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Safety Matters: Overview of Warehousing Hazards

Working in a warehouse is dangerous because of the wide variety of hazards present. The possibility of injury is all around. In any given day, employees may work with heavy boxes, powered industrial trucks, docks, conveyor belts and/or hazardous materials. According to the some studies, about 46 per cent of injuries that occur in the warehouse are strains and sprains. The most commonly injured body part is the back, followed by the lower half of the body, which includes legs, knees, feet and toes. Most importantly, employees overwhelmingly report overexertion as the top exposure causing on-the-job injury.

What do all these numbers and statistics mean to employees? They show that injuries occurring in warehouses across the country are common, but they are also preventable. Use the following information to prevent workplace hazards so employees can stay safe and healthy on the job.

Help with Housekeeping

One of the most important things employees can do to support workplace safety is to keep the warehouse tidy and organized, and encourage co-workers and management to do the same. Housekeeping is a team effort. Everyone must address problems right away. Slips and trips because of cluttered, wet or icy floors are common and can cause serious injury.

Loading Dock Safety

Though loading dock injuries are not as common as some others are, statistics show they have the highest rate of fatality or devastating injury. Ramps and inclines, overhead obstructions, dissimilar surfaces, slippery conditions, poor lighting, vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic, restricted views, sheer drops, trailer creep, congested areas and debris accumulation are all common hazards at the loading dock.

It is essential that everyone follow proper precautions in order to keep the loading dock area as safe as possible. Employees should keep the area clean of debris by designating specific areas to put used pallets, containers and trash. They should never stack used pallets or containers too high, especially if there are pedestrians working in the area. Employees should always follow paint or tape markings indicating staging areas, aisles, overhead obstacles, obstructions and loading lanes whether they are walking, operating an industrial vehicle or driving a truck. Most importantly, they should never climb on docks, place any part of their body outside the dock door, jump down from docks or place themselves between the dock and a trailer. These are the most common causes of loading dock accidents.

Conveyor Belt Dos and Don’ts

In some ways, conveyor belts in the warehouse are safer than manual material handling. They eliminate some of the stress on workers’ backs, knees and ankles, and greatly enhance productivity. However, carelessness around conveyor belts also causes hundreds of injuries a year. When working with conveyor belts, workers are at risk for pinch-point and crush injuries as well as being trapped between a moving pallet load and a fixed structure. They should also watch out for sharp edges that cause cuts or bruises and hot parts that could scald or burn. Workers need to take these precautions to ensure their safety and health.

First, employees should never perform service on a conveyor unless they are authorized and only once they have followed the proper lockout/tag-out procedures. Failure to lockout/tag-out equipment is one of the biggest and most preventable mistakes employers and workers make. Employees should tie back long hair, not wear loose clothing or hanging jewellery, and remember to keep clothing, fingers and other body parts away from the conveyor – just because it has guards and safety devices does not mean employees cannot be injured.

Hazardous Substances

In a warehouse setting, employees face injury or illness potential from vehicle exhaust fumes, cleaning fluids or the stored product itself. To protect themselves, employees should never leave vehicles running in a closed setting, always wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when cleaning or handling hazardous materials and know the proper procedures in case of a spill. In addition, they should be sure they know the location of first aid facilities, including the emergency eyewash and shower stations.

Risk of Fire

Employees may work in a setting where there is bulk storage of materials that ignite or burn easily. Pallets could ignite for a variety of reasons, including electrical fault, smoking on-site or improperly charging equipment batteries. To help lower risk of fire, never smoke in the warehouse, follow all battery-charging precautions and keep open areas free of debris. Employees should also take precautions in case of fire, including keeping all fire exits clear, making sure they are properly marked and knowing the location of extinguishers.

Industrial Truck Dangers

Industrial trucks present a serious hazard in warehouses, both in terms of driving them and charging their batteries. These vehicles, especially forklifts, are unstable by nature because they carry extremely heavy loads on only one end and have a continually shifting centre of gravity. When a load is on the truck, employees should carry it as low as possible with the mast tilted back to shift the weight toward the centre of the truck. Employees should lower their speed and drive cautiously on ramps, turns and uneven surfaces so the load does not shift unexpectedly.

Warehouse truck equipment can be powered in three ways: gas, propane or battery. For all types of refuelling or charging, employees need to wear the proper PPE, not smoke in the vicinity, turn off the vehicle and remove the key. For propane and gas refuelling, they should watch for leaks by detecting a distinct odour, a hissing sound or frost on fittings. If employees suspect a leak, they should address it immediately. For battery charging, they should always inspect connectors for damage and clean up battery acid spills immediately. Equipment charging is a serious task, and they should not perform this duty unless they are thoroughly trained to do so.

