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Insurers’ Tips to Trucking Clients: How Not to Lose Your Loads

transport truck with load

If you want to keep your cargo safe, it’s best to keep it moving, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) warns.

Linked to the involvement of organized crime, cargo theft is described as an “epidemic” in Canada, with a total loss of $181 million in stolen cargo and equipment between 2014 and 2017.

“Any loaded trailer with cargo in it that’s sitting is at risk,” says Wayne Hummel, a cargo and auto theft investigator for IBC. “My suggestion to anybody with a load, don’t leave it sitting. If you have to leave it sitting, have some kind of security on it, especially if it’s an expensive load. They will take anything, they can sell anything. They can move anything.”

Many heists occur when trucks and trailers are parked for the night in trucking yards, Hummel says. While unsecured yards can be “a free-for-all,” thefts can occur in secured yards, too.

Much of what gets stolen does not sit around for long.

“These loads move very quickly,” Hummel says. “We lose loads of meat on a monthly basis. Sometimes they are sold before they are stolen. Or as soon as they see it, they know where to get rid of it.”

To keep things moving, some companies use multiple drivers for the same trip. The drivers rotate or sleep in shifts so that they don’t have to park the truck over long-haul trips. “I can guarantee you, those people rarely lose loads, because they are not unattended,” Hummel says.

Another popular method of theft is to take advantage of a network of companies that bid on contracts to drive loads for clients – and then take off with the cargo.

“Fraud is becoming a bigger part of it — all the online brokerage stuff,” said Hummel. “The brokers put their loads out to be sub-brokered, and somebody will bid on that load. They end up winning the bid, they pick it up, they are a fictitious company, and your load’s just been stolen.”

One of the primary ways to combat cargo theft is to report it, Hummel says. IBC’s investigative services division has been operating the Cargo Theft Reporting program since 2014. Many occurrences of cargo crime go unreported by vendors, IBC notes, because transport companies do not want their insurance premiums to increase if they report a loss.

When cargo has been reported stolen, police have been able to recover the load with a fair degree of success, considering that organized crime rings are able to sell loads quickly, Hummel says.

In 2017, the IBC cargo unit issued 1,632 alerts of thefts to law enforcement. Of those, 445 involved cargo. The value assigned to the stolen merchandise was over $46 million. As for recoveries last year, law enforcement was able to recover 223 loads at a value of over $17 million.

Thieves aren’t discriminating about the loads they sell off, although organized criminals involved in cargo theft like to target grocery or food products. These are the easiest products to offer for resale quickly and efficiently.

That said, with non-perishable products such as brand-name products, the thieves can afford to keep the product stored somewhere and try and negotiate a better price for the load. If it’s a brand-name product, they know somebody is going to buy. “They can unload that trailer into a warehouse and they can keep that property,” Hummel says.

IBC’s Cargo Theft Reporting program is still relatively new, so it will take some time to establish enough baseline information about thefts to be able to identify whether there are any trends up or down.

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One in Five Fatal Road Crashes in Ontario Involves a Transport Truck: Provincial Police

transport truck crash

One in five fatal road crashes in Ontario between 2012 and 2016 involved a transport truck, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported.

Among the 1,342 fatal motor vehicle collisions on OPP-patrolled roads between 2012 and 2016, 266 involved transport trucks, provincial police said in a press release. During that same five-year period, 330 people died; the majority of victims were occupants of other involved vehicles. According to OPP data, 44 of the crash victims were drivers of the transport trucks, compared to 286 victims who were in cars and other smaller vehicles.

More recent data reveals that over the past three years, a significant number of collisions were caused by transport trucks in poor operating condition, OPP added in the release. Between July 2014 and June 2017, 344 collisions involved defective transport trucks, six of which were fatal and 37 of which resulted in injuries.

Damaged axles, blown tires or detached wheels, faulty brakes, defective hitches and unsecured loads are just some of the many factors in truck-related crashes, the provincial police reported. “At times, unsecured loads or truck equipment flying into the path of other vehicles produced tragic consequences,” the release said. The provincial police noted that “while the OPP sees many safe transport truck drivers on Ontario roads, those who are not safe have far greater potential to cause death in the event of a collision than drivers of smaller vehicles. Serious crashes often result in hours-long highway closures and traffic delays as police carry out collision investigations and clear these large vehicles from the road.”

