No Driver Cell-Phone Policy? Policy Not Enforced? Not Good.


Just the Facts

3-8-2015 — Zachary Barngrover, 23, was driving a tractor-trailer and allegedly was on his cell phone when he was making a left from 43rd Street onto Ashland when he failed to keep a proper lookout and yield the right-of-way to a mother and her two kids, resulting in a triple-fatality accident.


5-13-2015 — Truck driver Miroslav Kuzmanovic, 22, was allegedly on his his cell phone and failed to reduce speed of his tractor-trailer, causing a chain reaction crash. He was charged with reckless homicide as well as four counts of wanton endangerment. and one offense for communications device violation.


July 08, 2015 — 36-year-old Jorge Espinoza of Yuma AZ was sentenced to six years in prison for second-degree murder for looking at his cellphone before an accident that killed an Arizona Highway Patrol officer, while driving a tractor-trailer.

A Growing Problem

It is believed that the use of cell phones is a factor in 25% of crashes. While many states ban cell phone and texting while driving, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The use of a hand-held mobile telephone according to the FMCSA means:

  • Using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone to make a call;
  • Dialing a mobile phone by pressing more than a single button; or
  • Reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires a driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt.

DOT penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving.

One does not have to look at CSA Violations Summary listings to see truck drivers talking on a cell phone, texting or surfing the net.

Research by Virginia Tech shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving, than for those who do not

Cell Phone Use Countermeasures

Craft a crystal clear policy on the use of communication devices while driving.

Train dispatchers or supervisors not to talk to or text drivers while they are going about their business.

Encourage drivers not to communicate, call, text, or use electronic devices while driving.

Have drivers sign your cell phone / electronic device policy.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

Please don’t call 989-474-9599 while I’m driving.





What are Loss Control Recommendations?


If you start a new (or renew) an insurance policy, chances are the insurance company may have its safety staff (called “Loss Control” or Risk Engineers or Risk Managers) contact you by phone or stop over in person. The purpose of their contact is to conduct a safety survey of your operations. A recent major loss or a series of claims also may trigger a visit from Loss Control staff or subcontractor safety specialists.

Or you might have noticed a major loss at a competitor’s business and can ask for a Loss Control safety survey. There is no charge for this service. It is included in the cost of the insurance premium, and may help reduce the premium in the future.

The Loss Control Engineer will ask questions and may take measurements and photographs, and discuss his or her findings with you and perhaps give you a list of recommendations or “recs.”

Recommendations are suggestions to a business or organization to take specific actions, issued with the intention of future accident prevention. Perhaps regulations have changes and now your operations are out of compliance. Perhaps safety creep or “drift” has set in and staff were observed taking shortcuts like jumping off trucks or the decks of trailers or not using mandatory equipment or safety practices. Perhaps some practices are out of compliance and need to be upgraded.

Recommendations are sometimes classified as:

• Critical
• Important
• Advisory

Critical Recommendations relate to conditions or practices creating a high potential for loss of life, severe bodily injury, destructive loss of property or significant financial loss. These are things that need to be corrected. Examples might include not having a fire extinguisher where needed, or not having a no-cell-phone-use-while-driving policy.

Important Recommendations relate to a conditions or practice that needs improvement to establish better exposure controls or improve conditions to reduce the probability and/or severity of loss. These are things that should be corrected. An example is road-testing all vehicle drivers, even if regulations say a CDL driver does not have to be road tested.

Advisory Recommendations are defined as administrative type recommendations that could be considered “best practices.”  An example would be providing defensive driver training for non-commercial drivers on staff, as office personnel.

Recommendations are made specific to the operational conditions observed at your organization or business.

prior recommendation status

Status of a Recommendation

The Loss Control department may assigns a status to each recommendation after reviewing your actions or proposed actions. Here is how the Chemical and Safety Board assigns status to its safety recommendations:

Open – Awaiting Response – The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the Loss Control evaluation staff of a response is pending.

