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.”



Free Idealease Safety Seminar —Registration is Open


Idealease offers a free one-day Idealsafe Safety Seminar, co-sponsored by the National Private Truck Council (NPTC), to all customers and prospects.


  • 10/7/15 Erie, PA
  • 10/13/15 Toledo, OH
  • 10/14/15 Grand Rapids, MI
  • 10/14/15 Charlotte, NC
  • 10/20/15 Las Vegas, NV
  • 10/21/15 Los Angeles, CA
  • 10/22/15 San Martin, CA

This year’s seminars will focus on basic safety and compliance, regulation changes and of course, CSA. 

For more information, click here.

To register, click here.

Follow us @part380com


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

How do I get my CSA scores down?


On December 10, 2010, a pilot enforcement program known as Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010) was relaunched nationally and became Compliance, Safety, Accountability or more commonly, CSA.

The heart of CSA is the Carrier Safety Measurement System (CSMS). Another part is   the Driver Safety Measurement System (DSMS), which measures the safety of individual commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

The Driver Safety Measurement System is designed to identify drivers with a history of safety violations. The information is used to target enforcement when an investigator visits a motor carrier during a compliance review or other intervention. This information is not provided to the public.

The SMS is based on available roadside safety performance data. This roadside data is used to rank operational safety in six Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and a crash involvement (Crash Indicator). Law enforcement may use rankings within these BASICs and the Crash Indicator to select organizations for further investigation or selection for additional roadside inspections. As this information is public (except for the Crash indication), anyone including shippers, insurance carriers, job candidates, etc., can look at the BASICs as well.


If a certain score (or threshold) is passed, the basic may be flagged.


Flagged BASICs can result in DOT Audits or investigations that can last from several hours to several days, or even weeks, depending on the size of the fleet and the scope of the investigation. If any regulatory discrepancies are discovered during an audit or investigation, the DOT can respond in a number of ways ranging from fines, to issuing a downgraded safety rating, or “orders” to comply or to develop a safety plan.

Essentially, the results of every Roadside Inspection (RI) are important because the safety performance data from the inspection can affect the BASIC or CSA score.

How do I get my CSA scores down?

Says Eric Arnold of Arnold Safety Consulting:

“I am asked over and over again, ‘how do I get my CSA scores down?’ Generally speaking, you have to control your drivers. You can’t just turn them loose and let them do whatever they want to do. Every time they get written up by the police at a scalehouse, or on the side of the road, your score goes up. You need to be in your drivers’ ears all the time. It’s not too much more complicated than that.”

In addition, I recommend that you—

1. Become aware of your CSA scores. The CSA scores can be checked at:

2. Have a process in place for immediate repair of any vehicle safety defects or faults. A successful maintenance program should be 80% proactive or preventative, and 20% reactive. Catch problems when they are small and manageable.

3. Make sure your driver(s) understand Hours of Service rules and regulations (Part 395).

4. Make sure drivers are well-rested and alert when they drive.

5. Hire well. Do good background investigations and drug and alcohol testing, if required. Road test drivers before hire and do driver check rides at least annually.

6. Have a set of written standards for your fleet. Document driver and vehicle expectations. Provide drivers with safety training, manuals, guides and training. Monitor driving performance and give feedback when necessary.

7. Learn and know the DOT regulations. Know what the regulations expect of you and your team. Then communicate your expectations, on a daily basis.

Organizations with low CSA scores do all of the above and more.

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.

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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.

Just The FAQs

Just the facts . . .

Just the Facts . . .

The U.S. DOT is very concerned about bridge strikes (topping a trailer, van box or load) and use (or  improper use) of Global Positioning Systems (GPS). At least these topics are the first things listed under “Carrier & Vehicle Safety” on the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) FAQs page.

“The Agency views bridge strikes as a serious safety hazard resulting in injury and loss of life, damage to infrastructure, interruption of commerce, and delays in travel times.”

Their solution: drivers need to increase awareness of route selection by paying attention to signs and using only proper GPS systems, designed for trucks and buses. And by the way, The DOT reminds us that the maximum penalty for failing to comply with a posted route restriction, such as a sign along a roadway, is $11,000 for a company and/or $2,750 for a driver, and, of course, a bad CSA score.

