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Can you see that tiny dot? Look closer. Let me tell you about that dot, and why doing things the right way when working on vehicles and always following proper safety procedures matters, every time and even if it feels like no big deal.

Just last night I had to check something out on my car. I'd been hearing this rattle underneath, so I thought I'd take a quick look to see if it was something obvious.

I pulled the car up on ramps in the driveway and chocked the wheels. It's getting dark pretty early now, and light was fading. Grabbed a flashlight to help but I could still see fine; got some gloves, tools, and one of my million pairs of safety glasses over by the workbench.

Engine running, there was the rattle. I slid underneath. Seemed to be coming from a buzzing heat shield, so I pressed at them with a ratchet to see—wasn't that one over the exhaust pipe, not the one over the catalytic.

I unbolted part of that latter shield so I could reach the lower end of another above the exhaust manifold. Bingo, there was the rattle. Engine off, I removed some parts above so I could get at it. A loose bolt was causing the heat shield to vibrate.

Bolt tightened and rattle gone, so was the sunlight, and garage lights and flashlight it was. Should've grabbed a trouble light, but I put the car back together and put away the tools.

Except... what's that bolt laying there? Oh, right—forgot to put that back into the heat shield over the catalytic.

No problem. I slid back under to take care of it, leaving behind the gloves and safety glasses I'd taken off and put in the garage.

I don't know why or how it is that anything that falls off of engines seems to aim straight for your eyes, but it does. I barely noticed, but something hit my left eye as I tightened the bolt back in.

I blinked a bunch of times hoping to clear it, pulled the car off the ramps, and went for a spin to test it out. All good.

But the eye kept bothering me as I went back in the house. Had to be something in there, and whatever it was wouldn't blink out. Grabbing another flashlight, it was scrub up and bathroom mirror time.

I looked and looked but couldn't find anything in the eye. In one of my first jobs I spent years working for an optometrist, and we had a number of situations like this come up. This was not unfamiliar territory.

Nothing was in there I could see. The eye was getting worse fast, nice and fully red now and not happy at all every time I blinked. I rinsed it over and over, flushing it with water. No help.

And then, taking an exasperated last look, I thought I spotted a speck of something pretty far in on the underside of my upper eyelid, maybe. I decided to try, very gently, to get it out.

There aren't an awful lot of things you can use to do that and not cause damage in such an amateur setting, but I decided to try a cotton swab softened with warm water. I lifted the eyelid and gave the speck one careful pass.

And as soon as I blinked again, I knew I got it. The eye was still plenty irritated, but oh. What a relief.

Turns out it was a tiny metal shaving that dug itself into the inside of my eyelid, raking along with every blink and just doing wonders for my cornea.

Truck and automotive service technicians know these lessons well. They work on machinery in a hands-on, dirty and potentially dangerous environment that you'd better respect, because not taking the proper steps, following safety protocols, and wearing the right safety gear for eyes, ears, etc. as the case may be can land you some very serious harm, even if it's just something very small or finishing up real quick.   

"Sorry" got me this time, but at least it was just a little reminder. It is always better to be safe.


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Trucking needs to ponder its digital defenses as cyberthreats keep growing.

There’s much talk about how automation and gamification are changing trucking. But could those two trends also be poised to change how the freight business and other industries defend themselves against cyberattacks?

That’s what cybersecurity firm McAfee thinks, based in part from the findings of a new report it compiled called Winning the Game. That study indicated that “concerted efforts” to increase job satisfaction, automation in security operations center (SOC) facilities and “gamification” in the workplace are key to beating cybercriminals at their own game.

“With cybersecurity breaches being the norm for organizations, we have to create a workplace that empowers cybersecurity responders to do their best work,” noted Grant Bourzikas, chief information security officer at McAfee. “Consider that nearly a quarter of respondents say that to do their job well, they need to increase their teams by a quarter, keeping our workforce engaged, educated and satisfied at work is critical to ensuring organizations do not increase complexity in the already high-stakes game against cybercrime.”

