Avoiding Multitasking Mistakes

Multitasking Is The New Normal

In 2020 there was a huge shift in the way we do business. We were multitasking before, but often in a community workspace with more team interaction. Social distancing has forced us to re-think the workspace and work more independently. With that comes more multitasking, and a new level of stress and confusion can emerge. For drivers who have more technology to manage on the road, mistakes can have deadly consequences.

Fleets are using more electronics than ever for navigation, ELD, work orders, and communication. Fleet managers supervise drivers engaging in potentially dangerous multitasking that in some cases runs counter to the safety programs in place. Managers and dispatchers make exceptions when they need something, but later hold a driver accountable for talking on a phone while driving. Is there a double standard? Where do operational requirements supersede safety best practices? It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but one we need to be having.

Applying Wisdom From Other Disciplines

As a training center for NSC’s Defensive Driving Course, we get a lot of safety related communications and links to safety related content. A recent article “Safety Leadership: Reducing catastrophic incident potential via enhanced human performance reliability” by Matt Hargrove from DEKRA Organizational Safety and Reliability caught our attention. His post focuses on catastrophic incidents that occur on offshore drilling rigs, but there was some underlying wisdom that can be universally applied.

Given, most of our readers are not doing potentially life threatening jobs in dangerous environments, but one statement Matt Hargrove made strikes at the heart of what most of us are doing.

“We make more mistakes when our work is designed to have us multitask.”

Matt Hargrove

Principal Consultant, DEKRA Organizational Safety and Reliability

Multi tasking manager

That statement is true for drivers, managers, support staff, vendors… all of us. And with all of the technology we use day to day, everyone is multitasking. So, how can we support employees to make fewer mistakes while still accomplishing all that needs to be done?

The author listed 5 specific “layers of protection” to be considered to “further reduce potential for catastrophic incidents”. If we consider those same recommendations with a fleet based operation in mind, are able to identify specific actions we can take to prevent the common multitasking related mistakes we make everyday.

Five Layers of Protection

  1. “Creating clear alignment on prioritization of competing organizational targets and objectives.”

Make sure drivers, managers, and support staff are clear on their own priorities, and each other’s. A manager that needs something done right now must consider a driver’s first priority is arriving safely. It’s OK to communicate urgency, but not to pressure the driver to hurry unduly. If he is a few minutes late due to driving on icy roads, express that it is OK.

  1. “Creating brain-aligned standard operating procedures and documents in which design and content are developed in a way that highlights critical steps and prompts specific actions that reduce potential for critical error.”

Maybe it’s time to take a good look at our forms and processes. Do forms follow the work flow so that drivers and other workers can document what they are doing in the order they normally do it? Are the fields for must have information required fields on electronic forms and highlighted somehow on paper forms? Are you using checklists to confirm the proper steps have been taken?

3. “Creating specific lines of inquiry related to human performance and human-machine interface to understand how errors might occur/or have occurred post-incident.”

When mistakes are made, they should be reviewed to determine why they were made. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn from mistakes and understand if multitasking is contributing to errors made. That responsibility needs to be owned by someone in the organization. Once we identify the common threads when mistakes occur, we can take steps to mitigate their re-occurrence.

  1. “Deploying a structured technique for hazard identification (going from looking to seeing and mitigating hazards). Creating prompts that move people out of the default autopilot (fast brain) during safety-critical transitions within work tasks.”

Within our own departments we do things out of habit because that’s the way they have always been done. Perhaps we should get a fresh set of eyes on our procedures and forms to help us identify areas we might improve. For instance, we recently identified that two employees in different departments were both creating and uploading a nearly identical document into the same shared folder. We determined it made more sense to share a single document cutting both workloads. Now, both know to check the folder for an existing document before creating a new one. It’s a small thing, but every little bit helps.

  1. “Training frontline team members to understand the causes of performance errors and co-develop the techniques and system changes necessary to control for them.”

