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truck accident procedure

No one wants to manage cargo claims or contract disputes, and a nuclear verdict in a catastrophic accident is a trucking nightmare. Unfortunately, if you’re in the industry long enough, there’s a good chance you will find yourself handling accident claims. To protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation, make sure you have a strong truck accident procedure in place well before it’s needed.

1. Establish A Clear Internal Procedure

Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law

Eric Zalud, Benesch Law

Once an accident occurs, you’re working against the clock. It’s critically important to have laid the groundwork beforehand. We spoke with Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law. He emphasized the importance of the “Golden Hour” and arguably a golden first few days.

These hours immediately after the incident are critically important for collecting evidence, alerting key members of your response team, and handling medical emergencies. If a lawsuit occurs, it may not happen immediately, so it’s important to preserve any information that may support your case as close to the time of the incident as possible.

One of the best ways to ensure that accidents are handled smoothly and efficiently is to establish a clear communication tree. Zalud notes that this often starts with the driver contacting the safety manager who then takes the lead in the rapid response efforts. In some companies, the in-house counsel or even the company CEO may lead the accident response efforts. You should also be prepared with a team of responders who help form the line of defense.

When asked who companies should keep in their rapid response Rolodex, Zalud recommended:

  • Approved legal counsel
  • Insurance carrier
  • Engineer
  • Hazmat unit
  • Truck manufacturer
  • Toxicologist
  • Company media spokesperson

Not all fleets need to have all of the listed resources in-house. For smaller fleets, maintaining an updated preferred provider list is a good accident response option. Any necessary responders should be contacted as quickly as possible after the crash to resolve the accident scene and preserve evidence for a later date.

2. Facilitate Driver Practice

Accidents are highly stressful situations, and even the best truck accident procedure in the world can’t perfectly predict human behavior. Drivers need to practice their role in the event of an accident so that they don’t freeze and forget important details. One method for training drivers is to use dashcam footage from previous accidents to proactively review safety procedures. This can be done either in group training or for the individual driver. Zalud notes that “drivers often are receptive to [the footage]. They get interested in what the camera is showing. That type of training also helps prevent accidents and also helps minimize liability.”

Safety incentive programs are another good way to encourage drivers to practice safe driving behavior. In addition to safe driver training, have drivers practice taking photos as documentation in the event of an accident. Drivers should use their phones for documentation only after the accident has occurred and they have secured the situation. As a baseline, drivers should photograph all vehicles involved, license plates and VIN numbers, regular and close-up shots of the damages, and pictures of the surrounding area and road conditions. Additional photos may be needed depending on the type of accident.

Drivers may be concerned about the repercussions of an accident on their job. Communicate that the best thing they can do is report the incident quickly and thoroughly without being overly defensive. Drivers should also receive clear instructions on what information to communicate to the safety manager and to any external responders.

3. Meticulously Document Accidents

A strong truck accident procedure includes detailed documentation from before and after the accident. It is the responsibility of the safety manager and/or your in-house counsel to keep current in HOS and FMCSA regulations as well as local, state, and municipal regulations and ordinances. Zalud adds that equipment information, maintenance records, and inspection data should all be part of systematically developed backdrop information that can help contextualize the accident. Safety managers should also have accurate records on all driver activity related to safety, including driver training, maintenance records logged and documentation of all pre-trip and post-trip inspections. 

In addition to traditional safety training and documentation, telematics and big data are becoming increasingly critical in accident proceedings. Outward-facing dash cams are standard equipment now, and they often help clarify the events of a truck accident. When asked about the role of dashcam footage in accidents, Zalud shared:

“Number one, they’re exonerative… That can kill many lawsuits in their embryonic phases. [On the other hand, if you are at fault,] knowing that can affect your dealings with the claimant or his or her counsel. You can cut a deal earlier. You can save litigation costs that way.”

A dashboard that enables crash analysis across your fleet over time is a valuable tool. The dashboard should include data that spans across your fleet and tracks statistics over time. At a minimum, document reasons, date, equipment failures, cost of repairs, preventability rating, drivers with multiple crashes, and similar information.

4. Keep Comprehensive Records

Tracking key data is only half of the equation. Securely retaining that data is just as vital, especially in the event of a catastrophic accident. The FMCSA has a three year requirement for accident record keeping, so that is the minimum length of time records should be on file. Failing to retain evidence can result in what’s known as a Spoliation Claim which can result in punitive damages. To avoid this, make sure to collect evidence early and preserve it securely to reduce your liability.

