File Under . . . Driver Hiring Standards Undone

Trapped It was a violent crash. Anytime a vehicle is caught between two trucks it never turns out good.

The CDL driver said he does not know what happened. The driver was convicted of driving without a license, and allegedly has two drug charges pending against him.

An investigation by WRAL found the CDL driver had eight driving-related violations since 2008, but seven were dismissed.

The owner of the truck said the driver was his cousin, had a CDL and  passed an insurance background check.  He expressed shock at his cousin’s bad driving record.

Lessons Learned

Many times in the course of a loss control inspection, I will ask small fleet owners if they have driver hiring standards. They say they sure do. When pressed for details, however, they admit their standards are not in writing, they are not sure of the exact details and, in any case, they rely on their insurance company for the yea or nay before hiring.

When driver turnover is low, this might not be that unusual. It seems like a hassle to put down some of your expectations for  a new driver, especially when you have never had any problems before. Besides, who doesn’t have enough paperwork to do as it is?

This type of — lets say — complacent attitude is being noted today by insurance companies. When you don’t know what you are looking for in a driver, how will you know that you have hired the right one?

And should your insurance company act as your de facto HR screener? They are going to reject obviously risky drivers, but as the above situation shows, when driving violations are dismissed, occasionally bad drivers are hired.

Put It in Writing . . .

A driver hiring standard looks something like this:

  • The minimum age for a driver: usually 23-25, but younger may be acceptable.
  • The minimum past driving time or experience: 1 to 3 years. While this is not a DOT requirement (the driver must be qualified by reason of experience or training), more experience gives a candidate a better track record.
  • Minimum education: high school diploma or GED. Note research has found that smarter drivers have the most longevity on the job. Always hire smart.
  • Training standards. Has the driver attended a professional school appropriate for the class of license and vehicle they will be driving? Has the driven taken (or will the driver be given) any defensive driving training?
  • Motor Vehicle Record (MVR): no more than 1 moving violation in 2 years or no more than 2 violations in 5 years. Some organizations use a flexible standard, looking for a pattern and seriousness of the violation. Others use the insurance company point system: such as a maximum of 4 points in 3 years. Serious moving violation include: Speed at or in excess if 15MPH;     Running Red Light/Stop Sign or other traffic control device; Following Too Closely; Erratic/Unsafe Lane Change; Unsafe Driving. Other serious offenses include: Fleeing a police officer; Racing on a public highway; Careless or reckless driving; Leaving the scene of an accident; DUI/DWI listed on MVR.
  • Collisions: The average driver has one collision about every five years. If a driver has had several at-fault accidents in the most recent three-year period, the odds are that the driver will have more. It is recommended by some safety experts that a maximum of one at-fault accident ever be accepted. Tip: Accidents/collisions appearing on the MVR can be supported with a copy of a police report or other official documents before hiring.
  • Disqualifying factors: violent crime, felony, DUI (7 – 10 years back maximum), some go back over the driver’s lifetime.
  • Work History: This may vary by sector, but a candidate with a history of frequent job changes may continue the pattern.

Be innovative in selecting the driver hiring standards that make sense for you. The efforts you put into it are well worth it to your organization.

Thank you for reading this.