00:00 00:00

Podcast

How Safety and Lower Maintenance Costs are Linked

Learn about how safety and maintenance costs are linked, and what’s at stake if ignored. 

Episode 138: Fleets need to lower maintenance costs. We often talk about the connection between high-quality parts and lowering cost-per-mile. But what about the link between safety and lower maintenance costs? This topic may sometimes go overlooked, but really it affects all areas of the trucking industry and could be affecting your bottom line.  

Chris Harris of Safety Dawg Inc Headshot. In this episode, we learn about how safety and maintenance costs are linked, and what’s at stake if ignored. 

My guest today is Chris Harris, the CEO at Safety Dawg Inc. and the host of the Trucking Risk Insurance Podcast. 

Chris Harris is a highly experienced sophisticated Safety Professional. He brings this experience to fleets “safety and compliance” departments. Chris has been in this beloved industry all his life. His father owned a trucking company. And since then, he has been in love with all things trucking. Chris started his safety consulting business in 2014, after years working in trucking safety for both insurance and transportation companies.   

Guest Website: SafetyDawg.com.  

Watch the Video 

Disclaimer: This content and description may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, The Heavy-Duty Parts Report may receive a small commission. 

Sponsors of this Episode:  

  1. Want to look up parts but don’t have a part number or the VIN? Download Diesel Parts for free on Desktop or on your Apple or Android device.  
  1. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications? Visit AMBACInternational.com/Aftermarket 

Buy Parts:  

Want to buy any of the parts mentioned in this episode? Visit HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/BuyParts

Transcript of Episode: 

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile. Fleets need to lower maintenance costs.

We often talk about the connection between high quality parts and lowering cost-per-mile. But what about the link between safety and lower maintenance costs? Well, that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. And my guest is Chris Harris, the CEO at Safety Dawg and the host of The Trucking Risk and Insurance podcast. Now, Chris Harris is a highly experienced, sophisticated safety professional. He brings his experience to fleets and safety and compliance departments. Chris has been in this industry all of his life, his father owned a trucking company, so he has been immersed in the trucking industry for many decades now, and he has the experience to be able to answer our questions. Chris, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have here.

Chris Harris:

It’s awesome to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jamie Irvine:

So, Chris, what are the big safety issues facing the trucking industry today? Give us an overview.

Chris Harris:

Well, safety scores, I think are everything, you know, what are the big issues? Insurance and drivers I think are the two. And both of them relate right back to safety scores and all the driver issues that we have. You know, if a driver doesn’t do a good, complete and thorough vehicle inspection, then the maintenance department doesn’t know what the heck to fix. And of course that just brings up all kinds of issues, I think.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah absolutely, you know, it’s very difficult for someone to diagnose a problem if they don’t have any kind of accurate information. I know a lot of truck drivers though. They, especially if they’re driving in the same trucks or the same rigs over and over again, they really get to know those intimately. So when safety issues are coming up at a fleet, what steps do fleets need to take to overcome safety issues?

Chris Harris:

I think there’s kind of two; there’s the maintenance department and the drivers. So the first piece of it is to make sure that your drivers are trained on how to do a complete and thorough pre-trip inspection or a vehicle inspection. I do road tests for example, and I’ll have drivers go through a whole vehicle inspection and you know, many of them never once mentioned brakes. I mean, that’s kind of an important piece of the inspection, I think. So that’s one piece, make sure your drivers are completely trained and they know what the fleet’s expectations are in the way of a pre-trip. The other one of course is the maintenance department. Well, when’s the last time the safety department analyzed your safety scores, your SMS, or your national safety code, if you’re based in Canada, and then talked to the maintenance department and said, Hey, this is what I found, do you realize that we’re getting a high number of this type of violation? And perhaps if the maintenance guys knew about it, then they could be more thorough and complete when they do their maintenance inspections.

