This is the second in a series of articles on how motor carriers can help avoid claims, including those that result in nuclear verdicts, by implementing and adhering to a strong safety and compliance program. Other trucking blogs can be viewed here.
Safety and compliance, which may seem like industry buzzwords, are sometimes viewed as impediments for drivers and company owners. But as many who work in the trucking industry realize, these two words are directly tied to a company’s profitability. A trucking company cannot function well without a strong focus on efficiency—of which safety and compliance play critical roles.
Recent studies by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) on nuclear verdicts and small verdicts show that adhering to safety and operational policies is essential to staying out of court and avoiding liability in the event of an accident. In a trial, any failure to adhere to FMCSA or company safety policy will likely be the target of a plaintiff's arguments.
In the past 100 years, there have been enormous strides in making safe, reliable, and efficient trucks that allow motor carriers to move enormous amounts of freight every day. I am amazed by the advancements in technology. My first truck was a 1970 International Harvester 4070 A model without power steering. I was glad to have it, but it did little more than keep the rain out. Today’s trucks are a little different. Many come complete with a refrigerator, microwave, TV, and air conditioning. Though modern trucks are more efficient, comfortable, and safe, they also require more of a focus on maintenance to remain safe and compliant while providing the uptime truckers need in their equipment.
As noted in the first blog in this series, the FMCSA Carrier Compliance Questionnaire (CCQ) provides a helpful checklist for motor carriers to review their operation and identify areas where they can improve. The CCQ also clarifies the FMCSA’s actual requirements by providing a link to each regulation referenced.
The second section of the CCQ addresses concerns related to your vehicles.
In visiting trucking operations, when we go out and walk the line inspecting trucks and trailers, I am often impressed at the quality of management in verifying that their CMVs are properly maintained in accordance with regulations. However, in some instances, we find significant opportunities for improvement. Of course, a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) or post-trip inspection is how many safety defects are discovered, but the phrase “trust but verify” does come to mind in some circumstances. Verifying that the fleet vehicles under your control are being properly maintained is critical. Not only can it help protect you and your drivers from adverse liability, but it can also increase your equipment uptime to better serve customers. Addressing the small items before they become larger, more expensive repairs can help to reduce your overall maintenance costs. Here are a few items from the CCQ Vehicle section to review within your operation:
There are more guidelines to review within the CCQ, and I encourage you to verify that you are comfortable in meeting these requirements. To help further, Acuity offers access to many helpful resources within our Motor Carrier Toolbox. The Maintenance dropdown provides examples of forms used for recordkeeping and inspections, such as the Sample CMV Maintenance Program, Annual Inspector Qualifications, and Annual Vehicle Inspection Report. Items included under the FMCSA/CSA tab, such as the BASICs – Vehicle Maintenance, Safety Management Cycle, and Required Record Retention – FMCSA, will help you make sense of regulatory requirements.
In the next CCQ blog, we will discuss driver-related items, such as tips for maintaining a CDL.
Have more questions about safety and compliance for your trucking operation? Check out some other trucking-related resources we offer at Acuity to help grow your business safely and profitably!