Ultimately, having a strong truck accident procedure is critical, but it’s only as good as your diligence in following it. Ensure that everyone in your fleet is confident in their role. A comprehensive truck accident procedure paired with well-documented driver training and meticulous record-keeping will help protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation. You may not be able to prevent a lawsuit, but you can reduce the liability and save valuable time and resources.

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safety incentive program for truck drivers

All trucking fleets have safety standards, so why is a safety incentive program so important? A safety incentive program can help motivate drivers to high standards AND help document strong safety behaviors. Incentive programs keep the focus positive. As an employer, you encourage the right behavior while also boosting company morale. This type of program infrastructure can be a great way to build driver loyalty and accomplish several safety priorities simultaneously.

Do I Really Need Safety Incentives?

The short answer is yes. Here’s why.

Most trucking companies have safety procedures and expectations, and some may also have specific metrics for their drivers. Fleet safety should be a high priority, and incentive programs are an excellent way to communicate that to drivers and encourage behavior changes

While it may not be glamorous, fleet safety and tracking are key to regulatory compliance. In the event of a safety incident, you may need to be able to demonstrate safety protocol among your team.

regulatory compliance checklist

An incentive program can encourage drivers to record their safe driving and creates a positive feedback loop. An incentive program that rewards strong performance is also good for company culture and team morale. Everyone wants to be recognized for a job well done, even if it is a job expectation. There’s also an undeniable benefit to your bottom line. A strong company culture is likely to reduce driver turnover, and that’s a tremendous economic advantage.

The benefits of a well-run safety incentive program also extend to recruiting and marketing. In addition to building internal morale, companies can build off a strong reputation and safety-centric messaging in marketing and recruitment efforts. Use driver recognition and feedback to help create positive brand recognition as a recruitment tool. 

What Should Be Part of a Safety Incentive Program?

A thoughtful safety incentive program has several distinct characteristics. First, if you are offering monetary incentives, offer enough to be meaningful to drivers. The exact amount will vary based on your location, the type of driver, and your standard compensation package. If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other ways to reward drivers. Internal or external recognition, visible insignia for drivers to show off, and flexible home time are just a few non-monetary possibilities that will still motivate drivers. Not all employees are motivated by the same thing, so you may also consider implementing a multi-pronged incentive program. Ultimately, decide what you are best able to offer, and create a strong program based on your resources. 

If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other awards that benefit drivers. There are many ways to motivate and reward hard work.

As you design or reshape your safety incentive program, keep sustainability and structure top of mind. Ensure that the program you develop is sustainable for your current and future staff. Even though safety incentive programs are often supplementary to other safety efforts, they take time to maintain. Design something within your capacity. In addition, make sure the safety program is incentivizing the right behavior. For example, a program based solely around mileage may be unintentionally encouraging drivers to drive beyond their safe limits. Thoughtfully determine success metrics when you launch the program. Then, adjust the metrics as needed when you determine points of improvement.

When to Offer Safety Incentives (And When They Won’t Work)

A successful implementation strategy for incentive programs effectively identifies “When.” Common choices for the program cycle are quarterly or annual rewards. To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Will your incentive program be effective for both local and regional drivers? If you prioritize safe driving miles, do drivers have similar routes? Or do some drivers have primarily rural routes while others are largely urban? How will this impact drivers’ ability to perform well in your program?

To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Then, decide what driver metric you will measure and how drivers will accumulate rewards.

Another timing question to consider is about rewards accrual. Will incentives accumulate for drivers or will they start clean for each new time increment? Similarly, decide whether to offer tiers of incentives or whether you will regularly feature a set of drivers like an employee of the month. Regardless of how you structure the program, start incorporating training and clear safety policies from the beginning as part of driver orientation. 

How to Communicate Safety Incentives to Drivers

happy truck driverEarly and often is the best rule of thumb for sharing a safety incentive program with drivers. Set clear expectations at the start so that drivers know how to succeed. Based on your metrics for driver incentives, tell drivers exactly what they need to do. The results should be measurable, so drivers feel it’s a fair and attainable goal. Then, share the program in clear, simple language so there’s no confusion or feeling of mystery! 

When you talk about the safety incentive program with drivers, make sure to convey the program as a reward! Internally define the program objective, then highlight the benefits and positive rewards to drivers. Avoid a system that is punitive and focuses on how drivers lose points. If designed and communicated well, your safety incentive program will stand out as a positive differentiator from other companies.

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4 Ways to Easily Ensure FMCSA Compliance

The word “audit” usually brings up feelings of panic when you hear it. The thought of a governing board or body coming to grade your business on how well it follows rules and guidelines can make anyone a little anxious. You know the rules and you seek to follow them every day. But there’s always some details that can potentially be missed, or some paperwork that’s inevitably been misplaced. With a few minor changes to your strategy, you can be ready for any audit. Here is how to ensure FMCSA compliance.