Jamie Irvine:

So that rings true to me, no matter what organization you’re in, whether you are in a heavy-duty parts company or you’re manufacturing, or you’re in a fleet and you’re operating equipment. If you don’t have the departments understanding the relationship between what they do and how it impacts the rest of the company. Like if in your example, drivers that impacts the whole company, maintenance that impacts the whole company. But if they don’t understand how those things are interconnected, then you’re never going to reach the goals and the levels of performance that you’re looking for.

Chris Harris:

Well, that’s exactly right. And the airline chafed, when a truck gets put out of service at a scale, because of an airline, is that a driver’s fault or is it a maintenance department at fault? Well, in my opinion, at least it depends how visible was that chafed airline to the driver? Should the driver have seen it? Does the company really expect the driver to get on a creeper and get under the unit? Most companies nowadays, truck drivers don’t get under the units anymore. So was it visible? If it wasn’t visible, then I don’t think you can hold the drivers responsible for that out of service. It falls back onto the maintenance department, but if it was visible, then that’s the driver. What kind of a vehicle inspection is that driver doing?

Jamie Irvine:

And what that brought to mind is it’s one thing, if you’re over the highway, it’s another thing if you’re in a vocation where the driver knows the conditions, they were just driving in. So for example, when I started selling parts, we were selling to logging companies in the north end of Vancouver island. And I mean, these are tough conditions. And so when you just come out of a cut block and you get ready to get onto the highway, you know what environment you just came through. Or now I live in Alberta and I think of the oil fields. Sometimes they have to hook up D8 cats to the front of the trucks and pull the trucks and trailers across certain parts of the lease. Just to get them back on the road. If you’ve been in those conditions, maybe a little extra inspection is warranted based on what the driving conditions have been.

Chris Harris:

Yeah. I mean, I was at a fleet yesterday and they do a lot of metal. They haul for steel manufacturers. They do some scrap metal as well. Well, can you imagine being a scrap metal hauler and the driver’s not checking their tires because I mean, scrap metal haulers ruin tires regularly. So I think what you’re alluding to is you should know your business as a driver and compensate for it a little bit. If you’re driving through the brush all the time, maybe before you hit the highway, you might want to stop and check your lights again because we know that tree branches rip off clearance lights at a regular rate and check your tires. If you’ve been in conditions that would possibly cause a flat, check your tires before you hit the highway. You know, to me that’s common sense, but we both know sometimes that common sense isn’t as common as we think it is.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah unfortunately it’s not common practice. So just to kind of give the 30,000 foot view here, what’s at stake if fleets don’t adequately address safety issues, it’s a bit of an obvious question, but let’s actually break it down into its parts and really help people to understand what’s at stake.

Chris Harris:

The bottom line is your company’s at stake. If you don’t care about your safety scores right now, trucking insurance in North America is what we call a hard market. It’s been in a hard market for two years now. And right now trucking insurance is putting more trucking companies out of business then the governments are. So if you have an alert in any of your areas, if you cross border into the states, your SMS has an alert, you are going to have a tough time getting trucking insurance. If here in Canada, you’re rating, for instance is conditional, you’re gonna have a really tough time getting insurance.

And I mean, I was just talking to a carrier yesterday. They didn’t get insurance this year, they’ve gone into the facility market and they can’t believe what the price of insurance is. And I can tell you it’s about five times your regular market rate. So it just it’s uncompetitive. It puts you at a huge disadvantage rate, if you can’t get insurance and you want to stay in business, you’ve got to go facility and you’re no longer competitive. So you’ve got to take care of your safety scores. Your drivers have to do their vehicle inspections and the maintenance department has to perform up to your expectations.

Jamie Irvine:

So those are the internal consequences then of course, there’s the external consequences where if there is an accident or a loss of life, and then you get being put at risk of one of these nuclear verdicts against you, or of course the tragedy of losing someone’s life unnecessarily because a safety issue wasn’t addressed. So you have both these massive internal stakes, the stakes are high externally. The stakes are very high as well.

Chris Harris:

Yeah. I mean the reason the insurance companies don’t want you, if you have a bad safety score is simply because of the nuclear verdicts. They know that when the lawyers get ahold of it and they trace it back, if they can show that any flaws in your company and a poor maintenance record is a huge flaw. It’s gonna cost them many more dollars in a court settlement. So that’s why they don’t want you.