But they are doing their part, too:

  • The FMCSA will work with its State and local partners to ensure they understand their enforcement authority against motor carriers and drivers that fail to abide by roadway signs.

They have a GPS brochure for drivers (opens in .pdf file).

The DOT admits it does not know if topping a trailer or load on a bridge or overpass due to improper GPS is really a problem.

FMCSA’s information systems do not have crash statistics associated with the use of electronic navigation systems. However, even one truck or bus striking an overpass is one too many . . .

The DOT’s FMCSA FAQs page looks like this:


Thank you for reading this.


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

How to Safely Crest a Hill


“The driver told police he reached down to get a cigarette as he crested a hill. When he looked back to the road, he saw the vehicle and tried to move into the left lane, but could not shift over quickly enough to avoid hitting it, according to the report.”  A 3 year old girl was killed and her grandparents and sister were injured.

Hills are a fact of driving. Because hills represent a zone of limited visibility, there is always an element of risk in cresting a hill. Is the path clear ahead or will there be a hazard on the road? A reduced *visual lead time may not allow enough time to reduce speed or maneuver the vehicle. At night the light beam might not show any low profile hazards below the crest. (*Normally at least 20 to 30 seconds ahead.)

The classic definition of a low risk driver is:

“A driver who identifies real and/or potential hazards, and reduces the risk of these hazards by adjusting speed and/or position and communicates to others his/her intentions.”

In cresting a hill, the opportunity to reduce speed is a given. Depending on the slope of the hill, the driver may already have lost momentum and is below the speed limit. But a good driver should always drive to conditions, so depending on the how steep the hill is, a driver should travel over the crest of the hill at a safe speed. And a safe speed is always a speed that will enable the driver to stop in an assured safe distance.

When training truck drivers to crest hills, I always recommend they listen to the sound of the engine as the vehicle starts to go up the hill. The engine should not be straining or start smoking before the crest of the hill. The driver should slowly start to back off the accelerator if the engine starts to strain or smoke. By doing so, a driver can naturally scrub off a lot of the speed before the crest of the hill. Sometimes this means your vehicle will be going over the hill at a crawl, but so be it. The driver must always maintain control of the forward momentum of the vehicle, and that means always being able to bring it to a stop in an assured safe distance.

Once on the other side of the hill, lost speed can naturally be regained on the downside. This is how we run the hills in our neck of the woods.


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, reminds us that studies show headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.

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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.



Driver Accident Histories


History repeats itself, goes the old saying.

One history every employer with drivers needs to study is their drivers’ driving history, both at the time of hire and during the annual review. This history is contained in a driver’s “abstract” or motor vehicle record (MVR).

TIP: Review the MVR first to find out if their driving history is acceptable.

Not every employer investigates their drivers MVRs. Sometimes the employer believes this step is not necessary because they feel they know the driver or that having proof of a license is proof enough they can drive. But in not doing so, employers are ignoring a good driver management tool.

The Science of Driver Selection

One major study by the California DMV of 160,000 randomly selected drivers has found that history indeed can repeat itself to a certain extent. It found that when looking over the past three years of data, compared to a driver who has had no accidents, a driver with one or more accidents has a higher likelihood of a future accident in the next three years. To wit:

  • A driver with one accident is 2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with two accidents is 2.3 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with three accidents is 3.2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with four accidents is 4 times as likely to have a future accident.

Traffic Violation History
Drivers who have had one or more traffic violations in the last three years, when compared to a driver with no traffic violations, are also more likely to have a future accident:

  • A driver with one conviction is 1.7 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with two convictions is 2.2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with three convictions is 2.6 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with four convictions is 3.1 times as likely to have a future accident.

Keep in mind, this study is about vast groups of drivers and is not predictive about individual drivers. Other future crash indicators beside an increased prior citation frequency or increased prior accident frequency cited by this study include:

  • Being young
  • Being male
  • Having one or more Physical &Mental (P&M) conditions on record
  • Having one or more driver license restrictions on record
  • A higher median income within a ZIP-Code area, or
  • Having a commercial driver license (which is mostly held by high-mileage professional drivers).