What is an FMCSA Audit?

To get ready to pass an audit, you need to know what one is. The Department of Transportation (DOT) governs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The mission of the FMCSA is to provide regulations to increase safety and decrease accidents and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles.

These audits cover everything from the basics of DOT licensing, all the way to tracking each of your drivers’ drug and alcohol testing records to ensure FMCSA compliance.

In order to work to make the roads safer for everyone, those who work in the trucking industry are subject to the rules and regulations that the FMCSA provides. From time to time, they require an audit of your carrier for compliance with these rules and regulations.

Plan for a Remote Audit

The Quick Guide to Remote Onboarding

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled countless in-person events, not limited to family parties and business meetings. In May 2020, the FMCSA issued guidance that they would conduct reviews “by leveraging all available technology to access information” and “limit exposure risk for the regulated community and safety investigators”. All the rules to follow were still in place, but the on-site review was no longer a requirement.

Planning for a remote audit is still important, and carriers need to use the prescribed ways of supplying information securely and on-time.

Using email and telephone and video calls instead of in-person interaction might seem unusual for a safety audit. However, these methods are good alternatives to keep everyone safely distanced during these unusual times.

Though remote audits were not new to 2020, they were more important that ever this year.

Use Technology to Stay Organized

Forget about keeping track of everything manually because something will always get lost in the shuffle. Move to a system of electronically tracking your documents, or better yet, use software specifically designed to help teams like yours monitor, track, and prepare for audits. These programs can be setup to give you warnings when you’re coming up against an expiration or getting close to a due date.

Take the time now to move to new automated systems to help ensure FMCSA compliance or at least start planning to phase out paper ledgers and countless pages of checklists.

Once documents have been scanned and electronically filed one time, they are stored in one place forever. No more searching high and low in a storage room full of papers for that one lost document you need for an upcoming audit.

Just like moving to an online applicant tracking system to save time, use online tools to help ensure safety and compliance. You can free-up time and space by using technology to alleviate all that paperwork.

Know the Rules

For FMCSA compliance, there are several categories where non-compliance is an automatic fail on your safety audit. Knowing the rules and having a great safety plan in place are a great place to start to ensure you’re set for FMCSA compliance. Creating a culture of safety is important. You can rally your drivers and the entire organization around it, and celebrate safety throughout the year. Having a great plan for safety and compliance can be something attractive to your future drivers and can help retain drivers at your carrier for a long career.

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Ultimate Guide to Retaining Truck Drivers

You work so hard to recruit the best truck drivers for your fleet. The trick is retaining them. This guide is packed with tips for retaining your fleet.

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stop sexual harassment in trucking

Sexual harassment in the trucking industry is a documented problem. The good news is, many people want to promote safer work environments and stop harassment. Frequently, conversations center on women who experience sexual harassment. This is not a problem exclusively experienced by women, but in a heavily male-dominated field, it is often women who report incidents. As a result of the trucking shortage, more and more female drivers are entering the workforce, and safety on the job needs to be a priority.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the subject, it makes good business sense to take clear steps to stop sexual harassment in trucking. Small companies and large fleets alike can rely on a combination of policy and company culture. What’s a good way to check if you’re doing well? Look around you. Are women drivers and employees who you recruit staying with your company? If there is a disproportionately high level of churn among female employees, uncover the reasons for that turnover.

What is Considered Sexual Harassment?

  • Quid Pro Quo: This is one of the easiest forms of harassment to identify, though it may not be easy to report or document. Quid Pro Quo is an explicit request or demand from someone in a position of direct or perceived power of “I do this for you, then you do this for me.”
  • Hostile Work Environment: This harassment is often much harder to spot. At its core, a hostile work environment is any unwanted speech or conduct that makes someone else uncomfortable and inhibits someone from doing their job. It could include anything from crude jokes or suggestive comments to inappropriate photos or shirts to nonconsensual touching or other forms of unwanted attention. Hostile work environment complaints are evaluated based on how the comment or action was perceived, not how it was intended. So, make sure employees are clear on your company policies and expectations.

How Can You Promote A Safe Workplace?

1. Policies

Many companies share sexual harassment policies during driver orientation. Unfortunately, while that may be sufficient if legal action is taken, it may not be very effective in preventing incidents. During onboarding, drivers receive a lot of new information, and the complexity of legal policies makes them difficult to understand at the best of times. 

Policies should be clear to everyone on your staff. Provide a straight forward reporting structure for documenting an incident before a situation arises.