That effort includes trucking, for cybersecurity is considered by many observers to now be a “core concern” for the industry as global supply chains become more and more digitized.

And the landscape for cyberthreats is growing, both in complexity and volume, noted McAfee. According to its survey of 300 senior security managers and 650 security professionals in public-sector and private-sector organizations with 500 or more employees in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Singapore, Australia and Japan, 46% of respondents believe that in the next year they will either struggle to deal with the increase of cyberthreats or that it will be impossible to defend against them.

Further complicating the dynamics of the competition between security responder and cybercriminal is the cybersecurity skills crisis as respondents to McAfee’s poll believe they need to increase their information technology [IT] staff by nearly a quarter (24%) to manage the threats their organizations are currently facing, while 84% admit it is difficult to attract talent and 31% say they do not actively do anything to attract new talent.

[As an aside: finding and keeping “talent” for the long-term is an issue with huge implications for many industries, but especially for trucking, particularly where driver pay is concerned.]

And this isn’t about putting smiley-faces on IT workers, either, as cyberattacks are having a significant and growing financial impact on businesses worldwide. According the Cost of Cyber Crime study conducted by consulting firm Accenture and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of cybercrime globally climbed to $11.7 million per organization, a 23% increase from $9.5 million reported in 2016, and represents a “staggering” 62% increase in the last five years, the report noted.

In comparison, companies in the U.S. incurred the highest total average cost at $21.22 million while Germany experienced the most significant increase in total cybercrime costs from $7.84 million to $11.15 million.

That study, which polled 2,182 security and IT professionals in 254 organizations worldwide, uncovered a variety of disturbing cybercrime trends:

  • On average, companies suffered 130 breaches per year in 2017, a 27.4% increase over 2016 and almost double what it was five years ago. Breaches are defined as core network or enterprise system infiltrations.
  • Companies in the financial services and energy sectors are the worst hit, with an average annual cost of $18.28 million and $17.2 million respectively.
  • The time to resolve issues is showing similar increases. Among the most time-consuming incidents are those involving malicious insiders, which take on average 50 days to mitigate while ransomware takes an average of more than 23 days.
  • Malware and Web-based attacks are the two cyberattack types that inflict the most damage, with companies spending an average of $2.4 million and $2 million respectively to recover from them.

Of the nine security technologies evaluated, the highest percentage spend was on advanced perimeter controls, yet companies deploying these security solutions only realized an operational cost savings of $1 million associated with identifying and remediating cyberattacks, suggesting possible inefficiencies in the allocation of resources.

Among the most effective categories in reducing losses from cybercrime are security intelligence systems, defined as tools that ingest intelligence from various sources that help companies identify and prioritize internal and external threats, the report found

They delivered substantial cost savings of $2.8 million, higher than all other technology types included in this study. Automation, orchestration and machine learning technologies were only deployed by 28% of organizations – the lowest of the technologies surveyed – yet provided the third highest cost savings for security technologies overall at $2.2 million.

The Accenture/Ponemon study also identified four “main impacts” on organizations from cyberattacks: business disruption, loss of information, loss of revenue and damage to equipment. The most damaging of those today is loss of information, mentioned by 43% of organizations represented in the study. In contrast, the cost of business disruption, such as business process failures following an attack, has decreased from 39% in 2015 to 33% in 2017.

“The foundation of a strong and effective security program is to identify and ‘harden’ the most-high value assets,” noted Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “While steady progress has been made in improving cyber defense, a better understanding of the cost of cybercrime could help businesses bridge the gap between their own vulnerabilities and the escalating creativity – and numbers – of threat actors.”

OK, so back to the original question: how can automation and gamification help counteract the costly growing threat posed by cybercrime?

