RBX Inc. tractor
One of RBX Inc.'s more than 200 power units.

Cutting back on backing accidents

Attacking the most common cause of truck accidents—reversing a long tractor-trailer—isn't easy, especially when you've got hundreds of drivers you're trying to coordinate. This is how one truckload carrier found it was faster, more convenient, and more effective to do it.

COMPANY: RBX Inc., Springfield, MO

OPERATION: Truckload carrier founded in 1983 operating routes across the Midwest, including between Springfield and Kansas City to Chicago, Cincinnati, and Memphis. Also offers same-day freight transport from Macon, GA, to the surrounding 250-mi. area.

CHALLENGE: Reduce costly reversing accidents that occur.

RBX operates its own student driver program as it takes on new potential hires. Not surprisingly for anyone who's tried it, new drivers often have a hard time learning to back up a truck with a 53-ft. trailer.

It's the most common cause of collisions and damage to trucks. Controlling that long trailer in reverse, especially on a 90-deg. cut up to a loading dock, isn't easy. Mishaps leave dings, scrapes, twisted metal, and worse—particularly when less-experienced drivers have to reverse the truck out in the real world. Many personal injury law firms even specialize in truck-reversing accidents.

RBX views that damage and resulting costs as unnecessary and avoidable and wanted to help address the problem right from the start. "When they go through the driver training program, the biggest issue is backing," said Jon Peavey, vice president of operations for the carrier. "It takes a lot of practice to get good at it."

Reversing a tractor-trailer can be difficult even for those with experience—drivers may end up pressured by traffic, for example—and these low-speed collisions can lead to costly damages and higher insurance rates.

SOLUTION: Implement specialized web-based driver training. 

Hauling its fleet of trailers, RBX has more than 200 tractors and just as many drivers to operate them, along with drivers in training. Getting everyone together to participate in a live training effort for backing up trucks wasn't possible.

The company decided to try the e-Learning program from Impact Solutions Inc., developed by CarriersEdge. Impact Solutions offers seminars, webcasts, consulting, and e-learning programs for drivers and other employees designed to help transportation companies improve recruiting and retention.

The online program means that student drivers and full-timers can take the course whenever their time permits. "Impact e-Learning, powered by CarriersEdge, makes it possible to have ongoing training that drivers can do wherever they are, and the mobile app makes accessing the content even easier," said Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Solutions.

Reversing a truck is one of more than 70 subjects Impact e-Learning has in its library of complete and "refresher" courses available to fleets and their drivers. RBX explained that it began by assigning courses to specific drivers to help address problems such as with backing up.

Now, however, RBX assigns several topics a month for all of its 200 drivers to review. The company even offers small cash incentives for completing courses.

And it didn't take long for RBX to start seeing some positive results. Only six months after it started offering the online courses for drivers, the company reported that it's seen an 8% reduction in backing accidents. "We expect to see a cycle of continuous improvement as more drivers get comfortable with using online training and take more courses," noted Peavey.

And while drivers can take the courses on a computer at RBX's headquarters, the "vast majority" of them just take courses remotely. "I can go a month without seeing one of my drivers, but online courses help them keep up with their training," Peavey explained.

The company is also experiencing 10% growth this year, which it attributes in significant part to being able to retain more drivers and improve productivity and performance through training. 

"Impact e-Learning is a lot more interactive and offers better training than what we were using before," Peavey contended. "It's just a better system, and our drivers learn."

 

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