As an essential economic driver for commerce in the United States, commercial trucking is dependent on safe operating practices to reduce risks. Gaining an understanding of common risks – and the best practices for road safety – supplements the protection of truck insurance. In part one of our two-part guide, we covered such practices as defensive driving, preventative maintenance, vehicle inspections, and reducing distracted driving, helping to keep drivers, their vehicles, and their cargo safe on America’s roadways. In this second part of the series, we will explore additional safety practices your fleet can implement to reduce the chance of accidents as well as to minimize expensive trucking insurance claims.
Monitoring Changing Road Conditions
On America’s roads, truckers can be expected to navigate ever-changing road conditions. This is especially true of over-the-road truckers, who may travel from near-tropical conditions to icy mountain passes or wet weather as they cross the country. Even traffic can pose challenges for the safe operation of tractor-trailers and other large commercial trucks. Knowing what to expect – and what to do – when conditions change from favorable to dangerous can reduce collisions, keeping your fleet and drivers safe.
Road condition management requires a multipronged approach. The components of anticipating potential road hazards and conditions include:
- Equipping fleet dispatchers with real-time road monitoring systems that spot weather and traffic patterns. These systems provide map overlays, giving dispatchers an excellent view of conditions before drivers may encounter them.
- Being flexible with routing, giving dispatchers and drivers the option to reroute to avoid unfavorable road conditions.
- Training drivers in vehicle operation on wet, slippery, or snowy roads. Defensive driving is an important part of this training, as it gives drivers the tools needed to slow down and/or increase following distance to suit road conditions.
- Ensuring that all drivers are equipped with safety equipment, including road flares, cold-weather clothing, and emergency food and water in case roads become impassable. Being stranded on an icy road can result in severe injury or death if drivers are not adequately prepared with emergency gear.
Fleet Management with GPS
Global positioning systems, or GPS, have revolutionized the commercial trucking sector. These devices allow fleet managers to pinpoint the exact location of every vehicle in real time. GPS is also a powerful risk management tool. Just like trucking insurance, knowing where vehicles are and what conditions drivers are encountering can help reduce risks. GPS devices are especially useful when drivers have a breakdown or are stranded due to inclement weather. Help can be sent immediately, thanks to the precise locating ability of these electronic systems. Alternatively, truckers can be directed to the nearest repair facility, reducing downtime.
Rest Periods and Breaks
Being a commercial trucker can be exhausting, both from the work itself as well as long hours on the road. Because of this, state and federal transportation agencies have mandated adequate rest and break periods for truckers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created what are known as Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. For truckers, regulations include:
- An 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- A 14-hour work limit, which means that truckers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty following a 10 consecutive hour off duty period. Additional off duty time does not extend the 14-hour limit.
- 30-minute driving breaks each time drivers have accumulated 8 hours behind the wheel without interruptions exceeding 30 minutes. During these breaks, drivers may not operate vehicles except in special circumstances.
- A 60/70 hour limit, where drivers may not drive after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.
There are additional regulations and exemptions posted by FMCSA. Emergency declarations may also temporarily suspend certain regulations regarding rest breaks. Fleet managers and drivers alike must understand and follow HOS regulations. For their part, fleet managers must encourage drivers to take breaks as needed to remain safe on the road. Failure to heed HOS regulations may result in expensive penalties, loss of licensure, or excessive claims against trucking insurance policies.
Monitoring Driver Behavior with Dash Cams
Although they may seem intrusive in terms of privacy, dash cams installed in commercial trucks have several important benefits. First, they record any activities behind the wheel and can be used as evidence in instances of truck collisions. Second, they help to reduce claims against trucking insurance policies by encouraging safe driver behavior. Finally, they serve as a powerful learning and instruction tool. Fleet managers can review dash cam footage with drivers, pointing out unsafe behaviors and providing corrective training before a collision causes expensive property damage or injury. Dash cams serve as a risk management tool, just like trucking insurance in helping to mitigate the risks drivers face on America’s roads.
About Western Truck Insurance Services
Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes. Contact us today at (800) 937-8785 to learn more!