The results came as OPP launched its Operation Corridor campaign to shed more light on the prevalence of transport trucks and their impact on other road users.

“A lot can go wrong when large commercial transport trucks are not driven safely or have unsecure loads and defective equipment,” OPP chief superintendent Chuck Cox, divisional commander of the Highway Safety Division, said in the release. “Our data shows that the outcome for other vehicle occupants involved in transport truck-related collisions is often fatal and catastrophic. For this reason, Operation Corridor is an important campaign to ensure transport truck drivers are safely operating and diligently maintaining their rigs at all times.”

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Ontario Truck Drivers to Face Zero Tolerance Approach to Pot

Commercial vehicle drivers in Ontario must have no blood drug content when operating their vehicles, according to changes to the province’s Highway Traffic Act.

Changes to the Act address the issues of impaired driving, distracted driving and vulnerable road user safety, and are effective July 1, 2018.

Starting July 1, 2018, drivers of commercial vehicles must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of zero – which is measured at 0.02 – and equivalent blood drug content (BDC) as detected by an oral fluid screening device when driving a commercial vehicle. If a commercial driver has alcohol in their system (above 0.02 BAC), they will face serious penalties, including licence suspensions and administrative monetary penalties.

With the federal government’s intentions to legalize cannabis, zero tolerance drug sanctions will also be effective starting July 1, 2018. However, the zero tolerance drug sanctions will not be enforced until the Federal Minister of Justice approves and authorizes the use of an approved drug screening equipment, the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) points out.

Medial cannabis users may be exempted from zero tolerance sanctions if a police officer is satisfied they are legally authorized to use drugs for medical purposes. However, these drivers can still face penalties or criminal charges if a police officer determines their ability to drive has been impaired.

The OTA said it will request the incoming Minister of Transportation revisit the exemptions to the zero tolerance policy for those prescribed medical marijuana.

“OTA does not believe there should be any exemptions for cannabis containing THC (the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) regardless of whether it’s for medical or recreational use,” the association said in a release.

More details can be found here.

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Here Comes the (Value of the) Sun

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) is showing confidence in the sun as a practical power source for trucks and trailers.

“Fleets should seriously consider investing in solar systems,” the council said this week in the launch of its Solar Confidence Report, the latest in a series of studies that explore fuel-saving technologies and practices.

“The application of solar panels on trailers with extra electrical loads like telematics, refrigeration units, and liftgates make sense as a means of improving battery life and reducing the need for roadside assistance. This is especially true if the trailer spends long periods without being attached to a tractor. And the opportunity to extend the run time of battery HVAC systems makes installing solar for battery HVAC support a good solution,” it said.

Today’s solar panels are flexible, thin, easily installed, and reliable, the report found. Although, potential fuel savings were seen to be “a very small part” of the overall benefit.

The panel installations should be sized for their intended application, NACFE stresses. “For example, the size of a solar panel to support a battery HVAC system on a tractor might be limited by the area available on the tractor fairing, whereas a solar panel to support a refrigeration unit only needs to be large enough to provide a small trickle charge to the refrigeration unit starting battery.”

Still, it’s not yet known if the paybacks will match claims by manufacturers.

“We have verified that the benefits fall in several categories with the biggest benefits being from extending battery life and avoiding emergency roadside assistance for dead batteries. Many fleet users are happy with the investment they made and intend to continue to use solar panels in the future,” the council concludes.

The report comes with a payback calculator to help to evaluate whether a system makes sense.

For more on the use of solar power in Canada’s trucking environment, view the full article here.

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Cybersecurity Major Concern as Trucking Automation Advances

Various trucking and freight transport groups urged U.S. regulators to prioritize cybersecurity as manufacturers and suppliers continue rolling out more automated and autonomous driving systems

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently closed a public comment period focusing on regulations to facilitate the safe introduction of automated driving systems in commercial vehicles, reports Fleet Owner.

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) called on these new vehicle systems to “undergo annual cyber security evaluations before being placed on public roads.” Tests should include design reviews, penetration tests, and other assessments, NMFTA wrote.

Likewise, the American Truck Dealers (ATD) said it supports requiring automated systems be “continuously and periodically inspected for proper software and hardware component operation and to verify that they utilize the most current software updates.”

MITRE Corp., which works with the government to tackle a variety of threats, said the system complexity with ADS technology has “greatly increased” in ways not previously seen.