And you know, I was just working on a presentation before we hopped on this conversation and there’s a $1 billion settlement lawsuit in Florida. And it happens to be involving a Quebec trucking company. And it was distracted driving. A young man, an 18 year old, lost his life tragically. There was a crash and he successfully stopped behind the crash. And apparently was sitting there for about an hour before another truck that was distracted came in and rear-ended that vehicle. And the young man lost his life. That’s tragic. It’s tragic for the truck driver involved. It’s tragic for the insurance companies and several of them would be involved. And certainly it’s tragic for the victim. I mean, some young man’s life got snuffed out early and that’s why the insurance companies don’t want you if your safety scores are bad. And one of the easy ones to trace is maintenance.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about the connection between safety, lowering maintenance costs, how the maintenance department and the truck drivers themselves, how they have to work together. And we talked about how high the stakes are. There’s some changes in the way that the governments are handling the trucking industry. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the impact that ELDs are having on safety. Could you speak a little bit to that? And of course we have a big part of our audience in the US and also both of us are Canadians. So we’re gonna have to really talk about both sides of the border.

Chris Harris:

Well, the US has already implemented ELDs. And so any fleet that’s US based or a Canadian fleet crossing the border already has ELDs. And then Canada is implementing ELDs right now as we speak. And it’s rolling out right across the country. So ELDs are a huge part. What I really think your audience should know, there’s been several articles in trade publications written about how officers are writing fewer tickets now for hours of service violations. So if that’s true and I believe it is, officers are writing fewer tickets, you know, if had your audience here live, I’d love to say, how many of you think that officers have quotas? And of course, if I asked an officer at least here in Ontario, I’ve asked them and they said, no, we don’t have quotas, we have job performance expectations, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

So it isn’t a quota. I understand that. But if an officer’s not writing tickets, I’m sure his supervisor’s going to sit him down and say, what the heck are you doing out there all day? So if they’re writing fewer tickets for hours of service and they have to write tickets, I guess vehicles and inspections and maintenance become a much bigger problem now than ever before. And that’s an opinion, but think of it, if they can’t write tickets for hours of service, because ELDs have effectively helped the drivers manage their hours of service better, then what are they gonna write tickets for? They’re gonna go to the vehicle and they’re gonna go to some of the other things, some of the easy tickets, like not having your ELD instruction sheet, just mind blowing that a driver can’t find that. But knowing that, how about your brakes out of adjustment? How about your ABS lights malfunction the states?

I don’t see it too often in Canada where we get tickets for ABS lights. I see it frequently in the states for ABS lights. Another one that I see frequently in the states is conspicuous markings, the red and white tape. I see that frequently missing and violations for it on the safety scores. Well is the maintenance department checking for that is the maintenance department checking for ABS lights. Do your drivers know how to check the ABS system? Have they been properly trained? So these are questions that because hours of service violations are down and officers still need to write tickets, they’re looking at other things now and much more frequently. Great question by the way. Thank you.

Jamie Irvine:

So I feel like I need to read one of those disclaimers. The opinions expressed in this show may not reflect the opinions of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and its subsidiary companies or the host Jamie Irvine. Okay. So I’m a glass half full kind of guy. So I hear what you’re saying. Let’s just say that because ELDs have improved the safety of drivers and we have less of these issues with drivers running, you know, what is that called, when we were driving too long again?

Chris Harris:

They exceeded their hours of service.

Jamie Irvine:

So because these ELDs are working and not allowing drivers to exceed their hours of service, there is now an opportunity for our enforcement agencies to put more of a focus on repairs and maintenance and to put more of a focus on how those vehicles are maintained. So if that’s the case and there’s gonna be increased tickets, then the fleets have to respond. And because every time you get a ticket, every time you have any time lost, because you’re at a roadside inspection, something like that costs are going to go up. So what’s your recommendation to the fleets and how they should respond with this changing and kind of dynamic environment?

