Autonomous Driving Vehicles – Are We Ready?

Are we ready for autonomous driving technology?

Autonomous driving using AI and robotics has received a lot of press lately. Investors are funneling capital into new companies competing for the next big breakthrough. Some say as early as next year we could be sharing the roads with trucks employing this high tech! Put simply, having large trucks that drive themselves in the lane next to your small car or truck is a bit unsettling, but we have never had the option of holding back progress.

Plus’s Self-Driving Truck Completes Industry’s First Cross-Country Commercial Freight Run Posted 12/10/2019

Autonomous driving vehicles are already successfully being used for the more repetitive tasks in shipping yards.

What could possibly go wrong?

First, and one of the biggest concerns noted by experts in the field of AI, is that the push is on for too much too fast. Will safety be sacrificed by the ones that get there first? The challenges are highly complex. For example, things that a human driver can easily compensate for such as a road sign with graffiti, mud, or snow on it, are more difficult for AI to interpret. With the potential for the limitless one-off situations that drivers routinely encounter, the task is huge to develop AI that can learn quickly enough to adapt to new situations presented to it.

Another concern of note is related to the laser technology used in many of the autonomous driving systems currently under development. It is commonly known as Lidar. Lidar employs laser beams to see the vehicles surroundings. The wavelengths used are already restricted in the US to prevent potential human eye damage. Additionally, they can cause damage to some types of camera sensors. As we pack more electronics onto more vehicles, there is the potential for the tech on one vehicle to damage or disable the tech on another.

Finally, there are concerns about what the future will be for professional truckers. For at least the short term, the consensus is that a driver to observe and intervene if necessary would still be needed in autonomous vehicles. This is making the field more attractive to women and may actually have a positive impact on current driver shortages. Ultimately, the point of autonomous vehicles is to remove the driver entirely. How drivers use their resources and experience in the cab working alongside AI may well determine their future in the industry.

Where does that leave us?

At this point, we still have more questions than answers and many legitimate concerns. Still, sharing the road with autonomous driving vehicles is closer than we might have imagined. It is prudent for all of us human drivers to be defensive drivers, rather than being the ones to test the limits of this new technology and finding its flaws the hard way.

Vehicle & Asset Telematics
Electronic Forms
Mobile Viewing
Routing
Vehicle & Asset Telematics
Electronic Forms
Mobile Viewing
Routing

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!

Workplace Safety – Help With Managing COVID 19 Risk

Workplace Safety is Your Responsibility

Workplace safety is a responsibility employers cannot take lightly. Whether you have decided it’s time to reopen your business, or just move from working in isolation back to some measure of how it used to be, you need to have a clear plan in place. It is your job to assure the work environment is safe for both customers and employees.
Workplace Safety

Relying on safety experts will improve the overall safety plan and may reduce liability in the event of a safety violation injury. Unfortunately, we have learned by watching the news over the past few months that not even the experts agree all the time. So where can an employer go for sound advice? Thankfully, the National Safety Council has addressed this head on with a new free program, Safe Actions for Employee Returns or SAFER.

NSC and the SAFER Program Tools for Workplace Safety

The National Safety Council (NSC) is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate. They are probably most well known for their Defensive Driving Course, required in many states to reinstate a driver’s license after multiple driving violations. Their primary focus is eliminating the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths in various environments. Ultimately that includes injury and death due to workplace safety issues.

The SAFER program, assembled and updated by a task force comprised of large and small Fortune 500 companies, provides guidance for safely reopening the workplace. Taskforce members include nonprofits, legal experts, public health professionals, medical professionals, and government agency representatives. They make recommendations based on best practices and proven workplace safety strategies.

The SAFER program provides free resources and tools you can download. As the body of knowledge about the Covid-19 virus grows and changes, the resources are updated. Even better, you can register to be notified by email when new resources become available. This is great way to ensure your workplace safety policies remain relevant and up to date.

What Resources are Available?

Resources are available to assess vulnerability, survey employees, and educate using their recorded webinars. Moreover, you can download PowerPoint presentations to use at your staff meetings and attend online workshops. NSC also maintains a page that details the federal guidelines and has useful links to resources like a COVID Tracer spreadsheet. A set of 4 posters designed to keep safe practices on everyone’s mind is the only item we found with a modest price tag.

The breadth of subject matter is impressive! The information provided covers topics including creating an action plan, office operations, managing anxiety, entrance screening, and what to do if you anyone in your workplace has a confirmed case of COVID 19.

Well Done!

Fleetistics is an authorized training center for the NSC Defensive Driving Course. We applaud the National Safety Council for its leadership in helping America safely return to work!

