1st Detailed Piece in Our 10 Week Series Traveling from Corbin, KY to Newport, TN

As with many stretches of 4 lane divided roads, posted speed limits and necessary slow-downs force drivers to constantly change their speeds and driving techniques. This week we continue our examination of 90 miles of challenging road across Kentucky and Tennessee, looking specifically at speed limit transitions and how to manage them. Operations, Drivers and Safety departments must work together to make traveling the stretch safe – but also more profitable.

Operations

Trip planning starts with the back office – and it’s a lot more than calculating the speed limit from one point on a map to another. The problem is, most operations departments are too busy reacting to changes or new information instead of being able to properly plan a trip before it starts. (Sounds like another article we should be thinking about here at Coyote!)

Proper planning can keep the chain reaction of bad route management from happening. If a route is properly planned, then Dispatch’s phone won’t ring with a driver calling to say the delivery will be late, forcing the carrier to call the customer.

The key to proper planning is effective communication across all three departments. Just because certain speed limits are posted along the way, that does not mean you can calculate a driver’s arrival time based on the posted limits and miles traveled. Things like weather, traffic during certain times of the day or time of year, and road conditions must be taken into consideration. The best way to get that kind of information is directly from the drivers.

Drivers

The best source of information regarding appropriate rates of speed is going to be the drivers who are out there every day. They should be considered as your fleet’s intelligence agents on the road. When it comes to current road conditions, hazards and other factors of successful route and safety management, no one knows more than the guys rolling down the road.

So, Drivers, what do we want to know from you?

  • Construction – this factor changes everyday. Tell us what the status is. Are we down to single lanes of traffic, are the construction related speed limit adjustments, increased fines in construction zones, etc?
  • Talk to other drivers. Since we don’t use CB radios as often as we once did, you can still talk to other drivers on the road. Something as simple as a conversation at a truck stop alerts you about things like accidents and weather conditions ahead. If you learn something crucial, keep Dispatch informed.
  • Hidden spots where speed transitions are crucial – let both safety and operations know about hairpin turns where reduced speed is essential, school zones and businesses where the speed is reduced without much notice, and spots where it’s necessary to reduce speed even though the speed limit doesn’t change. Drivers are the only ones who can know and report these transitions.
  • The definition of speeding in most states is the inability to stop within half the distance that you can see ahead of the vehicle – that’s 450 ft from 55 mph in perfectly normal conditions. Drivers know when the safe speed limit is actually below the posted legal. This you have to report back to Dispatch.

Safety

When recruiting and training drivers, safety managers need to ask themselves, “Do we want drivers or steering wheel holders?” Proper safety training can be what separates the two.

A diesel engine is supposed to run at a constant RPM. That’s why they don’t use diesel engines in NASCAR. Training drivers to maintain optimum RPM through speed transitions is better for performance and fuel economy, not just safety.

I once had a driver that wanted to quit because a SWIFT Driver passed him on the road. Seriously? If we are going to be that insecure during regular traffic flow, how will we react in more serious situations?

By training drivers to manage speed transitions based on engine performance, shifting gears and avoiding excessive breaking, not only will your fleet cut back on citations and crashes, you will also be more profitable.

Think about this: every time a driver hits the brakes, the driver is wasting fuel. It also increases maintenance costs. A driver that maintains a steady speed, at or below the flow of traffic increases profits. That’s how you sell your safety requirements to your ops team. Remember our goals: Safety, Quality Service, Profitability.

Conclusion

Drivers that have been trained by safety managers to keep within the traffic flow are going to be more safe and more profitable. This means that operations and maintenance need to train drivers to run within optimum system efficiencies for their rig. Equally important to maintaining this level consistency, operations needs to communicate with drivers to provide realistic expectations and learn important information for route and load planning. Proper planning, training and communication between operations, drivers and safety can have a huge impact on managing routes like US 25E – no matter how many speed limit transitions there may be throughout the stretch.

Next week we are looking at tight corners and how operations, safety and drivers need to be aware of them in planning and running the route! Let us know what you think about the series in the comments below, and keep tuning in every Wednesday.

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