What is a DOT Safety Audit?

safe What is a DOT Safety Audit? Backgrounder . . .

It started with the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act (MCSIA) of 1999 (Public Law 106-159) which established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000.

Section 210(a) of MCSIA, now codified as 49 U.S.C. 31144(f), required regulations specifying minimum requirements for applicant motor carriers seeking federal interstate operating authority, including a requirement that new entrants undergo a safety audit within the first 18 months of operations. These safety audits started January 1, 2003.

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) [Pub. L. 112-141, 126 Stat. 405 (July 6, 2012)], requires the FMCSA to complete safety audits within 12 months for property carriers and within 120 days for motorcoach passenger carriers.

FMCSA has started nationwide implementation of the Off-Site Safety Audit Procedures. Beginning in summer 2015, FMCSA will do off-site new entrant safety audits in the following 11 States: Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and Washington, DC. Passenger and hazmat haulers do not qualify for off-site audits. The remaining states and territories will move to off-site audits over the next 36 months.

audit ahead

Rules and Regulations

49 CFR Part 385 describes Safety Fitness Procedures. New motor carriers need to register for a DOT number and any required authorities (a federal certificate to haul) before beginning interstate operations.

49 CFR 385.5: The Safety Fitness Standard requires carriers have adequate safety management controls in place over the following areas:

(a) Commercial driver’s license standard violations (part 383),

(b) Inadequate levels of financial responsibility (part 387),

(c) The use of unqualified drivers (part 391),

(d) Improper use and driving of motor vehicles (part 392 ),

(e) Unsafe vehicles operating on the highways (part 393),

(f) Failure to maintain accident registers and copies of accident reports (part 390),

(g) The use of fatigued drivers (part 395),

(h) Inadequate inspection, repair, and maintenance of vehicles (part 396),

(i) Transportation of hazardous materials, driving and parking rule violations (part 397),

(j) Violation of hazardous materials regulations (parts 170-177), and

(k) Motor vehicle accidents and hazardous materials incidents.(various parts).

Safety management controls means:

The systems, policies programs, practices, and procedures used by a motor carrier to ensure compliance with applicable safety and hazardous materials regulations which ensure the safe movement of products and passengers through the transportation system, and to reduce the risk of highway accidents and hazardous materials incidents resulting in fatalities, injuries, and property damage

49 CFR 385.321 gives the reasons for audit failure as (a.)  failures of safety management practices (as described in Appendix A), and (b.) a table of violations that lead to automatic failures of the audit (such as not having an approved DOT drug and alcohol testing program in place, using drivers with no CDL or driver’s license or who were disqualified, not having insurance, running out-of-service drivers or equipment or a vehicle without an annual (periodic) inspection).

In Summary . . .

Every motor carrier regulated by the U.S. DOT needs to apply a set of principles, framework, processes and measures to prevent accidents, injuries and other adverse consequences that may be caused by unsafe commercial drivers or unsafe commercial motor vehicles (CMV).

Please see part380.com to learn more.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

 John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer (989) 474-9599)

Keys to DOT Audit Success: the Mindset


You Get the Notice

Somebody, usually from a state DOT agency, or occasionally from the U.S. DOT wants to look at some or all of your records. In fact, there are over 60 (sixty) regulating U.S. government agencies that issue compliance regulations. Insurance companies also may review your policies, procedures, and work-safety files.

Don’t panic. The best way to approach any audit is by having the proper mindset.

Mindset has been defined as:

The established set of attitudes held by someone.


A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.


The thought processes characteristic of an individual or group: ethos, mentality, mind, psyche, psychology.

What are a few things that should be kept in mind during a DOT audit? Here are a few suggestions.

The Audit Mindset

1.) Even the best get audited.

2.) Keep everyone informed of the upcoming audit. If not informed, staff might assume something is wrong.

3.) The auditor is there to do his or her job; help them to help you.

4.) The key to audit success is preparation.

