More Great Best Insurance Practices
#65 Danger on the Tracks! What can be done to avoid collisions with trains?
#66 Avoiding the “Hazmat Placardable Inspection” Trap
#67 Motivating Safer Drivers
#68 Create a Positive Safety Culture
#69 Deploy Driver Safety Scorecards
2021 Insurance Saving Tip #65
Danger on the Tracks! What can be done to avoid collisions with trains?
Train tracks are often hidden dangers. In some areas of the country, few tracks can be found, so drivers in those areas are not accustomed to highway-grade crossings. In other part of North America, it is impossible not to cross multiple crossings, and crossings become so ubiquitous they seem to be invisible.
The NHTSA classifies truck-train collisions as some of the most dangerous crashes for truck drivers.
“The primary crash types in terms of severe injury probability to truck drivers is the same as for all trucks. The most dangerous crashes are rollover (12.2%), collision with a train (9.5%), fire (6.3%), and collision with a hard fixed object (4.2%).”
—NHTSA Report: Heavy Truck Crashworthiness: Injury Mechanisms and Countermeasures to Improve Occupant Safety (2015)
☠️ Rail Crossing Safety Stats:
- One person every 100 minutes—Each year nearly 1,000 people are fatally injured in train collisions.
- Many more people are injured, some seriously.
- Nine tractor-trailers a week collide with trains, some hauling hazmat.
- 80 percent of crossings lack adequate warning devices such as lights and gates.
In addition to the hazards of “highway-grade” crossings, CDL and CLP drivers can face a mandatory license suspension (See Table below) whether or not a train is present for:
- Not slowing down and checking if the tracks are clear
- Not stopping, if the tracks are not clear
- Not stopping, if always required to stop
- Not leaving sufficient space to drive completely through
- Failing to obey a traffic control device or the directions of a LEO
- Failing to negotiate a crossing due to insufficient undercarriage clearance
Table 3 to 49 CFR §383.51: Disqualification for railroad-highway grade crossing offenses
|Conviction||First Conviction||Second Conviction||Third Conviction|
|Fails to slow down & check tracks . . .||60 Days Suspension||12 Days Suspension||One Year|
|Fails to stop, if not clear . . .||60 Days Suspension||12 Days Suspension||One Year|
|Fails to stop, when required . . .||60 Days Suspension||12 Days Suspension||One Year|
|Fails to have sufficient space to drive completely through . . .||60 Days Suspension||12 Days Suspension||One Year|
|Fails to obey a traffic control device or the directions of a LEO||60 Days Suspension||12 Days Suspension||One Year|
|Insufficient undercarriage clearance||60 Days Suspension||12 Days Suspension||One Year|
What to do?
- From time-to-time, review proper railway crossing procedures with drivers and operators for approaching, negotiating, and dealing with crossings and multiple-track crossings.
- Encourage drivers to avoid routes that go over highway-rail crossings.
- There’s no such thing as “unused tracks.” Assume all crossings are active.
- Freight trains do not follow a schedule.
Operation Lifesaver (oli.org) provides no-cost rail crossing-safety resources:
- Safety information
- Media, including posters
- Speakers for safety meetings
2021 Insurance Saving Tip #66
Avoiding the “Hazmat Placardable Inspection” Trap
Inadvertently hauling Hazmat can trigger:
- Tighter Hazmat BASIC percentages and subsequent alerts . . .
- In turn leading to a DOT Audit or other DOT interventions and higher insurance for several years.
Why should Hazmat be a concern to a non-Hazmat hauler?
- Excluding bulk shipments (single containers exceeding 119 gallons for liquids, 882 pounds for solids, and 1,000 pounds for gases), about 94 percent of individual Hazmat shipments are transported by truck. For example, many common consumer goods as adhesives, batteries, cleaning solutions, paints, and swimming pool chemicals are considered hazmat.
- Size of the vehicle does not exempt a hauler from the hazmat rules. The rules apply to ANY vehicle transporting HM in a quantity requiring the display of a HM placard
- Hauling intrastate or locally is not an exemption from the hazmat rules.
Hazmat is complex.
