What hazards will this winter bring to commercial motor vehicle drivers? While nobody knows for sure how bad each winter may be, the Farmer’s Almanac indicates that the winter of 2022-23 will include plenty of snow, rain and mush, along with record-breaking cold in parts of the U.S.

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Truck parking has appeared on the American Transportation Research Institute's (ATRI) Top 10 Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry list since 2012, and it was the fifth highest-ranking issue of industry concern in ATRI’s latest report. Among driver concerns, it tied with driver compensation as the top concern.

“This is the 10th year that the lack of available truck parking has made the top 10 list of industry concerns, and among commercial drivers, it has consistently ranked in their top three," ATRI wrote in its annual report.

Concerns over parking have increased due to hours of service and electronic logging mandates, which are causing more drivers to look for parking at the same time. ATRI reported that drivers will often park earlier to ensure they find safe parking prior to running out of hours of service. The lost wages associated with an early exit from revenue trips average over $4,600 annually per driver

ATRI issued several proposed strategies in its report to address parking concerns, including creating a new, dedicated federal funding program designed to increase truck parking capacity at freight-critical locations, encouraging local and regional governments to reduce the regulatory burdens limiting the construction and expansion of truck parking facilities near major metropolitan areas, and advocating for states to expand the availability of accurate, real-time truck parking availability information on roadside changeable/dynamic message signs.

A 2021 ATRI study on truck parking information systems found that 15% of drivers rely exclusively on roadside changeable message signs for their parking information. Additionally, 57% of drivers indicated that they had utilized a truck parking app in the past year.

Truck Parking Technologies

There are several technology-based systems currently available to help drivers find parking. The free Penske Driver™ app allows drivers to locate and get contact information for nearby parking locations.

ATRI, American Trucking Associations and NATSO formed the Truck Parking Leadership Initiative, which developed the Park My Truck app that allows truck stops, rest areas and others to report the number of spaces available in their lots. Other apps that provide parking information include Trucker Path and DAT Trucker.

The Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAATSO) initiative unites eight Midwestern states in the nation's first Regional Truck Parking Information Management System. The Truck Parking Information Management System (TPIMS) has been deployed along high-volume freight corridors through Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The states collect and broadcast real-time parking availability to drivers through various media outlets, including dynamic signs, smartphone applications and traveler information websites. “This will help drivers proactively plan their routes and make safer, smarter parking decisions,” MAATSO said on its website.

American Truck Parking, a federally and state-funded project run through the University of California at Berkley, has partnered with several government parking projects that track real-time parking info, including MAATSO, and shares it on its website, combining it all in one place. It also collects data on private truck stops.

Several large truck stops, including TravelCenters of America, Love’s and Pilot Flying J, provide parking information via their apps and allow drivers to reserve parking spaces.

December 2020 / Updated August 2022

If you haven’t checked all the components of your truck’s brake system recently, now is the time to get it done.

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As an estimated 480,000 school buses return to U.S. roads over the next few weeks, it’s time for professional drivers to brush up on their own lesson plan: How to drive with care during back-to-school season. Remember these 7 words that can help you avoid an accident and potentially save a life.

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You may think distracted driving and DUIs cause the largest amount of traffic accidents each year—and you'd be right. But did you know that speeding is #3 on the list?

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Spring marks the start of road construction season, and with more road work projects planned nationwide, professional drivers can expect to navigate more than their fair share of work zones in 2022.

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Lighting is one of the most common roadside violations as well as one of the biggest challenges fleets face.

During the latest 2021 Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's (CVSA) Roadcheck event, there were 1,367 out-of-service lighting violations, accounting for 14.1% of all vehicle out-of-service violations. It was the third most-cited violation, after brake systems and tires. Out-of-service lighting device violations include headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps on projecting loads.

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Cargo theft can cost thousands or even millions of dollars per load, and food and beverages are among the most targeted commodities across the United States and Canada. That is followed by household goods, vehicles and accessories, and pharmaceutical and medical products, according to the latest figures from CargoNet, a theft prevention and recovery network. CargoNet said the cost associated with stolen cargo was just over $60 million in 2021.