5.) Prepare on a daily basis, not the day before the audit.

6.) If you are not prepared, things start to happen: control of the situation rapidly shifts to the auditor, turning the audit into an emotional event.

7.) If you are not prepared, you may not have necessary documents ready, or are ready to supply unnecessary documents, overloading the auditor.

a. Examples of “information overload” include:

• An accident register recording all accidents and incidents, including non-DOT incidents.
• Providing three months of records, when only one month was asked for.
• Accident files with too much paperwork or details.
• Driver qualification files with other paperwork of a personal nature or documentation not required by the auditor.

b. Tip: Hand over only what was asked for: nothing more, nothing less.

8.) Conduct a “re-audit” as you are audited: keep a list of all documentation provided.

9.) A key component of DOT audit preparation is to know the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (including Hazardous Materials Regulations, if applicable). Know your rights. Know your duties and responsibilities.

10.) Nobody is perfect. Nobody is expected to be perfect.

(Source: DOT Safety Audit Guide management program)

Top Tip: You are never required to sign an “admissions statement” that reads, “This statement is being made of my own free will . . .”

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599 Twitter @part380com

Preventing Roll-overs of Pedestrians


Pedestrian fatalities average about 8% to 10% of all motor vehicle fatalities each year. Tragically, some involve trucks, as recent headlines show:

• A 46-year-old woman was killed when a private sanitation truck struck her as she crossed a street.
• An 82-Year-Old Brooklyn Woman Killed by Dump Truck as she crossed a street.
• A 46 year driver was run over by two sets of the trailer’s dual wheels. He is permanently disabled after suffering 30 surgeries costing over $2 million dollars.
• A 28-year-old TN man was run over by semi-trailer in a parking lot

As each situation accident or incident are different, there are no easy and fast rules that will cover every circumstance. Drivers and safety leaders, however, should be able to construct good safety practices from a solid understanding of safety principles; understanding that knowing safety principles should be more important than memorizing “best practices.”

Drivers need to be aware that:

(1.) Many crosswalks will not allow enough time for a pedestrian to cross by the time the light turns green.

(2.) Pedestrians have right of way. Vehicles must always yield to pedestrians, and/or be ready to yield.

(3.) Children have no traffic sense. Children will dart in the street, often unexpectedly. Slow down near schools, playgrounds, and areas marked “children playing.” (Slow means about 25 MPH or less).


In addition, truck drivers should:

(4) Always check under an *unattended trailer and around the wheels, especially in times of low lighting and visibility as at night or early morning, or evenings (especially where alcohol is served). Carry a good flashlight (with extra batteries) for this purpose.


(5.) Stop well behind the crosswalk at intersections. Be able to see the crosswalk when stopped. There is a huge blind spot in front of the hood of many trucks and buses. Watch out for people in walkers or in wheelchairs, and the very young and old..

(6.) Be prepared to stop and yield in making any turn at any intersection

(7.) Always maintain visibility of any helpers, spotters, lumpers or other crewmembers, especially when backing or making turns. Maintain eye contact.

(8.) Always set the brakes when parking the vehicle, even for a short time. (Yes, this needs to be repeated.)

(9.) Idle forward slowly when starting to move forward. “Green” always means proceed cautiously, not “go.”

(10.) NEVER APPLY FUEL WHEN BACKING. Idle backwards.

(11.) Warn others of your intentions when backing with two taps of the horn: One tap to get attention, the second tap is the warning. Use the emergency lights when backing.

(12.) Maintain what is called situational awareness — know what is going on around you.

Thank you for reading this. Please pass this on to your safety department and/or drivers.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is a independent Risk Engineer and former Truck Driving School operator. (989) 474-9599 


* Q. What is an “unattended” trailer?

A. The phrase unattended truck or trailer has been defined by a well-known insurance company as:

“A truck which has been left without a responsible person whose duty is to drive, guard, or attend the truck being either on, in, or within ten yards of the truck.”



