Certain people in Las Vegas have recently gone down a path of shady actions to perform insurance fraud, preying on 18-wheelers to cause rear-end collisions.
There have been as many as 100 suspected staged accidents in the past 2 1/2 years, according to a new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. 25 of those have involved the big tractor-trailers, seems a bit odd I would say.
While a big rig doesn’t sound like something anyone can necessarily “prey” upon, the trick is actually pretty simple. These people pull in front of a truck quickly, and before it can create the space it needs to brake safely these people slam on their brakes.
In addition to carrying loads of goods across the country, these big trucks also carry loads of insurance coverage. And we don’t need to explain why an 80,000-pound behemoth lacks the physical ability to stop as quickly as a small compact car. After the criminals have been rear-ended, they claim injury and collect the cash.
However, these criminals have taken things a step further by filling the fraudulent cars with one of two kinds of passengers – the willing and the unknowing. In either case, the point is to create multiple claims and, thus, more money. Willing participants — we’ll call them meth-heads for short — receive a cut of the insurance money and have often been identified at more than one accident scene. The unknowing – well, they’re often immigrant workers who are picked up and told they’re being driven to a job site.
While the police are concerned about insurance fraud, they’re thinking what you’re thinking: Let’s not get anyone killed out there. Trooper Loy Hixson of the Nevada Highway Patrol said that many of the participants have no idea what they’re doing.
“In some cases, we are coming across the same people at different accident scenes,” he said in a statement. “They use different cars and different names, but we collect every bit of information, and that’s a red flag that these are willing participants being paid to participate.”
There’s huge potential for additional injuries here, including causing more accidents behind or in front of the truck. And what if the truck driver swerved or flipped? A line of stabbed brakes behind the tractor-trailer could be devastating. All the more reason to be extra careful and cautious when sending out your fleet everyday. With this increased crime that has been going on over the past few years there is no better time then now to invest in an in-vehicle camera from Safety Track.
Fleet managers dread having to train the new boss. Getting the new boss up to speed on fleet management requires careful planning and presentation skills. Safety Track is here to educate you on how to do it without creating problems for your company. Here are some pointers for effective fleet management training:
Do a little research on the new boss to familiarize yourself with their background and experience.
Based on the information found, ask the new boss questions about what he or she is interested to learn about fleet.
Cover the basics of fleet management in a class setting, and keep data in an easy-to-follow format.
Develop a relationship.
The business world is not like it was 30 years ago, when people stayed with the company and moved up the ranks over years, even decades. Today, fast-track managers move freely and often, within or between companies.
For fleet managers, this means that within a relatively short period of time, many can expect to report to more than one person, as they move up in the company, or move out to better opportunities. And, each time the new manager comes in, he or she is generally clueless about fleet management or, worse, is a car buff and thinks he or she knows all about it. Amidst all of the other responsibilities fleet managers have, training a new boss is an unwelcome task that must be endured.
Do a Background Check
When a new supervisor is named, he or she will likely come from within the ranks of whatever department or function fleet management resides. For instance, someone from accounting, finance, sales, or corporate services. But, it is often the case that someone from outside the department — or even outside the company — is named.
Certainly, it makes it a bit easier to train a new boss if he or she comes from the same side of the business as fleet. The point is that the first step in this “training” process is to know the background of the new boss.
There are a number of places where this can be found, not the least of which could be a press release from the company announcing the appointment. Other sources can come from the last department he or she moved from, online networking sites such as LinkedIn, or a simple online search. It’s important to perform such a “background check” to know and understand likely motivations and areas of particular interest.
For example, say the new boss came out of purchasing. The particular skills purchasing requires include negotiation, contracts, and supplier relations. The fleet manager might begin by preparing a brief outline of what suppliers the company uses, such as lessors, service companies, and fuel card programs. Include how the business was awarded, fees, contract terms and conditions, and supplier contacts. Or, rather, if the new boss came out of the sales or service department, be ready to show how the selector was developed, and why certain vehicles were chosen and others rejected. The point is to hit your new supervisor in his or her “sweet spot” first, gain trust, and move on.
Once you’ve made the first contact, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Find out from the new supervisor what he or she knows and doesn’t know about what you and the fleet department do. Having an open discussion can also reveal what a new boss wants to know — what areas of the fleet operation are of greatest interest.
Where and when should this kind of introductory meeting take place? Most often, new managers will reach out to direct reports as a group or individually. Such first contact will likely contain questions for them as well. Give the new boss a few weeks to become acclimated. If by then no such meeting has been scheduled, reach out. Offer times and dates, and most important, be prepared.