Principles of Evaluating MVRs

There are several principles that organizations employing best practices adhere to in evaluating a MVR:

  1. Frequency of accidents/traffic citations is more significant than their severity.
  2. A recent history of of accidents/traffic citations is more significant than an older history.

In addition to the above future crash indicators an organization could consider these additional risk factors:

Driving experience and the type of equipment
Number of jobs held
Was the driver terminated or did he resign?
Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) roadside violations

Typical hiring disqualifiers in the last three years include:

  • Two Accidents
  • One accident and two traffic violations
  • License suspension or revocation
  • One or more Serious violations, including:
  • Reckless/Careless driving
    Hit and Run
    Leaving the scene of an accident
    Disobeying an emergency vehicle
    Failure to stop for a school bus
    Failure to stop for an officer
    Open alcohol in a vehicle.

Objective organizational guidelines, policies and procedures should be put in place for both hiring and retention. If your organization has only one driver, you should have these  guidelines, policies and procedures in place. In the current economic climate insurance companies are putting a greater emphasis on underwriting (quality control) and loss control (accident and risk avoidance). Often, in my experience, employers are stumped when they are asked how many accidents or traffic convictions a driver may have and be hired or kept as a driver. Not giving the matter much consideration could result in higher insurance premiums.

In addition to hiring considerations, an MVR can indicate if a driver is in need of counseling or coaching, additional training, or does not meet your standards.

Click here for more information on the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP).




Light Checks

headlights on

One of the most common DOT violations are lighting defects or faults. While the technology has improved, the problem hasn’t gone away. A bad turn signal is an automatic Out-Of-Service (OOS) violation.

In addition to having a turn signal out on either side, other DOT OOS violations for lighting occur when:

  • Both headlamps are inoperative
  • Both tail lamps are inoperative, or
  • Both stop lamps are inoperative

What to do to avoid lighting problems?

The electrical system, like any other system, needs proper care and maintenance. This means having a preventative maintenance system in place, properly documenting inspections and maintenance, and focusing on proactive, not reactive, measures, as in replacing lamps or bulbs at the first signs of corrosion, not when they already don’t work anymore.

Tip 1. Don’t start the engine with the lights on.

Starting the engine with the lights on creates a draw on the electrical system that can burn out bulbs or cut bulb-life in half. Shut your lights off before engaging the starter or jump-starting the vehicle.

Tip 2. Spec replacement lamps properly.

A bulb or lamp is a bulb or lamp . . . right?  Not every time. Be extra careful here.

Make sure the correct lamp or bulb is going into the correct socket. Do not attempt to “upgrade” the lighting system by replacing, for example, a Halogen bulb with a high intensity discharge (HID) bulb. Even if the bulbs look alike, fit in the same headlamp, have the same wattage rating and seem to be completely interchangeable, switching the bulbs could result in an “optical mismatch,” bad lighting results, and may even be illegal.

The beam aim and pattern should not change when a bulb is replaced. This can happen if an improper bulb or a low quality replacement bulb is installed. A cheap or improper bulb could result in glare for opposing drivers and/or be illegal.

Ensure the bulbs or lenses are marked “DOT,” if *required. Headlamp bulbs are sometimes checked for the required “DOT” markings as part of a DOT vehicle inspection program.

*No marking is required by NHTSA (108) except for headlights and conspicuity tape

Tip 3. Don’t directly touch the bulbs/lamps during installation.

Fingertips contain oils which can burn onto the bulb. Protect the lamps/bulbs from contamination during installation. This will help extend the bulb’s service life.

Tip 4. Upgrade to LED stop, turn and tail lights.

LED lights have a longer life than filament bulbs and, because there is no filament, light up quicker. Use of LEDs could result in a higher level of safety performance and much longer service life cycles.

Tip 5. Use dielectric grease on the pigtail and/or other connections.