Open – Acceptable Response – Response by recipient indicates a planned action that would satisfy the objective of the recommendation when implemented, including a written timetable for completion.

Open – Unacceptable Response/No Response Received – A response to the recommendation has not been received in a specified or reasonable time of issuance, or the recipient responds by expressing disagreement with the need outlined in the recommendation.

Closed – Acceptable Action – The recipient has successfully completed action on the recommendation. The action taken was as specified in the original recommendation.

Closed – Acceptable Alternative Action – The recipient has successfully completed action on the recommendation. The action taken was approved by Loss Control as an acceptable alternative to the original recommendation language that meets the objectives envisioned by Loss Control.

Closed – Exceeds Recommended Action – Action on the recommendation meets and surpasses the objectives envisioned by Loss Control, in a manner that enhances the extent of reduction of future risk.

Closed – Unacceptable Action/No Response Received  – A response to the recommendation has not been received in a specified or reasonable time of issuance, or the recipient response by expressing disagreement with the recommendation or offers an alternative response that Loss Control does not view as an acceptable alternative. In addition, Loss Control concludes that further dialogue will not persuade the recipient to act.

Closed – No Longer Applicable – Due to subsequent events, the recommended action no longer applies (e.g., the equipment, plant or facility was destroyed and not rebuilt, or the company went out of business).

Closed – Reconsidered/Superseded – The recipient rejects the recommendation based on a rationale with which Loss Control concurs. Reasons for this status may include, for example, situations when later facts indicate that the conclusions of Loss Control should be modified, that concerns expressed in the recommendation were addressed prior to the incident, when a recommendation should have been directed to a different recipient, or when a recommendation is superseded by a new, more appropriate recommendation.

The point here is that Loss Control may follow-up with additional contacts by phone or in-person to close out any recommendations. Once a recommendation is made, the recipient needs to followup on it in some manner. It just doesn’t go away.

In Conclusion

Action is key. Action should be taken on all Loss Control recommendations. If a recommendation will take some time to implement, will not work out, or is too costly for the benefits received, that conclusion should be brought up to the attention of your Insurance Loss Control representatives. Keep Loss Control informed of the status of all recommendations. Good Loss Control will ultimately lower your insurance premium.


What is the #1 Safe Driving Behavior?

camera cops

Operation Peek-A-Boo on I-5

What is the one safe driver behavior every driver should do every time they drive?

Doing this one simple safe driving behavior:
• Would have saved 3 out of every 5 people killed in vehicle crashes.
• Reduces the risk of fatal or serious injury by up to 50%.
• Ensures driver control of the vehicle— when it is needed most.
• Protects the driver’s head, spinal cord, organs and limbs.
• In a rollover, a truck driver is 80% less likely to die.

Examples of not doing this safe driving behavior:

  • A Stockton, CA truck driver lost control of semi-truck and was killed.
  • Three Chicago-area movers were killed on a rain slicked road when their semi-truck jackknifed.
  • In fact, 35 percent of the truck drivers who died in 2012 were not doing this.

 But there is more to the story.

Researchers in one study have found that truck drivers who sometimes do this (7.8%) or never do this one behavior (about 6%), likely work for a company with no written safety program and engage in other risky behaviors as:

  • Driving ≥10 mph (16 kph) over the speed limit (5-7 CSA Severity Points),
  • Receiving two or more tickets for moving violations in the preceding 12 months (10 or more CSA Severity Points)

In the epoch of CSA, high insurance cost, and other associated costs of high-risk behaviors, who can afford such drivers?

Yet if one looks at the CSA Violation Summary of any organization or company pulled at random, they will generally find several citations for not doing this life-saving safe driving behavior— sometimes multiple citations for the same risky behavior.

Why don’t drivers do this?

Some reasons cited by drivers are because they:

  • Forgot to to do it. It’s not a habit
  • Are only travelling a short distance.
  • Can’t be bothered.
  •  “Feel safe” in a big rig.
  • No body will catch them.

Safe Driving Countermeasures

Implement a written safety program.