Instead, remind employees frequently of your policies by incorporating it into your company culture. At their core, policies should be comprehensive but clear to your staff. Communicate a zero-tolerance policy of sexual harassment in your workplace. In addition, provide an uncomplicated, consistent reporting structure for documentation of incidents before there is an incident to report. Encourage employees to use this structure if they do need to report a situation.

2. Training

In addition to training all drivers, recruiters, and other employees on your policies, consider offering safety training. Offer this training to women or anyone else who wants to join the conversation about safety on the road and in the workplace. The underlying question is, “What can you do to set drivers up for safety?” 

As an employer, help prepare female and other drivers for these situations. Communicate that it is not their fault. It’s important not to place blame or hold the injured person responsible for the situation. Then, share best practices for preventing and confronting uncomfortable situations. Encourage drivers to be aware of their surroundings. Share resources such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) if drivers want to reach out for confidential help.

3. Reporting

female truck driversUnfortunately, many drivers will experience sexual harassment on the job. Decide how you will handle sexual harassment situations before they arise. Have an open-door reporting policy on reporting. Make it as easy as possible for drivers to bring an incident to your attention. Prior to an incident, clearly share how drivers can expect reports to be handled. If there are specific forms of documentation you require, make sure your employees know what that is. Take care not to set barriers that unintentionally repress reporting. 

Having a designated check-in person is another great way to encourage a culture of safety. Employees should know that they can approach that person with sexual harassment reports. If drivers aren’t coming to you, it may mean that they are too nervous or uncomfortable to broach the subject. Designate someone on staff to periodically reach out to drivers proactively about their experience on the job. 

4. Accountability

Accountability includes two sides when it comes to stopping sexual harassment in the trucking industry. The first is accountability within your company. When someone makes a sexual harassment report, it’s important that staff are trained to take the complaint seriously. In addition to prioritizing strong company values, there could be legal consequences for ignoring or glossing over a sexual harassment report. 

Hold your company and your employees responsible for their actions. A safe workplace benefits all employees.

The second aspect of accountability is to hold any employees involved responsible for their actions. Clarify how your company will follow up on the report and what the consequences will be. Clearly state (in writing when possible) what will happen if there is a repeat incident. Ultimately, a safer workplace is a positive asset for all employees.

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Driver Lifestyle & Job Happiness Survey

We surveyed over 400 CDL truck drivers nationwide to discover what makes them happy in their career and life. Access the survey report to see the results.

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4 Reasons Verifiable Fleet Safety Needs to be a Top Priority

Fleet safety is one of the most important things for a trucking company to prioritize. One bad safety incident can cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. It can cause a ripple of damaging effects for years: in bad publicity, drivers turning down jobs, and overall a long recovery from the incident. Though not every accident is avoidable, most have causes that prove to be preventable. So here are 4 reasons verifiable fleet safety needs to be a top priority.

1. Mitigate Your Risk: Drivers

Your drivers are your most valuable assets. You put a lot of time and effort into hiring them, so be sure to put that same effort and time into keeping them. Driver health is one of the best ways to mitigate risk over the road. Healthy minds and bodies make for safer drivers. If you have drivers that are overly tired or stressed, they’re more likely to make mental errors that can cause safety issues. And drivers who are not trained well certainly won’t be set up to be safe and successful drivers. Think about what you can do to help support your drivers’ health and well-being. Put plans in place to start making driver health a priority. And share those plans to everyone in the company.

2. Mitigate Your Risk: Equipment

Put risk mitigation steps in place with your equipment as well to help with your overall fleet safety. Staying current with all the required service and safety checks required for your company’s equipment is especially important.

Keeping your fleet in good repair can keep your employees more engaged. The state of your equipment can have a big impact on your drivers and how attractive your company might be to new employees. Have a clear fleet maintenance policy in place.

3. Create a Culture of Fleet Safety

Who is responsible for fleet safety? Is it left up to the drivers behind the wheel? Does concern for safety come from the top of the organization down? Is everyone aware of your safety policies? If you’re not sure of these answers, one of the best things you can do at this time is get your safety policies written down. And then share them with everyone. This is the best way to get a culture of safety started. Bake safety into the foundation of the company and communicate it both internally and externally. If not, it will always fall to someone else to be responsible for fleet safety.

4. Document Emergency Procedures

As mentioned, not every incident is 100% avoidable, and it’s true that accidents will happen. Even when you take precautions, you and your drivers need to be ready to react in case of an emergency. Having solid, documented processes in place is very important when talking about overall fleet safety. Ensuring your drivers know what do to and who to contact when a problem arises can help lessen the impact of the damage and the time getting the situation resolved.

Document your processes and procedures for any type of emergency that might arise. Ensure that your drivers have quick access to clear emergency contact information and steps to take in case of an emergency.

Taking these steps to ensure you’ve got a good start to verifiable fleet safety is an important way to create a culture of safety in your company. Working to always communicate and share updates to any of these policies is something that should be built-in to decision making and change management throughout the organization. Making that everyone in the organization is responsible for safety can make your company an attractive option when hiring new drivers.

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

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4 Tips for a Successful Driver Safety Program

Truck driver safety is of the utmost importance in the trucking industry. Keeping your drivers safe, and your fleets moving are the keys to any successful trucking company. Every trucking company should have a documented driver safety program as a best practice. So whether you’re a company with a great safety history, or a newer carrier just getting things started, here are 4 tips for putting together a successful driver safety program.

1. Make Safety Everyone’s Responsibility

The best way for any carrier to operate is with a comprehensive approach to safety. It’s not the job of the owner or the individual drivers to make sure that safety is a priority. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Safety should be baked into the foundation of the company, and communicated both internally and externally. If not, it’s always going to fall to someone else to take care of it.

Having safety as part of your carrier’s culture is a terrific way to show drivers that you care about them. It can help you attract good drivers, and keep your drivers with you for the long haul.

2. Seat Belt Programs

Wearing seat belts is important. Some might say that seat belt wearing is the most important thing all drivers should do to be safe over the road. So making sure that every driver, and passenger in the cab, wears their seat belt is a good idea.

There are seat belt detection options that can pay dividends when utilized. Adding these options to your overall driver safety program can reap great benefits over time.

3. Offer Rewards for Safety

Make sure your drivers have some skin in the game, as the saying goes. If drivers have good safety protocols to follow, give them a reward for doing their part. There are a number of ways for carriers to implement rewards that can help your drivers feel recognized for doing a great job. And these rewards can be as simple or grand as your imagination and budget allow.

Simple things like recognition boards for doing things right daily are a great idea. Or for those drivers that achieve big safety milestones, celebrate those more visibly.

4. Document Your Driver Safety Program

If the driver safety program at your company is not formally compiled and readily available for everyone, it’s not worth very much. Like most HR policies, this one should be written out and distributed to everyone, so that there’s no confusion as to what’s in it, or where employees can find it. Add this program to your formal employee review process. Be clear when communicating changes to the program. This way it’s clear for everyone to know they’ve got the most current version.

Writing your program down avoids confusion. And it ensures that everyone who needs to see it, is able to see it.

Your truck driver safety program can be a foundational part of your culture and the way the you run your company. It can help with both your truck driver recruitment and retention over time. Showing drivers that you care about their safety can make drivers feel like a more valued part of the company. To learn more about retaining your good truck drivers, get the guide below.

ultimate guide to retaining truck drivers

Ultimate Guide to Retaining Truck Drivers

You work so hard to recruit the best truck drivers for your fleet. The trick is retaining them. This guide is packed with tips for retaining your fleet.

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4 Timely CDL Lessons Delivered By COVID-19

By mid-March, most everyone was impacted by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, professional truck drivers included. Schools closed, office workers went to working from home full-time, and the grocery stores were wiped out of cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Everyone across the globe was forced to adjust to their “new normal”. But with all this seemingly bad news, there might be a silver lining to come out of it. All this rapid change might have forced companies into making decisions and changes they might not have otherwise. Here are 4 timely CDL lessons delivered by COVID-19.

1. Long-Term Planning is Important

The global pandemic affected virtually everyone in 2020. Hiring freezes are commonplace across many industries currently. Trucking companies are no exception. Quickly needing to shift gears from rapid hiring to potentially significant downsizing in a matter of weeks, was a tough change. But this time is a great opportunity to keep recruiting and getting your message out to potential future hires.

Maintaining your recruitment efforts may seem like the last thing you’d want to do when you’re downsizing. When you’re not actively hiring truck drivers, focus on building relationships in your recruitment pipeline.

Use this time to invest in your future needs and hiring once things get back on track. Many companies are coming up with creative ways to keep current employees engaged while things might be slow. Investing in the long-term is one of many great CDL lessons for many trucking companies.

2. Supply Chain Disruptions Can Be Mitigated

Global disruptions in the supply chain forced companies to make quick decisions in key areas. Production was adjusted while new suppliers were located. Longer lead times were baked into schedules. And this often resulted in higher prices and longer wait times for end products. What does all that mean for the trucking industry? The CDL lesson here is that it’s important to diversify your supply chain as much as possible. For truckers, this lesson’s impact might be felt soon, if there is a second or third wave of the virus that some are predicting.

