Every business is only as good as its employees, and the trucking industry proves just how true that is. Any fleet will only be as good as the drivers who turn the wheels.
While there is no single measure of a driver’s ability to do a professional job, the documents in a thorough driver qualification file can offer an accurate picture of a driver’s level of skill, highlight specific training needs, and even help to determine the likelihood of a future collision.
These violations do not need to be limited to a truck, either. The drivers who have five or six speeding tickets on a motorcycle will likely extend the heavy use of an accelerator to every vehicle they drive.
The simple photocopy of the driver’s licence that is stapled to the file folder confirms some key information on its own.
The licence class will confirm whether the driver is legally entitled to drive a specific type of equipment, and the document will provide proof of the birth date that will determine whether the driver meets the minimum age of 21 to operate in the US.
But the array of other records that are required to operate a USbound vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,001 lbs or more can offer details that are important to every fleet -even those that haul domestic freight.
Just consider everything that can be learned in a candidate’s application for employment. Fleets that hire US-bound drivers need to verify the previous three years of work history and collect the details for an entire decade.
The three years of work experience is a vital measure of whether the driver has the experience to gear and steer the same type of transmissions and engines used in a new job.
The number of employers will tell a story as well. A new driver can be expected to change jobs one or two times in the early days of a career, but someone who has accumulated five or 10 employers in just three years will likely be bringing other baggage to the workplace.
The same driver who is unable to build a working relationship with dispatchers may also be gruff when dealing with customers, and this aggressive nature often translates into poor driving habits behind the wheel.
Meanwhile, the driver’s abstract offers the telling signs of on-road infractions that can have a direct impact on a fleet’s own operating record. We all know there is a definite link between the number of violations and the possibility of a collision occurring in the next year.
Serious violations such as dangerous or careless driving are definite indicators of a driver’s poor mindset, as are more than a pair of convictions for violations such as improper passing, driving an unsafe vehicle or failing to yield the right of way. In contrast, a recruiter may be justified in accepting violations such as not wearing a seatbelt or a vehicle weight infraction, as long as there is a commitment to address the issue through the appropriate training.
The medical documents in the file also help to determine any other restrictions to the routes that a driver can travel. The US DoT will accept Ontario’s three-year cycle for medical examinations, for example, but drivers in other jurisdictions may require a medical check-up every two years. And certain medical waivers are not recognized by the US Department of Transportation.
The related criminal background check can unveil a number of other potential restrictions. Job candidates who have any Criminal Code convictions such as driving while intoxicated or driving with a suspended licence may not be able to cross the border and may even be denied insurance coverage.
A driver’s abstract that was generated within 30 days of the hiring of the driver needs to be supplemented by annual updates of the driving record and proof of any violations that occur.
Even if the driver has the skills to drive a truck, a copy of the data sheet outlining the hours-of-service records for the previous seven days will determine when they can actually begin to turn the wheels. This information will need to be provided by occasional employees before every work cycle.
The driver qualification file is a living, breathing file.
This is the type of information that will identify emerging habits before they become a problem.
The collection of these documents goes a long way to proving the due diligence of a fleet that is committed to hiring the right drivers for the job.
-This month’s contributing expert is Dennis DuBois, senior advisor in Markel’s Safety and Training Services Department. Prior to joining Markel in 1995, he had served as a district safety manager for a large truck rental firm, and as an independent safety consultant. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.Markel is the country’s largest trucking insurer providing more than 50 years of continuous service to the transportation industry.
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