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More than 70% of the nation's roads sit in regions that see over 5 inches of snowfall each year. That means there's a good chance you'll encounter slippery and downright dangerous driving conditions over the next three months.

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With holiday traffic volumes expected to be near pre-pandemic levels this year, professional drivers can expect to share the road with millions of motorists nationwide. But the highways won’t be the only crowded place. Truck stops and rest areas will be jam-packed, too!

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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 (ATA) 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

Original Equipment Manufacturers (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

The brake system on a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) must work all of the time under all conditions, and both air disc brakes and S-cam drum brakes can get the job done. However, many manufacturers have made air disc brakes standard and the adoption rate for air disc brakes is increasing.

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After spending most of 2020 indoors, people are heading outside again. According to TripAdvisor's 2021 Summer Travel Index, two-thirds of Americans plan to travel between June 1 and Aug. 31, and 43% of them expect to drive to their destination.

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An estimated 7,000 truck fires happen on the nation's roadways every year. And while that number may seem small, most tractor-trailer fires can create millions of dollars worth of equipment and cargo losses. They also can cause serious injury or death to drivers and other motorists.

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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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It takes a 35,000-pound tractor-trailer at least 14 seconds to traverse a single set of train tracks. Trains cannot stop that fast. It takes a 6,000-ton train traveling at 55 mph, a mile or more to completely stop moving. That is why railroad crossings are a dangerous territory for truck drivers and should be approached with caution.

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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.

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Exceptionally strong demand for trucking services by manufacturers, retailers and distributors is outstripping the supply of trucks and available drivers in many markets, especially during peak usage. Plus, skyrocketing for-hire carrier rates, shrinking capacity and increasing freight volumes are expected to continue, all of which are contributing to the value a private fleet can provide, the National Private Truck Council (NPTC) said in its latest benchmarking survey.

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Trucking safety is important for many reasons including lowering CSA scores, attracting truck drivers, truck driver retention, cutting costs and more.

1. Focusing on safety can lower scores associated with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, which can be important for securing new business and improving a company's image. Private fleets' CSA scores are accessible with a few clicks of a mouse, and a number of shippers use private fleets' CSA scores to determine which companies they will do business with. Even if shippers want to do business with a particular company, policy may prohibit it if their scores are low, placing those with poor CSA scores at a competitive disadvantage.

2. A safe company can attract drivers. Today's drivers are becoming more selective about where they want to work and often turn to private fleets' CSA scores to help them make the decision. Drivers know that, given the FMCSA's Pre-Employment Screening Program, any violations become part of a driver's resume, including five years of crash history and three years of inspections. While a number of violations ultimately come down to the driver's responsibility, some are dependent on the organization and a growing number of drivers are no longer willing to work for a company that doesn't make safety a priority.

3. An emphasis on safety can improve driver retention. Not only can a strong safety record get drivers in the door, it can keep them at the company. With an industry-wide turnover rate of 90 percent for both large and small private fleets in the second quarter of 2017, this can be especially important to private fleets.

4. When crashes occur, they can have catastrophic results. In 2015, 4,311 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes, the FMCSA reported. That was an eight percent increase from 2014. When crashes occur, drivers of large trucks and other vehicles involved in truck crashes are ten times more likely to be the cause of the crash than other factors, such as weather, road conditions and vehicle performance, according to the Large Truck Crash Causation study conducted by the FMCSA with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. FMCSA reported that the top critical reasons trucks crashed included driver decisions, such as speeding or aggressive driving, and the driver being inattentive.

5. Safety cuts costs. Improved safety can minimize expenses in a number of areas, including fines for violations and driver recruiting costs. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average costs associated with a commercial truck accident is roughly $59,150.