Now that things are opening back up and shortages aren’t as common, what will happen if factories get shuttered again, or raw materials are delayed in transit? Having a resilient and diversified supply chain is the only way to mitigate this.

3. Technology is Key

Office workers in many trucking companies had to quickly migrate to working from home. Though unplanned, these transitions were easier through leveraging technology. Using new software for video conferencing improved the communications channels for remote workers, and keeps your teams informed and connected.

For your drivers, working from home is not an option. However, this is the perfect time to invest in technology and equipment upgrades for your trucks and drivers.

Finding ways to take manual paper processes out and implement more contactless options will prove to be a great investment for the future. Anything that helps keep your drivers safe is a great investment.

4. Truck Drivers ARE Essential

While many industries came to a sudden halt, truckers kept rolling. Hospital equipment that needed to move quickly to areas of need – a truck driver got it there. Those empty grocery store shelves need refilling – here comes a truck with a load of supplies. The biggest CDL lesson here is that truck drivers are essential. Those of us in the industry already knew this, but now many more people do.

It’s a great time to thank a trucker and show that you care for all that they do to keep this country moving.

If you’re still working on your plans and making changes, we hope these CDL lessons are useful to you. If you’ve have thoughts on what other lessons this time is providing to the trucking industry, drop them in the comments below, we’d love to hear your feedback.

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Times like these create uncertainty, but they also lead to opportunity. We’re here to help you and your team, whether you’re downsizing or growing.

driver care

Let’s call a spade a spade. 2020 has been a year full of surprises and challenges. As an employer in the trucking industry, you may have a front-row seat to the hardships of Coronavirus. As you’re navigating these uncharted waters, be proactive in reaching out to your entire staff. This is not business as usual, and silence will be noticed. Take this opportunity to firmly demonstrate that your company cares about drivers. Focus on driver care, and you will build positive, lasting relationships for years to come. Here are just a few ways to show employees that you value them as people as well as for their work. 

1. Clear Communication

Be transparent and proactive with driver communication. It is one of the best ways to demonstrate driver care during COVID-19. Good communication is increasingly important because face-to-face interactions are scarce and can be hard to facilitate.

As you navigate the many transitions of this year, integrate driver check-ins as a regular priority. Ask drivers what form of communication works best for them.

While you may prefer emails, your drivers may feel more connected through phone calls, video calls, or texts. Show them you care by reaching out in the way they prefer, even if it’s not your most natural communication channel. 

2. Truck Sanitation

mask

As essential workers, truck drivers are keeping our country moving. As a fleet manager, you know that keeping drivers safe and healthy needs to be top of mind. Even as other industries slowly reopen and stay at home orders are lifted, the danger is not gone. Make a plan for sanitizing fleet equipment. 

If you haven’t already, consider sending drivers out with the resources they need for their day to day work. Masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes go a long way toward making drivers more comfortable. Regardless of what you decide, clearly communicate with drivers what you are doing and your expectations for them. If you ask drivers to bring their own supplies, consider reimbursing their purchases. 

3. Mental Health

A life on the road has its fair share of loneliness for anyone, but COVID-19 adds unique stress. Often, drivers are working increased hours or are completing more runs. The pressure for on-time deliveries is high. In addition, many drivers are deeply concerned with the well-being of their loved ones.

The same home time that is often a relief may be equally or more stressful than being on the road.

As a result, even when they come home after a few days or weeks on the road, family time may be very different. Some drivers intentionally quarantine themselves when home to reduce the risk of spread. As you check-in with drivers, provide them with resources to help connect with spouses, children, and friends. 

4. Company Culture

Perhaps ironically, challenging times often provide the clearest moments for demonstrating strong company culture. Focusing on driver care helps build relationships throughout your organization. It’s also an effort that will leave a lasting impression on your drivers. Treat them well, and you will reap the benefits for years. 

Drive My Way feature of Driver Dee from Prime Inc.

There are both public and private ways to prioritize driver care. In the public eye, use this opportunity to visibly thank and showcase drivers. If you maintain social media accounts or share a regular newsletter, use your platform to elevate drivers. Trucking is often a thankless job. Even though many Americans are now publicly thanking drivers, company recognition goes a long way. Consider launching a driver showcase series where you spotlight one stand-out driver each week. Then, you’re boosting morale and offering other drivers a model of what a top employee looks like. 