Dielectric grease helps to keep moisture, road chemicals, and resulting corrosion out of the electrical connections, ECM connectors, or connections. Corrosion is one of the major causes of truck light or electrical failures.


Lighting is one of the top areas of vehicle inspection violations. But you can proactively keep your lighting system in good working order with a preventative maintenance program, proper spec’ing of replacement parts, and following some of the above installation tips. This will result in fewer roadside inspections, less downtime, and best of all, a higher level of safety performance.

To learn more, see CMV Safety Inspection and Load Securement.

Thank you for reading this.

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.




Lessons Learned: The DOT Medical Exam in Hiring

Unreasonable beyond this point.

A large Indiana-based trucking firm was fined $200,000 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for its driver medical policies according to Crain Communications’ Business Insurance.

One error was having drivers undergo a DOT medical exam before making a *conditional offer of employment — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

(*Conditional offer of employment refers to an offer of employment that is dependent on the completion of certain conditions or passing certain tests.)

When should an organization employing DOT regulated drivers make a conditional offer of employment?

Best transportation-industry driver hiring practices include:

  • administration of a road test, and
  • (if a CDL driver) receiving the results of the DOT pre-hire drug test/screen

before making a conditional job offer. Once a conditional job offer is made, a candidate can then be asked to undergo a DOT physical or medical examination.

A second error by this carrier was asking disability-related questions before a conditional job offer was made. Once a conditional job offer is made, Federal law permits medically-related inquiries of drivers, if the questions are (1.) job-related, and (2.) consistent with business-related necessity.

 . . .if a job applicant volunteers such information, the interviewer is not permitted to pursue inquiries about the nature of the medical condition or disability. Instead, the interview should be refocused so that emphasis is on the ability of the applicant to perform the job, not on the disability.

Motor carriers should also be cautious of any broad medical-clearance policies as: a requirement to notify the company of any contact with medical professionals, or deploying overly broad medical-release forms.


It is unlawful under the ADA to ask drivers questions about medical conditions and/or a disability before a conditional job offer is made. Steer clear of this topic in a pre-hire interview.

Medical records of all applicants and employees must be kept separate from all other personnel information.

Keep any employee medical records in a secure area (under lock and key) with limited access.

Be sure to review your policies, procedures and company manuals to comply with the ADA requirements.

To learn more, see The DOT Safety Audit Guide.

Thank you for reading this.

Accident Event Recorders

What are Accident Event Recorders (AERs)?

Accident Event Recorders refer to the use of video technology to capture events, both in front of the vehicle and/or inside the cab. An example, earlier this year, is the fatal accident caught by a transit bus involving the then Bruce Jenner.

According to Safety, Claims and Litigation Services, LLC, (SCLS) an affiliate of National Interstate Insurance Company, AERs can improve driver performance and save lives.

AER technology is not a “black box” accident recorder, known as an Electronic Control Module (ECM), and it is not an electronic logging device (ELD). AERs capture real-time video and sometimes other data in the course of an event, incident, or accident.

Why use AERs?

Fact: almost everyone over-estimates their personal performance, especially in driving. AERs can be used as a coaching and training tool by capturing events that may be indicators of a bad driving habit, a risky behavior or even plain ignorance (you don’t know what you don’t know).

Secondly, we know that most drivers behave differently when they know they are being monitored. AERs, however, begin recording an event when triggered by a sudden movement or hard braking (G-forces). Studies of driver behavior when AERs are introduced seem to show an improvement in driver behavior, shown by a reduction in claims. And fewer claims means lower insurance rates, let alone the cumulative savings from collision avoidance.

After reviewing the driving behavior and incidents of 39 companies over a 6-month period using AER technology, companies were able to save upwards of 24% on their losses per AER installed. So, for a company with a fleet of 50 vehicles, that’s a claims cost savings of nearly $32,000 per year.

SCLS found that those same 39 companies in their study were able to reduce the number of incidents by nearly 10% in just a 6-month period.

Accident Event Recorders should not only pay for themselves, but result in a return-on- investment. The greatest return might be in knowing your fleet is operating safely.



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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.