“The Hazardous Materials Table in the regulations contains a list of these items. However, this list is not all-inclusive. Whether or not a material is considered hazardous is based on its characteristics and the shipper’s decision on whether or not the material meets a definition of a hazardous material in the regulations.” CDL Manual, Chap. 9 Hazardous Materials
How can hauling Hazmat lead to a DOT Audit or other intervention?
- To fully understand this question, first one needs to be aware of the criteria for DOT Audits. The DOT is data driven, gathering information from Roadside Inspections and crash data that filters into its Safety Measurement System (SMS) and into seven BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category).
- If the BASICs exceed a certain percentile threshold, or the carrier has had an Acute and/or Critical Violation in the last year, then the BASIC can go into an “Alert” status.
Here’s the trap: Hazmat thresholds (See chart below) will apply to a motor carriers if:
- If they had two HM inspections in the last two years (one within 12 months), and
- Hazmat inspections are 5% of all inspections (SMS Methodology)
Your company may have acceptable BASICs, (between the Hazmat and All Other categories), that are under the Alert thresholds, but even though it is not a hazmat hauler, find itself held to a higher “Hazmat” standard by being cited for hauling Hazmat, twice in the last two years (incl. once in the last 12 months), with the Hazmat inspections being over 5% of your total inspections.
This in turn, could result in a DOT Audit or intervention.
If your BASICs are in an Alert status, this is not viewed favorably by most insurance companies.
What to do?
- If you are not a Hazmat hauler, there is no requirement to train your drivers and operators on Hazmat, on what they can and cannot haul, but it is a good best practice to do so anyway.
- Mechanics, technicians and parts runners also need Hazmat awareness training, as well. They need to know how to transmit and store Hazmat. For example, throwing a case of starting fuel on the front seat of a pickup or service truck with a DOT Number, could result in a citation for improperly secured Hazmat (177.834A). Support personnel need to know the difference between Hazmat and any Materials of Trade (MOT) they might carry.
- Don’t rely on shippers or anyone in the supply chain to screen their loads for placardable quantities. Even the best can make an occasional mistake.
- Don’t rely on luck. Once could be an honest mistake. Twice is a pattern, as far as the DOT is concerned.
- Set a higher standard for all of your BASICs. Keep them well below the Alert thresholds.
- Several Hazmat inspections can result in being held to a higher DOT standard for audits and interventions.
- Train your drivers and operators on Hazmat Awareness.
- Train mechanics, technicians and parts runners, as well.
- Set a higher standard for all of your BASICs.
2021 Insurance Saving Tip #67
Motivating Safer Drivers
- We usually associate workforce motivation with what is known as extrinsic incentives, such as pay, benefits, bonuses and the like.
- But the fact is, research show these type of motivators are on the bottom of the list, if you want people to go the extra mile.
- The key to workforce motivation is found in balancing the extrinsic rewards with intrinsic rewards, such as more autonomy, account-ability, responsibility and challenging work.
- But first, it is necessary to understand the different factors in work satisfaction and dissatisfaction. They are not directly related!
- Most drivers and operators, with five or more years of experience have a high level of job satisfaction when it comes to the work.
- But they can also be, at the same time, dis-satisfied with a job due to things as a weak company culture, rudeness, and a lack of camaraderie (mutual trust), leading to an exit from a position.
- This ‘two factor’ theory of motivation was proposed by Frederick Herzberg.
- Key Idea: Increasing job satisfaction may not lead to a decrease in job dissatisfaction.
- Attention needs to be paid by management to both the things that increase satisfaction and the things that decrease dissatisfaction. This is a two-step process.
Decreased dissatisfaction comes from: better policies, a strong company culture and safety culture, effective supervision, and the like.
- An example of improving the company culture might be adopting the “Golden Rule” as a core company value . . . Treat all customers, co-workers, and others as we would expect them to deal with us.
- Another example, based on research, is to monitor dispatcher speech for rudeness and swearing directed at drivers.
“When dispatchers swear and are rude with drivers, it distracts them and impairs objective indices of their safety.” —Dr. Tim Judge
Increased satisfaction (motivating factors, or satisfiers) can arise from: recognition, more responsibility, training and development, more accountability, and so on.
- An example would be ongoing engagement with drivers, as listening to their issues, or granting reasonable requests for time off.