Why do Trucks Crash?

Jan. 9, 2015 I-94 Pileup near Galesburg, MI

Over a period of 33 months, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS). Of 141,000 large truck crashes, a sample of 963 crashes involving 1,123 large trucks and 959 motor vehicles that were not large trucks, were studied and field data gathered.

Crash reconstruction experts rarely conclude that crashes are the result of a single factor. . . . In the LTCCS, ‘causation’ is defined in terms of the factors that are most likely to increase the risk that large trucks will be involved in serious crashes. 

Driver critical reasons leading to the Critical Event (the crash) were coded in four categories:

  • Non-Performance: The driver fell asleep, was disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or was physically impaired for another reason. (12%)
  • Recognition: The driver was inattentive, was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason. (28%)
  • Decision: For example, the driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely. (38%)
  • Performance: For example, the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control. (9%)

Top 10 “Causative” Factors – Trucks 

  • Overweight (vehicle factor)
  • Making an illegal maneuver
  • Inadequate surveillance
  • Traveling too fast for conditions
  • Inattention
  • Following too close
  • Misjudgment of gap or other’s speed
  • Stop required before crash (roadway factor)
  • External distraction
  • Brake problems (vehicle factor)

(Factors in a study are also called independent variables, not changeable by other factors or variables.)

Seven of the Top 10 were driver factors, involving inadequate recognition or poor decisions. Two were vehicle factors: trucks being overweight, and trucks with brake problems. One factor was a roadway factor: a stop was required by a red light, congestion, work zone signal, etc.

It is well recognized that human error is the dominant contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes, although vehicle features and driving conditions may also affect crash risks in a road transport system composed of human, vehicle and driving environments. Lei Li – Monash University, Karl Kim-University of Hawaii at Manoa, J. R. Statist. Soc. A (2000)


Michigan State Police FACT Study

From 1996 to 2001, the Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Enforcement Division (MCD) sponsored the Fatal Accident Complaint Team (FACT) program to collect data on fatal commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes in Michigan.


In the majority of fatal truck crashes, the FACT data show 58.8 percent of the critical events resulted from the action of another vehicle, 6.0 percent from the action of a pedestrian or pedalcyclist, 20.9 percent from the action of a truck driver, and 6.0 percent from loss of control of a large truck.

Accident Prevention and Countermeasures

  • Reduce accident rates by establishing a company standard for safe driving.
  • Keep a current, updated safety manual for your drivers and instruct drivers on the company standard.
  • Have a formal fleet safety program and review its effectiveness.
  • Monitor driver qualifications and any driver safety infractions. Recognize and reward safe driving.
  • Accident countermeasures are examples of Defensive Driving strategies designed to reduce preventable accidents. A preventable accident is one which occurs because the driver fails to act in a reasonably expected manner to prevent it.


All the studies and data I have come across point to the preventability of most motor vehicle accidents. It’s a well known fact that changes can result in unintended consequences. Rapid growth can result in a lowering of recruiting standards. An economic downturn or loss of a large account can result in lower vehicle or maintenance standards or cutting of driver training and safety programs. The consequences show up months or years later. By then, the new standards are set and change is very difficult.

Thank you for stopping by.

Stay alert. Stay alive.

J Taratuta John Taratuta (989) 474-9599 @part380

Beware: Murphy’s Law in Passing Under Bridges . . .

East End Bridge

Murphy’s law says: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

There are some safety events and incidents that can almost be predicted. Chicago has many rail lines running in it, through it and around it including the L-line and six of the seven biggest railroads in the U.S., channeling more than 1,300 trains a day. Storrow and Memorial Drive in Boston is famous for its low-clearance overpasses and bridge strikes.

Another town, 12 miles southwest of Boston, is becoming famous as a graveyard for trucks. The East Street Bridge in Westwood, MA, with a clearance of 10 feet 6 inches, has claimed 15 trucks in 2014 and it looks like 2015 may break that record.

