Risky Business: Managing responsibility

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Almost 25% of the trucking companies I visit have an Hours-of-Service (HoS) BASIC Score that exceeds 65%, placing them in “Alert” status with the FMCSA. In almost every case, it is sufficient to raise their Inspection Selection System (ISS) scores to the point where they are flagged for inspection whenever their equipment comes to the attention of an enforcement agency.

This has three major impacts on the company’s operations and/or profitability:

1. Lost time/revenue. Full inspections can delay the driver between one to three hours. Assuming the truck travels, on average, 45mph, the carrier (and the driver) loses the revenue for anywhere from 45 to 135 miles. If the carrier undergoes 20 inspections a year, the revenue loss jumps to between 900 and 2,700 miles!

2. Difficulty recruiting. How anxious do you think drivers are to come work for a company when they know that every time they cross a scale, they are going to lose time/revenue and probably be ticketed?

3. Lost business. With increasing frequency, shippers are monitoring profile scores and refusing to deal with carriers that have high BASIC Scores.

Despite this, many of these same carriers seem unable or unwilling to implement corrective measures. Far too many carriers still view hours of service as the driver’s problem, since it is usually the driver that pays the fine. This leads to current management practices including:

  • Conducting log audits and following up with individual drivers who incurred violations. But all of this comes after the fact. By the time drivers submit their logs for processing, it may be two months after the infraction before the review occurs.
  • Fighting violations in court.
  • Providing drivers refresher training on the HoS regulations.

Invariably, whatever follow-up occurs is limited to the individual drivers that received the violation. But this approach pre-supposes that the driver is the only player in the events that led to the violation—and that it is always the driver’s fault.

Times have changed, as have legal and regulatory expectations. To correct HoS issues, carriers must realize two things:

1. The expectation today is the carrier manages HoS, not the driver, and

2. HoS violations are indicative of an operations issue. Only a full process review will reveal the underlying issues that are causing the problems.

Carriers should implement a program that tracks, records and recaps drivers’ hours-of-service at the dispatch level. The program can be as simple as having the drivers call in to report HoS and tracking the data on a spreadsheet. This will ensure that you know how many hours each driver has available.

Provide drivers and operations staff with trip planning training. The increasing complexity of HoS regulations make it nearly impossible to complete the trip legally without knowing, on each leg of the trip, what the destination is for that day, where and when fuel and meal stops will occur, and where to take the 30-minute break required prior to the 8th hour of driving.

Don’t assume that because the drivers have previous experience that they have received hours-of-service training at some point during their careers. Provide training in both the hours-of -service regulations and your company’s preferences and policies.

Full process reviews require examination of routing, scheduling, as well as your dispatch policies/procedures. Providing too much time for the trip can be just as bad as not providing sufficient time. When people are provided with too much time, they re-calculate departure times based on what they believe they will actually need. This often leads to speeding and hours of service violations when drivers miscalculate the amount of time they will need.

Involve your customers and manage their expectations. They are often unaware of the constraints caused by HoS regulations. Educate your customers and make them part of the solution.

Rick Geller has been providing innovative and cost-effective risk management solutions to the trucking industry for more than 30 years.

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  • Can’t you just feel the “freedom” of the road…

    Lets see, government dictates our working schedule, and now its dictating the types & style of truck… we’re basically government employees, of course without the wages & benefits to go with it.

    Wages = poor. Freedom = none Equipment = uninspiring & ugly

    ..”take this job & shove it”… sounds like a perfect truck driving song.

  • The shippers expect the trucking co. to break the rules and when the driver sits for hours unpaid at customers or the border. The driver cheats on his hours. The only way to solve this paying the driver for all hours worked at twice min wage with overtime billed to the customer