The driver shortage has hit an all-time high. Comfort and convenience features on late-model equipment can help improve drivers' experience on the road, which can boost recruitment and retention efforts.

"It is so competitive in the driver market, some of the carriers are using truck features as a benefit in their recruiting," said Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske Truck Leasing. "You're trying to differentiate yourself from the other carriers and make your drivers more comfortable, so you also get more productivity and greater tenure."

The American Trucking Associations estimates that by the end of the year the truck driver shortage will hit a historic high of just over 80,000 drivers.

Increased Comfort

OEMs have worked to increase comfort inside the cab, rolling out better ergonomic designs for dashboard alignment and gauges. They're also building in greater adjustability, such as with electric mirrors, temperature settings, automatic climate control and heated steering wheels. "In some cases, OEMs are trying to make them more car-like," Pagesy said, adding that fleets can also specify a better seat with more back and thigh support. "If drivers are not so fatigued when they get out of the truck, they hopefully have improved alertness and productivity."

Improved Safety

Class 8 tractors are increasingly equipped with safety features, such as active cruise control and lane-departure warnings, which can reduce stress on drivers. "It takes the pressure off of them and allows them to be more alert," Pagesy said. "Power steering and disc brakes have also made it more comfortable for the driver."

Tire pressure monitoring systems indicate any problems with tires, resulting in fewer flats and issues. Pagesy said some trucks are equipped with self-inflating tires, which can provide a significant safety benefit.

Added Convenience

Fueling at Penske locations provides added convenience for drivers. "We pump the fuel for them. At a lot of truck stops, they have to pump their fuel," Pagesy said, adding that Penske also conducts a multipoint inspection and checks the tire pressure, washes the windshield and cleans up the rearview mirrors.

If the fueling attendant finds any defects, the shop can fix them. "It is a convenience and safety issue at the same time," Pagesy said.

November 2021

Advances in technology, automation and safety features are improving safety measures within the trucking industry. These new tools are protecting professional drivers and the motoring public while also reducing trucking carriers' liability.

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Some of the most severe Class 8 vehicle malfunctions, such as truck fires, brake failures and defective tires, can be prevented through regular, thorough fleet maintenance services. That not only improves vehicle uptime but also reduces the risk of costly crashes, large-scale equipment failure and roadside violations under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

Avoid Thermal Events With Routine Fleet Maintenance

Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing, said something as simple as the improper routing and clipping of electrical, fuel or air lines could lead to truck fires, also called thermal events. Fires can destroy a Class 8 tractor, cause thousands of dollars in cargo and place professional drivers as well as the traveling public at risk.

"Sometimes a component is a root cause, but sometimes you have an electrical line or fuel line rub against something and chafe over time. Next thing you know you have a thermal event," Hasinec said, adding that Penske technicians inspect wiring, as well as fuel and air lines, to ensure they are routed and secured properly and eliminate or remove areas where something is rubbing or has too sharp of a turn. Air lines that are chafing can cause a sudden loss of air pressure, locking up the brakes and causing a potential thermal event at the wheel end.

Chaffing is also a top CSA violation, so eliminating the risk of chaffing can improve fleets’ safety scores. Air leaks and tire and brake violations are also high on the CSA list.

Equipment Failures Often Lead to Larger Truck Fleet Repairs

During the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliances 2018 Roadcheck inspection blitz, the top vehicle out-of-service (OOS) conditions were for brake systems, tires and wheels, and brake adjustment. OOS criteria prohibits a motor carrier or driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle for a specified period or until the condition is corrected, which can result in significant downtime.

Even if there is no regulatory action taken against a fleet, equipment failures can lead to more time consuming and unscheduled truck fleet repairs, causing delays and disrupting deliveries. "These are mechanical devices, and without periodic inspections, there could be a serious breakdown where you’re out of service for several days resulting in downtime," Hasinec said.

Moreover, improperly maintained equipment could lead to a truck crash, which could lead to costly repairs, extended litigation and negative publicity for a carrier.

Understanding the Average Cost of a Crash

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that accidents related to trucks and buses cost the economy about $99 billion a year, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that costs from a single catastrophic crash could exceed $1 million. OSHA estimates that the average crash costs employers $16,500 in expenses. When a worker has an on-the-job crash that results in an injury, the cost to their employer is $74,000, and OSHA estimates costs can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved.

In addition, the financial impact to the professional driver if he or she is unable to work after an accident, as well as the emotional impact a safety event can have on a single driver or the entire fleet’s workforce, can be devastating.

Investing in a proper fleet maintenance service, such as those offered by Penske Truck Leasing, can decrease the risks related to accidents, safety violations and downtime, providing immediate tangible and intangible benefits for a motor carrier.

March 2019