Most of the crashes were box trucks, but the toll included:

  • a cement truck
  • several fuel delivery trucks
  • a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus (the bridge is owned by MBTA)

Violent end

Police records show the East Street Bridge has been hit many times over the years. Police have installed a camera at the location. A low clearance sign on the bridge was recently knocked off, but there are several other signs leading up to the bridge, including the small sign in the lower right hand of the picture. A number of construction warning signs, shown in the photo, might have been distracting . . .

 Bridge strikeNobody has a solution for the East Street Bridge.

Here are a few tips to avoid Murphy’s Law when driving under a low-clearance bridge:

  • Be aware that advance warning signs are not provided at all low bridges. Signs are stolen, fade away, or are sometimes missing.
  • Some posted sign heights are not always correct. Sometimes the road has been repaved and several inches of clearance has disappeared.


  • bridgingSometimes the front of the vehicle will clear the bridge but the road may rise and this will force the middle of the truck into the bridge. This is called “bridging.”
  • GPS may route a commercial vehicle under a low-clearance bridge. 
  • Following approved routes may not guarantee the absence of a low-clearance bridge or overpass.
  • Ask drivers during their road test or check rides the bridge height, after they have passed under the bridge.
  • Ask drivers the height of the vehicle they are driving. In the UK the height must be posted on the dash by law.

 Having delivered in Chicago and Boston, my approach to clearing a low-clearance bridge or a bridge of unknown clearance is to:

  • Put the 4-ways or warning lights on.
  • Pull up the bridge and check the clearance.
  • Proceed slowly. Stop and check again, if necessary.

In one situation, I had the bottom of bolts from under the bridge start to rub the roof of the truck. I needed to back the truck out. Another driver told me he had to stop when a train went overhead because the bridge deflected under the weight of the train and the bolts were touching his trailer.

Beware of Murphy’s Law

Currently there is a program in Chicago called Create (an acronym for Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program), that will replace 25 rail intersections with overpasses and underpasses. But that is a drop in the bucket to the thousands of low bridges and low-clearance overpasses in the U.S. and the many more ill-prepared drivers.

The most important safety device in a truck is the windshield, with an alert driver sitting behind it.

Stay alert. Stay alive.

Thank you for reading this.

 J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

The Top Risks of 2015 . . .

Top 2015 Risks

Risky Business

In May, the Travelers Indemnity Company released their Second Annual Travelers Business Risk Index (.pdf) based on a survey of 1,210 business risk managers.

Transportation: Medical cost inflation tops the list of worries by a wide margin (75%). When asked what specifically worries them, risk managers in this industry said they worry about driving accidents caused by their employees (60%), employee injuries (60%), and distracted driving (57%). Employee safety training is widely used (61%) as a prevention measure.

Risk is part of any business. Risk, like rust, never sleeps. It is always there and never goes away. Risk, unlike safety, is never controlled, only managed.

But small business (the bulk of trucking companies are small) does not consider Risk Management much of a priority. In one of their press releases for this study, the Travelers said :

Few respondents consider risk management a strategic priority. Decision makers at small businesses (11 percent) were least likely to name risk management as a strategic priority or an important management activity, compared with medium-sized (20 percent) and large (36 percent) companies.

Strategy is defined as a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.

Certainly, putting together a plan of action for a business sometimes seems like an exercise in futility in our era of rapid changes. But the implications of the above numbers (11% vrs 36%) seem clear: bigger businesses do more planning and have more carefully thought-out policies than do smaller businesses or organizations.

From the above chart, it appears that the biggest risks for transportation today are in rising costs. Costs will only continue to rise. There is still some turbulence in the world economy, leading to uncertainty. The only way to beat the cost game is by higher productivity. Higher productivity can only be achieved by working smarter— which means more planning, prudent risk taking, and intelligent risk avoidance.