Private appreciation of drivers can take many forms. In addition to your regular driver check-ins, consider writing short, personalized notes. Alternately, pack lunch bags or coolers for drivers. It’s no secret that a healthy life on the road is harder than ever right now.

Sending drivers with a cooler shows that you care and you understand their challenges. If you’re not sure where to start, ask for feedback. Most drivers are all too happy to share their suggestions for improvement. Are drivers happy with how communication and health concerns are handled? Thoughtfully consider the suggestions that are offered. Then, choose a few to implement as soon as possible. Being responsive to driver questions and concerns is a form of driver appreciation.

The Long and the Short Of It

As we move into the second half of 2020, experts forecast that companies should prepare for the continued effects of  COVID-19. Now, you have time on your side. A focus on driver care necessitates both short and long term planning. In addition to your ongoing efforts to support drivers now, start developing a relief plan for the future. Consider, what would you have done differently this spring if you had been given 4 months warning? Take advantage of your experience this spring and develop a plan to sustain your company and support drivers in the event of a second wave.

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3 Important Ways the Coronavirus Impacts the Trucking Industry

The Coronavirus may be the most talked about and least expected economic trend of the first half of 2020. Airborne diseases like influenza are common this time of year, but Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is raising concerns because of the rapid rate of infection. A full understanding of how the Coronavirus impacts the trucking industry remains largely unknown. Most companies will soon feel the impact. That may come either directly through their supply chain or through indirect economic ripples. 

As we move into mid-March, the rate of infection in the epicenter, located in Hubei Province, China has slowed. Despite that, reports of Coronavirus cases internationally, including in the United States, are increasing. To date, 423 cases have been identified in the United States with 19 deaths reported. The majority of these cases are concentrated near coastal states and shipping ports. 

Short Term Outlook: Global Supply Chain Disruptions

The global impact of the coronavirus is already evident domestically. For instance, late February marked one of Wall Street’s worst weeks ever. The automotive, technology, and medical industries are seeing some of the earliest impacts. Unsurprisingly, this can be traced to the importance of Chinese manufacturing in their supply chains. 

In August 2019, President Trump issued an order for US companies to diversify supply chains. Despite that, the reality is that many US Companies have global supply chains with a strong presence in China. Based on a study conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, 87% of companies operating in China expect the coronavirus to impact 2020 revenues. Already, the freight industry is working to stabilize against the reduced port activity. Recent weeks have seen an increased supply from Mexico.  In addition, a $225 Million grant was recently made available by the US Department of Transportation.  

Global Supply Chains in the Trucking Industry

shipping containers in port

The full impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on freight carriers who are part of a global supply chain will not clarify for weeks and even months to come. At the end of the day, the nature of the freight you carry will determine how COVID19 will most strongly affect your company. For example, carriers in technology or medical supplies may already be experiencing the impact. Sluggish import activity may be slowing loads out of port cities. Other carriers may experience a delayed impact.

Unmet Q1 manufacturing targets, lethargic return to production, and continued global virus outbreak all contribute to delays. Many Chinese manufacturing companies are returning to production. However, facilities are operating at reduced capacity as workers slowly return to work. As you know, ground transport typically makes up one of the final processes in supply chains. As a result, employers can expect the effects of the coronavirus to continue well into Q2 and Q3 2020.

Long Term Outlook

The number of ways the Coronavirus impacts the trucking industry is largely dependent on how quickly cases continue to spread globally over the coming weeks. For example, if the rate of infection slows, economic growth is expected to recover fairly quickly with a strong rebound in the second half of the year. Delayed shipments in Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2020 may invigorate sluggish freight markets in Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 of this year. In short, this uptick anticipates increased port activity to compensate for the current delayed shipment rate. On the other hand, a slow response to virus containment will bring more lasting challenges to the freight industry. 

Ripple Effects

placing money in piggy bankFor companies with a domestic supply chain, the effects of the Coronavirus will be less immediately obvious. That said, they are no less important. National and international markets already are reacting to the pandemic. As a result, we may see economic instability increase in response to the uncertainty. As this reaches individual consumers, demand for non-essential goods may decrease shipping demand.

Drivers may also feel ripple effects from the outbreak in parallel industries such as oil and gas. In the near term, gas prices may remain low due to reduced export to and demand from China. Low gas prices will benefit freight in the short term. But, a prolonged imbalance may contribute to long term economic instability.

Protect the Health of Your Employees and Company

Currently, the Coronavirus has had very limited spread in the United States. Unsurprisingly, health officials caution that the illness may become more widespread in the United States in the coming weeks.  Prioritize your health, the health of your employees, and the health of your company. In addition, take measures now to reduce how the coronavirus impacts your company. Each company’s actions can also change how coronavirus impacts the trucking industry at large. There are several common sense measures promoted by the CDC. You can implement these measures immediately to reduce any risk of infection. 

