A Driver’s Perspective on the Current State of the Trucking Industry
I have been writing a blog on the transportation industry for five years. During this period I have received hundreds of postings and e mails from readers. Every now and then I receive an e mail that stands out. This week I received a thoughtful and interesting e mail and article from a truck driver, David Robson. In the article, he shares his thoughts on what trucking companies can do to improve driver retention and increase trucking company profits. With permission, here is an edited version of his story.
The Future of the Professional Driver
“I was looking up the top 50 trucking companies and reviewed a few of the well-known companies CSA scores from the FMCSA website. I was surprised and disappointed with what I saw. Many of these carriers advertise on the backs of their trailers, “We hire only safe and professional drivers.” If you saw their CSA scores I would think that the owners would be embarrassed to display those signs. Perhaps the owners are not aware of their scores.
The first thing I noticed was that many were near the 60% intervention score. The other common factor involved “Subject to Placardable HM Threshold.“ I found some violations that were commonly high among most of the carriers.
383.23(a)(2) Operating a CMV without a CDL
383.51(a) Driving a CMV (CDL) while disqualified
391.11(b)(4) Driver lacking physical qualification(s)
391.41(a) Driver not in possession of medical certificate
391.45(b) Expired medical examiner's certificate
395.3(a)(2) Requiring or permitting driver to drive after 14 hours on duty
395.3(a)(1) Requiring or permitting driver to drive more than 11 hours
395.3(b) 60/70- hour rule violation
395.8 Log violation (general/form and manner)
395.15(b) Onboard recording device information requirements not met
395.15(c) Onboard recording device improper form and manner
395.15(f) Onboard recording device failure and driver failure to reconstruct duty status
395.15(g) On-board recording device information not available
392.16 Failing to use seat belt while operating CMV
392.2C Failure to obey traffic control device
392.2FC Following too close
392.2LC Improper lane change
392.2T Improper turns
392.2-SLLS2 State/Local Laws - Speeding 6-10 miles per hour over the speed limit
392.2Y Failure to yield right of way
392.6 Scheduling run to necessitate speeding
392.60(a) Unauthorized passenger on board CMV
392.71(a) Using or equipping a CMV with radar detector
397.13 Smoking within 25 feet of HM vehicle
392.22(b) Failing/improper placement of warning devices
392.7(a) Driver failing to conduct pre-trip inspection
393.11 No/defective lighting devices/reflective devices/projected
393.19 Inoperative/defective hazard warning lamp
393.207(b) Adjustable axle locking pin missing/disengaged
393.25(e) Lamp not steady burning
393.25(f) Stop lamp violations
393.45 Brake tubing and hose adequacy
393.45(a)(4) Failing to secure brake hose/tubing against mechanical damage
393.47(e) Clamp/Roto-Chamber type brake(s) out of adjustment
393.53(b) Automatic brake adjuster CMV manufactured on or after 10/20/1994— air brake
These are only a few of the 670 violations that can be given to a carrier through CSA. All of these violations can be avoided with a proper pre-trip inspection and driving skills training.
These avoidable violations, if left un-addressed can put a company into expensive fines, intervention and possibly suspension of their dot licensing. All of these can be avoided with proper driver training and updating. I would like to question the violators and verify if the drivers were reckless, or just unaware of how to prevent these violations.
As I continued looking through the CSA scores, I noticed a great number of small carriers (50 power units or less) were faring better than the carriers with more than 500 power units. This I believe is because the larger the carrier, the harder it is to monitor, educate and train drivers. Smaller carriers can better control the safety and compliance of their entire fleet.
These scores are showing me there is a great need for companies to restructure their safety policies and training. Corporate staff is going to require additional education to better train and educate drivers on a practical level. No longer will reciting the rules and regulations at drivers meetings (if the company has them at all), be sufficient to create safe and compliant drivers. Drivers I have talked to have said they asked their Safety Department for help and come away more confused about their issue.
Customers can access a carrier’s CSA scores and violations history. If the CSA is a marketing tool like the CTPAT program, carriers are going to find it hard to get accounts. ABC carrier might be on the top 50 list but when the customer views their CSA and discovers they are flagged for interventions due to Driver Fatigue, they may reject the carrier’s bid. I believe many carriers are going to carry on until intervention strikes, and then they will cry the blues.
Prevention is the best medicine
Carriers should be on top of these scores and intervene with the drivers before the FMCSA intervenes with the company. Drivers CSA scores should be monitored regularly. Drivers should be made to explain themselves for each violation (re-trained if necessary) and reprimanded for each repeated violation.
Driver training should be implemented on a one to one basis if needed. If the driver is new to trucking, he may be uninformed and require further education. If he is a veteran driver, he may have to be reminded or shown how to break old unsafe habits.
In the end, it requires the carrier to step up and protect their scores and public image with training, internal monitoring and enforcement.
Fleet Driver Trainers
Fleet driver trainers can be a great advantage to carriers of 50 drivers or more. These are experienced drivers that have excelled in their driving skills. They are fully knowledgeable about both Federal regulations and company policies. Driver trainers are knowledgeable and practice defensive driving, possess full knowledge of log books, Fleet Smart practices, vehicle pre-trips and preventative vehicle maintenance.
From a trucking company’s perspective, these driver trainers will be fully trained on all company driver policies. They will be the eyes and ears of the company, and the resource for drivers to help them become productive and safe employees.
With a driver trainer as part of the driving fleet, drivers can access this resource on the road. As a driver trainer on the corporate site, the individual is available to drivers visiting the yard and free to do driver analyses and in-class instruction if required.
Out in the cold
Many drivers I have talked to feel left out in the cold when it comes to having access readily to available information or training. When and if they can contact the Safety Department, the personnel are too busy to sit with them and discuss their needs, because of their responsibility to corporate issues.
When they do get information, many drivers leave confused, or feeling they didn’t get the answers they were looking for. A driver trainer helps immensely in this area because he has been there, done that, and can better relate to the driver’s issues than someone who has been out of touch with the driving environment for a while. The driver trainer can help the driver with other issues such as Human Resources policy because he is a long term employee and can instruct the driver how to better comply with company policy.
Using your best resource for optimal results
If I were a company owner, it only makes sense to me to use every available resource to build a company that is professional in the eyes of the Federal regulators, customers, general public and of course my most profitable assets called drivers.
If you want professional drivers, does it not make sense to have them monitored and trained by professional drivers (Driver Trainers)? It costs less than insurance hikes, repeated fines, lost customers, and the expense of driver turnover in the end? The driver trainer can be the company’s link to driver problems and opinions. The drivers feel more at ease with one of their own kind, so to speak, and more openly provide feedback. This useful information, when given to the company, allows them to better analyze, restructure and adjust for optimum operation.
The CSA scores and Canadian CVORs tell a story. Apparently companies aren’t reading the book. If they are, perhaps they can’t see the plot. If they value their future, changes need to be made before they lose all their profits. I believe driver trainers, if used effectively, can improve the quality of life for their drivers and improve the bottom line for their owners.”
Written by David Robson
Professional Driver and Certified Fleet Driver Trainer