This goes hand in hand with #4 on the list. Management needs to be on the lookout to identify wasted effort wherever it lives. It could be anything from an employee spending hours doing something manually that could be done more efficiently with the right software or integration, to identifying overlapping tasks that can be shifted to the most appropriate team member. If we can split the workload we can eliminate some of the multitasking.

A Few Simple Ideas You Can Implement Now

Some suggestions from our own staff include completing the task you are working on before starting another, closing your email client to avoid distractions, and organizing your email inbox with folders to prioritize and group similar tasks together. It all seems to come down to being open to change. There are a plethora of apps designed to help us get more done in less time and with less error. Being willing to evaluate and invest in those new solutions can be a game changer!

Optimizing Routes to Increase ROI

Are You Optimizing Routes?

In the world of transporting and delivering goods and services, some companies pay more attention to optimizing routes than others. Those that invest time and energy into route optimization have found that it pays off in spades. Even emergency service providers that cannot plan their routes in advance, can benefit from optimizing each new service call based on shortest route and current road conditions.

Improve Route Efficiency Up to 40%!

Never Too Small To Be Efficient

Whether you have a fleet of 5 vehicles all doing the same job or a fleet of hundreds with multiple specialties and special purpose vehicles, there is a routing and scheduling application available to meet your needs. Route optimization has gained so much traction that one of our premier GPS platforms offers out of the box integration with 9 or more route optimization specialty providers.

Manual routing and optimizing is time consuming, frustrating and a lot of hard work. Once done, any number of things can change making the entire route that you planned so carefully mediocre at best. What if you could easily change and transmit a revised route, knowing that the best optimization choices have been made? That would be a game changer!

Route Organization

Optimizing Routes Made Easy

Imagine uploading tomorrows work orders into a system that can tell you how many trucks are needed, what jobs to assign to what vehicles, and what routes to follow based on the parameters you pre-set in the app. Imagine the time saved on manually planning those routes alone. Then consider these potential savings:

  • Reduce fuel and labor costs by as much as 30%
  • Dispatch drivers using convenient tablet and smart phone apps.
  • Integrate with platforms alerting drivers to traffic, collisions, and other changing road conditions.
  • Increase your dispatcher’s visibility of completed and pending stops improving customer service.
  • Efficiently plan and schedule time sensitive deliveries.
  • Reduce carbon emissions by driving more efficient routes.
  • Gain a competitive edge.
Route Optimization Tool

Increasing Demand for Local Deliveries

In the past year, social distancing has changed the way we buy, sell, and ultimately receive goods and services. We now rely on delivery of things we used to go to the store and pick up ourselves. Companies that provide reliable service, on time delivery, and a way for customers to see where their orders or service providers are and when they will arrive are rising to the top. Integrated routing and scheduling apps are the foundation their systems are built upon.

If you are not optimizing your routes, now is the time to start. Contact us today to review your options and select an app for trial. You’ll be glad you did.

Electric Vehicle Safety for Novices

Electric Vehicle Safety vs Conventional Fuel Vehicles in Collisions

Electric vehicle safety concerns have not had near the publicity that the vehicles and initiatives have received. Organizations like NFPA and NAHRS provide proactive training for first responders and early responders on how to identify hybrids and EVs, and prepare them to deal with the potential dangers inherent in rescue operations. Some of us, including the writer of this post, never gave EV safety a second thought until now. With the numbers of Hybrids and EVs on the road increasing as they are, it seems prudent to share this information on a broader scale.

The obvious reason a different approach must be taken in dealing with emergencies involving EVs is that they contain high voltage systems. If you ever took a shock from your conventional vehicle battery you surely experienced some discomfort. That was 12 volts DC at 2 to 10 amps. According to allaboutcircuits.com, common nominal pack voltages in current vehicles range from 100V-200V for hybrid/plug-in hybrid vehicles and 400V to 800V and higher for electric-only vehicles. That’s a lot more juice!