Monitor the CSA Violation Summary

Keep reminding drivers that they are required by federal regulations to do this and it is part of the job they signed on to do.

Provide job coaching and counseling for errant drivers.

As a last resort, use progressive discipline. Don’t settle for substandard behavior.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

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

What are some Driver Out-of-Service (OOS) Violations?

false log

Roadside Inspectors follow Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) criteria for placing drivers Out-of-Service (OOS) for regulatory violations. During the stop the Roadside Inspector will ask the driver some basic questions about his or her recent activities and ask for today’s logsheet and the previous seven days’ worth, and possibly various supporting documents as trip bills, receipts, tolls, etc.

Some examples of Hours of Service (Part 395) violations resulting in an OOS include:

On Duty Beyond Maximum Periods Permitted
No driver shall drive after being on duty in excess of the maximum periods permitted by this part. Part 395.13 (b)(1).

No Record of Duty Status (RODS)
No record of duty status in possession, when one is required. Part 395.8(a)

No Previous 7 Days Logs
Failing to have in possession a record of duty status for the previous seven (7) consecutive days. Part (395.8(k)(2) — See Exception in Part 395.13(b)(3) – if the duty status is not current on the day of examination and the prior day, but driver has completed records of duty status up to that time (previous 6 days) — the driver will be given the opportunity to make the duty status record current, but may be cited for 395.8(f)(1) – Driver’s record of duty status not current (which is better than an OOS).

False Record of Duty Status
A false record of duty status is one that does not accurately reflect the driver’s actual activities and duty status (including time and location of each duty status change and the time spent in each duty status) in an apparent attempt to conceal a violation of an hours of service limitation within the current 60/70 hour rule period. Part 395.8(e)

Consequences of Being Placed Out-of-Service
• The driver must be placed Out-of-Service for ten (10) consecutive hours. The driver cannot drive any commercial motor vehicle while in OOS status.
• In addition, a driver may get a fine up to $200, per violation, per log-book page.
• The company may receive a $1,000 or greater fine by the FMCSA after a compliance audit or CSA intervention.
• The company will get CSA points.

Drivers can be placed Out-of-Service, if not medically fit, missing their prescription glasses or contacts, ill, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, not having a CDL in their possession, driving on a suspended license, etc.

Drivers should abide by any and all OOS orders. Fines to a company for violation of an OOS order can run in thousands of dollars and/or result in suspension of credentials to operate.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John E. Taratuta is an Independent Risk Engineer. Call (989) 474-9599 to chat him up.





Understanding Whistleblower Protection

Uncle Sam

Whistleblower Protection is right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer without the employee’s risk of losing a job or being subject to reprisals simply for stating a safety concern (29 CFR Part 1978). The the Employee Protection Provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) of 1982 was codified in 49 U.S.C. §31105.

As of October 20, 2004, every CDL driver in interstate commerce (and a number of states) must receive Whistleblower training as one of four required training areas for Entry-level Driver training.

Unlike most transportation rules, whistleblower protection regulations for drivers are not enforced by the DOT but are are administered and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

An organization or firm found in violation of whistleblower rules may have to pay fines, back wages, litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees, and have to rehire and reinstate the driver, as well as, since 2007, pay punitive damages in an amount not to exceed $250,000. Claims for several drivers filing together for protection have approached $1 Million at one company. OSHA says STAA claim filings are up almost 10% from 2011 and over 30% since 2006.

Employer Responsibilities

Earlier we noted that the Employee Protection Provision of STAA established a “right.” With every right comes a responsibility.

An employer who doesn’t like something an employee is doing at work can put them “on notice.” For example, the employee is late for work. The employer has the right to alert the employee to that fact and give them some kind of warning or ultimatum. Perhaps in that particular situation the employee was delayed by factors beyond their control. The employer should take that additional fact under consideration.

