Editor’s note: This is part two in a two-part series. Read part one here.
The process of ensuring driver compliance does not stop after a driver is hired. A continued dedication to safety and compliance is necessary throughout a driver’s employment, and it should not be a subject that is saved for an annual performance review.
Integrating training and coaching programs into the driver experience can save a company significant money and minimize the risk of serious accidents.
“The ultimate concern for the motoring public is safety. Safety is the best defense against any claim,” according to attorney Doug Marcello.”Should the worst happen, having a compliant driver is a defense against claims of negligence. It is the competent, qualified drivers that are the backbone of the safety program, which ultimately, is the defense in any litigation.”
Marcello is an attorney with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). His primary focus is on serving the trucking industry.
When it comes to defending a company against claims of negligence, technology and data really do matter.
“Proving that you are using processes supported by best in class detection of unsafe driving behavior – such as using reputable ELD and dash camera technology – helps centralize driver data in one place instead of disparate systems,” J.J. Keller Senior Transportation Editor Mark Schedler said. “This helps mitigate any perception of negligent supervision.”
Key factors of compliance
In order for a driver to be compliant, they must remain medically qualified and maintain a valid license. While regulations only require these factors to be confirmed once a year, annual check-ins leave companies vulnerable for the other 364 days.
Regular license monitoring, either by the carrier itself or a third-party partner, is an important part of catching compliance issues before they turn into serious problems. It is also important to keep track of drivers’ medical card details and ensure the doctors issuing the cards are on the national registry.
“A standardized, centralized and consistent driver file management program is essential to sustaining on-going safety and for minimizing risk,” J.J. Keller Client Service Manager Rob Johnson said.
Outside of license and medical card concerns, carriers should be aware of the changes coming to drug and alcohol testing. Beginning in January 2020, carriers and Medical Review Officers (MROs) will be required to upload failed drug and alcohol tests to the FMCSA Clearinghouse database. Carriers will also need to search for new hires in that database.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse database is intended to keep impaired drivers off the road and make America’s highways safer, but it also adds a layer of complexity for carriers moving through the hiring process. A third-party partner like J.J. Keller can help carriers navigate these additional steps.
Know what data is available
With all kinds of telematics devices installed on nearly every truck on the road, companies often do not even understand the scope of the data these devices are gathering. If a company does not know the data exists, it cannot use the data to gain insights into what is happening on the road.
“In terms of data, companies are drinking from a firehose. There is an overwhelming amount of data, so one way to approach it is to identify the most crucial information, the information most indicative of a driver having an accident, and focus on those key data points,” Marcello said. “The other is the have some type of dashboard, even if it is from a third-party provider, that can provide you with a source of data information that allows you to see the key indicators of your drivers.”
One of the main benefits of utilizing a third-party dashboard to visualize data is freeing up human capital. If a company does not want its people to have to manage the constant influx of data from its telematics devices, a third-party product may be the answer.
Third-party partners can also assist carriers in mining data sources that may be hidden in plain sight.
“CSA data is truly a valuable tool to help you recognize trends. The key is to massage the data to render it more helpful and meaningful for effective driver and company safety management,” Johnson said. “J. J. Keller brings much of the data together, through their CSA Performance Suite, to help carriers address concerning scores or trends.”
Monitor the data
Once a carrier knows what data it has, safety personnel should be making a consistent effort to monitor what is going on inside the fleet.
“What we want to make sure of on an ongoing basis is that the drivers you have, at a minimum, meet the requirements and qualifications that you have for new drivers,” Marcello said. “If a driver has developed a record with you such that you wouldn’t hire him if he sent in his application, you have to either address those issues by training and supervision or you’ve got to let him go.”
Someone needs to be monitoring the data in order to catch issues before they turn into catastrophes.
Act on the data
Carriers should be addressing the safety and compliance issues illuminated by the data with both individual drivers and its driving force as a whole.
“Online or onsite training programs should be established in response to performance issues or skill gaps, so both drivers and office personnel are knowledgeable about best practices and regulations,” Schedler said.
Marcello said having the data available and not acting on it is “extremely problematic.”
He recommended that all carriers implement annual, biannual or even monthly group training sessions to address issues that are widespread throughout the fleet. Carriers should also be bringing in individual drivers who prove to be unsafe on the road on an as-needed basis.
“Have an ongoing training program to address all drivers at least once a year on general issues the company is experiencing,” Marcello said. “Look at potential individual programs to help support the deficiencies they have.”
Individual intervention should typically involve counseling and coaching. These programs are intended to help prevent repeat issues, allowing companies to keep more drivers on the road instead of having to let them go for incessant or serious safety violations.
“The first thing to do is bring them into counseling, depending on the severity of the issue. Have a training program to discuss the areas of deficiency they have, and monitor them going forward,” Marcello said. “You have to look at whether or not the driver is responsive to the training and supervision the coach is giving them.”
Utilizing the data that is already available can help carriers retain drivers, reduce costs and lower the risk of tragedies on the road.
Outsourcing vs. in-house
Some carriers may choose to hire a team of in-house employees to monitor the constant stream of data flowing in from ELDs and dash cams, but others may prefer to contract that work out. The right solution depends on the specific carriers’ needs and resources.
Creating an in-house team allows carriers to maintain ultimate control and does not require them to share data with an outside source, while working with a third-party partner alleviates the high price and serious time commitment needed to build an in-house solution.
“Monitoring the data, establishing a solid training program, and providing regulatory guidance is no small task,” Schedler said. “This is why many carriers use services like J. J. Keller’s, where driver data is centralized and monitored continuously, removing some of that burden for fleets.”
Regardless of the method a fleet chooses, it is clear that better data monitoring is sorely needed in the transportation and logistics industry.