Pandemic no time to relax safety standards

Pandemic no time to relax safety standards

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An unprecedented global pandemic such as
Covid-19 is no excuse to relax investments in safety technologies.

“I don’t believe any of us changed our approach to
incorporating technology in our spec’s because of a relatively short-term
phenomenon (such as Covid-19),” said Ed Nagle, president, Nagle Toledo. He was
speaking as part of an executive panel during the Truckload Carriers
Association’s Virtual Safety and Security Meeting June 23.

Dennis Dellinger, president and CEO of Cargo Transporters
agreed, noting the most recent additions to his fleet over the last few weeks
include tractors with the new Detroit Assurance 5.0 active safety systems, and trailers
equipped with disc brakes. Side cameras are being installed on the fleet’s
existing trucks. “We’ve stuck to our guns on safety,” Dellinger said.

Cargo Transporters continues to spec’ the latest safety systems such as Detroit Assurance 5.0 on its trucks. (Photo: Daimler Trucks North America)

But that doesn’t mean the pandemic hasn’t raised other
safety-related concerns. Dave Williams, executive vice-president of Knight
Transportation, said he finds drivers can be more accident-prone during
uncertain times.

“My own theory on that is, when a driver has something to do,
is getting a good paycheck and everything is flowing right, everything is good and
he stays very focused. When they’re worried about their paycheck and not sure
they’re going to get another load and they have to wait around because there
isn’t a load to be had, when they finally do get that load they sometimes don’t
make the best decisions,” Williams explained. “It’s important for us to understand
when we are safe, why is that? And when we aren’t safe, why is that?”

Safety can also be compromised during a disruption such as a
pandemic, because drivers are taken out of their routines, added Dan Doran,
president of Doran Logistics Services.

“When things are busy, drivers tend to run the same routes
more often and get in a groove. When things slow down and get scrambled, you
wind up with drivers in different locations they wouldn’t normally go to and
they’re a little less familiar with their surroundings,” he reasoned.

Fleets took various steps to assure their drivers during the
pandemic. Cargo Transporters equipped drivers with masks and hand sanitizers,
and offered an online course on Covid-19. When it came time to furlough
drivers, instead of resorting to seniority or taking a last-in/first-out
approach, it parked those drivers who were most concerned about their safety
and that of their families. It allowed those drivers who wanted to continue
working to do so, while those with the greatest concerns were allowed to stay
home with their families.

Nagle Toledo gave drivers hazard pay for six weeks. “It was
a sign, on our part, of the appreciation we had because of everything they were
working through,” said Nagle. It also chose to keep its home office fully
staffed.

“We never quite coming to the office,” Nagle said. “We
thought it was important for drivers, when they were here, to see someone who
wasn’t afraid and they were really assured being out there on the road.”

But for those companies that did allow office workers to
work from home, there were some surprising successes, noted Williams.

“I think the video calls have really upped our game, in
being able to effectively communicate with each other,” he said of platforms
such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

“In our minds, the likelihood of having a pandemic was about the same as having a zombie apocalypse – it was something our generation had never seen before.”

Dave Williams, Knight Transportation

“There are certain parts of this business that lend
themselves to this type of video conferencing,” added Doran. “But in operations,
there’s absolutely no substitute for being in close proximity when things are
busy.”

Fleets represented on the panel acknowledged they weren’t
prepared for a pandemic such as Covid-19, but they were able to draw on other
disaster preparedness plans to cope.

“I don’t think any of us really had pandemic on our radar,”
admitted Williams. “In our minds, the likelihood of having a pandemic was about
the same as having a zombie apocalypse – it was something our generation had
never seen before. Our planning was more hinged around things we were familiar with:
natural disasters, tornados, hurricanes – things like that. Fortunately, a lot
of the planning we did around those natural disaster plans was able to be incorporated
into a pandemic (response plan).”

In terms of the recovery, fleet executive said they’re
already seeing volumes come back gradually, which is likely the best type of
recovery from a safety perspective. Cargo Transporters suspended driver orientations
for about 11 weeks, and could see a labor crunch if business returned to pre-Covid
levels overnight. Dellinger would prefer to see a “Nikey swish”-shaped recovery
than a V.

“We have some trucks that are unseated at this time and if
we came roaring back to 100%, we would not be able to service those customers
we have,” he said. However, he added some companies won’t survive, so there
will be drivers available.

Doran Logistics Services has also seen volumes coming back gradually.
“It’s probably a good thing, rather than coming back to 100% right away,” he
agreed.

If anything positive has come from the pandemic, it may be
that trucking and truck drivers have finally enjoyed some long-elusive adoration
from the general public. Panelists all hoped that will continue long after the pandemic
has passed.

“There is no more honorable profession than truck driving,”
said Nagle. “They do nothing for themselves, they are always doing something
for somebody else.”

Nagle urged trucking companies to keep sending that message
out into the communities they serve, since “it’s being much more easily
received by the general public right now.”

Published at Tue, 23 Jun 2020 20:09:07 +0000

Swift action, government subsidies support Mullen Group rebound

Swift action, government subsidies support Mullen Group rebound

OKOTOKS, Alta. – Mullen Group provided a mid-quarter update
today, to update investors on how its business has been impacted by the
Covid-19 pandemic.