“This increased complexity in ADS is a benefit to would-be attackers, given the potential of sending misleading data to (i.e. spoofing) sensors, anticipating and exploiting predictable automated responses of ADS software algorithms, and from discovering and maliciously exploiting new system flaws in the implementation, configuration, and algorithms of the software,” MITRE wrote.

The Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) expressed concern that ADS is subject to system crashes and performance glitches that can affect the vehicle while it is in motion.

“The only effective safeguard against these flaws is requiring the presence of human supervision by an operator in the cab and ensuring commercial motor vehicle equipment is designed to allow that operator to override all electronic systems and assume control of the vehicle in the event of malfunction or hacking event,” CVTA said.

American Trucking Associations (ATA) said fleets and service providers should train employees for “assuring cybersecurity in company systems and equipment, and what they should do in the event of a known or suspected cybersecurity breach.

It also said self-diagnostic systems should be sufficient to identify deficiencies or the presence of viruses.

Read the full Canadian Trucking Alliance article here.

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Connected Trucks Vulnerable to Cyber Threats

Connected Trucks Vulnerable to Cyber Threats

Modern electronics systems in class 8 trucks can open a virtual door to cyber criminals.

A recent Today’s Trucking article details how several testing projects at universities have already demonstrated how hackers – with little difficulty – can take over a truck’s electronics, seize controls, and mine for sensitive company data in the ECM by hard-wire connecting into the vehicle’s OBD port.

As trucks become even more connected going forward, experts believe they’ll be even more vulnerable to wireless security breaches and intervention.

From Today’s Trucking:

“What concerns me, as a fleet equipment manager, is increased opportunity for cyber attacks because of the inter-connectivity of our vehicles and all of the components now,” said Gary Hunt, vice-president of equipment and maintenance at ABF Freight System. “When you talk about how these different components are going to talk to the truck, across the J-1939, through our telematics system, to us, those are all opportunities that somebody else can talk to those components and get into the truck. That’s a real concern for me.”

Hunt was speaking at the at the inaugural meeting of a new Taskforce on Cybersecurity at the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance council’s annual meeting.

A large part of the potential threat comes from the J-1939 data bus. It’s an open standard and provides a great deal of efficiency to the industry, but its open design makes it vulnerable.

“We worked, as an industry, to develop that open architecture, so that we could have this great flexibility, as fleets, as OEMs, to work collaboratively. Is J-1931 now going to be our Achilles heel?” asked Hunt.

The open-architecture CANBUS is just one of the challenges. To really look at the whole attack surface, we need to look all the way up and down the supply chain, noted Keith Doorenbos, a system engineer with Paccar who attended the taskforce session.

Theoretical models have been developed that suggest even diagnostic tools could be used to move a virus-like attack from one truck to the next, but so far, Doorenbos says that’s entirely theoretical. “I don’t believe it’s even been demonstrated by any of our white hats [hackers working for good], but there’s a lot of exposures in different elements. Basically everything that’s ‘smart’ out there creates another opening.”

Doorenbos says trucking hasn’t yet had a lot of exposure to what he called the classic cyber criminals who are after access to traditional servers for data-mining, identity theft, and financial theft.

More likely, Doorenbos believes, the biggest threat lays in the for-profit sector: cargo theft.

“Right now that’s pretty much done using old-school methods,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is prevent giving them new techniques that might make that simpler, more efficient or more accessible.”

There’s a huge amount of work in the background to better understand the scale of the problem, and a few solutions are emerging.

A key pillar of cybersecurity efforts is encrypting data and software so it can’t easily be reverse-engineered or accessed by outsiders. Another strategy is partitioning truck electronic architectures so that, rather than having a single-vehicle network on J-1939, there are a number of sub-networks separating the most critical systems from the less critical systems. Engineers are also inserting firewalls or gateways between the different networks so they can control the data and commands that can move from one network to another.

“Even if somebody can compromise your telematics system that does not automatically give them immediately the ability to send commands directly to an engine or a brake,” says Doorenbos.

Read the full article at Today’s Trucking here.

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Connected Vehicles and the Potential of Blockchain

Connected Vehicles and the Potential of Blockchain

If you think the transportation industry is connected today, just wait. We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what connectivity can do for our industry, and the arrival of blockchain will take it to a whole new level.

But even before that happens, the vehicles we operate will continue to become more connected. I was in Duisburg, Germany, in early February for the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which officials claim was designed to be a constantly connected “node in the Internet of Things.”