Create the Curriculum for Fleet Management
So, the boss has reached out, or responded positively to you, and the meeting is set. The next step in this teaching process is to identify the “curriculum” for the meeting. What should this be? How does a new subordinate prepare for a meeting with the new supervisor who doesn’t know much about fleet management?
Essentially, a fleet manager should already have the basics for such a meeting. There are certain questions most managers have when exposed to the company fleet; common questions that require straightforward answers, including:
Why are we using the vehicles that are on the selector?
Why can’t we use smaller vehicles to save money?
Why don’t we keep our vehicles longer?
Why do we lease/own?
Can’t employees drive their own vehicles?
You get the picture; the new manager (and this holds true for new fleet managers, too) wants to come into the job and clean up the place, question what the company is doing, and put his or her own stamp on the operation of fleet.
The answer to these and other questions should be, for the professional fleet manager, readily available, and form a good portion of the teaching curriculum. Here are those answers, and the information needed:
Vehicle selection: Each model year, fleet managers throughout the industry review the fleet selector. Based on the ability of vehicles to do the job, they review the performance of the vehicles used previously, examine and analyze the alternatives, contact and discuss competitive allowance program (CAP) and other pricing programs with the manufacturers, and, ultimately select the vehicles to be used. All of this requires analysis that can be produced to defend the decision.
Replacement cycling: Similarly, the establishment of replacement policy is the result of careful analysis of lifecycle costs, and fleet managers set replacement at that point when the combination of fixed and variable costs are lowest.
Leasing versus ownership: The financial decision of leasing versus ownership, in the private sector, is straightforward: the net present value of the after tax cash flows. In the public sector, in which governments are tax exempt, it is simply the net present value of the cash flows. Whichever is lower is the most financially sound choice. The analysis can be done using a standard spreadsheet.
Company vehicles versus reimbursement: This is probably the single most important analysis the fleet manager can perform, and it should be done every year. Fleet managers should not wait for the question to be asked. The financial decision is similar to that of vehicle assignment: There is a point where the cost of reimbursement (based on mileage driven and the reimbursement rate) is greater than the cost of providing a vehicle. There are other, non-financial factors as well, and records of all of the above analysis should be kept.
All of these, and other standard fleet management processes, are the “text” of the “curriculum.” They tell the story of what the fleet manager does, and, most important, why he or she does it. Add the fleet policy to this, and the fleet manager has most of what is needed to begin the educational process with a new boss.
Education of Fleet Management
Unless the new boss has some background or understanding of fleet management, the next step is to begin the education process. The fleet manager has “felt out” the new manager, based on several factors, including where he or she came from, early discussions or communications, and specific questions that may have been posed.
Fleet managers should now take the initiative. Tell, don’t ask, the new boss that you’d like to bring him or her up to date on how the company’s fleet management operates, what the policy is, and why things are done the way they are. It doesn’t necessarily need to be accomplished in a single meeting; it can be done over a period of time depending, of course, on the new boss’ schedule and availability.
Start by determining what it is that he or she wants to know first; however, guide new managers through the basics. Start with fleet policy, vehicle assignment, replacement policy, maintenance and repair processes, accidents, and safety. This should provide a good foundation for moving into more specific fleet matters. Remember, a few dos and don’ts to the process:
Do keep whatever materials used simple. Use graphs and bullet points, not detailed spreadsheets or verbiage. It is likely that your time with the new boss will be limited, so plan your “lessons” carefully.
Don’t forget, however, to have the details handy. Bring reports and analyses along, and be ready to provide the background for the decisions made.
Do remember that you, the fleet manager, are the expert, and that you have the background and experience the new boss doesn’t have.
However, don’t flaunt your expertise, or assume the new boss is completely at sea about fleet. Be the teacher, but don’t forget who is the boss.
Do, if schedules permit, hold “class” in a series of relatively short meetings. You should be able to cover any of the basics in a half hour. Multiple meetings will keep the new boss’ interest, and will also enable the fleet manager to develop a more personal relationship, a comfort, that one or two longer meetings won’t.
The venue for the “classroom” isn’t all that important; however, try to conduct the classes off site, if possible. This will minimize interruptions, and ensure you have the full attention of the boss. The second (and more likely) choice is a conference room; the worst is the manager’s office, where interruptions and distractions will be most intense.
Try to make the sessions interactive, and encourage questions and other forms of give and take. Naturally, you won’t test his or her understanding of the material, but as you move forward and report and communicate fleet activity, refer back to the “classes” regularly. (For example, “You may recall how we use life cycle costing to select vehicles. Here are those vehicles we’ve chosen for the coming model-year.”)
Use Preparation & Common Sense of Fleet Management
Though all of these processes sound complex and time consuming, they really aren’t. Remember, if the fleet manager is doing the job in the first place, all of the detail and background should already be readily available, and he or she should know and understand how to present it to the uninformed.
Preparing for the education of the new boss is the key to success, and understanding how to approach him or her to initiate the process is simple common sense. Remember these simple rules:
Familiarize yourself with the new boss’ background, and where their expertise lies.
Using that knowledge, ask some preliminary questions to learn what the new boss wants to know first.
Develop the curriculum carefully. Be prepared to cover fleet management from beginning to end; however, choose the most important aspects (company vehicles versus reimbursement or vehicle selection) if your time, or their interest, is limited.
Keep it simple. Present the curriculum at a high level, using summaries, graphs, and bullet points, but in a simple format. And, make sure to have all the detail and background analyses handy, just in case it’s needed.
Take advantage of the time to begin to develop a relationship.
Keep the “classes” short to maintain interest.
Fleet managers may well be competing with other department heads for time and attention. Don’t be greedy, but be firm in your efforts to get time. The new boss can become overwhelmed if too much detail and information is pressed on him or her too quickly, and attempts to monopolize the time won’t be well received.
Like it or not, in today’s business environment fleet managers can expect to have more than one supervisor over the years. Fleet management is a specialty, a very unique discipline, and it is more likely than not that a new boss won’t have much background and understanding. They may well have very strong opinions about cars — personal preferences or experiences —that they’ll bring with them. Accept that they will, but use your own skills to explain that such personal likes and dislikes cannot be part of fleet management.
Daylight Savings Time starts on Sunday, March 10, in the U.S. which means it’s time to “spring forward” and change the clocks to 1 hour later. While longer days may be more beneficial with more time of daylight, there are also dangers as pertains to driving.
The short-term dangers in the first few days after the time change involve an increase in drowsy driving caused by a reduction in sleep. The long-term dangers involve the sun shining directly into drivers’ eyes, leaving many motorists driving with a glare caused by the sun. Driving into the sun just after sunrise and just before sunset can make it much harder to see ahead.
How to protect yourself from these dangers:
Invest in polarized sunglasses. They can help reduce glare.
Utilize your sun visor. It can help to block out the sun.
Leave more following room. When the sun is in your eyes, you can struggle to see what the car ahead is doing. This is one more time when it pays to leave more room between you and the next vehicle.
Drive with your headlights on to increase your visibility to other drivers.
Keep your windshield clean, inside and out.
Check your windshield for pitting and cracks.
Avoid storing papers or other items on the dashboard.
If you are having a difficult time seeing the road, use lane markings to help guide you.
Rarely will visibility be absolutely perfect while driving. However, awareness of potential problems can help you make the proper adjustments to minimize risks. Safety Track would like you to be extra careful during this time and just wanted you to be aware of the dangers on the road right now.
Trucking will be dealing with familiar tough issues this year, as well as some that may have a new twist, whether it’s on the road, in the boardroom or involving congress.
On the business side, fleets will need to stay on top certain key issues throughout 2013 and that includes, economical factors, fuel prices and the driver shortage. On Capitol Hill, hours of service, electronic driver logs and CSA are at the front of the line, not to mention a long list of other regulatory issues. A last notable issue is the need to find a solution to the highway funding puzzle.
This year’s highway bill, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” was only a two-year patch for the major issue of funding. Congress will soon have to start committee work on how it will pay for the next stage of the national highway program.
Earlier this year, Congress gave inklings of a willingness to raise highway funds through taxes on fuel, but resistance to that idea is currently strong and will directly effect fleet management across the country.
In addition, trucking interests on Capitol Hill will have to make room for a new player in highway policy negotiations. The small group of trucking companies that lobbied for mandatory electronic on-board recorders in the recent highway bill is on a mission to apply the same focus to a half-dozen additional safety initiatives.
The Trucking Alliance, an eight-member group of trucking companies, is not nearly as big a player as American Trucking Associations or the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, but it is focused and determined.
Its agenda for the next two-year congressional cycle is to promote hair testing for drugs, creation of a drug and alcohol clearinghouse, mandatory speed limiters, higher financial requirements for would-be truckers and consideration of alternative compliance methods for determining safety fitness.
CSA, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration calls its flagship enforcement program, will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future. The program is generally acknowledged to be an improvement over the previous SafeStat system, but some details have been criticized and the agency has been pressed to open its decision-making to public scrutiny. In response, the agency asked a panel of advisers to review the program and come up with suggestions for improvements. The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, a group of 19 executives from the industry and the enforcement and safety advocacy communities, is planning a review that will include research that is critical of the program. The review will start at the beginning, covering the programs focus, priorities and objectives, and cover details such as how well the data reflects safety performance and predicts risk. It also is going to look at regional disparities in how data is reported, how insurers use the system and how shippers and brokers use the data to make decisions about which carrier they will hire.