“The trend is up,” said Murray Mullen, chairman and chief
executive officer of Mullen Group.

Mullen Group quickly laid off 1,000 employees as the Covid-19
outbreak crushed freight demand. It has now brought back about 20% of those
employees, the company said, as freight volumes have begun to recover.

Mullen revenues have fallen about 22% year-over-year over
the past two months, but LTL revenues fell only about 15%, in line with
competitors and the railways, Mullen said in a call with investors. EBITDA has
fallen only 15% due to cost-containment measures.

(Photo: Greg Decker)

“We are seeing the benefits of adapting quickly and
decisively to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “Not only did our business units
implement effective measures at controlling costs, several actually gained
market share and improved margins.”

Mullen also benefited from about $10 million in Canadian
Emergency Wage Subsidy payments, which helped support about 1,500 jobs in the segments
most affected by the loss of business. That support, said Mullen, “virtually made
us whole.”

Mullen, who earlier said the “wants economy” had disappeared,
now sees consumers purchasing those nice-to-have items, which is stimulating freight
growth, especially in the LTL segment.

“We think consumers have cash and are itching to spend,” he
said.

The warehousing and logistics segment was down 20%, due to a
steep drop in cross-border traffic. That too is improving due to the reopening
of factories, but has not yet returned to pre-Covid levels. Mullen sees the segment
improving over the remainder of the year.

Mullen Group is projecting Q2 revenue of $240-$260 million
and EBITDA of $40 million, before adjusting for government subsidies.

“This is not what we want, but considering the
circumstances, I feel pretty good about the performance of our business,”
Mullen said.

The company has actually grown its cash balance to $115
million, up nearly $30 million from the end of March. The company said it will “re-engage
on the acquisitions front.”

Published at Fri, 12 Jun 2020 16:50:05 +0000

Social distancing, and sharing space in a 2.6m truck cab

Social distancing, and sharing space in a 2.6m truck cab

MISSISSAUGA,
Ont. — Public health officials want people to keep two meters away from one another
to fight the spread of Covid-19. That’s pretty difficult to do in a truck cab restricted
to a maximum width of 2.6 meters overall.

Ontario’s Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) – in a partnership with Concrete Ontario, the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO), and other stakeholders — has responded with guidelines for in-vehicle driver safety in the midst of Covid-19.

IHSA has produced a video on cleaning procedures for cabs, to help in the fight against Covid-19. (Video capture: IHSA)

“The release of IHSA’s training guidelines is intended to support those training centres that have been allowed to open,” says Enzo Garritano, the association’s president and CEO. “IHSA has worked diligently to ensure procedures are in place at our own facilities to keep instructors and participants safe. These guidelines are a starting point for training organizations to establish best practices moving forward.”

“Because employees will be required to be within two metres of one another while in the vehicle, it is critical that all employees complete a health screening at both the start and end of their shift,” the guidelines say, referring to needs that emerge during in-vehicle assessments and mentorships. Such screening is also to include temperature checks where possible.

“If either
employee or trainee fails to complete all stages of the screening protocol,
then the in-vehicle session should be rescheduled to a later date.”

The IHSA – part
of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system, serving sectors under the
province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board — has begun to reopen facilities
and is gradually resuming its own training, with limits of one four-person class
per facility.

Recognizing
that virtual training can’t be used for all of a truck driver’s training, IHSA
does note that options for some of the work can include virtual classrooms
using tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype and WebEx.

 “Many of these interactive systems also offer
knowledge verification (testing) features, to ensure that key training
objectives are understood,” it adds.

CB radios,
hands-free cell phones, and in-vehicle tablets can also make it possible for
trainers and mentors to communicate with drivers from outside the vehicle, the
IHSA says.

“For fully
licensed drivers, an instructor/mentor can follow in a separate vehicle at a
safe distance and provide feedback/coaching after the trip is completed.”

When remote
and virtual training isn’t possible, the IHSA recommends laying out training
rooms to accommodate physical distancing, and offering workers masks and eye
protection when physical distancing isn’t possible. It also calls for training room
surfaces to be disinfected before and after any training session, encouraging
drivers to bring their own pens and pencils, and adopting digital documents in
the place of paper handouts.

“Begin and
end each shift by cleaning the inside of your vehicle with a disinfectant.
Clean and disinfect the steering wheel, frequently used levers, buttons and
radio controls, seats, and anything generally touched with your hands,” the
IHSA advises. It’s also developed an instructional video to show how to best
clean and sanitize commercial vehicles.

“When
cleaning the vehicle, ensure adequate ventilation by keeping the doors open,
and when possible allow time for the vehicle to air out before driving (10
minutes),” the IHSA says.

In addition
to equipping vehicles with hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray, and containers
to dispose of used PPE and cleaning supplies, the association also recommends
driving the shared truck cabs with open windows. Each window should also be
open by the same amount to equalize the pressure inside.

General precautions call on drivers to monitor their health and stay home even if they face mild symptoms such as a cough, fever or sore throat; keeping at least two meters away from others during interactions; disinfecting common or shared touch surfaces; and washing hands for 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

  • This article has been updated to include comments from Enzo Garritano.

Published at Mon, 15 Jun 2020 17:36:06 +0000