Ergonomics 101

Your workers’ jobs involve lots of heavy lifting, bending and twisting, and these are motions that can lead to serious injury. The best idea is to avoid these motions when possible, but they are often necessary due to the nature of the job. Besides practising proper lifting technique, it is important for employees to use conveyors and machinery whenever safe and feasible to reduce the stress on their bodies. Otherwise, the ideal is a one-touch system. Employees should avoid moving and shifting products around more times than necessary. When possible, they should lift the product once and set it in its proper place so other people do not have to lift it again later. 

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Preventing Log Truck Rollovers

Log trucks and similar vehicles are commonplace in forestry operations. They are essential to keeping operations moving. However, improper use of these vehicles can result in deadly rollover accidents.

Vehicle rollovers can be caused by a number of activities, but are most often a result of the following:

  • Taking sharp, high-speed turns
  • Driving too close to slopes, embankments and ditches
  • Loading vehicles improperly
  • Driving in poor conditions or aggressively

Thankfully, log truck rollovers are fairly easy to prevent in most situations. Drivers should do the following in order to limit the chances of potentially deadly accidents:

  1. Manage your speed and slow down when turning.
  2. Use the appropriate load securement devices to ensure a load doesn’t move. Only hitch at weights approved by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
  3. Keep the heaviest logs at the bottom of a load. Avoid creating any free space.
  4. Practise attentive driving and avoid driving on the shoulder of a road.
  5. Avoid oversteering or understeering the vehicle as overcorrections are a main cause of rollovers.
  6. Use counterweights to offset any imbalances.
  7. Use vehicles equipped with anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability programs or equivalent support systems.
  8. Practise good route planning to avoid external hazards such as poor weather or road conditions.
  9. Report safety issues to a supervisor immediately and keep in contact with transport management whenever you make a delivery.

Keeping the above tips in mind can go a long way in preventing rollovers and injuries. 

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How to Include Flexible Work Options in Your Workplace

In an industry that runs 24/7, it may be hard to imagine flexible work options that make sense. These arrangements can include a variety of options, from compressed workweeks to part-time hours, load sharing, job sharing, and more.

However, all of these scenarios exist in trucking and logistics and, in terms of recruiting and retention, the positive impact shouldn’t be ignored. According to Trucking HR Canada’s survey on youth in the industry:

  • 59% of surveyed employees 18-35 years old say flexible work is a priority
  • 62% of surveyed drivers 35 or older say the lack of flexibility is a challenge to them staying in the industry
  • 75% of all surveyed drivers plan on leaving the industry within the next 5 years and cited lack of flexibility as one of the key factors

Top Fleet Employers

As one of the reviewers for our Top Fleet Employers program, which honors the best workplaces in Canada’s trucking industry, I evaluate and analyze the HR practices and programs at carriers of all sizes.

It might surprise you, but 92% of our Top Fleet Employers offer flexible work arrangements to drivers and 85% offer them to other employees. Among small fleets, 94% offer flexible schedules.

Among the benefits: fleets with flexible options report annual turnover rates of less than 22% on average. They also report more employees in the 18-35 age range than the industry average.

How to include flexible work options in your workplace

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to flexible work arrangements but here are some tips to consider:

1.      Assess your current practices

Many fleets accommodate employees’ needs without having formal policies in writing. So, if you’re starting from scratch, write down the formal and informal ways you currently flex schedules to accommodate employees. Do you reschedule routes so drivers can be home when they need to be? Do you have a formal leave policy?

2.      Engage your employees

If you want to know what type of flexible work arrangements would help your employees the most, talk to them. Surveys, town halls, group meetings… You won’t know unless you ask. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s idea of flexible work will be included in your plans, but it will give have a better idea of what your employees are looking for.

3.      Communication is Key

Any program that involves flexible work options needs to be transparent and fair. The best way to achieve this, as Trucking HR Canada always advocates, is through clearly written, consistently applied, and well-communicated policies.

Formalize your policies. What are your expected hours of work? Who and when can someone request an arrangement? How should and could policies and expectations differ depending on the type of work involved? How do you communicate your expectations? And, again, as Trucking HR Canada advocates on a regular basis, you need someone in charge and accountable for measuring success.

Offering flexible work options is already helping companies stay competitive. Assessing and reviewing your own practices can help you do the same.

Written by: Isabelle Hétu

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FTR Conference: ‘Disruptions Ahead’

Uncertainty over international trade – combined with impeding electronic logging device mandates as well as automation and on-demand servicing in the transportation industry – are the key potential disruptions which will shake up the North American Trucking industry.

