Technology and defensive driving prevent truck accidents

Steve Fields, an America’s Road Team Captain at Yellow Corp. (CCJ Top 250, No. 6) and 36-year-old professional truck driver, said eight out of 10 cars that pass him on the road are doing something other than driving.

Between distracted driving and radio commercials from lawyers and highway billboards claiming to win cases of nuclear-magnitude-magnitude injuries, car drivers are the most terrifying thing truck drivers face on the road.

Technology and defensive driving is the answer. That’s what safety experts said during the “Future of Safety” training session at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.

Lytx technology has discovered that truck drivers are paying more attention. According to Lytx data, sleepy driving has decreased by 18%, blank stares by 53%, unbelted drivers by 24% and drivers not scanning the lane by 7% in 2022 compared to 2021. Trends are upward; such as posted speed violations (19%) and policy violations (53%).

Dan Murray, senior vice president of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), said data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that motorists are at fault 71% of the time in accidents involving both a car and a truck. Likewise, the University of Michigan conducted a study that looked at property damage and injuries — omitting accidents that resulted in motorist deaths so everyone could be present to have a say — and found that 68% of Cases the motorist was primarily responsible.

“The bottom line is that accidents are very rare and the number of accidents where the truck driver is negligent is extremely low,” Murray said. “So we have to keep safety in mind, but it’s really important to focus on the main factor, which most of the time isn’t the truck driver.”

The environment has changed because motorists are not paying attention to what’s going on around them, said Joshua Vance, vice president of safety and compliance at JB Hunt Transport (No. 3). While technologies like Lytx video telematics have been implemented to help fleets improve truck driver behavior, external cameras that provide video during collisions are just as important as they can exonerate the truck driver in the event of an accident, he said vance

Fields said it would also help to enact “sharp” laws on cellphone use among motorists.

However, Sean Garney, co-director of Scoplitis Transportation Consulting, said while the trucking industry has improved in almost every category related to distraction, there is one category that hasn’t improved: interaction with a device. That could be a cell phone, but also the technology that is built into trucks these days, he said.

“Disciplining ourselves as a truck industry to avoid that makes perfect sense and of course it’s also going to be incredibly important to educate our younger folks and the drivers, but really teach our drivers to be defensive and understand where the Risk is important,” Garney said. “We work with many trucking companies who want to develop zero-tolerance policies for distraction. Look at the research and the research does say food is a distraction; Drinking is a distraction and it increases my chances of an accident. But if my driver is driving 10 hours a day, can I reasonably ban drinking and eating?

“Instead, it’s incredibly important to teach them distraction avoidance techniques – or defensive driving techniques – to make sure our eyes don’t take their eyes off the road when we do it. I don’t think there are more frills every year – just walk through the exhibition hall; We have a lot of new technologies that make us aware of different things and protect us – but how do we deal with them?”

But the panel quickly found that the driver isn’t always the problem.

Fields said Yellow has drivers like him who drive millions of miles accident-free and some who don’t.

“I’ve always wondered, ‘What’s the difference between these drivers?'” he said. “Often… I think it’s because they don’t realize they’re getting into a bad situation, and it can be a whole lot of different things; it can be weather, it can be traffic, it can be a construction site. As a coach in Kansas City, I’ve been trying to teach these guys to think about what you’re doing…when you go into that construction site, it’s just a little hot, because once you go over that hill, you don’t come back. ”

He told an industry-old story about a young truck driver who asks an older truck driver if he thinks he’s going too slow up a hill. His answer: “You go down 100 times too slowly, but only once too fast.”

But there was always a battle between safety and schedule, Fields said. He said many trucking companies put schedule ahead of safety, but giving drivers time is important.

Vance said that in trials related to accidents, prosecutors will look at how much training each truck driver — involved in the accident or not — received. But that is not the case with a motorist.

“I got my driver’s license when I was 16 and nobody taught me how to get better,” he said. “Unless there is a change in the way the average person obtains and keeps a driver’s license, there is only so much we can do.”

The panel also discussed future cases of safety issues from changing the age of drivers between states to allow 18-year-olds to enter the autonomous vehicle industry.

According to Murray, statistics from show that 18-25 year olds are safer drivers than those over 25. Fields said that a few years later, older drivers become more comfortable and complacent.

“At Yellow we have more accidents on a bright, sunny day than in the snow because you concentrate in the snow,” and the same principle applies to the younger drivers who tend to be more concentrated because they’re new and more afraid of accidents, Fields said.

But what about their future and retirement, one listener asked in reference to autonomous trucks.

Gary Johnson, Lytx’s director of safety services, said he doesn’t think there will ever be a time when a driver will not be in the vehicle.

Fields said he used to be concerned about the direction toward autonomous trucks, but now sees it as a helping hand for drivers. The driver’s job will shift, but not disappear. He said he wants his company to innovate to be competitive because when his company does well, drivers benefit too.

“Ultimately, the human being is the biggest and most important part of this wheel,” Johnson said. “Look at the airline industry; How many years have you been on autopilot? And you still have two people on that plane to take care of anything that goes wrong. The human aspect will always be key, but it really comes down to values ​​and approach when it comes to safety.”

And that means whatever technology companies bring to the table — from video telematics to autonomous trucks — leadership must champion it. Garney said that claiming a safety-first motto is not enough; the C-suite must support it.


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