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Trending News and Stories in the World of GPS Fleet Tracking

Ensuring Privacy In the Era Of Electronic Data

01/15/2015 by Caroline

EOBRs (electronic onboard recorders) or ELDs (electronic logging devices) are an important part of modern fleet management and will soon become the letter of the law. Yet these devices don't come without fear. Because electronic logging automatically collects detailed information about each driver’s habits, some businesses worry about the possibility of an invasion of privacy.

The federal government is required by law—specifically, the Privacy Act of 1974—to assess the risk to privacy any time it requires collection of potentially personal data. Failure to do so adequately also would leave the agencies vulnerable to tort claims, since the courts have agreed that a right to privacy exists and that those whose privacy is invaded without good cause should receive compensation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has already conducted an investigation into whether ELDs leave drivers vulnerable to bullying by their employers. The concern is that employers might put pressure on drivers to keep working in unsafe conditions or when too tired to drive safely.

The agency has found that such bullying is, in fact, minimal.

When FMCSA makes its final rule on the use of ELDs, the rule will likely include specific language against harassment and bullying and a clearly outlined grievance process for drivers who have been harassed.

However, privacy is not simply the right not to be bullied—a person’s privacy is invaded whenever his or her information is taken by those who have no good reason to have it. So who does have the right to detailed data on drivers’ habits, and how can the industry limit access to the information to the right people?

Transportation employers do have a right and a responsibility to make sure their drivers do not violate hours of- service (HOS) regulations.

Exhausted drivers constitute a serious public safety danger. Employers can protect their drivers’ privacy by drafting clear policies on who has access to the data under what circumstances. Discarding unnecessary details and destroying records after they are no longer needed are also important steps to protect employee privacy.

FMCSA also plans to stipulate that motor carriers not disclose any ELD data to the agency, or to anyone else, except as specifically required for inspections, compliance reviews, and incident investigations.

After all, ELDs are meant to improve public safety and drivers are members of the public. Their safety includes their right to privacy.

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The 411 On Hazmat Safety Regulations

01/12/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

“Hazmat” is short for hazardous materials, such as explosives, toxins, or acids. Hazmat regulations cover who may handle and transport these materials, how such loads must be identified, and what to do in the event of an “incident” such as a spill or leak. Generally, shippers must register and pass certain safety inspections in order to legally carry more than certain quantities of dangerous substances. Failure to follow the rules can result in a company being completely barred from operation.

Hazmat regulations are not simple. For example, the maximum quantity that can be shipped without registering under the rules is different for different types of hazardous materials (radioactive verses explosive, and so on). The registration and safety inspection process varies slightly depending on whether the applicant lives in the United States or only ships within the country. Some people, such as certain state and federal employees, are exempt from the rules. And besides the Department of Transportation (DOT), which has primary responsibility for hazardous material shipping, there are other state and federal agencies that have their own regulations.

Everyone involved in the process of moving hazardous materials has their own responsibilities under the law. Each must be properly registered and inspected. The shipper—the person or company that decides the material should travel—is responsible for recognizing the load as hazardous and notifying the carrier. The carrier is then responsible for notifying the proper authorities in the event of an incident. Each also bears responsibility for proper labelling, stable packing, completing paperwork, and other matters.

Compliance with hazardous material safety regulations is part of the requirements the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains for carriers to operate. Thus, if a carrier fails its safety audit or compliance review because of improper handling of hazardous materials, it could lose its ability to carry any sort of cargo until the problem is rectified.

Generally, FMCSA’s registration and certification processes are educational, not punitive in nature. Carriers that fail compliance reviews have a period of time in which they can correct the problems while continuing to operate. Carriers can also ask for additional time under some circumstances and have the option to appeal the decision. It is only when carriers ignore the regulations entirely that FMCSA might take the company off the road.

Detailed summaries of hazmat safety regulations are available online, as are the regulations themselves. It is important to read through the regulations thoroughly in order to find all those that apply to the carrier’s situation.

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A Foolproof Way to Control Fleet Costs In the New Year

01/09/2015 by Shazia Haq

The new year brings new opportunities and challenges, but one aspect likely to remain the same is that fleet managers need to find ways to keep operating costs as low as possible.

GPS fleet tracking offers several great ways to lower costs dramatically. The biggest expenses for most fleets are fuel and drivers’ wages, at 30% and 26%* respectively. Next, at 22%, comes “other,” a category that includes speeding tickets, parking citations, and other vehicle-issued violations. Insurance and maintenance are 6% and 5% respectively. Depreciation is 10%, and telematics can’t do anything about it, but it can bring the other costs way down. Fuel costs alone can come down 20-30%*.