During FTR’s most recent webinar on the key issues in transportation, Eric Starks, CEO & chairman of FTR Intelligence, and Larry Gross, transportation expert at FTR, noted the most significant trade disruption ahead that could impact freight flows for trucking and intermodal is NAFTA.

As reported by Fleet Owner:

“This is one of the areas that the Trump administration can make moves without a lot of congressional input or insight,” Gross explained. “We’ve seen some saber rattling in terms of NAFTA.”

He added that Trump’s threats to withdraw from or renegotiate NAFTA have already impacted cross-border moves between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico. “In general, we see a lot more downside in terms of disruption of cross-border trade rather than upside,” according to Gross.

“Right now NAFTA is our major concern,” Starks said. “Where Mexico and Canada are much more uneasy about things, the likelihood that things could change over the next several years is higher. What does that freight movement look like? It’s really hard to tell what that full impact is. That’s what we’re looking at closely now.”

A more long-term disruption is autonomous trucks, which depends mainly on the level of public acceptance over the next decade and fleets’ willingness to invest based on returned investment

Gross suggested that fully autonomous trucks are a long way off. In the meantime, the “gateway technology” is the platooning approach.

“This is a technology that can be adopted on a widespread basis purely on the fact of the fuel savings it generates. That’s enough to finance the technology.”

Starks said technology will begin pushing out intermediaries between financial transactions and services, perhaps radically changing how the industry behaves.

Much has been made of the “Uberization’ of freight, but Gross said he thinks it’s an overstatement to say that Uber is going to blow up trucking’s business model “because booking a load isn’t the same as booking a taxi.”

However, Starks did point out the final mile is probably one of the biggest problem the transportation industry has to deal with in next few decades.

“When looking at terms of productivity this is where fleets can have the biggest bang for their buck. We’re seeing different things happening with drones, and in some areas it makes sense to use some drones.”

“What is the most efficient way to get this good to our end customer,” he added. That technology is still in an evolutionary phase. That will evolve over time.”

Meanwhile, the rollout of ELDs has the ability to radically impact capacity, Starks explained. “The timing really matters there.”

Both Starks and Gross noted that we are still in a “wait-and-see” state as we look at the overall regulatory environment and what the priorities are in the new administration. With ELDs and the potential loss in productivity, Starks said there will be a push to get that productivity back, and fleets will likely start better optimizing technology and big data.

“Big data is only good if already know how to use the information you have,” Starks stressed. “If you don’t know how to use that information, big data won’t help you.”

Read full Fleet Owner article here.

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Keep In The Swing Of Things – Reducing Pain Caused By Driving

Tightly gripping your steering wheel over years and many miles can take a toll on your elbows and cause golfer’s elbow, even if you’ve never swung a golf club.

Golfer’s elbow is a painful condition that affects the elbow where your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow, causing pain that sometimes radiates into your wrist and forearm.

Although this condition is common for golfers, rock climbers, and baseball pitchers, it also affects truck drivers, plumbers, construction workers, and others who excessively or repeatedly use their wrists, clench their fists and/or engage in frequent, grip-intensive activities.

For truckers, it’s the tight grip exerted by your fingers, along with wrist torsion while steering over long distances, that stresses the tendon that attaches the forearm muscle to your elbow, causing pain, tenderness, stiffness, weakness, numbness and/or tingling in your fingers.

Golfer’s elbow can be caused by any activity in which you repeatedly bend and straighten your elbow for more than an hour a day over many days, especially if you are 40 or older, overweight and smoke.

Although the symptoms of golfer’s elbow may appear gradually or suddenly, the following activities may exacerbate the condition: tightening or loosening a fuel cap, shifting gears, shaking hands, turning a door knob, flexing your wrist, lifting weights, squeezing or pitching a ball, and/or swinging a golf club or a racquet.

If left untreated, golfer’s elbow can lead to chronic elbow pain, a reduced range of elbow motion and even a lasting, fixed bend in your elbow. Fortunately, there are many effective options for self-treatment. Since you still need to work, taking time off for complete rest is probably not an option. However, even when driving, you can take the strain off your affected elbow by wearing a counter-force brace or an elastic bandage.

To reduce pain, consider using over-the-counter pain relief like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB and others), naproxen sodium (Aleve and others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) and/or a topical, deep penetrating hot/cold cream (Medistik and others).

Between loads, ice your inner elbow for 15 to 20 minutes, three or four times per day. (To protect your skin, be sure to wrap the ice pack in thin cloth).

To keep your elbow limber, try the following stretching exercises: Extend your affected arm in front of you, palms up. Bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle and turn your hand towards you. Move your fingers and thumb towards each other to make a ‘quacking duck’ movement. Repeat this ‘quacking duck’ exercise 20 times, three to five times a day.