Mercedes is the first OEM to use what3words for navigation. This technology uses a grid of 57 trillion 3×3-meter squares, and assigns each of them a three-word identification tag. Using this technology, a vehicle can be directed precisely where it needs to go, even if it’s a specific door at a loading dock or a utility tower that’s in the middle of a field.

It’s a good example of how even technologies such as GPS, which we’ve come to take for granted and utilize in our business every day, are being refined and improved upon.

Now we’re hearing more about blockchain technology, which we cover in this month’s issue of Truck News. Like many, I was at first dismissive, thinking of it as a technology useful solely in the cryptocurrency world, and I rejected the idea that freight transactions would ever be carried out using Bitcoin.

However, it’s clear now that Bitcoin’s underlying blockchain technology does have many real-world uses in the transportation industry, especially as newer generation vehicles like the new Sprinter are being designed specifically to communicate with the world around them.

What excites me the most about blockchain is the ability to conduct transactions using “smart contracts.” These can address many of the pain points felt by trucking providers today. Take, for example, cash flow. A smart contract can execute payment the moment a load is delivered. Sensors on the truck or an in-cab app can confirm delivery of the load and the payment can be made instantaneously. Say goodbye to 90-day payment terms and the reliance by small businesses on invoice factoring to sustain cash flow.

Or, how about the collection of accessorial charges? A smart contract can be written which, again using sensors on the truck, records when the vehicle arrived at a facility to be loaded or unloaded, and when it left the yard. If the unit was detained for more than two hours, for example, the agreed upon detention charge would automatically be applied to the payment. No more arguing with shippers and receivers about how long the equipment was held up for at their facility and fighting for the payment of detention charges.

Another potential application in trucking, described to me by Craig Fuller, managing director of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, is the creation of a universal driver ID, that would give members of a blockchain visibility of the driver who is handling their load. Today the driver, who has the single biggest influence on how that load is handled and delivered, is mostly anonymous to the shipper, operating under the flag of the carrier he or she works for.

While some privacy concerns will no doubt need to be accommodated, I see an opportunity for drivers operating under a universal driver ID to differentiate themselves, effectively creating their own brand and perhaps even commanding a premium based on a proven track record of safety, reliability, and customer service excellence.

If you think about how the Internet and connectivity have changed the business of trucking in the last decade or two, I believe we will see a change of equal or greater magnitude with the arrival of blockchain and the next generation of connected vehicles.

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What to do After an Accident

What to do After an Accident

In a previous blog, I laid out recommended steps you need to take to prevent accidents from happening. While we’d all prefer never to see a workplace accident, the truth of the matter is even when we have safety procedures in place, accidents do happen.

Swift action following an accident can help mitigate damage as well as preventing similar accidents from happening in the future.

Of course the first thing to do following an accident is to make sure your injured employee gets the best available medical treatment as soon as possible. You always must deal with the most pressing issues first when it comes to accidents and the well-being of your employees and others involved in the accident should be priority Number One.

The next step is to involve your insurance company. Do this as soon as possible because there may be time-related policies and procedures you need to follow. It is important that you familiarize yourself with them so that you don’t do anything that may lead the insurance company to deny paying the claim.

Investigate the accident to determine the root cause. Work closely with any law enforcement or insurance professionals to find out what caused the accident to occur. Once that is done, take some time to look at trends or patterns. If you notice that certain types of accidents seem to be recurring, take the necessary corrective action to prevent a similar accident from happening in the future. This may involve additional training for employees or changing the way certain tasks are performed.

Your responsibility to an injured employee does not end when you help them get the medical treatment they need. Support and maintain regular communication with the injured employee so they feel they are still part of the team and understand that you care about their recovery and want and need them back at work.

Where possible provide and support transitional and/or modified duty to help the employee return to work and get back to full duty as soon as possible.

Conduct regular safety audits of your facility to identify problem areas and then take steps to fix any issues that are identified. Hold periodic safety meetings with your staff during which you reinforce your company’s commitment to safety and go over key safety policies.

If you don’t already have a safety committee, following an accident is a good time to start one. The safety committee should be a cross-functional team that looks at every aspect of your business and helps determine best safety practices. Think about rewarding employees for things like safe driving records or accident-free months in the shop, etc. Safety has to be part of the fabric of the company’s culture, and it starts from the top down.


