Instant Pot Meals on 18 Wheels

Instant Pot Cooking on the Road

Instant Pot cooking would not seem to be an appropriate post for a fleet management blog, but all is not what it seems to be. Before we are done we will touch on driver safety, morale, health, giving back to the community, and return on investment.

I first heard about Randy from a co-worker that belongs to a Facebook group that he is active in. His story peaked my interest so I contacted him to learn more. He quickly agreed to do an interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Introducing Randy

Randy drives a 2020 Peterbilt for Western Distributing in Colorado. He used to prepare his meals using a lunch box oven as many truckers do. That, and fast food are what truckers are often stuck with due to the demands of their work. He could not make pasta or rice, and the lunch box oven is not the greatest way to prepare vegetables. He was very limited in what he could prepare in it and found himself bored with the limited menu. Meals took a long time to prepare and were not very appetizing.

Randy's Kitchen
Randy Garza

Typical Lunchbox Ovens Used by Truckers

typical lunch box oven

All of that changed when his sister gave him an early Christmas gift in Colorado around November 25th of last year, his first Instant Pot. He picked up an inverter in Las Vegas, installed the inverter in Guymon, OK, and finally used his Instant Pot around December 2nd or 3rd. The first meal he cooked was spaghetti, something that just can’t be done in a lunch box oven.

Now he uses it daily and has added more Instant Pot products to his in cab home. He can cook just about anything with his collection that includes the dual lid for air frying, another 3 quart Instant Pot, an Instant Vortex Plus and an Ace Nova blender.

Instant Pot Meals on 18 Wheels
Instant Pot Meals on 18 Wheels
Instant Pot Meals on 18 Wheels

Real Meals on 18 Wheels

Randy told me he eats healthier and life is easier with the Instant Pot appliances. He can cook almost anything on the road. His favorite is making pancakes on saute. He stocks up on produce every few days and meat weekly. The hardest part he says is parking his tractor-trailer at the grocery store.

Instant Pot products have saved him time and money while expanding his diet to include pretty much anything at all. He can pressure cook, air fry, bake, steam, roast, saute, and even make soup. With so many homeless people on the road, he gets great satisfaction doing little things like baking a cake or providing a meal for a homeless person in need.

Instant Pot Meals on 18 Wheels
Instant Pot Meals on 18 Wheels
Instant Pot Meals on 18 Wheels

Healthier Drivers are Safer Drivers

What impresses me most is Randy’s desire to change the way people eat. He believes that when drivers eat healthier and get a wider variety of fresh foods, they will be stronger, happier and more alert, making the road a healthier and more comfortable workplace for truckers and a safer place for all of us.
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!

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.

Move Over Laws

Move Over Laws in all 50 States

According to the USDOT blog, all 50 states have now enacted move over laws. There are some significant differences between states, but the basic premise requires changing lanes or slowing down when approaching vehicles stopped on the roadside.

ResponderSafety.com has reported that two emergency responders per day, on average, are struck by passing vehicles. Move over laws were enacted to provide a cushion of safety for law enforcement officers, workers, and others that may be stopped on a busy road or highway. The earliest versions of these laws were often vague and unenforceable. More recent efforts between cooperating agencies have provided model language that is clearer and is being adopted more broadly.

Roadside Accident w-Emergency Responders

Primary Differences

The move over laws across the 50 states have much more in common than not. The primary differences are the definitions each state has for an emergency scene. In many states they apply only to emergency vehicles. In other states they apply to emergency vehicles and towing vehicles. Alaska includes animal control vehicles in their definition and South Carolina has the broadest definition. Their text includes a location designated by the potential need to provide emergency medical care and is identified by emergency vehicles with flashing lights, rescue equipment, or emergency personnel on the scene.

Based on the South Carolina definition, one can infer that if a common citizen stops to assist another vehicle pulled off the road, there could be potential need for emergency medical care making even that a qualifying emergency scene that the law would apply to.

What Move Over Laws Have in Common

All of the move over laws place responsibility on the driver of a motor vehicle to take specific action when approaching an emergency scene. The driver must change lanes if the adjacent lane is available and the maneuver can be performed safely. Drivers must also slow down and control their vehicle to avoid collision. The image below from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website tells Florida drivers exactly what they need to know.

I recall, many years ago, being at the side of the road on Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was driving a friend’s pickup truck when the engine seized because the oil was too low. Stuck on a curve with 2 lanes of traffic moving fast in both directions, and a concrete barrier between, I was alone and unprepared. There was very little room at the roadside and no way to move the truck further off the road. I waited in the truck hoping someone would stop to help. It was unnerving that drivers did not slow down, and absolutely frightening when one drove by so close he clipped off the side view mirror and sent it tumbling down the hill.

Common sense and human decency dictate if someone, if anyone is in distress at the side of the road, whether that distress is a heart attack or a flat tire, give them and anyone who is assisting them plenty of room. Move over laws ensure a higher level of protection for public servants and a consequence for violators. Bottom line, they encourage us all to do what we know is the right thing.

Driver Training

Play this short video to remind your drivers and employees of the Move Over Law.

Some Statistics Regarding Roadside Inspections

Understanding Roadside Inspections

Most drivers dread having to deal with a roadside inspection. That dread is well founded when you consider that the drivers career is on the line every time he faces off with a DOT inspector who is just doing his or her job. Being able to anticipate what inspectors are focusing on can be a great help.

We recently found a web page that contains interactive tools that can really give the driver an edge. It contains statistics regarding roadside inspections that are searchable by state, violation type, vehicle weight, fleet size and much more. For instance, if you are going to be driving in Arkansas, you can do some quick research to see how many inspections are being conducted and what kind of violations are being cited.

FYI, Arkansas was picked totally at random, we are not picking on them.

Roadside Inspection Activity

The chart below shows that in 2020 in Arkansas there were very few Federal Inspections, but State enforcement officials were very active. About 25% of inspections are full inspections, so best to make sure my logs and inspection records, as well as my vehicle, are in tip top shape.

It also looks like the Federal inspectors were a little more stringent with drivers than local enforcement, but local enforcement was much more stringent regading vehicle infractions.

Driver Violations

Looking at the top 3 driver violations cited, it would seem that most violators were pulled over for a relatively minor speeding infraction of 6-10 mph over the speed limit. Common sense tells us that obeying the speed limit while driving in Arkansas is its own reward.

Vehicle Violations

Now that you have been pulled over for driving 7 mph over the posted speed, you can bet the inspector is going to check all of your lights and not miss a thing. Inoperative turn signals and lights will have you taken out of service in Arkansas.

Monthly Trends in Roadside Inspections

Understanding the roadside inspection trends by month can also be very interesting. From the chart below we speculate that after the initial COVID 19 shutdowns either enforcement was staying home or drivers were. It would be interesting to dig deeper to see if this is actually a seasonal trend based on some other factor.

Information is Power

Understanding the trends based on the factors discussed is certainly interesting and give drivers an edge, BUT nothing takes the place of constant vigilance when it comes to vehicle and driver safety. Our goal is for every driver to arrive home safely after every trip. No exceptions!