Logistics Needs to Be Safer

Logistics Needs to Be Safer

Mobility sure can be a dangerous business. No matter what form of logistics you look at – trucks, rail, air, etc. – you’ll find that accidents happen once things get moving. Combine that with increasing demand for services and you’re left with only one conclusion: things need to get safer.

Injuries caused by vehicle crashes alone cost Indiana employers collectively over $740 million a year (NETS*), which could be an underestimation if you factored in the loss of company earning potential resulting from employee injuries and loss of life. On top of that, logistics has a disproportionately high amount of other injures, such as musculoskeletal, which also invariably costs employers.

Fatalities surround logistics as well. 26 people were killed in the transportation and warehousing sectors in Indiana in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but that’s not quite the whole picture of the issue. According to the Indiana Department of Labor, 50 transportation-related incidents across all industries accounted for 36.23% of all Indiana occupational fatalities that year, many of them surrounding activities related to logistics and mobility.

With so much loss and so much expense, what types of trends are helping to make logistics safer?


Safety is in the Details

Newer developments are helping boost safety in the rail industries down to the nuts-and-bolts details. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports investments in new equipment have led to record-setting years in rail safety.

According to the AAR and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the roughly $25 billion spent by the U.S. rail industry each year on modernization brought train accident rates down 10% and equipment-caused accidents down 11% between 2009 and 2018.

The new equipment is being used to evaluate individual rail components for integrity. For example, ultrasound and ground-penetrating radar can help evaluate a track’s foundation. Drones can be used to inspect hard-to-reach places like bridges and tunnels. And sensor equipment such as infrared, acoustic monitoring, and lasers are being used to alert companies to train wheel anomalies.

Also, the AAR reports that as of today most of the nation’s largest freight railroads are using Positive Train Control (PTC) systems to reduce human-caused accidents. This type of technology can automatically stop a train in the event of operator error.


Helping (Robot) Hands

The bustling process of loading and unloading trucks is a frequent accident point for many companies. It’s also one of the more physically demanding areas of logistics employment, naturally leading to more injuries.

Just a few weeks ago, two technology giants unveiled their early-stage automated unloading systems that could one day serve logistics giants like FedEx and UPS. During a conference on automation, both Siemens and Honeywell demonstrated how their new machines can unload packages from a truck and move them onto conveyor belts, theoretically reducing accidents and exertion.

According to experts, the diversity of package sizes and shapes makes both projects a challenge, particularly when it comes to loading the vehicles. Currently, the technology involved in unloading vehicles is a bit further along.



One of the interesting ways in which companies have been helping to reduce ergonomic workplace injuries caused by regular physical activities like lifting and carrying is by pre-conditioning workers for the task. This can be regarded a bit like physical therapy, only reversed. Instead of being used to help rehabilitate an injury, it’s used to prevent them by improving the resiliency of the worker.

According to the BLS, workers in transportation and warehousing experience nearly twice as many musculoskeletal injuries as other workers in private industry. Pre-conditioning exercises have shown potential for preventing injuries caused by exertion and repetitive strain and could very well save a lot of money for companies.


More Data, More Insight

Data and analytics are becoming more sophisticated at providing information on problem areas to safety managers. One area in which data is helping the logistics sector is through telematics, which are basically driver/operator accountability and early-warning systems. Initially, telematics were primarily used to expose unsafe practices like speeding, rapid acceleration, harsh braking, and lane drifting. Today, they’re going much further due to the implementation of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence has given telematics the ability to interpret signs of distracted driving and can warn drivers/operators to pay attention. The whole process is also tracked, giving mangers specific examples to focus on when training individuals.


Forward Motion

All of these innovations certainly signify forward progress, but this isn’t the end of the road just yet. There’s a lot more coming down the line in terms of logistics safety. Numerous technological revolutions are poised to affect the sector over the next decade, foreseeably providing even greater ways to protect workers. Hopefully, it’ll be an exciting period of watching incidence rates decline.



*Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). The Cost of Motor Vehicle Crashes to Employers – 2015. Prepared by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, funded by a grant to NETS by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.