As a motor carrier operator, you are to be responsible for all operations under DOT or NSC record. This includes both the vehicles as well as the drivers operating them – you are even accountable for leased vehicles and contracted employees.
That’s why prioritizing safety can have the biggest impact on your business.
A business that focuses on safety will:
- Have fewer delays caused by mechanical breakdowns
- Improve efficiency of drivers and vehicles
- Spend less time at random inspections, if its vehicles are stopped
- Avoid the necessity for sanctions and fines implemented by the FMCSA and Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement
There are four main aspects to managing your safety:
Training of Drivers & Staff
You drivers are on the road every single day, and their behavior can greatly benefit or damage your safety score.
To make sure they maintain high safety standards, you will want to train them on the latest Hours-of-Service rules that are applicable to them.
Build a robust training program
It is important to not only have training for newly onboarded drivers, but also existing drivers to reinforce safe behavior and knowledge.
New Hires: Ensure that you have a training program in place to get both your drivers and your staff up to speed with hours-of-service rules in the jurisdictions that apply to your operating locations.
Refresh Training Sessions: It is useful to have an annual training session to refresh your drivers and your staff on hours-of-service and to answer any questions about changes to rules, or how it applies in specific circumstances.
In order to best manage your driver behavior, make sure to:
- Understand the hours of service rules
- Ensure your drivers do not drive for longer periods than legally allowed;
- Ensure your drivers get the rest periods they are required to have;
- Keep accurate records that show your drivers are working within the legal limits; and
- Ensure your drivers who travel into other provinces or territories know and follow the federal hours of service regulations.
You and your drivers are equally responsible for working within the hours of service rules. As a carrier, you are responsible for setting up practices that ensure your drivers follow these rules.
Ensure that your drivers and staff understand concepts such as duty statuses, certifying logs, marking 30-minute breaks, completing vehicle inspection records, on-duty annotations.
Maintenance of Equipment
Keeping a clean safety record will require you to maintain, inspect and repair all vehicles according to the regulations.
Similar to the first section, ensure inspections are done when necessary on all vehicles that operate under your safety record. In general, inspections must be done on all:
- Buses – every 6 months
- Vehicles that have a licensed GVW of more than 8,200kg
– every 12 months if between 8,200kg and 17,300kg
– every 6 months if over 17,300kg
- Trailers and semi-trailers – every 12 months
- Dump and logging trailers – every 6 months
Along with your driver training program, make sure to establish a vehicle maintenance program.
Your program should include the following:
- Keep check sheets that are applicable to the make, model, year and style of your vehicles.
- Establish a schedule for maintenance of the vehicles, as per the manufacturers’ recommendations.
- Ensure that all items checked during a pre-trip inspection are also checked during your regular maintenance.
- Ensure trip inspections are done properly. A complete trip inspection must be done on every vehicle before its first trip each day. A post-trip
inspection must be done at the end of the final trip of the day.
As a carrier, to improve your safety score, perform:
- Proper trip inspections are done on each vehicle every day it is used
- A trip inspection report is properly completed before the vehicle is driven each day and at the end of the last trip of each day
- Any defects impacting the safe operation of the vehicle are repaired prior to use
There’s a lot to keep track of, so here are some tips and best practices for you.
- Set up a recall system to track when inspections are due.
- Decide on a regular maintenance program for each of your vehicles, and set up a system to remind yourself of each vehicle’s scheduled maintenance.
- Schedule each maintenance visit according to a set number of kilometers driven, and/or
- The vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maintenance plan is a good starting point to ensure your vehicles are properly maintained.
- Schedule each maintenance visit according to a set number of kilometers driven, and/or
- Train employees and drivers to inspect and maintain vehicles.
- Develop a written maintenance program. Include in your program a way to check whether people are
following the program.
- Provide copies to each of your employees and drivers.
- Ensure your employees know how to conduct proper pre and post trip inspections. Ensure they also know
how to properly complete a trip inspection report.
- Follow-up with any necessary disciplinary action if a driver fails to complete a proper pre and post trip
inspection, including completing and submitting the report.
Safety On The Road
One of the best ways to maintain a good safety score is to make sure your drivers never encounter any safety issues on the road. That means that they should take the time to prepare for their trip, and take measures to ensure their trip is smooth.
Drivers: During their Trip
Drivers are required to retain supporting documents for their current trip with their daily logs. It is the carrier’s obligation to ensure these documents are accurate and to retain them with the logs.
These may include:
- time-stamped fuel receipts
- bills of lading and shipping documents
- accommodation receipts
- meal receipts
- customs documents
- toll payments
- interchange receipts
- payroll records
- mill slips
- copies of co-driver’s logbook (even if the co-driver is no longer with
- any other documents to support the entries in the daily log
Drivers: After their Trip
At the end if their trip, drivers should present documents back to the carrier for record keeping.
The carrier must:
- Get your drivers to give you their original daily logs within 20 days
- Monitor and review the logs to ensure compliance
- Inform drivers of non-compliance, record date and details of the occurrence and document the
action taken with the driver including the date the driver was notified
- File all daily logs with your other records within 30 days of when you receive them
- Keep each of these logs in your files for at least 6 months
Implementing Policies & Procedures
Knowing what needs to be done and the rules to follow for a good safety score is the easy part.
The difficulty lies in making sure everyone follows the safety processes you’ve trained them on.
In order to tie all safety processes together, you’ll want to implement a safety system for monitoring every aspect of your fleet.
Regardless of the size of your business and carrier and how often drivers operate, building a safety system is necessary.
- Pick one person to receive all driver updates
- Give your dispatcher the responsibility of getting regular updates from all drivers.
Requiring regular and thorough updates will:
- help you know your drivers are following the rules, and
- help your drivers get into the habit of providing thorough updates on time.
Make sure that drivers the number of hours in each hours of service status (driving, off-duty, on-duty), and have your dispatcher trained to ask questions and coach drivers when they identify that too much time is spent in any status. Any breach of hours of service compliance can result in a lower safety score.
As part of your procedures, create a safety plan and manual that will outline what policies drivers need to follow.
Creating a Safety Plan
A detailed safety plan will help you operate more safely and help you meet your NSC obligations.
We recommend that you involve your drivers, lease operators, and other employees in the process of writing the manual. That will result in a tailored guide that is easy to understand for everyone required to follow it.
Some suggested components to include in your policy manual are:
- Hiring policy for drivers
- Monitoring process for driver performance
- Monitoring process for hours of service
- Monitoring process for trip inspection
- Monitoring process for vehicle maintenance
- Monitoring process for dangerous goods (if applicable)
- Employee signature and date in agreement with the policy
- Driver licensing
- Obtaining driver abstracts (license records) at least every 12 months
- Handing in violation tickets, Notice and Orders, roadside
inspections and accident reports
- Hours of service
- Disciplinary policy
- Driver signature and date in agreement with the policy
- Schedule of maintenance
- Check sheets for each schedule
- Trip inspection report
Managing your company’s safety score can be a lot to manage, especially when you have the rest of the operations to run.
It is important to have a simple to use ELD that prevents violations from occurring, but also the right people in place to ensure that you are audit ready, that your drivers are being coached, and that you have the right safety processes in place.
Many companies opt to outsource this work to safety and compliance companies, who have safety consultants that take care of most of the items we’ve outlined in this guide.
However, not all safety and compliance companies are made equal, so make sure to pick a consulting company that has the experience to take on this work, such as our team of safety & compliance experts at Frontline Compliance Services.