*Source: Verizon Case Study, “How to Use Telematics To Control Fleet Costs.”  

The best ways to reduce fuel use include obeying the speed limit, reducing idling time, increasing route efficiency, and keeping current on maintenance. GPS fleet software helps with all three. Automatic alarms alert managers when a vehicle goes too fast or idles too long, allowing managers to target training or disciplinary measures on the right people. Alerts also notify managers when small mechanical problems develop, so they can be fixed before they get bigger and more expensive to fix. Real-time GPS tracking makes efficient route planning easier.

Payroll might seem easy to reduce—just pay people less—but lower pay often leads to poorer service and less employee loyalty. In the trucking industry, where there is a persistent shortage of drivers, reducing pay might be a good way to run out of employees. A better approach is to tie driver compensation more closely to performance, so employees have more control over how much money they receive and so that employers get more bang for their buck. GPS fleet software is a great way to do just that, since fleet managers can see who drives well and who does not and can adjust pay accordingly.

Skilled, careful drivers make the road safer, but that is not the only reason to use GPR tracking as a training tool. Another reason is that better drivers get fewer tickets and fines, again bringing costs down. Safer drivers also cost less to insure. While few, if any, insurance companies will offer discounts for tracking alone, but many will look favorably on safety programs that include GPS fleet software. And a favorable view from an insurance company means lower premiums.

Some people might worry that fleet management software will be costly to install and difficult to learn, but over time, these systems pay for themselves and then keep right on paying. Any company that can take advantage of GPS fleet tracking is in a good position to move their company forward into the new year.

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Driving Tip Of The Day: Dealing With Road Rage

01/08/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

Add anger to the list of dangerous distractions on the road.

Classic road rage, where drivers deliberately threaten or harass each other, is bad enough, but even just going down the road privately stewing can impair a person’s awareness and judgment. Aggressive driving is dangerous and unprofessional, and fleet managers do have a responsibility to ensure that their employees stay cool behind the wheel.

Simply saying “don’t drive angry!” may not be enough. Aggressive drivers might not realize they have a problem or might not know how to manage their own anger. Managers therefore face the double challenge of developing training protocols to address aggression and finding ways to identify who needs the training.

Fortunately, software that measures and analyzes safety can help.

While software features cannot spot some well-known road rage behaviors, such as following too closely or making rude gestures, it can record episodes of erratic driving, sudden braking, or failure to obey traffic lights and other laws of the road. Managers can then replay the recording and ask the driver what happened and whether the incident might have involved anger. In this way, the software not only shows managers that a problem with aggressive driving exists, but also makes clear who is involved.

Besides conducting training and even discipline focused specifically on aggressive drivers, there are other steps fleet managers can take to minimize road rage.

Perhaps the most important antidote is to give drivers adequate time to cover their routes given realistic projections of traffic volume. If drivers are not anxious about meeting their deadlines they will be less likely to lose their cool if someone else is drives too slowly or otherwise gets in the way. Encouraging drivers to make their vehicle more comfortable and relaxing—perhaps by playing enjoyable music, for example—is also helpful.

Basic driver training can also include a couple of tips related to preventing aggressive driving:

  • Be polite, even with erratic or rude drivers. No hand gestures, shouting, or cutting people off.
  • Signal properly when changing lanes and give other drivers plenty of room.
  • Maintain a safe following distance at all times, even if the vehicle ahead is going slowly; trying to “push” another driver by getting in their space is rude, dangerous, and ineffective.

Drivers who find themselves on the receiving end of road rage should remember:

  • Avoid extended eye contact, which could be perceived as a challenge, but do take note of the aggressive driver’s appearance.
  • If threatened, call the police from a safe place. Do not stop on the side of the road.
  • Stay behind aggressive drivers; it is a safer position.
  • Never respond aggressively to an aggressive driver—do not try to win or to teach them a lesson, no matter what.

Anger gets the best of most people occasionally. A slow or chaotic driver can sometimes become the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back after a stressful day, and a person just boils over. One of the simplest ways to let go of such feelings is to imagine that the other driver is racing to respond to an emergency or distracted by genuine personal tragedy (whichever is more appropriate to their driving). It might even be true.

