April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and we’re exploring everything you need to know about distracted driving causes and solutions. In this blog, we are going to take a look at the biggest issues on the minds of truck drivers and fleet managers. Then we’re going to dive into what you can do to minimize distracted driving challenges – through solutions such as video-based safety solutions.
Top Trucking Issues
There are several main issues currently facing the trucking industry, including:
- Driver shortage: The trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of qualified drivers, which is leading to higher wages and difficulty in meeting shipping demands.
- Safety concerns: Safety is always a major concern in the trucking industry. Accidents involving trucks can cause serious injuries or fatalities, and there is ongoing concern about driver fatigue, distracted driving, and other safety issues.
- Regulatory challenges: The trucking industry is subject to numerous regulations, which can be complex and time-consuming to comply with. These regulations cover areas such as driver hours-of-service, emissions standards, and safety requirements.
- Infrastructure issues: The condition of roads and highways is a significant issue for the trucking industry, as it affects both the safety and efficiency of transportation. In addition, there are ongoing concerns about the need for investment in infrastructure to support continued growth in the industry.
- Technology and innovation: The trucking industry is being rapidly transformed by advances in technology, including automation and the use of data analytics. While these innovations offer many benefits, they also raise concerns about job displacement and the need for new skills and training for drivers and other industry professionals.
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently released the results of its annual survey. These issues have been front and center for several years now, ranked in the following order:
- Driver shortages
- Driver retention
- Hours of Service (HOS)
- The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate
- Truck parking
- Compliance, safety, and accountability
- Driver distraction
- Transportation infrastructure/traffic congestion/funding
- Driver health and wellness
- The Economy
A Closer Look at Trucking Industry Challenges
Driver shortages put huge amounts of pressure on carriers, forcing them to scramble to keep routes covered. Driver retention, of course, is a strategy to deal with driver shortages, underscoring the importance of staffing on industry executives’ agendas. Hours of Service rules? Carriers are doing their best to manage the mandate and drivers are adapting to the changes.
As one would expect, truck drivers and carriers delivered different responses, reflecting their different priorities. While Hours of Service topped drivers’ list, carriers ranked it third behind driver shortage and driver retention. Driver shortage (#9) and driver retention (#5) were lower priorities for the drivers themselves.
These placements make sense. While Hours of Service affects both sides of the house, it gnaws at some drivers because they feel it’s taking away flexibility. Potential changes that are currently being debated — expanding the daily, on-duty exemption for short-haul drivers from 12 to 14 hours, relaxing time constraints in bad-weather conditions — would give drivers a little more flexibility.
Meanwhile, driver shortage and driver retention are bigger issues for carriers because they’re the ones charged with solving the problems. The drivers themselves want to be paid better and want better work environments, but, based on the survey, they’re more concerned with other issues like driver distraction (#4 on their list), compliance, safety, and accountability (#6), and driver health and wellness (#7).
The driver shortage is real — no doubt about it. Industry experts expect the shortfall to reach 160,000 in the U.S. by 2022 and 34,000 in Canada by 2024. Carriers have put it at the top of their list, and they’re trying to do something about it. The ELD Mandate is opening up discussions about one of drivers’ biggest frustrations: transitioning the pay system from by-the-mile to hourly.
They’re equipping vehicles with infotainment systems, cushier sleeper cabs, and driver-focused technologies (like souped-up dashboards, rear- or side-facing cameras). New communications technologies also are keeping drivers better informed and more closely connected to the rest of the company.
Driver distraction is another big issue with drivers. The National Center for Statistics and Analysis found more than 10 percent of fatal crashes and 15 percent of injury crashes are related to distracted driving. While the problem won’t go away overnight, technological advancements can help. Omnitracs developed a predictive model that incorporates hours-of-service (HOS) data to help determine if a driver could be at risk of a fatigue event. There are other systems that detect eye movements such as drooping eyelids and triggers steps such as an audible alarm and vibration of the driver’s seat.
Finding Solutions to Trucking Challenges
Distracted Driving Awareness Month is just one month out of the year, but we’re thinking about solutions to truck driving issues all year long. Recently, the NTSB released its top safety concerns and recommendations for the transportation sector. The list focuses specifically on highway, pipeline, marine, air, and rail safety.
Part of the reason the list is so trusted is that the NTSB is an independent federal agency comprised of five knowledgeable industry members working collaboratively to identify and analyze the causes of avoidable transportation-related collisions. The members are nominated by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Board members work together, with the help of reliable data, to unanimously draft the listed recommendations.
For highway safety, the board investigated collisions related explicitly to speeding and distracted driving. Speaking about the agency’s list, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said, “It directs our limited advocacy resources toward improvements with the greatest potential to make the greatest impact on saving lives, reducing injuries, and preventing accidents and crashes.”
Here’s what the NTSB included on their list for improved highway safety:
- Implement a comprehensive strategy to eliminate speeding-related crashes
- Protect vulnerable road users through a safe system approach
- Prevent alcohol and drug-impaired driving
- Require collision avoidance and connected vehicle technologies on all vehicles
- Eliminate distracted driving
Transform Your Trucking Safety Program With Omnitracs
Today, you can transform your safety program with enhanced video-based safety solutions and data and analytics insights that address distracted driving and speeding — two primary components of the NTSB’s safety list.
Speeding has always been an issue on highways. Our data confirms that during even the quietest highway times of the pandemic, speeding incidents increased by 7% among everyday commuters and truck and last-mile drivers. Distracted driving is an epidemic worsening with increased cognitive distractions from mobile phones, radios, and anything that takes a driver’s mind off driving.
A successful video-based safety program is so much more than a camera in a cab. It is a multi-faceted approach to safety issues like these that, perhaps most significantly, utilizes visual and data-based evidence of risky driving behaviors to proactively coach drivers in real-time. With this approach, drivers can avoid the behaviors that threaten their safety, like distracted driving and speeding.
Furthermore, the right program takes different speeding trends into account. For example, the speed a driver is driving on a regular, clear day may be perfectly acceptable, but what happens when you add in rain, fog, or sleet? A successful program incorporates these varied conditions to proactively notify drivers of the speeds they should be driving for the conditions in which they’re operating.