Aaron Huff

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Schneider National uses technology to target distracted driving

By Aaron Huff

Driver distraction is a concern of all fleet safety managers. No professional driver in their ranks is immune to the pandemic that leads to nearly 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of all near-crashes, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The cell phone is the most immediate concern. A cell phone is a combination of all four types of driver distraction: visual, auditory, manual and cognitive.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration soon will issue a final rule that bans cell phone use by commercial interstate drivers. Meanwhile, a majority of states already have laws prohibiting texting and cell phone use.

While you already may have strict policies banning cell phone use while driving, it is difficult to get an effective message to your highly mobile driver work force that will change their behavior and minimize the risk of distracted driving.

Schneider National has been able to leverage its technology to do just that. The Green Bay, Wis.-based fleet uses an integrated learning model that consists of instructor-led, computer-based and simulation training.

“It starts with an understanding of adult learning, and what tools we have at our disposal, and how we can leverage technology to enhance the quality of training,” says Don Osterberg, Schneider’s senior vice president of safety and security. “Ultimately, it is about how we can deliver the most effective training at the overall lowest cost.”

“It is about how we can deliver the most effective training at the lowest overall cost.”

The company recently worked with L-3 MPRI, the company that provides Schneider’s simulation technology, to develop an integrated approach for dealing with driver distraction. This project was rolled out as part of Schneider’s first-quarter “sustainment training.”

The project included the creation of a distracted driving online module. Schneider has the ability to deliver this module in the cab, at kiosks in company locations and from any PC using Schneider’s CrossRoads Website; 80 percent of drivers completed the module in the cab using the Qualcomm MCP200 platform. The interactive learning module exposes drivers to situations that impose distractions.

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Schneider also began using its MPRI simulators to conduct “performance enhancement training” (PET) to illustrate the effects of distracted driving. A simulation shows drivers that they cannot drive and multitask safely without putting the public in danger. As part of the simulation, a driver is asked to answer a cell phone, reach for a coffee mug or even send a text message.

“One of the things we find is the mindset that, ‘I understand that multitasking is difficult, but I can do it,’ ” Osterberg says. “We generally use simulation to build self-confidence, but in some cases, we can demonstrate that overconfidence can be a problem as well.”

The simulation exercise provides ample coaching opportunities. Using data captured, an instructor can show a driver how his inattention caused him to drift out of the lane of travel, or how long he took his eyes off the road – and how far the truck traveled during that time.

“I believe we raised awareness through the training module,” Osterberg says. “Almost always, whatever the topic of focus is for our sustainment training, we see an improvement.”

Osterberg says Schneider currently is testing a technology to monitor if a driver is using a cell phone while driving. In the meantime, using an integrated approach to combat distracted driving shows how far computer-based training has come to deliver training when and where it is needed in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

Aaron Huff is Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal.