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35 CHAPTER FOUR STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS BACKGROUND tract effort and would likely have sharply reduced participa- tion. Practices described should be taken as suggestions for This chapter presents findings from structured interviews consideration by readers, not necessarily as scientifically with carrier owners and managers. The structured interviews proven methods. Industry readers may judge for themselves are based on phone interviews, which followed the comple- the applicability of methods and ideas presented to their tion of the survey by each respondent. The last question operations. the survey asked respondents was if they would be interested in participating in a brief follow-up interview to discuss As with the project survey, the structured interviews and safety practices relating to driver distraction. The question structured interview write-ups are intended to capture both included the assurance, "Responses will be confidential; none objective information (e.g., carrier characteristics and prac- of your comments are for attribution." Interviewees were tices used) and subjective information (e.g., opinions on safety selected based on their willingness to participate and on indica- risks, effective practices, and outside factors affecting their tions in the survey that they were actively engaged in carrier companies). Some of the interview questions addressed con- safety. The phone interviews lasted approximately 30 min each troversial topics, such as potentially prohibiting cell phone use and followed a structured but flexible sequence of questions. in commercial trucking. Varied views on these topics were stated and are conveyed here to fully and accurately capture As seen in the interview summary tables in Appendix D, interviewee opinions. These opinions may be paraphrased in the interviews addressed the following general topics: the write-ups or provided as direct quotations. Importantly, within each structured interview, qualitative statements made · Carrier description and provided here reflect the opinions of the interviewee. · Degree to which distracted driving is a safety problem Statements from the structured interviews do not necessarily · Primary sources of driver distraction (behaviors as well reflect those of the report authors or TRB. as devices) · Countermeasures put in place by fleet and motivation to Only motor carriers are represented in the structured inter- implement these particular countermeasures views. Motor coach surveys did yield some responses in · How measures were communicated to drivers, and their terms of follow-up interviews; however, efforts to arrange responses these interviews were not successful. · Measures of success and benchmarks · Additional comments. MOTOR CARRIER COMPANIES The responses shown in the right column of each structured interview table include some respondent answers transcribed Eleven trucking company owners and managers were inter- from the survey questionnaire in addition to comments in the viewed. Their structured interviews are presented in the phone interview. tables in Appendix D and summarized here. Companies are identified here only as "Carrier A," "Car- Structured Interviews Summary rier B," etc. No interviewee names or company contact infor- mation is provided. Nature of the Problem All of the interviewees projected themselves as conscien- As to the degree to which distracted driving is a safety prob- tious individuals and well-intended managers of their com- lem, one safety manager recalled the "old days" when operat- panies' safety operations. Many good safety insights and ing the tractor took a significant amount of attention and the examples of effective management practices are provided in in-cab distractions were as simple as operating an eight-track the structured interviews. Nevertheless, project resources did tape player. Now the tractor is easier to operate; there are driver not permit formal evaluation of any carrier or its practices. assist systems for collision avoidance, the dashboard includes No carrier or public records on safety or compliance were many indicators, and cell phones are ringing: so in-cab dis- examined. Doing so would have required a far greater con- tractions have "exponentially grown."
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36 Although all of those interviewed agreed distraction is Addressing the Problem a problem, several cautioned about overreacting to it. One safety manager who was a former driver noted "You don't Participation in national programs such as a Responsible want a cab with nothing at all going on, but you need to elim- Care program was reported as part of establishing a strong inate distractions that remove the driver's concentration from safety culture, from which a distracted driving policy can be his driving duties." Another former driver agreed and was of derived. The FMCSA Compliance, Safety, Accountability the opinion that CB radios are not a problem because their initiative was also noted by some as being helpful. operation is different from using mobile phones. These discussions indicated that larger fleets are more Prime sources of driver distraction noted by these safety likely to have clear cell phone use policies. For instance, one managers were personal tasks, cell phone use, reaching for of the these fleets had a stringent policy that was character- objects, and interacting with audio entertainment. About half ized informally as "you can't play with anything" while oper- considered reading maps and passenger interactions key ating the vehicle, including anytime the driver is at the con- sources of distraction, and a few reported that active safety trols of a truck, even if stopped at a traffic light. In the group systems could also be distracting. One manager relayed a interviewed, some smaller fleets prohibited cell phone use, story of a driver who dropped an important document and whereas others discouraged it or had no policy. These smaller crashed while trying to pick it up. fleets were more likely to emphasize the importance of trust relationships with their drivers, expecting professionalism In general, this group believes in using systems such and for them to exercise good judgment. One manager noted as FCW, LDW, and roll stability systems to address unsafe that his company had considered the possibility of allowing driving overall. However, whereas "every new piece you add drivers to talk in a hands-free mode and decided against it-- is a shiny light and can be a distraction," even adjusting a seat they do not want them talking at all. More than one noted can be a distraction. Another made the point that driver mind- that, even while they currently do not have a cell phone ban set is key; many factors are under the driver's control, such in place, they are working toward a total ban and are devel- as use of the CB radio, use of the cell phone, reaching into the oping the driver buy-in and ownership to go there. Several cooler, and attending to cigarettes, climate control, and audio noted that, regardless of the policy, it is very difficult to ensure entertainment. compliance. Company culture plays a role. One interviewee noted Addressing in-vehicle devices and screens is a high prior- that monitoring drivers for distractions is certainly possi- ity. Several companies