Another stretch that works well is called the wrist flexor stretch. For this stretch, extend your affected arm straight in front of you with your fingers pointing up and your palm facing outward. With your other hand, pull your fingers gently back toward you and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat five times at least three times per day.

You could also try an exercise for forearm pronation and supination. With your affected elbow at your side, bend that elbow 90 degrees, and keeping your elbow at your side, turn your palm up and hold for five seconds. Then, slowly turn your palm down and hold for five seconds. Be sure that your elbow stays at your side, bent at 90 degrees for this exercise. Do two sets of 15 repetitions.

For persistent golfer’s elbow, surgery is occasionally recommended. Take steps to avoid it. Before pulling out with your first load, warm up your elbow joint by doing a few ‘quacking duck’ stretches. Regularly exercise to strengthen your forearm muscles – carry a tennis ball in your rig and squeeze it 50 to 100 times over each day. If you are prone to elbow pain, keep an elbow brace/elastic bandage handy and support your elbow at the first twinge of pain.

Get a grip on your future elbow strength by taking these measures today.

Content Author: Karen Bowen

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Performance and Protection

New category engine oils are better, but CJ-4 isn't yet extinct

December 2016 ushered in a new category of heavy-duty engine oils, giving fleets improved performance and additional choices. The previous category oil, CJ-4, is still in production by some oil suppliers, while the new CK-4 and FA-4 oils offer better performance and are recommended for new engines. In addition to the new American Petroleum Institute (API) standard, the various OEMs have also issued their own, often more stringent, specifications. Clear as a bucket of used oil? Here’s what you need to know to make the right decision for your trucks.

New heavy-duty engine oils are packaged at Total’s blending facility in Montreal, Que.

The case for sticking with CJ-4
One misperception about the category changeover, is the idea that the new categories would completely replace CJ-4 on Dec. 1, 2016. That’s not true and some oil providers have chosen to extend the offering of CJ-4 product indefinitely, which can be safely used in pre-2017 engines.

The boldest of these is Chevron, which is still producing and offering CJ-4 with no firm end date in place.

“Initially, going into it, a lot of people expected there would be a mandatory conversion to CK-4 or FA-4 and that hasn’t been the case,” Rommel Atienza, commercial brand manager for Chevron in North America told Truck News. “To that point, we still have a 15W-40 CJ-4 product available in the market today. That decision was made when we started to hear about the direction OEMs were going and the hesitation some of our customers had in that conversion. They really wanted to see the benefits of CK-4 and FA-4 products before they made that transition.”

Castrol also continues to provide CJ-4 product, for now. Hasan Zobairi, commercial marketing manager with Castrol distributor Wakefield Canada, predicts Castrol will complete its changeover by the end of the year. It opted to extend availability of CJ-4 in response to customer demand.

“We decided to do a gradual transition and make sure all customers were comfortable with the change rather than doing an abrupt change,” Zobairi said.

But not all oil companies see a benefit to maintaining CJ-4 oils in their portfolio, when the new category oils are simply better.

“We don’t feel there’s any benefit to keeping CJ-4 around,” said Dan Arcy, global OEM technical manager with Shell. He cited better oxidation control, improved shear stability, and the opportunity to extend drain intervals as a few of the benefits of moving to the new category oils.

Andre St-Jean, MSC chemist, lab and technical service manager with Total, said the company has transitioned completely to the new category oils, a decision that was made easy because it was able to upgrade its portfolio without passing on much, if any, upcharge to customers.

“The cost of the two products is nearly the same, so we decided we will discontinue the CJ-4 as soon as possible,” he said.

And Petro-Canada took a similar approach, removing CJ-4 from its portfolio.

“From our perspective, by continuing the production of previous category engine oils – namely CJ-4 – customers are faced with unnecessary confusion and complexity,” said Brian Humphrey, OEM technical liaison with Petro-Canada Lubricants.

The benefits of CK-4
Even those oil companies that continue to offer both the new and old oil categories acknowledge that CK-4 and FA-4 oils perform better, making a compelling case to upgrade.

The new category oils deliver “better overall engine protection and longer drain intervals,” according to Petro-Canada’s Humphrey.

But while the tighter specification may bring more parity to the performance of CK-4 oils, not all are created equal, Zobairi cautioned.

“Some companies have gone ahead and reformulated, or uptreated, their CJ-4 oils to transition to CK-4 and other companies have taken a different approach, started from scratch and re-engineered the oil,” he explained. “Those companies would see even better performance in moving from CJ-4 to CK-4.”

When choosing a CK-4 oil, don’t just look for the API donut that identifies the category, but also ensure the oil has met all the OEM specifications as well. In many cases, according to Total’s St-Jean, those OEM standards are much more stringent than the tests the API requires.