Meanwhile, the agency is proceeding with bi-annual revisions of CSA details, and is working on a new approach to the hot-button issue of crash accountability. In an analysis due this summer, the agency will look at three questions:
1. Are police accident reports reliable enough to determine accountability? 2. Are the benefits of determining accountability worth the costs, which are about $3 million a year? 3. How should the agency manage the process, giving the public a chance to participate?
From this research, the agency will decide whether, and how, it can include accountability in its measurement of carrier performance of fleet management operations.
The new rule is supposed to go into effect in July, but that date is not a sure thing. The rule is in federal appeals court, challenged by trucking and shipping interests led by ATA, and by safety advocates led by Public Citizen. Depending on what the court decides, the case could be appealed to the Supreme Court, or the FMCSA could be required to go back and make changes. Briefs have been filed, but as HDT went to press, oral arguments had not yet been scheduled. Typically, the court takes two to three months after oral arguments to issue a decision. ATA and its allies have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to strike several provisions of the rule, including restrictions on the 34-hour restart, the half-hour break requirement and the narrowing of the short-haul exemption. ATA contends that the rules established in 2004 work well and have contributed to significant improvements in industry safety.
Safety advocates hold that FMCSA erred when it preserved the 34-hour restart and 11-hour driving limit. In its brief, the agency defended the rule, arguing that the limits on the restart are reasonable and that the productivity savings outweigh the risks of the 11-hour limit. The agency also contends that the 30-minute rest break improves safety. Also pending this year is a field study of the restart provision ordered by Congress in this year’s highway law. The study is due this month March 31, 2013.
In a related matter, under the highway law passed this year, FMCSA must post a universal mandate for electronic onboard recorders by Oct. 1, 2013. The agency then has three years to put the rule into effect. It is possible that the process will move more quickly than that. The agency’s own schedule calls for publication of the rule this coming March.
3. The Economy:
After topping ATRI’s list of critical issues for the previous three years, the economy slid to third place in the rankings. However, the survey notes, concern about the economy remains high, receiving more first-place votes than any other issue. At the beginning of the year, the big issue was the fiscal cliff, the bundle of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to go into effect at the end of the year. Most observers expected Congress to come up with some sort of fix, even if it’s just kicking the can another three or six months down the road. If they don’t, it could put enough of a drag on the economy to create less than 1% growth or even a recession.
The problem with simply postponing the inevitable is you just have a longer period of uncertainty, and uncertainty is what’s keeping many businesses from spending money on hiring or other investments.
It’s the 800-pound gorilla of things that can go wrong, and the people who are in charge of fixing it aren’t the most confidence-inspiring bunch on the planet, says Kenny Vieth, president and chief analyst at ACT Research. It could mean a minus 1 or minus 2 GDP. It has to be fixed.
If we can get past that cliff, analysts told us, the economy is not in bad shape. Some troubling recent numbers in the manufacturing index and durable goods are offset by more job creation, an improving housing market and auto sales that are nearly back to normal. Corporate profits are healthy. Household financial obligations dropped to the lowest levels in years, consumer confidence has risen, inflation has fallen, and real income growth stands at 2%, Vieth points out.
Nol Perry, economist and senior consultant for FTR Associates and principal of Transport Fundamentals, says the election year has led to unemployment rhetoric that’s misleading.
I urge you as businesspeople to tune out some of the negative commentary you get on employment, because it understates the health of this economy, he says.
Most economists predict the economy to grow at a rate of about 2.5% in 2013. That’s a good number for trucking, Perry says. If you compare GDP growth with truck tonnage growth, he explains, When GDP gets below 2% as it did in 2011, tonnage tends to fall. When GDP gets above 2%, tonnage grows pretty rapidly 2% seems to be kind of a magic number for use in transportation.
Rates also are expected to rise. Perry predicts tight capacity will drive up truckload rates by 7% in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the current fourth quarter.
Perhaps the biggest economic news is Sandy, the hurricane-turned-Frankenstorm that has devastated the heavily populated Northeast. Hurricane Katrina, Perry says, was an $83 billion to $85 billion event. Sandy looks more like a $100 billion event and that means money spent on things trucks will haul. Natural disasters in highly developed economies are good things for the economy, Perry says. People really get organized to fix things and spend money they wouldn’t have spent otherwise.
Trucking companies involved in transporting construction materials, such as flatbedders, will get a big boost as the area rebuilds.