On the automation front, by pairing human intelligence with automated tasks and putting human-machine teaming in practice, automated programs handle basic security protocols while practitioners have their time freed up to proactively address unknown threats. According to McAfee’s poll:

  • 81% of IT professionals believe their organization’s cybersecurity would be safer if it implemented greater automation
  • A quarter say that automation frees up time to focus on innovation and value-added work
  • Nearly a third (32%) of those not investing in automation say it is due to lack of in-house skills

In terms of gamification, which is the “concept of applying elements of game-playing to non-game activities,” using exercises such as hackathons, capture-the-flag, red team-blue team or “bug bounty programs” help boost awareness of cybersecurity issues and hone skills to deal with them.  are the most common, and In fact, respondents who report they are extremely satisfied with their jobs are most likely to work for an organization that runs games or competitions multiple times per year.

  • More than half (57%) report that using games increases awareness and IT staff knowledge of how breaches can occur
  • 43% say gamification enforces a teamwork culture needed for quick and effective cybersecurity
  • Three-quarters (77%) of senior managers agree that their organization would be safer if they leveraged more gamification
  • Almost all (96%) of those firms that said they use cybersecurity gamification in the workplace report seeing benefits.

To address the shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers, McAfee’s report findings suggest that gamers, those engaged and immersed in online competitions, may be the logical next step to plugging the gap. Nearly all (92%) of respondents believe that gaming affords players experience and skills critical to cybersecurity threat hunting: logic, perseverance, an understanding of how to approach adversaries and a fresh outlook compared to traditional cybersecurity hires.

Indeed, more than three quarters (78%) of respondents say the current generation entering the workforce, who have been raised playing video games, are stronger candidates for cybersecurity roles than traditional hires.

Things to consider as the cybersecurity threats facing trucking aren’t going to diminish anytime soon.

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EPA expected to announce plans to “revise” Obama era rules this week.

The hue and cry is already starting over an expected move by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “revise” light vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy rules implemented during the Obama administration – even though that “move” hasn’t been made publicly yet.

Already, 12 states and the District of Columbia said they will sue the EPA if that “rollback” happens, while others are citing surveys and other research that those GHG standards actually save motorists money in the long run.

“The cost of meeting standards is likely being overstated by as much as 40% by the EPA,” according to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). “Based on current technology and cost trends, ICCT finds even more stringent standards out to 2030 are feasible” from a cost benefit perspective, the group noted.

“The nation has seen increased investment in manufacturing and job creation driven by the implementation of world-leading fuel economy and GHG standards,” noted Zoe Lipman, director of vehicles and advanced transportation for the BlueGreen Alliance, in a separate statement.

“If the EPA opts to write new rules, we will be watching to see whether those rules remain strong and continue the current trajectory of innovation, investment, and job growth. Stepping away from fuel economy leadership would put key elements of the nation’s economic progress in jeopardy,” Lipman said.

Indeed, that group recently released a report entitled Driving Investment: How Fuel Efficiency is Rebuilding American Manufacturing tracking investment in the nation’s automotive plants over the past decade as automakers have implemented current fuel economy standards – illustrating how fuel economy standards “drive innovation and enhance manufacturing growth and shows how what are often described as the ‘costs’ of compliance with clean vehicle standards actually represent a multi-billion dollar reinvestment in American manufacturing and jobs nationwide.”

Specifically, that report claims:

  • A total of $76 billion in new and promised investment in the nation’s automotive plants since 2008.
  • S. automakers have invested $64 billion in facilities across the country, completing 258 investments at 100 factories.
  • An additional $12 billion in investments in 37 facilities are underway or promised by 2020.

If the EPA plans to weaken standards, that would be fundamentally the wrong move. Rolling back strong national fuel economy and emissions standards will undermine the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry,” added Scott Stringer, the comptroller of New York City, investment advisor to — and custodian of — the $190 billion New York City Pension Funds, in a statement.

