible that another driver was drinking or talking on the phone and is responsible. Don’t admit fault to other drivers or the police.

Do You Understand Your Policy?

  Every truck insurance policy is different, but understanding the details of yours is essential to getting the most out of your insurance, especially in an accident.  What’s your deductible? What are your requirements when reporting claims? If you don’t thoroughly understand your policy, take a few minutes and review it. The last thing you’ll want to deal with after an accident is trying to figure out your insurance coverage, although we’re happy to help if you need assistance.

Helping with claims is one of the many services we offer our customers here at Western Truck Insurance Services. We stay on top of your claim from the moment you report it to us, making sure you know what’s going on with your insurance company every step of the way. We only work with truck insurance providers that we trust and you can be sure that we’ll ask the right questions, get the best information and clearly relay any concerns to your insurance company. When we help you process claims you’ll know what’s happening, who’s handling what and how your needs are being met. Accidents are no fun, but with Western Truck Insurance Services by your side, they are a lot easier to handle.

  If it’s been awhile since you reviewed your coverage, give us a call. We can make sure your coverage is the best fit for your situation and give you a truck insurance quote for great coverage from some of the top truck insurance companies.

 

What Does the Future Hold for the Trucking Industry?

With ever rising fuel prices, stagnant cargo rates and increasing regulation, you might be worried about the state of the trucking industry. Are you going to be able to earn enough to support your family? What does the future hold? While we don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future, careful analysis of the industry can shed some light on what changes you can expect in the coming months.

A series of recent investment reports about the trucking industry by Stiefel provide some valuable insights into what you may see in the weeks ahead. Let’s take a look:

·         52% of Truckload Carriers Expect Volumes to Grow Over the Next 12 Months– Increased volume means more work for truckers and higher rates, a very good thing for the industry.

·         CSA Scores Matter-80% of those surveyed indicate that some of their clients care about the safety scores of their drivers. Safe driving will not only help you to impress with your CSA scores, but also obtain the lowest possible rates on your insurance.

·         Driver Turnover Expected to Increase– As the economy continues to recover the turnaround for drivers is expected to increase from 100% to 150%, the level where it was before the recession. Truck drivers tend to switch between industries and as construction and other industries need more workers, driver turnover is expected to increase.

·         Sleep Study Requirement Could Lead to Shortages– If the FMCSA’s proposed sleep study requirement for high BMI drivers passes, a real driver shortage could result. Half of commercial licensed drivers have a BMI over 30. Sleep testing costs as much as $5,000. Many truckers will likely switch industries rather than submit to the testing. Fewer drivers could mean more money for those that remain.

·         Environmental Regulations Have Biggest Impact on Owner Operators– Potential new EPA regulations for fuel mileage could have a big impact on owner operators and smaller fleets. Increasing mileage will require big equipment changes. Smaller operations generally purchase equipment that can do multiple jobs; efficiency requirements may lead to highly specialized equipment that can only do one or two jobs.

·         Increased Expenses– The newer more efficient engines require more frequent maintenance. 40% of fleets reported increased expenses with the new 2010 engines while only 10% noted a decrease.

·         More Owner Operators Expected– Currently half of those receiving operating authority from the government are owner operators. As lease agreements become less lucrative, people decide to go at it alone. Stiefel expects many more owner operators in the coming months.

·         Less Reliance on Brokers– Carriers are choosing to use freight brokers less often. Brokers are most commonly used by companies making less than $25 million annually.

·         ELogs Becoming More Common-ELogs are becoming more common. Currently 42% of larger fleets are using them compared with 12% of smaller fleets. Some drivers are choosing to leave the industry rather than comply with these logs since they unveil unsafe driving practices fairly effectively.

·         Driver Shortages May Get Worse– While unemployment rates still hover at about 7.5%, in the trucking industry there are shortages of workers and they are expected to get worse. Increased regulation may lead to more drivers leaving the industry. Overall there are shortages in many areas in the industry: safety people, mechanics, drivers, etc.

What do you predict will happen in the coming months for the trucking industry? How will these predictions impact the way you drive? While the industry is constantly changing, one thing will always remain the same: we strive to bring you the best rates on great insurance.

How Can I Improve My SMS and SAFER Scores?

In our last blog post we talked a bit about SMS and SAFER scores. This month we’d like to take a deeper look at these scores and find ways to improve them. How can you reduce your scores? By better understanding your scores and taking a few simple precautions you can improve your ratings. At Western Truck Insurance Services we love helping you save money on your insurance and great safety scores might just save you a bundle.