in the interview group use vehicle mes- ble; however, it becomes an issue with "big brother" watch- saging and tracking systems or electronic on-board recorders ing over a driver. The interviewee works for a private fleet that have display screens with various levels of lock-out with a low turnover, and he noted that the company culture capability. Some prevent outgoing messages only, whereas will suffer if the right balance between monitoring, safety, others blank the screen entirely while the vehicle is moving. and trust is not achieved. Another manager contrasted his However, for some fleets blanking the screen would inter- operation with bigger fleets--they can have hard policies fere with the navigation function. Other features enable the because they do not know their drivers, but how can they driver to have messages relayed by computer voice through really enforce them? For him, "I can put my arms around all the vehicle speakers or a single button to push to tell dispatch my drivers--I know them." The personal touch makes for a "I'm driving, don't call my phone right now." For a fleet in culture where they rely on their driver's good judgment. At which drivers use a personal digital assistant for messages, the same time, as another put it, his drivers "understand Big the protocol is that the device sounds to indicate a message Brother is here." is waiting and the driver must stop the vehicle to access and read the message. Regarding driver distraction, he is trying to slowly ease them into a changed mindset that focuses on what they per- Team driving represents a special case. One fleet blanks sonally control: the in-cab screen when tractors are rolling, with an exception for teams. He believes drivers comply with this policy and · Choosing when and how to communicate while driving, that team driving provides checks and balances; the nondriv- · Using a CB radio, ing member of a team can recognize how the driver may be · Tuning a radio, distracted. · Using a GPS, and · Wellness habits (including smoking). Automatic video monitoring is of high interest, with one fleet recently starting a pilot program advocated by its insur- With regard to smoking in particular, several see it as a ance company. Several managers noted that these systems help distraction risk as well as a wellness issue; therefore, work- to enforce compliance and augment their ride-along observa- place wellness programs can positively impact the distrac- tions; some barriers reported were shipper prohibitions to hav- tion arena as well. ing any cameras enter their facilities, as well as cost.
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37 Fleet managers relayed their concerns about driver-installed Benchmarks electronics, such as satellite radio or navigation systems, noting that a company installation approach was viewed as being Vehicle electronics provide for information on hard braking safer. events and, for some fleets, roll stability and lane departure events. Although these data are useful when assessing safety Cell phone lock-out devices now being offered by some performance (one company has documented a 75% reduction vendors were of interest for some, but none of the interviewees in hard braking events), it is generally not seen by the group are currently using such devices. Concerns were expressed as as directly addressing distracted driving; video monitoring is to cost and modifying a personal item of the employee (the cell viewed as the better tool for this. phone could be damaged). The overall fleet crash rate was frequently cited as their Two managers use performance bonuses to encourage key measure of effectiveness. Carriers examine accident type compliance with distraction policies. For one fleet, infrac- to assess the potential for a distraction component in a crash-- tions relating to hard braking, traffic tickets, etc., affect the striking vehicle ahead, run-off-road, and intersection crashes driver's safety bonus; if there is a safety incident in the areas are seen as relevant to distraction. of safe driving, safe loading, or unloading, the quarterly When asked, interviewees did not observe an increase in bonus is decremented. In another fleet, every driver takes a crashes based on cell phone use; instead, crashes are down. battery of tests each month and a performance bonus is paid One safety manager noted that, generally, he cannot tie any if they complete all testing correctly. increase in crash involvement to the cell phone. Effective hiring is a priority and was addressed in the interviews by several managers. One noted that they screen Additional Comments thoroughly, and go a step farther to identify any traffic ticket or crash problems, and will not hire people if this is Some respondents commented on the government role, with the case. some believing that the government could do more, others less. The view of those seeking less government was expressed as "tell us what the rules are and then let us do our job." Those Driver Acceptance advocating a strong government role sought greater clarity in defining the driver distraction situation, greater and more con- As to driver acceptance, one opinion voiced was that gener- sistent enforcement of existing laws, making cell phone use a ally there is always resistance to putting new things in place, primary (rather than secondary) offense where it is illegal, and but over time drivers will accept them. The most significant a federal ban on cell phone use for commercial drivers. issues have arisen regarding automatic video monitoring. Although these systems only record based on trigger events, To this latter point, a useful story was relayed by one safety the perception can persist among drivers that they are being manager. He had a long discussion with their operations depart- constantly watched. One manager views these driver mis- ment when they were working with a customer who wanted to conceptions as "a fact of life." use push-to-talk units to change destinations in real time. This conversation delved into whether it was legal to use cell phones From a broader perspective, one manager noted that pub- in certain areas, and whether this would be a distraction for the lic awareness plays an important role: "the more public opin- driver. In a such a case, it would have been easier to respond to ion is involved and in favor of what we are saying, the easier the customer by saying, "no, this is illegal due to federal law." it is to get drivers in line." For example, his fleet has not had Without these absolutes, they can lose a customer, he said. In driver resistance to seat belt policies owing to broad public this particular case, they agreed to carry the push-to-talk units, compliance, but finds support for sleep apnea programs chal- with the caveat that the driver would not respond immediately lenging because there is not as much public visibility. When to "pings" and instead pull off the road to respond. it comes to cell phones, he believes public information and attitudes also help. Another helpful technique mentioned was As a final point, it was noted that it is difficult to place to teach a driver's family members about distraction and strong prohibitions on CMV drivers alone and not the general other safety issues by sending the company newsletter to the public--if distraction is dangerous for any driver it is dan- driver's home. gerous for every driver.