Dos and Don’ts

Whether attending to someone with a medical emergency in the vehicle, trying to free someone trapped in the vehicle, or putting out a fire in a burning vehicle, the rescue approach is different when there are high voltage components to consider. Before taking action you must identify if a vehicle is a hybrid, full electric vehicle, or an internal combustion engine. If it is an EV, Hybrid, or even CNG, alternative vehicle safety protocols must be followed. The first thing you need to determine is if the vehicle is running. Electric vehicles run silent so it is easy to overlook a vehicle still running that could move and cause injury. Next, the battery should be disconnected according to the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines.

Another important piece of information to know is the battery location. If a battery has been exposed to heat, that creates an additional hazard. Cooling the battery with water is a good idea, but never cut, crush, or open a high voltage battery, cable, or peripheral component. Popping noises from the battery location are a good indicator that it is hot, as well as smoke or steam.

If you have access to running water, a hot battery should be cooled by running water over the battery case or compartment. Water has been determined to be the best way to cool or extinguish a lithium-ion battery. If the battery case has already been opened by impact or penetration, applying water directly to the battery is even more effective. Other suffocating or extinguishing agents like your handy fire extinguisher will not be effective. Keep in mind that emergency responders are trained to monitor the battery for reoccurrence of heat for no less than 45 minutes before releasing a vehicle to secondary responders, so if you end up being the one manning the hose, and conditions are safe enough, continue the cooling efforts until the pros arrive. Download the free Emergency Field Guide for alternative fuel vehicles from NFPA.org or contact your local fire department for training and information if you operate electric vehicles.

More Videos on Electric Vehicle Safety and Fire Hazards

Electric Vehicle Battery Location

EV battery locations vary by vehicle make and model. In most hybrids it is behind or under the rear seat, or in the trunk. In fully electric vehicles it may be under the floorboard or in the transmission hump. If you see damage to the vehicle or active fire in or near those locations, best to wait for the pros who have been trained for these situations and have the thermal imaging and protective gear to handle them.

Key Take-aways for EV Safety

We cannot stress enough that alternative fuel vehicles vary widely in the technologies used. Each technology presents a unique hazard profile. Buildup of fumes that are harmful or flammable, potential for delayed fire, and extremely high voltages are the primary dangers. If you are not sure what to do, call 911 for help, and wait.

Most important, if you are first on the scene of a collision or other vehicle emergency, before you jump in to assist, stop and assess the situation for electric vehicle safety. Treating an EV in the same manner you would a conventional gasoline or diesel fueled vehicle can do more harm than good and ultimately result in serious injury.

7 Costly Driving Habits that are Easy to Break

We All Have Costly Driving Habits

This post shares valuable information not only for commercial fleets, but for anyone who drives. We all want to keep our vehicles running well and far from the repair shop. A few things you may do out of habit, and never thought much about can be causing serious damage to your vehicle over time. Saving a transmission, braking system, or fuel pump from excessive wear will keep your hard-earned money in your pocket, and you in the driver’s seat.

Costly Driving Habits

#1 Ignoring an Unfamiliar Sound

Some sounds just get our attention more than others. A loud scraping noise is pretty alarming. Most drivers would recognize it as bad news and do something immediately. On the other hand, what about a subtle hissing sound? You may not even be sure you really heard something. Ignoring that sound is a costly driving habit.

Rather than let it go, take a minute to listen more closely. Lift the hood and see if it sounds louder. Ask someone else if they hear it too. Sure, it might just be wind noise, but it could be an early warning sign of something about to go very wrong. If you ignore it until that soft hiss turns into a whistle you could find yourself at the side of the road needing belts or vacuum hoses replaced.

#2 Resting Your Hand on the Gearstick While Driving

According to carthrottle.com and many other sources, this common habit can cause easily avoidable damage to your transmission. The constant weight of your hand or arm on the shift lever, puts pressure on the parts connecting below in the gearbox. That pressure causes unnecessary wear and tear and can lead to very expensive transmission failures.