“There are two different kinds of oil in the market: the people who have the (OEM) approvals and the people who pretend to have the approvals,” St-Jean said, noting just because an oil meets the API specification doesn’t mean it has also gained the required OEM approvals.

Zobairi agrees that it’s important to look for OEM approvals, not just the API symbol.

“I think it’s absolutely critical for oil companies to be meeting those standards and for customers to be asking whether the oils they are using are actually meeting those standards and passing those tests,” Zobairi said.

In fact, St-Jean went so far as to predict the OEM certifications will eventually dictate the type of oil fleets use – and it may have to vary by engine make.

“More and more, the oil is part of the original design of the engine, so we will have more and more (OEM) specifications,” St-Jean predicted. “The OEM approval will be the decider of what product you need for your vehicle and if you want to carry one oil, maybe you will have to buy all one brand of truck.”

How about FA-4?
FA-4, the new lower-viscosity oil optimized for fuel economy thanks to its high temperature high shear properties, has seen little interest among fleets since its introduction. This is mainly due to a lack of OEM support and a lingering conviction among fleet operators that lower-viscosity engine oils offer inadequate protection.

Among the OEMs, Detroit has been the most vocal cheerleader for FA-4 oil. It factory-fills new engines with FA-4, recommends it for continued use and has even eliminated the backwards compatibility restrictions the industry was expecting, allowing FA-4 in engines as far back as model year EPA2010 engines.

“Not only do we recommend the continued use of FA-4 in our GHG17 engines, but we also recommend switching to FA-4 for EPA10 and later Detroit engines to fully achieve their fuel economy potential,” said Ed Byk, Detroit heavy-duty engine product marketing manager.

After extensive testing, Detroit is convinced engine protection isn’t compromised when moving to a thinner weight FA-4 oil.

“Our testing shows that FA-4 performs the same as CK-4 from a durability and reliability perspective and both perform better than CJ-4,” Byk said.

Humphrey said FA-4 oils can deliver a fuel economy improvement of up to 2% compared to a 15W-40 or 1% versus a 10W-30, “so there can be real cost benefits to switching to the new FA-4 category.”

Zobairi wonders why more progressive fleets aren’t taking advantage of the fuel economy performance of FA-4 oils.

“I’d like to understand why customers are hesitant, especially those using Detroit Diesel trucks, where FA-4 is backwards compatible to 2010,” he said.

But not everyone is surprised the uptake of FA-4 has been slow.

“We kind of knew it would be,” Arcy acknowledged. “Not 100% of the OEMs have elected to use FA-4 at this time. From Shell’s standpoint, we planned the uptake would go this way, that it would be slow at first and then ratchet up.”

He compared the adoption of FA-4 to when 10W-30 was introduced in 2007. At that time, Arcy pointed out, there was a gradual adoption by the OEMs and it wasn’t until 2013 that 10W-30 became a fast-growing viscosity grade.

“The rate at which the industry embraces FA-4 oils will be determined by a variety of factors, including the OEM recommendations and the purchase of the newer 2017 engines,” Humphrey agreed.

Content Author: James Menzies

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Driver turnover: Is plug and play the right way?

The issue of driver turnover has plagued the industry for over four decades now and it seems to me that trucking companies should have made better progress by now in bringing it under control. Fact is that many trucking companies see the published numbers coming from American Trucking Association and Canadian Trucking Alliance, and as long as they’re below what the estimated average for the industry is at that time, if they’re on the low side of it, they think they’re doing well. Its mass delusion and makes no sense to me, especially when the numbers usually hover around 100%, there is nothing normal about this situation.

I always find it enlightening to see what new ideas, industry suppliers come up with, these are very inventive folks, they try and entice companies to buy an off the shelf, solution to their the problem. I’ve seen many come and go over the years. Most are presented by well-meaning folks who look at trucking with its turnover issues and see great opportunity, where there is pain there is opportunity to provide solution and to profit, it’s an industry on its own.

I call these purchase opportunities plug and plays because, although they may offer some short-term gain, they never really get to the core of the issue of driver turnover. I’m talking about the quick fixes that seem to be designed to attract and retain drivers through a new gimmick or the latest offering designed to have a driver believe that they will be happier at trucking company ABC because of the utility of the gimmick in play. I don’t want to identify the companies that provide these items and services because many of these plug and plays are quite good. There are a great number of these ideas or gimmicks that would work great if they were introduced in addition to the right effort, an effort to attack retention at its core, and not as a solution to driver turnover, because they’re not.