He stressed that New York is one of 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have adopted clean car standards that are in line with current national vehicle emissions and fuel economy standards

“In the absence of federal leadership, states need to continue to lead on clean car standards. That’s because an auto industry that doubles down on producing gas-guzzling cars is like making a bet on beepers in a smart-phone age. Fuel efficient vehicles are good for our environment – and good for business,” Stronger stressed.

“As shareholders in the biggest automotive companies – with nearly $200 million invested in Ford and General Motors alone – we can’t risk a slowdown in the pace of innovation that drives investment. Auto markets are increasingly global, and governments around the world are adopting standards that place a premium on clean, efficient, advanced vehicles,” he said. “If the EPA makes a short-sighted and backwards federal decision, as laboratories of innovation, the clean car states will continue to provide the signal automakers need to stay competitive and profitable.”

So, two questions: will those pronouncements lead to a protracted court battle aimed at maintaining the current GHG/fuel economy rules for light vehicles? And if that court battel is not successful – if the GHG/fuel economy rules for light vehicles get revised as planned – will EPA undertake a similar effort in the heavy truck arena, mirroring its efforts where glider kits are concerned?

Only time will tell. But it will "tell" pretty quickly, I am guessing. 

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Poll also finds a majority of Democrats favor driverless technology, while Republicans don’t

The death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle (SUV) in Arizona last month – an SUV that’s part of a fleet of self-driving cars deployed by Uber in the Copper state – is creating something a “second stage backlash” against autonomous vehicles (AV) technology. I call it “second stage” because the “first stage” occurred almost two years ago when a Tesla Model S in “self-pilot” mode rammed a tractor-trailer, killing the Tesla’s driver.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that a truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way and the Tesla’s driver’s inattention due to “overreliance on vehicle automation” were the probable cause of that crash back in May 2016, near Williston, FL.

The NTSB also determined the operational design of the Tesla’s vehicle automation permitted “over-reliance” on the automation technology allowing for “prolonged disengagement” from the task of driving a vehicle and also enabled the Tesla’s owner to use the technology in ways “inconsistent” with manufacturer guidance and warnings.

“System safeguards, that should have prevented the Tesla’s driver from using the car’s automation system on certain roadways, were lacking and the combined effects of human error and the lack of sufficient system safeguards resulted in a fatal collision that should not have happened,” noted NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt III in August last year.

Coming back to the present, suspensions of driverless vehicle testing are now starting to pick up speed: first for Uber in Arizona, followed by Toyota and just yesterday for the company that made Uber’s self-driving technology, Nvidia.

But all of this in many ways obscures a deeper issue with driverless technology: many motorists don’t trust it (and this pre-dates the Uber crash, mind you) which is a feeling shared by truckers, too.

Indeed a new survey conducted by Ipsos that polled 21,000 adults across 28 countries about the acceptance of AVs, which autonomous features are most in demand, potential ownership models and regulation options, found that nearly one in four Americans “would never use” a self-driving car vehicle. This is just one key finding from a report about the future of mobility released by Ipsos, a leading global market research firm. Ipsos surveyed more than 21,000 adults across 28 countries about acceptance of AVs, which autonomous features are most in demand, potential ownership models and regulation options.

Conducted as part of its “What the Future” survey series, Ipsos found this “reluctance” by Americans to “embrace this emerging technology” might have to do with their strong “identity” with “car-culture,” for nearly six in 10 considered themselves “car people,” and 81% feel that the car they drive reflects their personality, a least to some degree. Digging deeper into the data, Ipsos found hints of a coming car-culture clash as noticeable divides about acceptance of autonomous vehicles are seen along political lines.

Across a number of topics addressed in the “What the Future” report, the data show that Democrats are more supportive of autonomous vehicles, more interested in their features and benefits and more assured that these vehicles are coming in the near future. According to Ipsos’ polling, 59% of Democrats are in favor of self-driving cars versus 46% of Republicans while independents are split down the middle 50/50.

