NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — The last thing any trucking company wants is to suffer an accident resulting in charges files against a driver or a lawsuit against the business, but the actuality is those are very real possibilities.
Being prepared for those types of circumstances is something every fleet should have already done, and if it hasn’t it should, believes John Oldfield, a senior account executive with the Dalton Timmis Insurance Group. Speaking at the Fleet Safety Council’s 23rd Annual Educational Conference, Oldfield asked attendees, “are you trial ready?”
According to Oldfield, the regulation situation in the province of Ontario creates an atmosphere where fleets aren’t doing enough to ensure they have safe, competent drivers behind the wheel. He reminded conference-goers about the lax laws in Ontario when it comes to driver training and safety programs, especially in light of what is mandated in the US.
“It’s interesting when you look at the culture differences between Americans and Canadians,” he said citing the Ministry of Transportation which says: “In Ontario, there are no legal requirements under the Highway Traffic Act to develop or maintain a safety program for your business. However, it is considered good practice to develop a program that addresses matters relating to the safe use and operation of commercial vehicles.”
He stressed that in Ontario the only mandated regulation is regarding hours of service, whereas in the US regulations explicitly state what can and must be done with regards to driver safety programs
“What they talk about are minimum compliance levels. Not ‘we should do it,’ but ‘we must do it.’
When it comes to hiring drivers in particular, Oldfield said Americans have a thorough process in place that involves profiling drivers.
“We all know what is supposed to be in a driver qualification (DQ) file. For a DQ file, the Americans made a nice and easy checklist, a summary of driver qualification documents. What is interesting is they have a section on driver qualifications by best practices,” he said.
“The thing the Americans use to qualify their drivers is PSP [pre-employment screening program]. We are a long way from this is Canada. All we are trying to do right now is make sure our drivers our licensed in Canada. There is no online system to run a Level II CVOR. We are so antiquated in Canada that my typical reaction when I’m dealing with any fleet–I don’t care if you run just in Canada, if you are just a regional carrier running around Toronto–is use the American model. It’s a far better practice. Learn to do your own PSP on drivers. Learn to profile.”
He explained that when you are hiring anybody from drivers to office staff and you are creating your profile of that applicant, “you are looking for the real character. Why you are looking for the real character is that’s the person you are hiring.”
Oldfield said getting to know that real person, no matter how that means that is achieved, is what will keep the fleet safe. For example, he said even if a fleet relies on telematics the data means nothing without the human element.
“The secret of telematics has got nothing to do with technology. It has to do with the vital human-to-human contact. You’ve got big data coming down the pipe. The only time it’s successful is when the data comes down to one person, and that person knows the driver, knows something about him. You need the personal connection to the driver, to say. ‘I’m getting telematics data. It’s showing aberrations. What’s wrong with the driver?’ It’s making that phone call and getting him off the road.
“I can’t tell you how many times as an insurance broker I got a call about a crash, and the fleet owner or the risk manager said, ‘I knew it was coming, I knew it was going to happen. I had all the indicators.”
He added that even in the 1970s when he was driving truck and calling into the dispatcher from a phone booth at the side of the road, the dispatcher’s job was to try to read him and figure out if he was in the right shape and frame of mind to take on another load, and there is nothing different today.
“All that is happening now is the data is coming from the truck automatically and there is somebody actually behind the data saying , ‘the driver can’t do it. He won’t do it.’”
Oldfield also stressed that being prepared for the worst (and the resultant legal challenges) is not just about profiling the drivers and meeting whatever minimum standards a jurisdiction has set, it’s about going above and beyond.
“If you are managing risk in a fleet, remember, safety compliance is yesterday’s story. It’s tired. You don’t want to comply. If you are just complying with the law, the problem is you think it’s a set line. It’s not. The law is moving all the time,” Oldfield cautioned.
“So please, use the correct phrase, ‘managing risk.’ What you are looking for is the best practices in that policy.”