They say there is no magic bullet to this thing called driver turnover, I think that’s wrong, and there absolutely is a magic bullet. It’s not easy nor is it a quick fix but there is a cure, but as deep as the problem is, that’s how deep you need to get in your company, to start attacking driver turnover. You’ve got to strip it down and build it back up again, you’ve got to build it up on a firm foundation, and unfortunately many are just not interested in putting the kind of effort necessary to win at the effort.

I do not hold myself out as any kind of savant on this issue; I have been at the helm of a company that had 120% turnover. It was at a time when the company I was running was growing at an exponential rate and I just lost sight of what was going on with our turnover. Call it greed call it getting lost in the frenzy of the growth, distracted by the whirlwind; whatever it was the buck stopped with me, I let it get out of hand. Might sound a little cliché, but culture is a delicate thing and once it gets out of hand or off side, you’re in trouble, you’re on a slippery slope and you don’t even know it until it’s out of control.

The actions I took, was making driver turnover an issue that was worthy of our companies efforts to get it under control that is what gives me license to offer the advice that I do. We, and I mean we, myself as President my partner and our senior management team, took our driver turnover numbers from 120% to 20% turnover in under 24 months. We went from needing to hire 300 plus drivers to maintain a fleet of 275 trucks over a one year timeframe to needing to hire less than 60 in twenty four months for a fleet size of 290 trucks.

We did this by starting at the start, no gimmicks, no plugins, no smoke and mirrors; we started by taking a good hard look in the mirror. We took responsibility for our situation, this is big for me, doesn’t matter what situations you or your business, change starts with acknowledgement that you did everything exactly right to be in the situation you are right now. Could be talking driver turnover, personal relationships, career status, whatever it is you need to own it, playing the blame game is for suckers and losers, you have to own it to change it, there is no other way.

We also secured the help of a very good consulting firm, from outside the industry, to ensure we got off to the right start with the effort. In addition we agreed as leadership that we were committed to each other to see this thing through because without that kind of rock solid commitment to the cause, it will falter. So that was our starting point, we were determined to get a handle on our situation and plot a path to rein in our out of control turnover. We had successes, we had failures we had stumbles, we had heroes and we had stars and we had to cut bait on some folks.

In the end the gains so outpaced the sacrifice, it was amazing and in retrospect we could have called it a safety initiative, because our accident rate plummeted and so did our insurance cost. We could have called it a profitability initiative because as we streamlined our processes to become driver centric, we also became much more efficient and also much more profitable. Bottom line, if and when you decided that high turnover is within your control and you can get a handle on it, you will see gains that you never expected and wonder why you haven’t done this before now….

Article By: Ray Haight

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Artificial intelligence will change trucking forever - With or without driverless trucks

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear or read about the autonomous truck. A very hot topic of conversation in this industry for the past year or so.  Clearly we have moved from the “if” to “when” question in the context of the driverless truck debate.  With so much focus and attention on the autonomous driver and truck it’s no wonder that the emergence of Artificial Intelligence in other parts of the industry have gone virtually unnoticed by trucking executives at large.  Now, in the defense of anyone not familiar with A.I. applications it is a nascent technology.  The commercial application of A.I. is only very recently starting to be understood. In fact, the term Artificial.Intelligence is ambiguous in and of itself, not to mention a bit unsettling.

The more accurate term is Machine learning (M.L.).  So what exactly is Machine learning?

According to Arthur Samuel, Machine learning gives “computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.”

M.L. essentially does 4 things:

  1. Optimization. If you have ever used Google maps to navigate a trip you have used optimization for routing.
  2. Scanning retinas to determine your identity at the airport.
  3. Anomaly Prevention. Visa prevents fraud by denying card access when it suspects abnormal purchases.
  4. Amazon knows what to advertise to you because people like you (your segment) have purchased or shown interest in the same products.

Machine learning has been around for over 30 years but some major advances have been made recently.  The most important change has been a by-product of M.L. called Deep Learning.  Deep learning has only been made possible over the past few years due to some new major market forces:

  1. Cheap computing power
  2. More accessible data storage
  3. Major advances in algorithms

What deep learning does is it enables feature selection and model tuning. As an example, think about an excel spreadsheet.  First, you need to decide on the column you would like to work on (feature selection) then you need to decide on the best formula or process to “attack” the data with (model tuning).  Deep learning automates this. Google uses deep learning with WaveNet. WaveNet can fully converse with any human in any language, even if the it has never heard that language before.  The key here is that WaveNet does not need to have heard the language before.  It is a learning application so, like a human, it recognizes the patterns and applies its newly acquired knowledge to speak a new language.  However, unlike a human, WaveNet learns a new language in nanoseconds! In a more practical use case, a Japanese insurance company has laid off 30% of its claims staff and is replacing them with an algorithm.