Clifford Young, president-U.S. for Ipsos Public Affairs, noted that this survey is part of an effort to divine what “big questions” companies should be asking themselves about the future of their industries. Yet despite American technology and automotive companies leading the way in AV development, it turns out Americans (and Canadians, too) are among the most reluctant to use it compared to those in, say, China, who are twice as likely to say they “can’t wait” to use AVs.

“The safety improvements, potential cost-saving, and increased convenience might well prove a trifecta of benefits that can trump any sort of political discord,” Young said in a statement. “But social change on this scale does not happen without conflict, and those who do not plan for it will be the first to see their plans derailed by our age of uncertainty.”

Here are a few other results from Ipsos’ report to think on when it comes to AVs:

  • More would prefer to continue owning their own vehicle (42%) than other proposed usage models including hiring one on a per-use basis (22%) or leasing one for a monthly subscription fee (14%)
  • Many Americans are unsure where regulation should come from, but would prefer manufacturers and tech companies (36%) to self-regulate over government regulation (24%)
  • Cost will be a factor: 24% said they would switch to a self-driving car if it cost the same as their current car, but 45% would switch if it cost much less
  • Many Americans (30%) would take more road trips in self-driving cars, including longer trips and new destinations
  • Globally, a majority of those surveyed say that AVs will be easier, more comfortable safer, more relaxing, more economical, more enjoyable, and friendlier to the environment. Yet few think AVs will be faster
  • Americans are more skeptical of touted benefits including improved safety, comfort and ease-of-use
  • Autonomous parking is the feature respondents are most ready to use, with 58% saying they would utilize autonomous functionality “always or frequently.” Many (47%) would use it for commuting and in stop-and-go traffic, and 52% would use it for long-distance drives
  • Younger Americans (under 35) have more favorable views of self-driving cars and their benefits
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But sleepiness poses a lot of risks, especially to transportation workers.

I’ve slept in a sleeper berth a time or two and it’s something that takes getting used to for most folks; even for long-haul irregular route TL drivers who live in their trucks three weeks or more out of a month.

There are external noises to deal with, the often-constant rattle and hum from diesel-fired auxiliary power units (APUs) or idling engines, and the effort to get physically comfortable on a mattress that’s mayhap not as comfy as the one back home.

Thus getting good, restorative sleep for truck drivers can sometimes be a struggle, and that’s before we inject medical issues such as sleep apnea in to the mix. But truckers should take heart from one aspect of their “sleep struggles,” if you can call them that – they aren’t unique to the freight-hauling business, not be a longshot.

According to a recent global survey conducted by Royal Philips called Better Sleep, Better Health. A Global Look at Why We're Still Falling Short on Sleep, which looked at what keeps people from getting their “optimal” night's rest.

The survey – conducted online in February by Harris Poll on behalf of Philips – reviewed the “sleep habits” of over 15,000 adults across 13 countries – the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Poland, France, India, China, Australia, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Japan – examining how they prioritize, address, and perceive a range of “sleep issues.”

Philips said several studies estimate that more than 100 million people worldwide suffer from sleep apnea, 80 % of whom remain undiagnosed, and that, globally, 30% of people experience difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep. Sleeping well is essential to good health, and yet only one-third of people who suffer from sleep disorders seek professional help, the company noted.

"Sleep is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. On a day-to-day basis, how well and how long we slept the night before is the single most important variable dictating how we feel," said Dr. David White, chief medical for Philips. "Thus inadequate sleep can have an immediate impact on our wellbeing unlike exercise or diet. This survey shows that despite knowing sleep is important to overall health, people are still struggling to address it in the same way they would exercise or nutrition. The more we understand how sleep impacts everything we do, the better we can adjust our lifestyle and find solutions that help us get better sleep."