6. Bad publicity can wreak havoc on a company's image. One catastrophic accident that is widely covered in the news can cost companies greatly in terms of their public image. A June 2014 crash involving a Wal-Mart truck and comedian Tracy Morgan received extensive media coverage, and a Google search of the crash brings up more than 400,000 results, including news articles in a wide range of media outlets ranging from People magazine to Fox News. Wal-Mart settled with Morgan, who was injured in the crash, for an undisclosed amount. In addition to the cost of the actual settlement, Wal-Mart had to deal with the media scrutiny and the public's reaction to the crash.

7. Safety goes beyond the driver. While many believe the driver is ultimately responsible for the safe performance of a vehicle, safety goes much deeper than who is behind the wheel. In addition to the people who load the trailer and the technicians who maintain the equipment, the equipment each driver uses also plays a critical factor into the overall safety of a vehicle. Recent advancements in active safety systems are designed to help prevent or mitigate road crashes. Active safety systems are comprised of technologies such as lane departure systems, electronic stability control, collision avoidance, and automatic braking. This means that private fleets need to embrace a safety culture at all levels of the business.

October 2017

Improving safety has many tangible and intangible benefits for a fleet, including decreased costs related to accidents, minimizing losses resulting from fines for safety violations, increased insurance premiums and damage to corporate reputation.

To improve truck safety, managers can take a multipronged approach that starts with spec'ing the right equipment for the job. It continues by ensuring drivers are operating the equipment correctly and fleet managers are properly maintaining the vehicle throughout its life cycle.

Calculating the Cost of Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that accidents related to trucks and buses cost the economy about $99 billion a year. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average cost of a commercial truck accident is about $59,150. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that costs from a single catastrophic crash can exceed $1 million.

The visible costs of an accident, such as damaged equipment and cargo, are the most obvious. Yet the true costs can run much deeper. "The cost of negative publicity surrounding a crash can be devastating to a company's bottom line and reputation," says Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske Truck Leasing.

Start with Safety in Mind

Penske can work with you to understand your challenges and specify the safety devices to assist in meeting your safety needs, including passive cruise control, collision avoidance systems, rollover protection and disc brakes.

"These are all technologies the customers can opt into, and they provide opportunities to reduce their accident expense and any liability associated with it," Pagesy says. In addition, on-board safety technology continues to improve at a lower cost, which can increase Return on Investment (ROI).

Invest in Drivers

While advanced technology is one tool to help improve safety performance, it can't do it all. The driver is still in control of the vehicle and needs to be executing his or her responsibilities properly.

Penske offers driver training to all full-service lease and contract maintenance customers, with classes at customer locations, Penske Truck Leasing locations and online. Penske Truck Leasing also offers peer management seminars where groups of customers can join together with Penske to discuss emerging regulations and safety issues.

Because there are so many hard and soft costs related to a safety event, the ROI for safety sometimes can be difficult to quantify.

Visible Costs

  • Cargo damage
  • Vehicle damage
  • Injury/medical expenses
  • Loss of revenue
  • Administrative costs
  • Rising insurance premiums
  • Towing and storage costs
  • Loss of vehicle productivity

Hidden Costs

  • Lost customers and sales
  • Employee disability costs
  • Cost to hire and train replacement workers
  • Risk to reputation
  • Public relations costs
  • Legal expenses

Maintain Vehicles

Properly maintaining vehicles through rigorous preventative maintenance (PM) ensures performance, which directly relates to safety. "Every time we do a PM, all safety items are checked," says Mike Hasinec, former vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing. "Safety is just as important to us as it is to our customers."

Penske maintains vehicles at and above FMCSA regulations and provides fleet performance metrics to identify and assess risk. Penske also handles licensing and vehicle tax reporting to ensure fleets are compliant and track all aspects of maintenance and repairs.

Safety is Serious Business

Penske takes safety seriously. Implementation of safety recommendations can help reduce costs related to crashes. It also can lead to lower insurance rates, fewer claims and improved reputation. That's why Penske offers important safety programs as part of our core services, with no additional cost to customers.

July 2016