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The Cost of Fleet Violations Is Rising

01/06/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

For years, many fleets of all types have treated vehicle-issued violations as just another routine cost, like vehicle maintenance or insurance payments. It can be difficult to keep track of which drivers are responsible for which violations, and some companies consider parking tickets and the like less important than fast customer service. Such casual attitudes towards fees and fines is on the way out, though—and good riddance.

Part of the change is driven by the fact that violation-related costs are going up, thanks to technological improvements such as photo enforcement that make issuing tickets much easier. Many jurisdictions are also coming down heavier on vehicle-related issues, levying much larger fines than in years past.

Tolls, parking, and photo-enforcement of stop signs and traffic lights together make up 95% of vehicle-issued violations for fleets.

In Maryland, the number of toll violations tripled from 2008 and 2012, according to a new study by American Traffic Solutions. From 2010 to 2011, Washington DC increased its income from parking fines by over $12 million. Across the country, photo enforcement tickets increased by 12% between 2010 and 2012. If a driver does something wrong, he or she is more likely to be caught and fined.

Fleets also are paying more attention to avoiding violations in order to avoid bad publicity and to improve public safety on the roads.

So, fleet managers have every possible motivation to ensure that drivers follow the rules—but how can they do it?

Part of the answer is simple training, deliberately fostering a culture of safety in the company. Instituting policies that reward good driving rather than punishing it is important, too. For example, a company that rewards its drivers only for mileage is creating an incentive to speed. Managers who insist on service vehicles getting to the work site quickly no matter what incentivize parking violations. It is important to think about possible unintended consequences of company policies.

But another part of the answer is better data gathering and record-keeping. Here, GPS tracking features can help. If a fleet manager can tell where is or her drivers are and how they are driving, then he or she can easily spot those drivers who need additional training or disciplinary action—before citations are even issued. If a driver does get a violation, it is much easier for managers to tell which driver was involved. And, finally, if a driver gets a ticket in error, GPS tracking makes it easier for he or she to appeal (just remember not to pay tickets automatically, before talking to the driver—once a fine is paid, most jurisdictions consider the matter closed and will not hear an appeal. The driver is then stuck with the violation on his or her record).

GPS tracking and other fleet management software features create better drivers, saving fleets 70 to 90%* in violation-related charges and creating a safer road for everybody.

Source: American Traffic Solutions. "Traffic Violations Are On The Rise: How Fleets Can Prepare."

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Bringing In The New Year With A Last Rewind Of 2014

01/02/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

Last week, we posted summaries of five major trucking-related news stories of 2014. Now as we move into the new year, here are four more. It will be interesting to see how 2015 builds on these events.

4. New Rules on the Way

Last spring, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced its intention to require electronic logging devices (ELDs), perhaps as early as 2016.

An earlier rule requiring ELDs was struck down by the courts on the grounds that it exposed drivers to possible harassment by their employers. The new rule fixes that problem, giving drivers a number of new protections in including better access to their records, a complaints process, and the power to edit their records.

3. With A Few Rules Suspended

2013 saw important changes to hours-of-service regulations designed to ensure that drivers get adequate sleep. 2014 saw the new rules suspended, pending further investigation. If drivers following the new version of the rule actually perform better and show less exhaustion and stress than those following the old version, the new hours-of-service regulations could be back in effect as early as September of 2015.

2. Head's Up

A recent lawsuit has implications across the trucking industry.

In 2008, a pharmaceutical shipment was stolen. The owner of the load, an Ohio-based broker, asked the carrier to pay the full cost of the missing goods, as per their contract. The carrier declined on the grounds that the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act obligated it to pay only a lesser amount. The broker sued and the judge agreed that the Carmack agreement does not supersede a contract.

The take-home message here is that contracts stand even if they expose one of the parties to more risk that the law, their insurance company, or common sense says that party should take on. No one should sign anything without reading and thoroughly understanding the contrast.

1. Following the Leader

It’s been obvious for years that if trucks followed each other very closely, driving as a team, each truck except the leader could realize substantial fuel savings. Geese fly in formation for the same reason, taking turns in the more tiring point position. The problem with trucks is that at highway speeds, the following driver could not respond quickly enough if the leader had to break suddenly.

That may be about to change, with the development of new systems that allow vehicles to communicate with each other directly. When the lead truck changed speed, the following vehicle changes automatically, keeping the distance constant for maximum efficiency and preventing accidents. All the trucks in the team would still need human drivers, but moving together, called “platooning,” would also make driving much easier.