Top Tip: Many small fleet owners do not realize their insurance company or insurance producers have safety support resources available. These resources range from safety websites and online training materials, loaner videos, loss control guides to partnerships with safety-technology vendors or safety experts. These resources are already included in the cost of the premium. Participation in some safety programs may result in a discount. Contact your insurance agent for more information.

Thank you for reading this.

*     *     *

Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.

Safety Matters


Here’s Your Sign!

Almost everywhere there is another sign, poster, message, tweet or blog about safety. Safety is a national obsession. Safety, we are told, is job 1.

Various permutations of safety spawn forth on almost a daily basis in various forms of risk management, loss control, safety engineering, industrial hygiene, and other disciplines. This is due in part to changes in law, technology, and even the economy. Preventing or mitigating accidents just makes sense.

The loss of a breadwinner or a family member is devastating. Any accident has severe consequences for a business or organization. This we know. So the real issue is not why but how?

How do we get people to pay attention or increase awareness? And, how can we encourage them, if they see the warning signs and red flags, not to ignore them? How can we change attitudes? How do we increase not just knowledge, but understanding?

These are difficult questions. Whole departments (safety, risk, loss control) in some organizations are dedicated to answering these questions. Every year the various levels of local, state, and federal government pass thousands of new laws and regulations in the name of safety. When safety morphs into the dreaded word compliance, this alone makes safety challenging, As a risk engineer and safety consultant I find that I, too, must dedicate an increasing amount of time on almost a weekly, if not daily basis in keeping up with the new changes, mandates and constant revisions.

By the Numbers

For the last 15 years the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has released its Workplace Safety Index, a ranking of the top 10 leading causes of workplace injuries and their costs in terms of workers compensation. The 2014 Workplace Safety Index (using data from 2012), ranks workplace injuries and comp costs as follows:

1. Overexertion $15.1B 25.3%
2. Falls on same level $9.19B 15.4%
3. Struck by object or equipment $5.3B 8.9%
4. Falls to lower level $5.12B 8.6%
5. Other exertions or bodily reactions $4.27B 7.2%
6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle $3.18B   5.3%
7. Slip or trip without fall $2.17B 3.6%
8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects $2.1B 3.5%
9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks $1.84B 3.1%
10. Struck against object or equipment $1.76B 2.9%

The Real Costs

The true costs of accidents are much greater and often hidden. For example, this chart does not tell us that fatal injuries to truck drivers increased in 2010, 2011, and 2012 ( U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Other transportation related statistics from the BLS show:

  • For delivery drivers, 13 percent of the injuries and illnesses were due to transportation incidents, which trailed overexertion and bodily reaction (41 percent); falls, slips, and trips (23 percent); and contact with object or equipment (19 percent).
  • For tractor-trailer drivers, the leading causes of nonfatal cases also were overexertion and bodily reaction (35 percent); falls, slips, and trips (30 percent); contact with object or equipment (17 percent); and transportation incidents (14 percent).
  • Among injured tractor-trailer truck drivers with injuries requiring days away from work, 62 percent were age 45 or older.
  • The median number of days away from work for tractor-trailer truck drivers was 19, and the median for delivery truck drivers was 15.

Truck drivers experienced higher than average rates of both fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses compared with all private industry occupations in 2012. Over the 2003 to 2012 period, the number of both fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses to truck drivers decreased. The majority of fatal injuries were from transportation incidents, although nonfatal cases were more likely caused by overexertion, falls, and contact with objects.— U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The numbers show that driving is a hazard prone profession and we need to continue to put forward our best efforts in creating work environments in which safety matters.

J Taratuta John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

Setting up a Hands-Free Mobile Phone Home Button

No texting.

Texting or using a hand held mobile telephone while operating a CMV is illegal and considered a serious violation. Very serious. Texting while driving can result in driver disqualification. Penalties range from a $2,750 fine for drivers and up to an $11,000 fine for employers.