If a driver-employee (and the definition of employee here is broad including an independent contractor when personally operating a commercial motor vehicle, a mechanic, a freight handler, or an individual not an employer, who directly affects commercial motor vehicle safety or security) has a safety concern (hazardous safety or security condition), they can put the employer on notice to their safety concerns in the following two circumstances (Both circumstances are considered distinct.):

  1. An employee may refuse to operate a vehicle when such operation is in violation of any regulation, standard or order of the United States related to commercial motor vehicle safety or health.
  2. An employee may refuse to operate a vehicle when they have a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public. In this second instance, the employee must also have sought from the employer and been unable to obtain correction of the unsafe condition hazardous safety or security

The activities protected under STAA include complaints to the FMCSA or other agency responsible for commercial motor carrier safety (e.g. highway patrol) or testifying in any proceeding related to a violation of commercial motor carrier safety.

In addition to being fired or laid off, an employee may suffer “adverse action” in the form of being: blacklisted; demoted; denied overtime or promotion; disciplined; denied benefits; not being hired or rehired; intimidated; a recipient of threats; reassigned affecting promotion prospects; and a recipient of reduced pay or hours.

Cases brought under the whistleblower provisions of STAA are referred to as actions alleging “retaliation” rather than “discrimination,” because focus on actions taken by the employer as a result of an employee’s protected activity rather than as a result of an employee’s characteristics (e.g., race, gender, or religion).

This doesn’t mean an employer cannot fire or demote an employee if the employer has cause. Under the Clean Harbors ruling (146 F.3d at 21-22), the employer bears “the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have taken the adverse employment action in the absence of the employee’s protected activity.”

How to Avoid an STAA Claim

Have crystal clear safety policies and procedures. Written policies are better than oral.

Have clear job and work expectations. Have a process in place to report and correct any unsafe conditions or hazards.

Take seriously any report concerning safety, hazards or compliance. Make sure supervisors are attune to all safety and hazard concerns. Investigate and document.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

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


Let’s Eliminate “Unsafe Driving”


Violation Summary

If one looks at their organization’s CSA Violation Summary, the list generally starts off with “Unsafe Driving” violations. Unsafe Driving is one of the six CSA Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

Unsafe Driving violations vary from “392.16 Failing to use seat belt while operating CMV” (essential to maintain control of a vehicle), to “392.2Y Failure to yield right of way” (the leading cause of fatal crashes), to “392.82A1 Using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a CMV” (a factor in up to 25% of all crashes).

In short, Unsafe Driving violations get to the crux of safety. By definition, the unsafe driver is operating unsafely. The unsafe driver listing varies by company from zero violations to dozens, some reoccurring again and again and again. Congrats, if no such violations are listed on your CSA Violation Summary.

Turning a Blind Eye . . .

There is a leadership quote making the rounds these days. It goes like this:

“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

An organization’s culture is how it gets things done. Safety culture is the reflection of attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to doing things safely or as safely as possible (free of risk).

Culture is the organization's immune system.

Another quote says:

“When the leader blinks, the entire organization turns a blind eye.”

How does this happen? How does one not see what is going on, sometimes, literally, “before their eyes?”

The concept of “willful blindness” originated in criminal law in the nineteenth century. One becomes willfully blind when there is knowledge that they could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, in order to evade responsibility.

I know there are companies that do not actively check their CSA scores. Sometimes they are not aware of CSA. In some situations, they have never been inspected by the DOT and have nothing to see. The most common excuse I hear is that resources are lacking. And it’s true, there is never enough time in the day when you are pulled in ten different directions. If so, then it’s time to prioritize and put safety-related activities back on the top of the to-do list.

Everyone should check their CSA scores to at least make sure that there are no DOT violations which were mistakenly listed. You can bet the insurance company will check the CSA scores when it comes time to set the premium.

Eliminating Unsafe Driving Violations

There is no secret to eliminating Unsafe Driving violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a helpful brochure on this called, “Safety Management Cycle for the Unsafe Driving BASIC.” You may not agree with all of its suggestions, but this is a good place to start.