So why should you care?  The advances in A.I., M.L. and Deep Learning are disrupting and doing a better job on many tasks currently being executed by humans.  The challenge in the transportation industry is that a lot of the current technology may not ever offer M.L. based applications due to the nature and age of the products.  The good news is that a new wave of companies and products are coming out of tech centres like Silicon Valley that are taking aim at the logistics industry.  With trucking companies continuing to look for ways to push up on depressed margins; these new applications cannot show up quickly enough. I mean, what would your margins look like if 30% of the dispatching and/or order entry tasks were executed by algorithms?

Article By: Justin Bailie

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Building a leadership team to drive your business

Over the past few years, I have noticed a disturbing trend as I meet with both our shipper and carrier associates. They have changed their leadership team again. The VP of Transportation or Logistics (in manufacturing and retail organizations) or the President or other senior officer (in transportation organizations) has now been replaced multiple times. In fact, in some companies, they change executives like some people do spring cleaning in their homes. “It is out with old and in with the new.”

What is interesting for me is that in some cases, as an outside consultant, I have had the opportunity to work directly with the business leader and the company. I have been able to observe their performance and that of their superiors and subordinates. I have the following observations to share with you.

In some situations, the terminated business leader was doomed to fail. The expectations for the individual may not have been realistic. He or she may not have received the full support of the business owner or senior executive or the collaboration between them wasn’t there. The departed person was charged with implementing the failed or poorly conceived vision of the business leader. The terminated executive “took the fall” for the unsuccessful business plan or weak leadership of his or her boss.

In other cases, the individual did not perform at the required level. He or she may have not had the required skills, did not fit with the company culture and/or did not work well with his or her peers. In some cases, there was an overreliance on specific subordinates who were not performing their jobs at an acceptable level. This overreliance and/or a poor hiring process cost the individual his or her job.

I also observe a pattern in some organizations where, on an almost annual basis, they appear to take and implement the good ideas of the new executive. Once that is done, the executive has outlived his or her usefulness. It is time to replace this individual with another leader who can bring fresh ideas and approaches to the business.

Other companies seem to take a “toe in the water” approach with their new hires. They create a new position and hire a new executive. At the first sign of an economic downturn, the position is closed and the executive is terminated.

Some companies take a somewhat risky approach to replacing their key leaders. They will recruit an individual from outside the industry to fill a position. Years ago I came into the freight transportation industry from the telecommunications business. I didn’t know a fifth wheel from a forklift. But I learned the basics.

There is value in bringing a fresh approach to a long-established business. When I look at the freight brokerage industry, as an example, I see many people with strong backgrounds in areas (i.e. IT, Finance) other than freight operations who are revitalizing this segment of the business.

However, I have also observed some people who have not been able to come up the learning curve and adjust to the industry. They don’t take the time and apply the energy to learn the nuances of the freight business. They try to change the business and customers to fit their paradigms rather than adapt to the new business.

Taking on too many leaders without relevant industry experience, and without them receiving good training, can lead to problems. The business leader who brings outsiders aboard must commit to supply them with a basic grounding in the business, either directly or through trusted advisors and subordinates.

Building a strong leadership team

These are my take-aways.

1. Start with a solid plan that reflects a blend between bottom-up improvements and the top-down vision.

The business leader, the leadership team and the new executive must be on the same page with respect goals, metrics, support staff, timelines and results. For an executive contemplating making a switch to a new organization, this individual should engage in a dialogue with his or her future superior to make sure there is alignment on all of these items. If the connection isn’t there from the beginning, this should raise a red flag as to whether it is wise to change jobs.

2. If your company is changing executives every year, the business leader should reflect on whether this approach is working.

Is your company able to perform at a high level with the constant changes in the leadership team? Would your company produce better results with a more stable team? Is the constant turnover by design or a reflection of poor hiring and business practices?  The leader should ask, “What am I doing to create this situation?”

I was struck this week by a Stifel report I read about CH Robinson. It contained the following quote about this company.

“Consistency of management. John Wiehoff has been CEO for 15 years. Many of his direct reports have been with the company for 20 to 25 years. One cannot underestimate the value of the company’s lower turnover rate when it comes to developing sticky relationships with shippers, deeply penetrating accounts to capture wallet share, and building relationships with the company’s carrier base.”

My sense is that many companies, in their zeal to embrace the latest idea or trend, they miss the value that continuity of management brings to their organization.

3. As an employer and employee, think carefully about the mission, values and culture of the company.

Creating a weak management team can cost the leader his or her job as well. As a prospective executive with a new organization, do you see alignment with the core principles of the company? Are you comfortable with how they embrace change and how they solve problems?

