Safety compliance depends on efficient driver scheduling processes

Fleet owners that rely on trucking dispatch software can make smarter decisions about their delivery schedules. Over time, these improvements may have an overall positive effect on driver safety.

The long hours that operators of heavy-duty trucks typically have to put in for each individual shift have raised several policy issues in the freight industry. The most prominent example is the update to the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) "hours of service" rule, which officially went into effect in July 2013. The online publication School Transportation News said regulators added a restart stipulation that requires freight carriers to take two rest periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the driver's home time zone before performing consecutive 60- to 70-hour work weeks.

The main goal of these regulations is to reduce the risk of accidents that happen as a direct result of driver fatigue. Fleet owners and trucking organizations are always looking for ways to make the delivery process more manageable and enjoyable for employees and contractors. The industry as a whole has taken a relatively big hit in recent years from a growing driver shortage that makes it difficult for small and midsize businesses to find the resources necessary to ship their products.The New York Times recently cited data from the U.S. Department of Labor that found the economy added 113,000 jobs in January, a relatively dismal measurement that has many analysts fearing another major employment slowdown. The manufacturing and construction industries added the most new employees, with 21,000 and 48,000 jobs respectively. These two economic sectors often rely on ground transportation to move supplies around the country. Offering resources that promote safe driving with reasonable shift options will be a key area of focus for small and midsize commercial carriers in the near future.

DOT looks to space technology to measure driver behaviors
Freight organizations have devoted several resources to examining driver behaviors and coming up with new ways to make the experience more enjoyable and safe for everyone involved. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently utilized technology typically used for astronauts to conduct a comprehensive study of the effect of "hours of service" regulations on employee performance. The agency used SleepFit, an app originally created by Pulsar Informatics with competitive funding from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) to track sleep patterns in astronauts. However, the program was modified to study similar behaviors in truck drivers operating heavy-duty fleets under compliance of the new "hours of service" rules. Scientists measured overall alertness, as well as lane and speed deviations by having employees wear wrist activity monitors.

"The DOT's use of a customized SleepFit is a concrete example of how research funding to improve the health and job performance of astronauts can often be applied to benefit people on Earth," Dorit Donoviel, deputy chief scientist at NSBRI, stated in a press release. "Astronauts must contend with irregular sleep patterns, as do workers in the transportation, energy and health care industries."

Trucking dispatch software leads to more efficient driver schedules
The study concluded the "hours of service" rules are mostly effective in reducing the risk of accidents and collisions. These findings will require small and midsize fleet businesses to be more careful in their scheduling and dispatch procedures. Trucking dispatch software is a valuable tool for enterprise owners that are currently struggling to run efficient operations amid a dwindling number of full-time drivers and employees. Overworking staff members to meet delivery deadlines can be dangerous in the long run, especially if it leads to an increased risk for crashes on U.S. highways. The right automated technology makes it possible for managers to organize their resources in ways that lead to less time spent on the road at once.

These tools can also help fleet owners address a variety of other issues affecting the trucking industry in today's economy. In an interview with CNN Money, Mary Barra, the new CEO of General Motors, said motor vehicle operators will witness steadily increasing standards for fuel efficiency and safety in the coming years. Rather than falling behind these trends, advanced logistics software will ensure that fleet managers are more prepared for new industry-wide changes.