The findings from that research should be of interest to truckers:

  • Though the survey found that the majority of those polled (67%) view sleep’s impact on their overall health and well-being to be “significant,” only 29% felt “guilty” about not getting enough sleep, in comparison to the guilt over not exercising regularly (49%) and eating healthier foods (42%)
  • About six in 10 global adults (61%) have some kind of medical issue that impacts their sleep, with a quarter of adults reporting insomnia (26%) and one in five experiencing snoring (21%). Worrying has kept over half of global adults up at night in the past 3 months (58%), followed by technology distractions (26%).
  • After a bad night’s sleep, those polled said they “look tired” (46%), are “moody/irritable” (41%), aren’t as “motivated” (39%), or they have trouble concentrating (39%).
  • Three-quarters of those polled (77%) have tried to improve their sleep in some way. Collectively, many have turned to soothing music (36%) or instituted a set bedtime/wake-up schedule (32%).
  • Throughout the global results, one outlier presented itself in adults aged 18 to 24; the so called “Millennial” generation. Despite being less likely to follow a set bedtime compared to other generations (38% vs. 47% of those aged 25 and over), this group reported getting more sleep each night, on average, than other age groups, with those aged 18-24 getting an average of 7.2 hours, compared to 6.9 hours among those aged 25 and over. They are also more likely to feel guilty about not regularly maintaining good sleep habits as compared to those ages 35 and over (35% vs. 26%).

Now while all of that may sound a bit too “touchy-feely” for many truckers, the impact of sleep deprivation is anything but. In fact, chronic sleep-deprivation, which affects 37% of U.S. workers, is getting so bad that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Sleep Research Society (SRS) and the National Safety Council (NSC) have joined forces in a campaign to get companies to help their workers avoid fatigue and develop healthy sleep habits for long-term success and well-being.

“Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep problem and nearly 60% of them have a chronic disease that can harm their overall health,” said Janet Croft, the senior chronic disease epidemiologist in CDC’s division of population health. “Lack of sleep and sleep disorders, including stops in breathing during sleep (sleep apnea), excessive daytime sleepiness (narcolepsy), restless legs syndrome, and insomnia, are increasingly recognized as linked to chronic disease, including obesity, high blood pressure, and cancer.”

And such chronic fatigue is costly in other ways. According to the NSC, fatigued workers cost employers about $1,200 to $3,100 per employee in declining job performance each year, while sleepy workers are estimated to cost employers $136 billion a year in health-related lost productivity.

Sleepiness also impacts transportation in major ways. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that fatigue has been a contributing factor in 20% of its investigations over the last two decades – and it’s why the agency included “reduce fatigue-related accidents” on its 2017–2018 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements.  

In February, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a research brief estimating that drowsy driving is involved in up to 9.5% of all motor vehicle crashes. Their projections indicate that drowsy driving causes an average of 328,000 motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. each year, including 6,400 fatal crashes.

On top of all that, the effects of sleepiness are exacerbated and pose a constant struggle for workers who work night shifts or rotating shifts, and for those who work long hours or have an early morning start time.

U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show about 15% of full-time employees in the U.S. perform shift work, many of whom suffer from chronic sleep loss caused by a disruption in the body’s circadian rhythm.

Chronic sleep deprivation is also associated with an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses that negatively impact a worker’s well-being and long-term health, according to the CDC’s research – and insufficient sleep is a big problem in transportation-related categories, the agency added.

In fact, a recent CDC analysis found that the jobs with the highest rates of short sleep duration were communications equipment operators (58.2%), other transportation workers (54%) and rail transportation workers (52.7%).

Along with that, night shift workers and those driving during nighttime hours are most at risk for chronic sleep loss. The NSC found that 59% of night shift workers reported short sleep duration compared to 45% of day workers, while the risk of safety incidents was 30% higher during night shifts compared to morning shifts.

All of that is good fodder for trucking to keep in mind as the industry attempts to handle a surge in freight demand that’s expected to keep on rolling through this year and next.

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