Ask the leader about the last crisis that the company faced and how they dealt with it. Is the leader aware of what is going on in the industry? How is the company dealing with multi-channel distribution, automation and/or driver recruitment? Do their plans make sense to you? Are they working? Can you help make them work better or are you going to be stifled in this effort?

4. Is this a newly created position or has this post been in place for many years?

This is an important question to ask before you join an organization. The newly created position is often the first job to be purged during an economic downturn. The senior leader second guesses the earlier decision and reverts back to the previous organization structure. You may wish to join another organization rather than find yourself in a job search 9 or 12 months later.

5. Is it time to bring in some people from outside the industry?

Does the company have a plan to facilitate the learning curve for a new executive from another industry? Have they done this before successfully? Or are they just repeating a failed process? What is the company’s annual employee turnover rate and their annual executive turnover rate?  How long did the previous executive hold the position you are applying for?

What are they doing to enable a knowledge transfer from the boomers to the other age groups in the company? Are you comfortable that as the boomers move out, there is a leadership team and “bench strength” in place to carry the company forward successfully? As a new hire, will you be “part of the solution” or “part of the problem?”

Building a talent pool is one of the most important jobs of business leaders. As an outside consultant, we are in a unique position to see which of our associates are doing this well and which ones are not. There is nothing more important than building a stable, productive, and winning leadership team. Both the employer and employee should do their due diligence before shaking hands.

Article By: Dan Goodwill

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Preparing for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)

Though there is not yet a definitive date for when electronic logging devices (ELDs) will become a legal requirement in Canada, it will certainly happen sooner rather than later, and a recent group of panelists urged carriers to be prepared.

Speaking during the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) Safety Conference and Trade Show March 31, Andrew Barnes, director of compliance and regulatory affairs for the AMTA, said consultation on the federal government’s ELD draft is expected to begin this July, with the mandate becoming law sometime between December 2017 and 2018, which would be followed by a 24- to 48-month implementation period.

Barnes said with ELDs presently voluntary in Canada – and with the device becoming law in the US this December – 67% of carriers in Canada use some form of ELD to keep track of drivers’ hours-of-service (HoS), and 86% employ the use of GPS.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) sent out a draft technical standard of the proposed ELD mandate, and Barnes said it pretty much mirrors the US version.

Some of the key inclusions in the draft include a technical performance-based standard for suppliers of ELDs; the Canadian version does not have to mirror the US’s, but cannot be in conflict; must be consistent with existing HoS regulations; must synchronize with the engine control module; and you must be able to view the ELD while outside the cab.

Yard miles, certification, and a final technical standard are three areas that have not been finalized or addressed at this point.

Barns said a cost-to-benefit study on the use of ELDs found a benefit ratio of 2:1 because of the time savings per driver each year, reduction in HoS violations, leveling the playing field and the elimination of forms and logbook violations.

A panel discussion – that included Kevin Taylor, SLH Transport, Dan McCormack, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement inspector, Tom Hanna, Grimshaw Trucking, Barnes, and moderated by Jane Douziech, AMTA manager of business development – recommended carriers not only start looking for an ELD vendor before a law is in place, but also ensure each staff member is properly trained on how to use the device.

Taylor said SLH Transport is using the Shaw tracking system, and that training for the device took around two to two-and-a-half hours, after which he gives drivers another two weeks where they use both the ELD and paper log to get used to the new technology.

“I wouldn’t hold off with the US starting this December,” Taylor said. “We wanted to get our drivers up to speed before the deadline for compliance.”

Hanna agreed, adding the fear of losing drivers with the implementation of an ELD policy did not come to fruition at Grimshaw Trucking.

“We’ve lost nobody,” he said. “Once our drivers got onto it, they liked it.”

Grimshaw Trucking uses PeopleNet devices, and when it came to training, Hanna said there were some challenges in getting the company’s operations personnel to accept the fact it was their job to check the drivers’ ELDs and HoS to ensure compliance.

Hanna advised companies looking to train staff on an ELD to have someone who understands the process lead the way for all employees.

McCormack said one of the challenges for CVE officers is knowing how each of the ELD devices work, as there are several different models on the market, as well as apps that can be used on a driver’s smartphone.

During an inspection, CVE policy is to have the driver e-mail or fax their HoS records to the officer, who is equipped with a device that can accept the data. Drivers can still maintain paper logs in addition to using their ELDs, and can produce those as a backup. McCormack said there is no issue with drivers keeping two sets of logs – ELD and paper – as long as the HoS are the same and in compliance.

McCormack said in 2016 there were just over 6,000 HoS violations in Alberta, down from 8,000 the year prior and 10,000 in 2014.

In the end, McCormack said, it’s all about safety.

Content Author: Derek Clouthier

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