A hands-free mobile phone is acceptable. For example, the Satechi BT Button Series makes your smart phone accessible with a single press of a button. The button is 1.375 inch in diameter so it can be mounted on the dash or a key chain. The button can be used to activate Siri or S Voice for hands-free operation.

While a hands-free mobile phone is acceptable, distraction.gov reminds us that studies show headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.

*     *     *

Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.



The Level One Post-crash Inspection

Crash Indicator BASIC

Q. Can a Roadside Inspector conduct an inspection after a collision? How is this fair, if the vehicle has been mashed up?

A. A commercial vehicle involved in a crash can be given a Level I North American Standard Inspection (Safety Inspection) covering: driver’s license, medical examiner’s certificate (if required), and medical waiver, if applicable, alcohol and drugs, driver’s record of duty status as required, hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, and critical items as the brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake lamps, tail lamps, head lamps, lamps on projecting loads, safe loading, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, emergency exits on buses, and HM requirements, as applicable.

If some of the parts and accessories are damaged due to the crash, the officer may document any defects that need to be repaired before the vehicle can go back on the road. If the defects were the result of the collision, then no CSA points for the defects should be assessed against the carrier.

Tip: Check your Crash Indicator BASIC After a Crash

Any post-crash vehicle damage to parts or accessories due to a collision should not result in CSA points. Check your CSA scores on your Crash Indicator BASIC at least thirty to forty-five days after the collision.  If CSA points were assessed against your organization in error, they can be challenged through the DOT’s DataQs system.




Truck Tire Blowout

Colleton County Fire-Rescue

Fact: tires fail. When a truck tire fails, especially a front tire, it can lead to loss of control and a crash or rollover.

Causes of Tire Failure

One study for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (TRI) found the main causes for tire failure include:

  • Road hazards— 32 percent
  • Maintenance/operational factors— 30 percent and
  • *Overdeflected operation— 14 percent.

*Overdeflected operation means a tire that was operated either underinflated or overloaded or a combination of the two, leading to tire failure.

The study noted, “Tire failure and debris . . . are rarely the cause of a truck crash, factoring in less than 1 percent of all such accidents.”  New and retreaded medium truck tires have about the same failure rates and modes.

Driver Response to a Tire Blowout

The driver must always control the vehicle. If a tire blows out, the driver may or may not hear it, but will feel the blowout either in the steering wheel, if the front tire is flat, or in the seat, if one of the “drives” goes flat.

Safety experts recommend in the case of a sudden tire failure, that the driver SHOULD NOT BRAKE and SHOULD NOT TAKE THEIR FOOT OFF OF THE THROTTLE

In a tire-failure situation, drivers should instead mash down on the throttle for such duration as to regain control of the vehicle.

This seems counterintuitive, but makes sense. Loss of a tire can affect steerability and braking or suddenly slowing down with a flat tire can result in the vehicle pitching forward, resulting in less control.

Once control of the vehicle is regained, the driver can ease off and guide the vehicle in a controlled manner.

This technique assumes the driver is not running up against the governor and has some engine power in reserve. Another study by the NHTSA noted that there are no truck tires rated over 81 MPH. The study cited high speeds and a lack of maintenance as contributing factors in fatal truck tire blowouts.


In a truck tire rapid air-loss situation, drivers should STOMP on the throttle and STEER to a stop.

Check tire pressures frequently. A tire gauge is better than a tire thumper.

Visually inspect tires for wear or damage on a daily basis.

Never make a habit of running RPMs up against the engine governor. Keep a little power in reserve for emergencies.

Always drive at reasonable speeds, based on the condition of the vehicle and tires, road conditions and weather, and type of load. Never exceed speed limits or safe speeds for driving conditions.

Remember, the goal is to arrive safely.

Email us at admin(at)part380(dot)com. Thank you for visiting.

Understanding the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)


The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) is codified as 49 U.S.C. §31105. The STAA is not a “regulation” but instead a federal law. The STAA is not administered by the US DOT but instead is enforced by OSHA.