Driver Feedback to Create Positive Change

Using Feedback to Create Positive Change is Nothing New

From our perspective, that is what fleet tracking is for. Using feedback to create positive change in fleets and drivers is what we are all about. Feedback from devices changes driving habits. It has evolved from simple beeping when exceptions are triggered, to spoken coaching prompts using hardware, artificial intelligence, and integrated apps. In the same way, using feedback from employees is a great way to create positive change in your organization.

Using Feedback to Create Positive Change

Feedback is Critical to Improving Performance

You can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s broken. Just as your GPS tracking system tells you where the fleet needs attention, constructive driver feedback points out what areas in your business need attention. In the old days, a suggestion box was enough. In today’s environment that is just not enough. With so many complex procedures and processes in place, employee feedback is critical.

Management that listens to what employees are saying continually improves how business gets done. As an example, we recently looked at our own order processing. We noticed a checklist that we created for every order duplicated information that was already in our new order notification emails. We did it just because that it how order processing had always been done. Certainly the notification email in place of the checklist to initiate order processing will streamline the process and save us all time.

Encouraging Constructive Feedback

Ultimately, drivers need to feel that their feedback is wanted and welcomed. Encouraging employee feedback based on specific goals is one way to get them to open up. Another good way to start is to ask for suggestions. Simple surveys or a form for employees to respond after a review can begin to create a culture where drivers feel their views and suggestions are valued. Similarly incentives for the best suggestions often encourage a dialogue.

Once the feedback begins, don’t take criticism personally. Without a doubt you need to know what things look like from the employee perspective to be an effective manager. For that reason you must be willing to receive criticism with an open mind. As an example, employees may say they are being faulted for speeding events they can’t avoid and feel management is too hard on them for it. They could be right. You can’t legitimately fault an employee for speeding or for not completing all of his stops on a route that cannot be reasonably completed at the posted speed limit.

It may be time for your organization to consider a routing and scheduling application to better plan and optimize your routes. With route optimization you can also save on fuel and maintenance while providing improved customer service. Ask us about our free assessment tool that can analyze your current routes and project your return on investment.

Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback

Certainly we are not the experts on this subject, but there is a lot of good information to be found on the web. We have shared a few of them below.

“Receiving Constructive Feedback From Your Employees”

Recently published on Impraise blog. It has a lot of good suggestions on how to encourage employees to open up and respond in a way that keeps the feedback coming.

“Feedback is Critical to Improving Performance”

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) serves as the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager for the Federal Government. They have also posted on the subject.

Roadrunner Freight Featured on American Trucker

Most interesting to our readers are probably the results achieved by Roadrunner Freight. Roadrunner intentionally solicited and is making changes based on driver feedback in an effort to eliminate turnover and increase driver retention. This prompted what they call a major cultural overhaul. You can read all about it here on American Trucker.

High Tech Solutions for COVID 19 Safety

High Tech Solutions

High Tech Solutions to Win

Recent high tech solutions we are seeing are proof positive that we are well on our way to overcoming the obstacles created by the COVID 19 crisis. It’s high time to get us all back to work, and innovation is the American way.

 

High Tech Solutions from Ford

Ford Motor Company is at the top of that list with a system recently featured on Government Fleet. This new software uses existing systems for a new purpose, to neutralize the virus in police vehicles. It is available immediately on all 2013-19 Police Interceptor Utility vehicles. The system uses heat generated from the vehicle’s powertrain and climate control systems. It raises the temperature in the passenger compartment to over 133 degrees for 15 minutes, long enough to help disinfect the surfaces that are touched by officers and passengers.

 

High Tech Solutions for Law Enforcement

Predictive Analytics

Inspired by events following Hurricane Irma, USF has been working on a project to bring predictive analytics to health care staffing needs. The idea is to create a high-tech tool to help provide nursing homes with a way to predict and plan for staffing. Ultimately, this model could be applied to other industries when a crisis is looming.

 

High Tech Solutions in Retail

According to businessreport.com, Magnolia Bakery in NYC is encouraging patrons to pass through a UV chamber similar to the airlocks outside biohazard labs. A 20 second UV exposure is thought to be lethal for viruses and bacteria, but safe for humans.

 

Partners for High Tech Solutions

Computerworld recently posted a list of high tech companies offering development assistance, products, and online forums to assist all kinds of businesses to adapt to new social distancing and operational protocols. Help is available for everything from business solutions to adapt for a remote workforce, to virtual classes and meetings, to crowd sourcing to feed the homeless and hungry. Businesses, individuals like Bill Gates, and organizations like the USO are all finding and sharing ways to overcome the challenges presented by COVID 19.

 

All of this is evidence that the American spirit is strong and innovative. We will more than survive. We will thrive!