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November 2017 Safety Coach: Like Talking Head, Talking Car Cannot Be Ignored

Safety Coach

Some say talking to yourself is a sign of genius. When your car talks to you, it is a sign you need to pay attention. Let me share a story to illustrate why I have come to trust my car’s safety features.

On a recent return trip from the airport, my car told me I was tired. Yep, it was talking to me. Well, not in so many words, but rather it sent me an alert via my dashboard. The iconic image of a steaming cup of coffee was telling me I was beat.

I live 90 minutes from the airport. It was 11 p.m., and I had a long day, starting before 6 a.m.

My car recognized it was time for me to pull over. How did it know? The answer: technology. Common drowsiness alert systems track how often you depart from your lane over a short period of time to determine if you may be drowsy.

I am an expert, right? So, naturally, you are wondering what I did. When the alert went off, I had been on the road for 65 minutes. I was 25 minutes from home. Even though it was a short distance, I pulled over at a rest area and took a break. Then, when I felt refreshed, I continued on my way.

I share this story in the hope you will share vehicle safety technology messages with your employees on a consistent and on-going basis. I also encourage you to remind employees not to disarm these great safety features because of a perception they are too loud or in some other way annoying.

I have heard it said that today’s cars are equipped with more lines of computer code than some fighter jets. While education is vital to understanding vehicle technology, you don’t have to decipher all the codes. You do need to cover a couple of key points:

  • Know what safety features come standard on your vehicle
  • Pay attention to those smart cyber guys and gals living under your hood; they can save your life
  • Learn what the safety icons on your vehicle look like and what they mean, including that odd exclamation point tucked inside an image of your tire losing pressure; you don’t want to have a flat

Cats have nine lives – you don’t. Your car can recognize signs of fatigue, even if you don’t. The trick is in avoiding a false sense of security. Today’s driver assist technologies are meant to do just that – assist drivers. You are still the one sitting behind the wheel. And you are still your vehicle’s best safety feature.

— Lisa Robinson, Our Driving Concern Senior Program Manager

Tailgate Talk

Video Evidence Puts Trucking Company in Driver’s Seat

Forward-facing and rear-facing in-cab cameras are used at Sentinel Transportation, LLC, to create a detailed picture of what is going on inside and outside its trucks. These cameras also are used as a teaching tool by company safety personnel.

“When we get up in the morning, the first we do is brush our teeth and get ready to go do our day’s activities,” said Dwayne “Shakey” Schexnayder, maintenance and equipment manager at Sentinel’s LaPorte, TX, location. “We look in the mirror before we leave to make sure we’re presentable. It’s the same thing with our professional drivers.”

Shakey said truck drivers develop habits — some good, some bad — just like others on the road.

“Bringing this to their attention, it helps them appreciate that, yeah, I need to stay on course and these are the corrective actions I need,” he said. “That’s where the video intelligence comes in to play for us.”

Sentinel hauls crude oil and petroleum products across America. The company did an analysis of safety/risk statistics prior to implementing advanced safety technologies (2004-2006) versus post implementation (2014-2016). Three key findings:

  • The cost of auto liability/general liability claims per mile decreased by 65%
  • Department of Transportation accidents were reduced by 49%
  • DOT accidents per million miles were reduced by 41%

Learn more about how Sentinel has become a model of why advanced driver assistance systems make sense in the commercial fleet industry: Trucking Company Rolls Technology into Safety Culture.

Ensuring its drivers maintain a proper following distance is high on Sentinel’s path to making all roads safer. When an inappropriate action is spotted on video, a driver can be called in for coaching, said LaPorte-based Regional Safety Manager David Eicher.

“You let him look at the video,” Eicher said. “He most likely will agree or form an opinion pretty quickly. You get him on your side. You tell him, ‘We want to protect our investment, we want to protect you, we want to protect that person ahead of you. You need to fall back on your training.’ ”

Watch this quick-guide video: Forward Collision Warning.