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Six issues that will dominate 2011

The holiday season always presents a great opportunity to relax, and I certainly hope everyone has the chance to recharge their batteries. After all, the trucking industry will need plenty of energy t...




The holiday season always presents a great opportunity to relax, and I certainly hope everyone has the chance to recharge their batteries. After all, the trucking industry will need plenty of energy to face the issues of the coming year. To be specific, the Markel Safety and Training Services team believes that six issues will dominate the business of trucking during 2011.

Cargo crime

Canada’s trucking industry has seen a recent explosion in cargo crime, and a growing number of these crimes are occurring right under the noses of fleet employees. Thieves are pulling into loading docks with fraudulent documents such as a bills of lading or certificates of insurance, hooking up to the trailer and then hauling everything into the sunset. Rather than targeting valuable consumer goods such as electronics, these thieves are also seeing the value in food products that are hard to identify, easily disposed and quickly resold.

But many of the threats could be addressed with a handful of updated procedures. Dock employees, for example, can begin to ask drivers for identification, contact a trucker’s employer, and confirm the certificates of insurance. They can even check the validity of an address by typing information into Google Street View, and making sure that the picture of a fleet yard emerges.

The economy and rates

While freight volumes are beginning to rise once again, many shippers are unlikely to entertain rate increases in the early days of an economic recovery. This requires fleets to find other ways to improve profitability.

Given that a fleet would need to raise $170,000 in revenue to offset a $5,000 insurance deductible, many operations have found the value in a renewed focus on reducing collision-related losses. One carrier recently discovered that almost 46% of its sideswipe and rear-end collisions happened within two miles of the terminal -all because drivers were racing to secure loads under a first-in-first-out dispatch system. The threat of these losses and the related costs were reduced with a change in the dispatching philosophy.

CSA 2010

Most US-bound fleets will likely need to address shortcomings in at least one of the seven measured areas of the new safety measurement system known as CSA 2010. Regulators have changed their rules retroactively, and that means the first reports will be generated with inspection data that has been collected over the past two years.

The good news is that these detailed reports -measuring unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, the use of controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo-related issues, and a crash indicator -are already available for review. This gives fleets unprecedented insight into safety-related challenges before the issues have a chance to turn into collisions and losses.

The need for strong industry voices

Everyone from government agencies to shippers, customers, insurers and financial institutions are placing carriers under added scrutiny. That will make membership in trusted industry associations more important than ever before.

The trucking industry’s voice needs to be heard, particularly as topics such as hours-of-service are discussed in the year to come. Regulators need to know that spikes in crashes actually occur in a driver’s first hour behind the wheel, rather than the hours which follow. And they need to understand the operational realities of trucking as the rules evolve into a new area of fatigue management and tests for medical conditions such as sleep apnea.

Driver shortage

Discussions about the shortage of qualified drivers always come to the forefront as freight volumes begin to increase, but the underlying issue is often related to a struggle with retention.

Even though drivers often leave their existing jobs in the search for more money, it is often the search for more respect and recognition that will lead them to look for another job in the first place. Proactive fleets are already enhancing the strategies to keep the drivers that will help them to take advantage of emerging business opportunities.

Shipper contracts

When business does begin to increase, fleets need to be aware that today’s shippers are looking to protect their own businesses in new ways, and one tactic involves using contracts to offload potential liabilities. The fleet managers who review these documents can help to protect against related losses by consulting with brokers or insurers to make sure that insurance policies cover any possible gaps.

It is all about preparing for the opportunities that emerge, and being up to the challenges which exist.

What issues will dominate your business in 2011? Markel wants to know. Please provide your feedback on this -or any other trucking topic -to letstalk@markel.ca.

-This month’s expert is Rick Geller. Rick is the director of safety and signature services for Markel Insurance Company of Canada and has more than 25 years experience providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to info@markel.ca.


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