Other motivational tips:
- Hire more for attitude over experience
- Fill managerial/supervisorial jobs from within
- Don’t try to educate managers or supervisors; change their jobs. (Herzberg)
- Put a strong emphasis on employees’ leaving comments. What is driving turnover?
- Build a positive, more collaborative culture
- Create a “Culture Book” or company culture video for new hires with everyone’s ideas in their own words about: What is our culture? What makes it unique? What do you like about it? —without talking to any others about what you or they write.
- Encourage peer-to-peer recognition.
2021 Insurance Saving Tip #68
Create a Positive Safety Culture
- A company’s culture reflects the attitudes and beliefs that underlie how things “really get done.”
“We want to focus on the ways that we’re different from everybody else. Well, actually, when we look at our behavior, we’re more similar than we might realize.” Jonah Berger, Ph.D., “Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior”
One way to think of a company’s safety culture is in relation to the emphasis put on the value of safety in every decision made by every individual in the company. It’s an invisible force that influences behavior.
“Safety culture is best defined and indexed by an organization’s norms, attitudes, values, and beliefs regarding safety.” TRC Synthesis 14—The Role of Safety Culture in Preventing Commercial Motor Vehicle Crashes
A positive safety culture makes safety a shared responsibility.
“Everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis.” E. Scott Geller, Safety Evangelist
Why is a positive safety culture important?
Organizations with a positive safety culture have (among others):
- Higher productivity and less turnover
- Fewer compliance issues
- Greater profitability in upturns;
- More resilience in crisis situations and cyclical business downturns
How can you instill a positive safety culture in your organization?
- Start by being more mindful about the language being used to describe safety events and what they mean.
- For example, many companies have replaced the term “accident,” implying an event was out of anyone’s control, with the term “collision” or sometimes “crash.”
“About 94 percent of serious crashes are due in part to frequent and predictable driver errors, such as speeding, or driving while impaired or distracted.” (National Safety Council, The Road to Zero)
Other words to watch are “close calls” or “near-misses,” according to safety consultant Mark Paradies. They really are an indicator of more serious future safety events. A better term is precursor, implying something will likely happen, if nothing more is done.
Adopt what is proven to work through evidence-based strategies:
- Management sets the tone for safety
- Define safety and set measurable safety goals and milestones
- Follow industry best practices (like this one you are now reading), found in the TRC Synthesis Reports, industry magazines, trade associations, conferences, etc.
- Keep up with and deploy new fleet safety technology. Become an early adopter, to the extent possible
- Evolve your safety programs and makes changes as needed
- Foster a sense of shared responsibility and engagement
- Focus on behaviors and behavior-based safety.
2021 Insurance Saving Tip #69
Deploy Driver Safety Scorecards
What are driver safety scorecards?
- Driver safety scorecards, usually based off an onboard vehicle safety platform, are a tool to identify risky driver behaviors and aid in driver coaching and training.
- As a bonus, many insurance companies look favorably on fleets keeping driver scorecards to assess and improve driver behavior.
Using onboard platforms, ELDs, cameras, or vehicle telematics, drivers can be monitored for risky behaviors (among others) as:
- Following too closely
- Hard braking (reducing speed by 8-10 MPH in 1 second)
- Speeding, excessive speeding, hard accelerations
- Hours-of-service violations, even seat belt use.
Benefits of driver scorecards include:
- A reduction in risky driving behaviors
- Opportunities to coach and train drivers
- A reduction in high-risk drivers and lower crash rates
- More efficient and productive use of the vehicle
Driver Scorecard Tips:
- Obtain buy-in from top management and the drivers
- Get your policy right first, before deploying the technology
- Shape your policy to fit your drivers and operations
- Over-communicate with drivers before and during deployment
- Some companies post monthly the names of top and bottom ranked drivers.
- Some companies also track driver CSA points on their driver scorecards.
- Some companies have a designated driver coach to take calls from drivers who want to improve.
Financial Scorecard & Cost Implications:
- Depending on the onboard systems already installed, initial costs may be low to moderate, with a good return-on-investment (ROI).
- Improving driver safety performance and lowering crash rates will improve your insurance risk profile and can help stabilize premiums.
Check with your agent or broker if any Driver Safety Scorecards discounts are available.
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