    1. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently
    2. Watch for symptoms in yourself and your loved ones 
    3. Reach out to a medical professional with any concerns
    4. Stay home when you’re sick and encourage your employees to do the same
    5. Consider offering a few extra days of paid sick leave to allow employees to prioritize their health

The health of your company is closely tied with the health of your drivers.  Consider, you may be able to weather a mild driver shortage due to illness without lasting impact. This is more serious. Quick recoveries are critical to long term company health. Ensuring that drivers are able to take the necessary paid sick days will reduce their exposure to other drivers and will help them quickly return to work.

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driver seat belt protection

Requiring driver seat belt detection isn’t just a matter of good business, it’s personal. The safety of your fleet affects so much more than the individual employees. Keep your drivers safe with a seat belt and get them home to their families. Everyone will sleep easier at night. 

While driver safety should always lead the conversation, driver seat belt detection is also good business. Whether it’s by preventing lawsuits or lost revenue, one small action can have huge benefits. Here are three reasons driver seat belt detection pays off. 

1. Increase Driver Safety

The drivers in your fleet are your company’s most valuable resource. Without a doubt, keeping those same drivers safe on the road should be a top priority. Seat belts are the single best way to increase truck driver safety. Study after study demonstrates this, and most truckers do buckle up. According to a 2015 CDC report on trucker driving habits, 5 in out of 6 drivers regularly click in before driving, but what about the last 16.6% percent? That’s approximately 583,000 drivers who aren’t protected by a seat belt on the road. 

We know you can’t be on the road with your drivers at all times, so consider a form of driver seat belt detection to motivate your drivers. As an employer, there are tools you can use to increase seat belt use in your fleet. Consider investing automatic safety procedures that alert your drivers by SMS if they are driving without being buckled up or prevent engine starts without seat belt usage. Looking for a lower tech option? Incentivize your employees to wear their belts. Remember, small rewards and perks or small financial bonuses can go a long way. Even something as simple as recognition or internal company awards can go along way toward encouraging safer driver behavior.

Driver safety is a top recruiting tool for bringing in quality drivers and retaining the good drivers you have.

Once you prioritize these efforts, don’t be shy in letting your drivers know!  Whether it comes through in your well-maintained fleet rigs or in the rewards you offer for good driving, you’re showing drivers you care. That goes a long way toward building a company culture where drivers want to be.

2. Reduce Company Liability

Everyone has heard accident horror stories. As you know, even if your drivers have met all their safety requirements and are driving cautiously, accidents happen. Unfortunately, some people may try to take advantage of a bad situation. An accident participant or lawyer may try to build a case for reckless driving based on evidence that your driver wasn’t wearing their seat belt. 

drive my way primary seat belt map

For more evidence, consider that as of June 2019, 34 states have primary seat belt laws for front seat occupants. Even if there are no other infractions, drivers can be pulled over by a law enforcement officer for not wearing a seat belt. If your company offers a ridealong program, make sure safety isn’t limited to drivers. Primary seat belt laws include passengers as well, and CMV drivers are held responsible for any other vehicle occupants. 

3. Safety Affects Your Bottom Line

While keeping your drivers safe should top the reasons to implement driver seat belt detection, there is also revenue at stake. Consider, a single truck accident costs an average of $148,279. That number skyrockets to $7,633,600 if there is a fatality. Keeping your drivers safe on the road is a good return on your investment.

In 2012, 700 truck drivers or their passengers died in accidents. 40% of the unbelted drivers could have been saved with a seat belt. Three seconds of clicking in could have saved lives and millions of dollars.

Perhaps not surprisingly, not wearing a seat belt is often just one of several unsafe practices that drivers engage in. There is a strong correlation that the drivers who do not wear a seat belt also are more likely to be found speeding and have received multiple moving violation tickets. As an employer, the best thing you can do is to build a culture of safety.

Become a Leader

Driver safety programs often start at the managerial level. The National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence conducted a year long study with 9 carriers to improve their safety records. Top successful strategies included:

  • Develop a strong safety culture
  • Comprehensive Ongoing Driver Training programs
  • Collision Mitigation Technology such as Automatic Emergency Braking, lane departure warnings, and video-based onboard safety monitoring systems
  • Strict driver hiring criteria

For each of the companies studied, there was no single practice that brought improved safety metrics. Instead, a combination of the above practices led each fleet to experience decreases in the severity and number of crashes. This also improved their overall scores in FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

 

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