Chris Harris:

Well, when somebody needs to be looking at the results of the current maintenance schedules, if somebody isn’t looking at their safety scores on a regular basis, looking at all those CVIRs commercial vehicle inspection reports that the drivers get from the scales, if they’re not looking at that to see what the violations are, then they’re missing an opportunity to improve that specific department. So you need somebody looking at the scores and the results of the maintenance to see if improvement is warranted. And it’s pretty evident when you look at the national safety code or the SMS in the states to see what your violations are. They’ve done a great job of grouping them all together. And some of the violations you can see, it indicates at least lack of regular maintenance. Some of the other violations indicate that drivers aren’t doing a great vehicle inspection. So to answer your question, I think it’s analyze the results of what you’re doing today to see what changes you need for tomorrow.

Jamie Irvine:

You bring up a good point because with this data, if you discovered, for example, that there’s a wear part that is consistently wearing out, it may be not an issue of the driver and the maintenance employees really missing it, but it could be an issue of, Hey, we need to spec a better quality part because this thing keeps wear out prematurely and it’s causing our drivers trouble and the maintenance people can’t get to it quick enough. It could be something as simple as that, but this information can’t be discovered unless you look at the data.

Chris Harris:

Right, and you know, I’ve got carriers that now know, there was a carrier I think it was a water pump that he told me he was replacing regularly at a certain mileage. Well, his reaction to that because he was analyzing the data was he just started to replace them before that, so that the truck didn’t break down. Without analyzing the data first, he wouldn’t have known that. Exactly what you’re saying,

Jamie Irvine:

Right, and this brings together all the elements we’re talking about because first of all, if the truck breaks down and it’s a roadside repair incident, the costs are astronomical, downtime, we know how expensive that is, but you’re putting the driver at risk. You’re putting other motorists at risk, depending on where the truck breaks down. Like there’s all of these trickle down impacts of not catching something like that. On the flip side of that coin, if you have drivers not doing inspections or maintenance, people not keeping the vehicles up to where they need to be, this is how interconnected this subject really is.

Chris Harris:

Unfortunately, almost everything comes back to the driver. The hours of service comes back to the drivers, being put out of service at the scale because of lack of maintenance, all of a sudden becomes a driver issue, because that driver’s been inconvenienced and the driver’s now not making as much money on this particular trip as the driver had thought he was going to, or she was going to. So it is it’s all interconnected. Your maintenance is a critical piece of trucking. It’s huge in trucking. Your driver is an integral piece of trucking. The safety department is integral dispatch. I mean, there’s not a piece of the trucking world that you can remove and successfully run a trucking company anymore.

It’s all interrelated and maintenance and drivers are the two, in my opinion, key components. With maintenance, you know, thank God the maintenance has really improved over the years in my, where I’ve been around because very few maintenance failures now cause death. Very few. It’s almost always human error now, where that wasn’t always the case. It used to be maintenance problems. But when you talk about profit, which is an important subject, profit can be hugely dictated by your maintenance. Because as you said, if you can reduce the amount of breakdowns or being put out of service at scales while you’re on the road, well, you’ve saved a huge amount of money because we all know it’s what three, four times more to repair a item on the road than it is in your garage.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Chris Harris, the CEO at Safety Dawg to learn more about Safety Dawg, visit safetydawg.com. And that is spelled D AW G. The links will be in the show notes. When we go to your site, Chris, you work as a consultant as well. So you’re in a position to be able to help fleets. Is that correct?

Chris Harris:

Yeah. I help fleets get better insurance. That’s largely what happens by helping train the drivers, train the safety department, I can help them improve their insurance rates. That’s the bottom line.

Jamie Irvine:

So if you want to improve your insurance rates, you’ll will want to find this link in our show notes and click on it and talk to Chris directly. Chris, thank you so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Chris Harris:

It was great. Thanks Jamie, for having me on.

Share this:
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Related:

FOLLOW THE PODCAST

Receive a weekly email with links to the latest episodes.

North America’s largest most trusted independent provider of parts and service.

Find Heavy-Duty Truck Parts Fast. VIN decoder included.

Fuel Injection for
Heavy-Duty Applications

Search