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The Biggest Transportation Stories of 2014

12/30/2014 by Caroline Ailanthus

As we approach the New Year, it’s good to take a look back at the big transportation-related news stories of 2014. We’ll post part two tomorrow.

The Arrival of Trucks of the Future

The future arrived on July 3rd, when Daimler Trucks announced it was working on an autonomous truck (one that drives itself). A few months later, the company presented the concept truck at the IAA show in Hanover, Germany.

The Future Truck 2025 features a sleek and aerodynamic Mercedes Actros cabover, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, front, side, and rear-facing radar, and its own lane-keeping system. As the name implies, the new design will not be ready for market until at least 2025, but it is a sign of radical changes preparing to sweep over the industry.

Walmart presented another view of the trucking future with its own Peterbilt/Great Dane concept tractor-trailer. It can’t drive itself, but this truck’s fuel efficiency is revolutionary. The carbon-fiber trailer weighs 4,000 pounds less than traditional trailers do and the teardrop-shaped body has 20% better aerodynamics. The engine can run any fuel, from diesel to gas to bio-fuel.

Adapting to Extreme Weather Conditions

2014 was a difficult year for weather. January and February delivered deep snow and severe cold across much of the U.S. while western states baked in dangerous heat and drought. Warm rain triggered an avalanche that completely cut off one Alaskan town for ten days. California’s drought only deepened as the year progressed, becoming the worst dry period in the state’s history. New York finished the year with one of its worst blizzards ever.

Not surprisingly, all that bad weather challenged the freight industry both directly, through poor road conditions, and indirectly, through slowed economies in impacted areas. Climate change is likely to bring more extreme weather in future years (yes, including extreme snow!), so many in the industry have begun discussing ways to adjust to coming changes.

Driver Wages And Bonuses Increased Across The Industry 

The driver shortage has been a big story throughout the year, with companies trying various strategies to get and retain the talent they need. 2014 saw a huge increase in compensation through raises in base pay, signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and performance bonuses. Driving a truck now offers the same median take-home pay as the country as a whole, making it one of the best ways to earn a living in the nation.

FMCSA Announced The Speed Limiter Rule

In March, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) responded to requests by the American Trucking Association (ATA) and Roadsafe America for a rule requiring speed limiters on Class 8 vehicles. Roughly 1,000 fatal crashes per year involve heavy trucking, a number speed limiters should be able to reduce. FMCSA now intends to issue the rule sometime early next year.

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A Look At The Top Five Myths About GPS Tracking

12/29/2014 by Caroline Ailanthus

GPS tracking software can offer users a range of advantages, but some companies are reluctant to try it out. While tracking software is optional, the objections typically rest on misunderstandings of what the software does and how it works. Here are the top five objections, plus the reasons why each is actually not a problem.  

1. Tracking Software is Creepy

Many drivers worry that GPS tracking software will allow their supervisors to watch them too closely, to become a kind of Orwellian Big Brother. Fleet managers understandably don’t want to alienate their employees by pushing the technology on them.

Carriers can address these concerns quite simply by not becoming Big Brother. Clear company policy about how tracking data is handled can protect employee privacy and ensure peace of mind. The most important thing is for both drivers and managers to clearly understand what the software does and what it does not do and why the company has decided to use the technology. It really helps if the drivers can see how tracking software benefits them, perhaps through a performance bonus program, so they can feel ownership in the process.

2.  Software Costs Too Much

Some company leaders are concerned that adopting GPS tracking software might cost too much. Actually, the money saved through greater security will likely be enough to offset installation costs. Over time, the company will come out well ahead. If in doubt, a company can perform a full cost evaluation to see just how much tracking software can save.

3. Tracking Software is Just Too Much

Some managers of smaller fleets think a tracking software package offers more features than they need or want. Actually, these software packages are customizable, so the user only has to deal with the features they need. Even better, when the company and its needs grow, those extra features will be ready and waiting.

4. We Don’t Have Enough In-House Expertise

Nobody wants to take on extra trouble in the form of software that will require hiring a lot of new IT people. Fortunately, GPS tracking software is designed for use by ordinary people—no experts required. Just make sure to work with a provider than can help with setting up and rolling out the new technology.

5. We Don’t Need Tracking Software

Finally, there are managers who insist they do not need to track their vehicles, explaining that they trust their drivers. If somebody takes an extra coffee break, that’s no big deal. But while checking up on employees is certainly one way to use GPS tracking, there are other uses for the technology. What happens if an employee is the victim of a carjacking? How do you ensure the safety of your driver on the road? How can you be certain drivers reach their customer site in the fastest and most efficient manner? What can you do to keep managers and drivers in constant, fast and easy communication about a job? These are all questions GPS fleet tracking software can answer.