A storm like this is good news for trucking revenues, Perry says, because not only are you doing extra work, but you’re also doing extra hard work. Everything is rushed, out of normal route, and people are willing to pay more.Perry predicts the storm will generate $ 15 billion in additional revenue for trucking over the next three or four quarters. The peak may come next spring, as the end of winter weather paves the way for serious construction work.
There are, of course, what economists call downside risks wild-card factors that could drive the actual economic numbers lower than that projection.In addition to the fiscal cliff, they include a collapse of the Eu-roZone, a more sluggish Chinese economy than in the past, and longer-term, the U.S. debt.
At some point, Perry says, probably by the middle of the decade, if the government does not address the debt issue, lenders will raise the rates they charge the U.S. for loans. That’s what happened in troubled European countries such as Greece. It could cause a recession if it happens to the U.S., he says.
4. Driver Shortage:
In a study released this year, 90% of for-hire truckload carriers said they cannot find enough drivers who are capable of meeting DOT requirements, according to ATA.
ATA estimates the current shortage of drivers to be in the 20,000- to 25,000-range in the for-hire truckload market, on a base of roughly 750,000 trucks. Yet that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At current trends, ATA projects the shortage could balloon to as much as 239,000 by 2022.
Government regulations are expected to make it even worse. If the changes to hours-of-service regulations are implemented next year as currently written, ATA says it will likely reduce motor carrier productivity by as much as 3%. Carriers will have to add more trucks and drivers to make up for it.
CSA also will likely add to the shortage. ATA says about 7% of drivers generate a significant portion of CSA scoring problems for carriers. Many of those drivers will be pushed out of the industry as they become unemployable. The driver shortage is not going to go away, says ACT Research’s Vieth.
I don’t like the words driver shortage; the driver turnover is the issue, Batts says. It’s not the front door, it’s the back door. When guys only offer 1 to 2 cents per mile increased wages, all that does is exacerbate the job-hopping. We’ve really got to get the driver wages up, and it’s not going to happen when you have the GDP growth we’ve had the last few years. But if the economy gets started, holy cow, Batts says. We are going to have a capacity crunch. We’re not going to have enough trucks, much less enough drivers. I can train a driver in about four weeks, but I can’t order a truck in four weeks. If we have the slightest increase in GDP, the truck driver really will be in the driver’s seat.
ACT is forecasting a build of 280,000 Class 8 trucks in 2013 in North America, about the same as in 2012. However, Vieth believes more of that will come in the later part of the year, the opposite from what we saw in 2012, where we started out the year with higher truck sales.
That’s partly due to the likelihood that the economy will continue to go sideways while the government gets its act together, and partly due to fleets waiting until the newer, more fuel-efficient engines that will meet 2014 EPA/NHTSA standards arrive on the marketplace.
ATRI’s 2012 Operational Costs of Trucking report found that fuel and oil was the second highest motor carrier cost after driver wages and benefits. Fuel prices have been remarkably stable this year, if at a higher new normal level, and experts are predicting they will remain near the $4-per-gallon mark through 2013. As of a recent study, the year-to-date average retail price for diesel was $3.97. The Energy Information Administration expects prices will average $3.83 per gallon throughout 2013.
The World Energy Outlook projects that the extraordinary growth in oil and natural gas output in the United States means the U.S. will become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020. By 2035, the agency predicts the U.S. will be almost self-sufficient in energy, and North America will emerge as a net oil exporter.
However, that doesn’t mean fuel prices will go down anytime soon. While they may become less volatile, thanks to increasing global demand, they probably will stay high. One potential problem is California’s new low-carbon fuel regulations, which hit Jan. 1. The Oil Price Information Service says studies show price hikes of as much as $ 1 per gallon for gasoline and $2 per gallon for diesel could be on the way.
In fact, 2013 may be a key year for some fleets to move to less-expensive natural gas fuel for a portion of their vehicles.Clean Energy Fuels has accelerated its development of America’s Natural Gas Highway, which it says will offer a border-to-border liquefied natural gas network by the end of the year in conjunction with Pilot-Flying J. Shell Oil is teaming up with TravelCenters of America for natural gas fueling stations, and Chesapeake is in the game, as well. Four major truck makers will offer the new Cummins Westport ISX 12 G, a 12-liter LNG engine, filling a previous gap between the 8.9-liter and the 15-liter natural gas engines currently on the market.
These key reasons that have been pointed out here and more are what to look out for over the course of the next 10 months. Although there have always been and always will be factors deterring the operations of fleet management systems these are the ones that are going to directly affect them this year. The fleet management industry needs to be on high alert for these issues and for the safety of their fleets.