Break that costly driving habit easily by keeping both hands on the wheel. You will find you have more control and may even react a little faster to potential hazards.

#3 Over-Revving a Cold Engine

Winter is here and vehicles may be very cold when we get in to drive. Newer vehicles with fuel injection systems do not require the same care as older vehicles did in this regard, but after reading a few articles on the subject, it seems prudent not to over tax cold vehicle components. Thermal expansion is a fact and precision parts operate best when they are at their optimum operating temperatures, so spending a few minutes to allow the engine to warm just makes sense. It also makes sense to warm the car before you get in for the sake of your own comfort.

This video shot with a thermal camera shows the warming of a frozen engine is very interesting and informative.

Costly Braking Habits

Your brakes may be the single most important system on your vehicle. Wherever you go and whatever you encounter, when you want to stop, or need to stop in an emergency, the brakes have to work! The alternative ways to stop a vehicle can be extremely unpleasant. There are 3 costly driving behaviors that are easy to break specific to how and when we brake.

#4 Excessive Downhill Braking

Of course, you want to brake when necessary, but riding the brake pedal when driving downhill is a common costly driving habit. Continuing to do it will overheat your brake components and wear them out before their time. Instead, try slowing down some before you crest that hill, take your foot off the gas, and downshift to slow the engine. If you pick up too much speed, brake as needed to slow the vehicle, but don’t keep constant pressure on the brake pedal.

#5 Frequent Hard Braking

Sudden and frequent braking often go hand in hand with distracted driving. Both are costly driving habits. A driver that is aware of what is going on around him (or her) has more time to react. They can more easily swerve safely to avoid an obstacle or decelerate slowly rather than brake at the last second. In any case, breaking the hard braking habit pays off in fewer brake repairs and replacements as well as fewer collision incidents and stressful close calls.

#6 Not Using the Parking/Emergency Brake on an Incline

Those of us who mainly drive in the flat lands may not know this, but you should always engage the parking/emergency brake when parked on an incline, AND it should be engaged before you take your foot off of the main brake and put the gear shift lever into the park position. As a side note, if you drive in a mountainous region you also need to curb your wheels. Communities like San Francisco routinely issue citations for not doing so.

The reason for using the parking/emergency brake is pretty simple to understand. Automatic transmissions have a device known as a parking pawl that prevents the transmission output shaft from moving when your shifter is in park. It looks like a pin that engages a notched ring. When these parts are worn, you will notice the vehicle moves a couple of inches forward or back after you put it in park. According to AAMCO, when you set your shifter to park before setting the parking or emergency brake, the entire weight of your vehicle rests on the parking pawl device. Over time it becomes weak leading to premature failure and very costly repairs.

#7 Emptying the Tank Before Refueling

Costly Driving Habits

This is an easy costly driving habit to break once you accept that you are not saving a dime by filling the tank later rather than sooner. The fuel that you pump into your vehicle at the gas station contains some impurities all fuel does. Over time, these impurities settle to the bottom of your tank. Again, this may be more of a concern for older vehicles and colder climates than newer vehicles in the south, but it still applies to all vehicles over time. When you burn the fuel at the bottom of the tank, those impurities (including water) can be pulled into the fuel pump and engine. Enough water will stall the engine. More important, the last thing you want are impurities getting trapped in critical moving engine parts.

Top mechanic’s recommend to never run the tank dry. Certainly refuel before you are below 1/10 or under 2 gallons. Others say to keep no less than a quarter tank at all times. This is so the fuel level does not go below the level of the fuel pump within the engine. They say when the fuel level is below the fuel pump, the fuel pump generates more heat causing it to wear faster than normal.

Why not start off the new year by breaking those costly driving habits? Your wallet and your vehicle will thank you!