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A Useful Way To Incentivize Driver Pay

12/23/2014 by Caroline Ailanthus

One advantage of the driver shortage is that companies have excellent motivation to take good care of the employees they do have.

Already, median truck driver pay is about the same as the median income for U.S. households generally and often comes with competitive benefits packages. About 80% of private carriers offer a 401(k) retirement plan and match employee contributions. Almost 80% of truckload fleets offer paid holidays.

Pay does vary with the type of driving involved. For most categories, pay is $53,000 (U.S. median household income) or better, but national, irregular route dry van truckload drivers might make $46,000 and private fleet van drivers can make over $73,000. The bottom line is that driving a truck or a van is now a very solid way to make a living in America. Trucking is one of the few industries that does not require a college degree and can still lift entire families into the middle class and keep them there.

So with the entire trucking industry treating its drivers well, how can a carrier set itself apart to attract talent? Of course there is the option of simply paying more, but after a certain point most companies start looking for ways to make their payroll dollars go farther. The ideal scenario is to find a way to direct more money towards the best drivers so employees who want to earn more can, in effect, raise their own pay by improving performance.

One option is to change how drivers are paid. Traditional mileage-based compensation, for example, rewards those drivers who work hard, but unfortunately the system also rewards drivers who speed and who neglect to take adequate rest. Most modern fleets use combination methods, such as paying some drivers by the hour and others by the mile, or by paying per-mile drivers an hourly rate for unavoidable stoppages.

Another option is to pay drivers a higher per-mile rate based on their safety record. Safety monitoring software can track compliance with speed limits and stop signs and excessive breaking, and provides a way for a driver’s pay rate to directly reflect their skill level as an employee.

The advantage of this method is that more miles equals more pay at any given skill and safety level. Drivers cannot sacrifice safety in order to earn more money and can in fact earn more money on the same route by driving better. At the same time, pay also reflects how much work each driver does—how many miles go under the wheels. The carrier can simultaneously incentivize all aspects of a job well done.

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The Perfect Holiday Gifts For Fleet Drivers

12/22/2014 by Caroline Ailanthus

The holidays are upon us, and there are a few more days left to find the perfect gift for the truck driver on your list. In case you need some help, here are five ideas for practical gifts most truckers can really use. They vary from the simple and inexpensive to the more ambitious, so no matter who you are buying for, at least one is likely to fit your budget.

1. Polarized Sunglasses

Even an inexpensive pair of sunglasses does a lot to save your trucker’s comfort and even vision. Make sure to get polarized lenses, though, as these cut out glare and provide a lot more protection than even very dark sunglasses. Most polarized glasses are labeled as such, but if in doubt, rotate the glasses while looking through them at the sky; if the lenses are polarized, the sky will appear to change color.

2. First Aid Supplies

A medical kit is an important tool for a driver who might spend long hours on remote, lonely roads. Buying a pre-made kit might not be the best option, however, as each person’s medical needs and skill set are different. A better option is to give an appropriate kit box, plus gift cards so the recipient can choose his or her own supplies. You could even buy your trucker a spot in a first aid/CPR class. Consider making it a wilderness first aid class, if he or she is often more than an hour away from an emergency room.

3. Audio Books

It’s a sad fact, but driving long distances is boring. Bored people daydream, and drivers who daydream make mistakes. Give the gift that gets rid of boredom by giving your trucker audio books. These might take the form of CDs or even cassette tapes, but modern E-reader tablets can read books out loud. Some require an additional app and only work with audio copies of the book, while others do not...and reading voices vary.

4. GPS Fleet Tracking Software

Motivating a company to invest in GPS software designed for drivers is a great way to boost safety, efficiency and peace of mind. Drivers can stay aware of clearance and weight limits up ahead, things that a map alone would not show. Some software providers offer traffic updates and two-way messaging capabilities between driver and dispatch. The investment makes drivers and companies safer as well. For example, a driver with a GPS does not have to look away from the road to check their next turn or worry about the efficiency of their route, letting them keep eyes square on the road. 

5. Mummy-Style Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag isn’t just a way to sleep comfortably without idling the engine all night, it’s also insurance against an engine failure on some remote section of road. With a good bag, a driver need not fear a cold night even if the truck and its electrical system go completely dead. Mummy bags feature a drawstring hood that keeps the sleeper much warmer. A compression sack (usually sold separately) will make the bag small enough to stow easily even in cramped truck cabs.

