Drivers using cell phones and colliding with stationary objects are subjects that don't seem to be far from most tank truck carrier safety directors daily agenda. Also on the list are keeping up with accident rates and understanding the language of insurance
That's why it was no surprise to find an agenda item at the National Tank Truck Carriers Safety Council meeting that assigned all those topics to a panel discussion.
Taking part in the April 1-2 meeting in Savannah, Georgia, were Griff Odgers of Andrews Logistics Inc, Neil Voorhees of Trimac Transportation Inc, Steve Niswander of Groendyke Transport Inc, and Dave Debolt of Cline Wood Agency.
“The cell phone is a computer in your hand and is a huge distraction,” Odgers said in discussing drivers' use of cell phones while driving.
Of even more concern are growing instances of drivers texting while driving. They also have the opportunity to watch movies and send e-mails as they wind through traffic.
Distracted driving is a big concern for the industry and appears to play a role in rollovers, another issue NTTC and its members have been combating. Although no data has specifically addressed, the impact of cell phone use on rollover accidents, Odgers said he thinks the use is suspect.
At the same time, Odgers noted that despite the no-cell-phone-while-driving policies that have been implemented by many carriers, enforcement is difficult. Odgers suggested that in addition to driver training and reminders, one way to emphasize the importance is for managers to set an example by practicing what they preach — no use of cell phones while behind the wheel.
Other suggestions included flyers sent to spouses about the dangers of distracted driving and being sure all dispatchers understand the problem. When it is necessary to call the driver, they can let the phone ring a couple of times and hang up. Then the driver can return the call after finding a safe place to stop and set the brakes.
Whether drivers back into stationary objects because they were talking on a cell phone or for many other reasons, the incidents continue to happen. More incidents occur while going forward then when backing, Voorhees said.
One reason many drivers do not take the incidents seriously is that they tend to think of a collision with a stationary object as a “minor” event and don't understand it is a symptom of the greater danger of inattentiveness.
Voorhees said that installing electronic systems that warns of objects in the truck's path may help to alleviate the situation.
Some loading racks have spotters to guide drivers, but that also can be a problem if the driver and the spotter aren't aware of all the factors involved in maneuvering the vehicle.
Roy Acton of Mission Petroleum Carriers Inc suggested to the panel that carriers can survey drivers and dispatchers for various locations that cause problems and provide advance warnings to other drivers and dispatchers.
Niswander discussed preventing the non-preventable accident. “Just because a driver doesn't get ticketed doesn't mean he wasn't at fault,” Niswander said.
Truck drivers may have the idea that because they escaped an accident without blame, they aren't responsible for their actions. Niswander advised safety managers to review what actions the driver took — or did not take — that could have changed the outcome of the situation during accident reviews with each driver. At the same time, the review should be sensitive to the driver's viewpoint.
With all the above in mind, Debolt reinforced the importance of a carrier's safety performance as it is related to insurance coverage. Insurance companies look at their clients' safety programs and often make recommendations that should be followed for improvement. He also noted that the company's bottom line is a factor in insurance considerations, and losses make a difference when the business is evaluated.