Training to lower risk

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Even the most well-trained, safety-conscious commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver is at risk of engaging in driving behaviors that could lead to a crash on today’s crowded highways.” –Rose A. McMurray, Acting Deputy Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Administration

Ask anyone in trucking if the highways and roadways today are more dangerous than ever before and I think you’ll get a huge ‘YES’ in response. In my opinion, at least, it sure seems that way.

Driving in and around the Washington D.C. area for me is getting more and more hair-raising every year, I feel. For example, take driving to the Delaware beaches along Rt. 50 – crossing the now-infamous Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The speed limit is 65 mph, yet I must hug the right lane going that speed, for people are whipping by me at over 90 mph in a lot of cases.

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Two years ago, five motorcyclists “shot the gap” while I was in the middle lane of Rt. 50; riding on the white dotted lines clocking over 100 mph. If I had flinched and moved the steering wheel two inches left or right, I would’ve killed one of them, no question about it.

This is the kind of madness truck drivers and fleets must deal with every day – even from among their own. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2006, commercial motor vehicles were involved in over 4,000 fatal accidents and 368,000 traffic crashes overall. The costs of these crashes, particularly those involving negligent entrustment, can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.

As a result, a lot more “risk management” programs are being designed to help the trucking industry not only improve its own safety record but also cope better with the dangerous driving behaviors they encounter on roadways across the U.S.

For example, from the private sector, PHH Arval – a subsidiary of PHH Corp. – just launched a new comprehensive risk and safety program geared toward medium and heavy trucks and equipment. Designed to cover the whole spectrum of risk and safety needs for commercial truck fleets, PHH said its new program identifies high risk drivers, provides effective and targeted driver training, and efficiently manages the risk and costs of collisions that do happen.

PHH’s new “Truck Risk and Safety” program includes a variety of services, which can be delivered in any combination or as stand-alone offerings:

PHH Collision Prevention, a comprehensive program that fosters a culture of safety, uses a variety of sources to accurately profile drivers, delivers targeted training and can reduce accident rates by as much as 40%.

Programs to identify high risk drivers, including motor vehicle records, PHH’s Driver Profile program, and a driver monitoring program developed in conjunction with the National Safety Council.

Driver training programs, including classroom and simulator training for a broad range of terrain, weather conditions, traffic and road situations as well as superior progressive shifting; and targeted online training that tests and coaches drivers on a variety of skills, ranging from roadside inspections to attitude while driving.

Accident management services that provide comprehensive administration of everything related to an accident, including 24/7 telephone access to toll free Customer Contact Center staffed by PHH truck professionals, First Notice of Loss reporting, expert vehicle repair management, an expanded network of truck and equipment repair facilities, and industry-leading subrogation services.

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is also deploying more resources for drivers, recognizing that even minor changes in weather suddenly make “driving too fast for conditions a major risk factor for accidents.

Rose A. McMurray, FMCSA’s Acting Deputy Administrator, noted that even minor things such as failing to look or looking and not seeing, impaired performance because of fatigue, inattention or daydreaming or an unexpected external distraction can all lead to a truck crash.

Data backing up the danger inherent in those behaviors comes from a long-term study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) for the FMCSA, using in-camera systems filming the habits of car drivers.

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Those videos – available for free viewing at FMCSA’s CMV Driver website – provide examples of driver errors to help CMV drivers avoid dangerous driving situations. You click on any of the error categories listed on the left-hand navigation bar under the "Driving Tips" section to gain access to driving tips, interesting facts, video clips, a video description, and the training exercise questions.

“This Web site was developed to raise the consciousness of CMV drivers about common driving errors and to provide valuable driving tips through an easily accessible tool, the Internet,” noted McMurray. “Fleet safety managers can also use this Web site for their driver training programs. These tips offer preventive measures that CMV drivers can take to help avoid crashes.”

Knowing the professionalism of today’s truckers, I know a lot of that information will get put to good use.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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