 

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Keeping The Roads Safe Over the Holidays

12/17/2014 by Caroline Ailanthus

It’s the holiday season, now, and unfortunately that also means the season for drinking and driving.

Fortunately, annual campaigns against impaired driving do have a real effect; in 2013, not only were drunk driving fatalities down overall, but December ended up with the fewest such fatalities all year. This year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to build on its successes in past years with a fifteen day holiday crackdown, an ad campaign, and a new smartphone app.

In the United States, about a third of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol. Add in other drugs, and the cost of impaired driving rises even higher. Drunk or drugged drivers not only put themselves at risk, they also endanger everyone else on the road.

Drunk driving, defined as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater, is illegal in every state in the US and in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Because people under 21 should not be drinking to begin with, it is illegal for young drivers to have any alcohol in their system. Older drivers should be aware that BAC 0.08 is just the legal limit; any alcohol in the blood causes some degree of impairment and is not safe.

NHTSA is launching a three-part campaign to minimize impaired driving around the holidays this year.

First, there are cops. A big problem in the fight against drunk driving is that most people who drink and drive are never caught. There are simply too many other things for most law enforcement departments to pay attention to. Drivers know that if they want to drink, odds are in their favor that they’ll get away with it—until they cause an accident. Starting December 15th, though, police departments all across the country are making a special push to change the odds for the holidays. Until January 1st, catching impaired drivers will be a priority.

Second, the US Department of Transportation has put $8 million into an advertising campaign in order to tell people to Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. The idea is for the adds to support the other components, to educate the public both about the increased police attention and about the dangers of impaired driving to begin with.

Third, NHTSA’s app, SaferRide is now available on Google Play for Android devices. The app makes it easier for users who have been drinking to call a friend or a taxi for a ride. The app even identifies the user’s location.

Companies that manage a fleet have a fourth option: investing in safety software that helps businesses monitor their safest and most liable drivers. This level of analysis helps managers view safety trends across the company and provide real-time insight to their employees, minimizing the risk of unstable and inebriated driving.

What this all means for professional drivers is that working over the holidays just got a lot safer.

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A Look At Anti-Idling Technology

12/15/2014 by Shazia Haq

Vehicles were designed to move. They can also park, sitting around with engine off and doors locked, quite nicely. It is when cars and trucks are forced to stay in an idle, intermediate state that problems arise.

Idling a motor uses gas, releases greenhouse gasses and other pollutants, and causes engine wear without the truck actually going anywhere. It’s the worst of both worlds. And while occasional, brief idling, such as at a traffic light, is probably unavoidable, a trucking company can significantly reduce its costs and its ecological footprint by keeping idling time to an absolute minimum. And in many jurisdictions, avoiding idling is also the letter of the law—failure to comply sometimes carries fines into the thousands of dollars.

In principle, not idling is simple; the driver simply turns the engine off. The problem is that the vehicle’s heating and cooling systems and its electrical systems all run off the engine, so if the engine is off, so are they (or the battery is being drained). That is a major problem for truck drivers sleeping in their cabs in winter, for police cars that carry important electronic equipment, and for virtually everyone else who makes their living by driving.

Most anti-idling technology is therefore aimed at providing alternative power sources for the vehicle’s systems, from secondary diesel engines to electric motors to plugs and cables designed to tap into shore power. Some shut the engine off and turn it on again as needed in order to conserve battery power and these have the advantage of preventing excessive idling during unexpectedly long traffic jams or similar events.

Fleets that embrace anti-idling technologies typically find the purchases pay for themselves very quickly through the savings in fuel and engine wear.

Yet the most important anti-idling “device” is still the driver, because he or she can turn the engine off. Proper training can do a lot to persuade drivers to avoid idling, but since leaving the engine running is often the most convenient course, it is difficult to make an anti-idling policy stick without any form of supervision and enforcement.

Fleet management software not only allows fleet managers to track where vehicles are and how they are moving, it also makes it possible to see which vehicles are at idle for how long. Managers can arrange to receive alerts for excessive idling or periodic reports on which vehicles idle how much. They can then use this information to identify which drivers have a problem with idling so they can initiate conversations about why. It is possible the drivers in question have some kind of issue that appropriate anti-idling technology can resolve.

These conversations also quickly pay for themselves.     

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