Tips for Improving Your Scores

We want you to “Travel with Care” and a big part of this is safety. While improving your scores might help you save money on insurance, more importantly it will help you to become a safer driver, helping you to make home after those long hauls and ensuring that the roads are safe for all of us. Here are some tips for improving your scores and becoming a safer driver.

·         Buckle Up– With long hours on the road it is tempting to leave that seatbelt unbuckled, but this is one easy way to protect yourself. Buckle up as soon as you get into the truck. Make it a habit.

·         Hang Up– Cell phone violations are a big deal. Make a commitment to not use your phone while driving. Instead focus on the road. You can check your text messages and make important phone calls when you come to your next stop.

·         Inspect Yourself– Don’t wait for violations to be discovered at an inspection; inspect yourself. Periodically give yourself a mental inspection and see how you’d do. Are you log books up to date? Is your truck in good repair? Are you speeding? Finding your potential problems before an inspection will give you time to make the needed adjustments and become a safer driver.

·         Check Your Data– When was the last time you used DataQs to check your safety data? Just like you should regularly check your credit score, you should check your safety scores for errors too. If you find any inaccurate information, get it checked and amended.

·         Educate Yourself– Even the safest drivers can use a little reminder now and then. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has created an online resource that commercial drivers can use to improve safety practices. Common driving errors are discussed with tips for improvement. Short video clips are available to further teach and train. This is a great resource for any commercial driver.

·         Make Safety a Priority– Inspections might catch violations, but if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do these violations will be few and far between. Focus on safety, not on your scores. When you institute safe driving practices the scores will follow. Safety should be your first priority. It’s more important than getting a load to its destination on time or squeezing in a few extra miles in the day.

What are you going to do to improve your safety ratings? We encourage each driver to take a few minutes and renew their commitment to driving safely. SMS and SAFER scores might help you to remember the importance of safety, but even without these scores we want you to get there safe.

 

SMS and SAFER Scores: An Introduction

The importance of safety in trucking can’t be overstated. Your life and the lives of others depend on your ability to safely get from Point A to Point B or anywhere else you may travel. Safety records, like your SMS or SAFER scores, help measure adherence to important safety practices. These scores provide an important snapshot into your safety record and can have a big impact on your insurance rates.

SMS vs. SAFER

SMS stands for Safety Measurement System. It is an on-road safety and performance measurement system utilized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The system was designed to change and adapt as new technologies and measurement guides are established. It is updated regularly (keep updated about any changes by checking the FMCSA website). Check SMS reports here.

SAFER stands for Safety and Fitness Electronic Records and is a system that provides safety information to both the trucking industry and the public online. You can search company safety snapshots free of charge using a company name, DOT number or MC number. Snapshots provide basic information about inspections, violations and crashes. More detailed information is available for a free by requesting a SAFER company profile.

How Are Scores Determined?

Both SMS and SAFER measure and report safety violations, but they do so a little differently. For example you are able to access a great deal of information about motor carriers and their violations for free using the SMS search option. You can find out not only how many violations are on a record, but also the specifics of these violations. SMS rates violations by severity. A parking violation might carry a weight of one while a more serious violation like inadequate brakes will be more serious. On the other hand SAFER only provides basic information in its free carrier snapshots.

Any time a violation is reported it leaves a negative mark on your record that can be seen by potential clients, employers, insurers, etc. Safer drivers are more appealing and a smaller risk and in turn will typically receive lower rates on insurance. Too many violations can result in penalties, fines and investigations.

SMS reports include information in a variety of BASIC categories including:

·         Unsafe Driving

·         Hours of Service Compliance

·         Driver Fitness

·         Controlled Substances and Alcohol

·         Vehicle Maintenance

·         Hazardous Materials Compliance

·         Crashes

How to Check Your Score

Knowing what your reports look like is essential to protecting your safety reputation. Motor carriers should regularly check their reports for accuracy. Keeping safety on your mind and striving to have a clean safety record will help you to improve your driving and possibly even lower your insurance rates. You can check your scores online from the FMCSA website. Check SAFER reports here and SMS reports here.

Correcting Errors

As you check your reports look for errors. The SMS results are based on state reported crash and inspection data. If you find an error you can report it using a portal known as DataQs. You can report errors or concerns for investigation.

Here at Western Truck Insurance Services we want you to Travel with Care and that means driving safely. Not only will safe driving help you save money on your insurance, it will also help you to make it home safely after a long journey on the road. Keep checking back and future posts will teach you some tips for improving your safety scores.