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Outsourcing: It’s Not All or Nothing

Outsourcing: It’s Not All or NothingWhen it comes to outsourcing, some people think it’s an all or nothing decision: Either you outsource all of your repair and maintenance or you do it all in-house.

The reality is that in today’s market there are a variety of options when it comes to outsourcing. Fleets can pick and choose what it is they need and not pay for more than that. You can choose your outsourcing arrangement based on your core competencies, keeping things in-house where you have the skills, technicians and tooling to complete the job.

Let’s look at the various options available to a company.

  • Dedicated contract carriage: At one end of the spectrum, dedicated contract carriage is a choice some companies make as a way to get their goods to market. They want to outsource everything, not just trucks, but also drivers, routing, supply chain design and engineering. Dedicated contract carriage is a complete outsourcing of the transportation function, leaving the company to concentrate on its revenue-generating business.
  • Full-service leasing: With full-service leasing, the company keeps drivers on its payroll but outsources the assets (a.k.a. the trucks). This includes outsourcing all the maintenance and all the emergency roadside service for those vehicles.
  • Guaranteed Maintenance Agreement: In this scenario, the fleet procures the trucks but wants an outside service provider to handle the maintenance of those assets. Here maintenance is completed at a guaranteed rate.
  • Variable Maintenance Agreement: In a variable maintenance agreement, costs are pegged at a certain amount and if the actual maintenance exceeds the amount, the fleet gets billed for the difference. If the cost is less than the pegged amount, the fleet would get a refund or credit.
  • PM Service Agreement: This type of plan is well suited for older trucks or ones that are domiciled in one place. Included in the price is the cost of preventive maintenance services, which are scheduled events. Breakdowns or unscheduled repairs are handled on a cost-plus basis. In other words, the fleet pays as it goes.
  • Managed Maintenance Services: In this case, the fleet pays a small fee to be a member and then the service provider gives the fleet a preferred rate on labor and parts when repair or maintenance is needed at any of its facilities. The fleet only pays for what it uses and does so at a preferred rate.

These outsourcing options strike a balance between control and risk. For example, with dedicated contract carriage you give up all control but also have little to no risk. Moving down the list of options you gain more control but also take on more risk. Where you fall on the control and risk continuums will help you figure out which outsourcing option is right for your operation.


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Safe Driving Tips for the School Year and Holiday Season

Safe Driving Tips for the School Year and Holiday Season

It’s always important to drive safely, but with school back in session and the holidays just around the corner promising increased traffic, safe driving becomes even more critical.

Whether driving in the city, suburb or country, extra caution is needed when sharing the road with school buses.

Here are some tips for sharing the road safely:

  • When to stop — It’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus on an undivided highway. You must stop when the school bus has its red lights on and its stop arm is extended.
  • When to slow down — You must slow down when the school bus has its yellow lights on. It’s also a good idea to slow down whenever you see a school bus.
  • Watch for children — Be especially vigilant in school zones, crosswalks and at bus stops. Children don’t always use crosswalks and may dart out into the street without looking.
  • Limit distractions — Eating, fidgeting with the radio, talking on your cell phone all take your attention away from driving.
  • Safety zones — Leave a minimum 10-foot safety zone for children in front of, behind and on either side of a school bus.

Driving in traffic requires extra attention and concentration as you are dealing with busy and sometimes narrow streets, preoccupied pedestrians and impaired visibility. You must stay alert, watch your speed and make turns carefully.

Here are some tips that will help with driving during these busy times and beyond:

  • Keep your eyes moving — Don’t focus on one object, but rather look from one side of the road to the other. Try to scan a block or two ahead as well.
  • Check your mirrors — Know what is behind you and on the sides of your vehicle.
  • Watch taillights — Taillights allows you to track what is happening in front of you and give you some advanced warning when you need to stop.
  • Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists — Be aware that pedestrians may dart out into traffic at any moment. Also, watch out for bicyclists that may pull up next to you in your blind spot.
  • Watch for driveways, alleyways, parking lot access — Vehicles may come out of these places suddenly and won’t be visible until the last moment.
  • Stay on specified routes — Follow assigned routes and don’t veer off from familiar roads.

In addition to these safe-driving practices, make sure your vehicle is well maintained so it will stop when it needs to.

Safe driving practices are always important but they become critical when during the school year, during holidays and at other times of increased traffic.


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