In my role as Trucking Specialist with Acuity, I have the privilege of meeting a great many motor carriers. Though many are cutting-edge and understand their costs and effectively work to address them, others, including smaller firms, struggle understanding how to integrate safety into their operations and reduce claims, fines, maintenance costs, and driver turnover.
Truckers have to contend with unsafe behavior from other drivers, especially with all the new technologies available in vehicles today. I have seen drivers of passenger cars and trucks reading a newspaper, shaving or putting on makeup, and even talking and texting on the phone. Trucking has additional challenges of traveling to new areas, understanding road restrictions, navigating low bridges, as well as tracking miles, hours-of-service (HOS), and other paperwork.
Unfortunately, truckers are also targets for lawyers when accidents happen and have suffered large judgments. For instance, a truck driver near Savannah, Georgia, drove into a line of cars that had stopped due to a previous accident, killing several people. The truck driver, who denied falling asleep and driving distracted, was hit with an $80 million verdict.
In another accident in New Mexico, a jury awarded the family of a person killed in a truck-involved accident $58.5 million in damages. The case alleged that the motor carrier allowed trucks to run with numerous safety and traffic violations, as well as improper repair and maintenance issues. After the crash, the carrier also altered their HOS records.
In trucking, we often hear about the importance of tort reform and other legislation to reduce claims. Though that is certainly a valid discussion, I would like to talk about motor carriers returning to the “basics” themselves. Improving your BASICs scores starts with ensuring that your operation has:
Written policies and procedures that:
Ensure you are hiring safe drivers.
Are providing the necessary training to new drivers for their success.
Provide and enforce disciplinary policies around failure to follow rules regarding driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs), HOS, and so on.
Business operations that focus on safety, including:
Defining who is responsible for safety in your operation. (The answer is “everyone.”)
Training dispatchers to effectively address vehicle maintenance issues, weather, and available driver hours.
Ensuring the maintenance department understands violations a vehicle has last received, what enforcement officers are looking for during roadside inspections, and how the DVIR process works to keep the equipment and driver at peak uptime.
Audit and review of policies and procedures to address whether:
Current policies and procedures are affecting operations in the manner intended.
Preventable crashes have been reduced.
Vehicle citations have been reduced.
Driver turnover has decreased.
Tools are available to drivers for tasks such as cargo securement.
Employees are actively participating in your safety efforts and culture.
These basic steps will help truckers enhance their ROI, understand their FMCSA Safety Measurement Systems 7 BASIC scores, and develop methods to enhance the safety of their operation. At Acuity, our insureds also have access to our Motor Carrier Tool Box filled with required forms and guidance, FMCSA’s Safety Management Cycle, as well as Loss Control services and our JJ Keller Safety Training videos.