The purpose of the STAA is to protect commercial vehicle drivers from retaliatory action by carriers if they refuse to drive due to safety concerns. STAA covers not only private sector drivers (including independent contractors while personally operating a commercial motor vehicle), but other employees of commercial motor carriers (including mechanics and freight handlers), if they are involved in activities directly affecting commercial motor vehicle safety
or security.

Commercial vehicles under the STAA :

• Have a vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle
weight of at least 10,001 pounds (whichever is
greater); or,
• Are designed to transport more than 10 passengers,
including the driver; or,
• Transport materials deemed hazardous by the
Secretary of Transportation in a quantity requiring
placarding (posting) under applicable regulations.

Retaliatory action may include:

  • Firing or laying off
  • Blacklisting
  • Demoting
  • Denying overtime or promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Denying benefits
  • Failing to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation
  • Making threats
  • Reassignment affecting promotion prospects
  • Reducing pay or hours

For STAA violations OSHA may order:

  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Back pay (with interest)
  • Compensatory damages, and
  • Punitive damages, up to $250,000
  • Expungement of the driver’s employment and *DAC Report records
  • Post notices in the workplace about STAA rights for employee review.

All new CDL drivers in interstate commerce since July 20, 2004 are required to have mandatory training in their rights under the STAA (Part 380, Subpart E—Entry-Level Driver Training Requirements).

How to Avoid STAA Troubles

  • Learn and know the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
  • Have a system in place to capture and document reports of non-compliance and unsafe conditions or unsafe vehicles.
  • Take seriously any safety reports.
  • Train dispatchers and supervisors in the nuances of what could be considered “retaliatory action” under the STAA so they are aware of and do not engage in that behavior.
  • Make sure everyone is accountable for safety.
  • Review policies and company manuals to encourage reporting of any unsafe conditions or workplace non-compliance.


*DAC Report is the Drive-A-Check pre-employment report.


Top Tips for Cold-Weather Starts

Icy dump


As the temperatures drop into single digits or lower, batteries lose their cranking power and can fail. Here are a few winter starting tips to extend battery life.

Top Tip No. 1: Turn the lights on before cranking the engine

If the temperature drops to single digits or colder, run the four-way or emergency flashers for 15 to 20 seconds before starting the vehicle. Another option is to turn the headlights on for the same amount of time. This helps to energize a chilled battery.

Caution: Be sure to turn any lights off before cranking the starter. The electrical current load while starting or cranking an engine can burn out the light bulbs or cut the life of the lights in half.

Top Tip Number 2: Heat your diesel’s aluminum air-intake pipe

Diesels do not have spark plugs; they ignite fuel by heating up air blended with a mist of diesel fuel. If your diesel engine does not have a block heater (or it fails or wasn’t plugged in), one way to help get the engine going on a cold day is to heat the aluminum air-intake pipe. Aluminum melts easily, so be sure to fan the heat over the pipe.

Caution: If you are not sure what to do or what the aluminum air-intake pipe is or where to find it, then do not attempt this.

Top Tip Number 3: The 24-hour Battery Recharge

In making short trips around town, the battery might not get fully charged. If the battery is totally run-down, it might need to be re-charged. For a lead-acid battery, this won’t happen in ten to fifteen minutes. A recommended practice is to charge the battery for 24 hours to fully charge the battery. Follow the instructions on your battery charger or any tips from the battery maker.

Top Tip Number 4: Wear Proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Always wear safety glasses and gloves if working with batteries. If working around batteries or recharging batteries or jumping batteries, sparks and hydrogen can occur and this might result in a battery explosion. Battery acid in the eyes can result in blindness.

Top Tip Number 5: Never Drop a Battery

Dropping a battery can kill it. Dead. Never drop a lead-acid battery. Treat batteries with the respect they deserve and they will never fail you.

The technology of the lead-acid battery has not changed much in the last sixty years or so. But a vehicle’s batteries can last the life of a vehicle, if properly maintained and managed.