We should be able to agree that there is no place for unsafe drivers on U.S. roads. While we are not responsible for other driver’s behavior, we can influence our own drivers, and  eliminating Unsafe Driving violations is a good place to start. Here are some additional safety tools:

  1. Driver coaching is effective in changing unsafe behaviors. According to a study by Teletrac, up to 40% of drivers change their behavior after their first safety warning.
  2. Telematics can provide real time information on safety events as harsh acceleration or braking (when more force than normal is applied to the vehicle’s brake or accelerator), harsh cornering (the coffee-cup test— if the driver is cornering fast enough to spill a coffee cup, then it’s too fast of a turn), and speeding.
  3. Accident Event Recorders capture safety related events, both in front of the vehicle and/or inside the cab, with video technology. Insurers may offer a discount for their use.
  4. Pay attention to reports from the general public. At times, the reports may be unwarranted or unjustified. Look for patterns of unsafe driving behavior.
  5. Perform check rides. Most of us over-rate our own levels of performance. Periodic check rides provide drivers with feedback on their driving and safety skills.  For example, one Texas ready mix company with over 100 trucks has a retired driver doing check rides with every driver at least once a year,
  6. Set your own standard of safety. Ex. One large motor carrier bans all U-turns.

Finally, do not tolerate any Unsafe Driving. Vehicles are much larger, roads are congested and on some days, it’s really crazy out there. Taking unnecessary risks or turning a blind eye to those who do, invariably leads to unintended consequences . . . usually of the negative sort.

Rules don’t protect people; people protect themselves and each other by observing the rules, by following safe and healthy work practices without having to be reminded constantly. (Contractor′s Supplies, Inc., Toolbox Talk)

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

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

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.

Do you know the true cost of fleet ownership?


One of the most difficult task in any business is determining cost. In some cases, it’s only a “best guess.” In other cases, transportation businesses have underestimated cost and provided their services at a loss.

Heavy Duty Trucking magazine and Ryder are offering a free webinar today, “Do you know the true cost of fleet ownership?” To control or allocate costs, they must first be identified.

The presenter is Kirk Morton, Director of Financial Consulting, National Accounts
Ryder. Mr. Morton has worked in the transportation and logistics industry with Ryder for 40 years. He consults with companies in the area of the total cost of operating a private fleet. Mr Morton has a Bachelor Degree in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA in Finance from Georgia State University.

Some of these costs have been illustrated by Ryder in an infographic here.

To learn more or register, click here.

If you have missed this webinar, it is available online here.

Contact Ryder at 1-866-235-6266 or visit Ryder’s blog.

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 authors.

One “Dead Give Away of a Pothead”


A Different Kind of High . . .

According to the Pew Research Center, in the last decade, attitudes toward marijuana use have changed. Fewer people see smoking marijuana as morally wrong and the Millennial generation is the most supportive of marijuana legalization.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the agency which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), show illicit drug use in the United States has been increasing and marijuana use has increased since 2007. SAMHSA’s data indicate that more than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana.

It is a major violation of federal regulations to drive a truck or bus under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol. Employers are required to conduct mandatory pre-employment screenings and random drug and alcohol testing of CDL drivers.

Title 49 CFR Part 40 regulates drug and alcohol testing for all Commercial Driver License (CDL) holders in safety-sensitive positions.  A safety sensitive position is a job or position where the person holding this position has the responsibility for his/her own safety or other people’s safety. If the job functions and duties are such that a failure to properly perform the functions or job duties would put the employee or others in risk of physical injury, it is considered a safety sensitive position. Every year organizations and companies must randomly test at least 50 percent of their CDL drivers for drugs, and 10 percent of their CDL drivers for alcohol. Owner-operators and motor carriers who have only one CDL driver must join a drug testing consortium. (See: Am I Covered?)

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act mandates a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for all national commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders. The clearinghouse will collect driver information on failed drug and alcohol tests.

CDL driver supervisors are required to have Drug and Alcohol Reasonable Suspicion training, if the organization or company operates vehicles that require a CDL on the public roads, under 49 CFR 382.603 Training for supervisors.

A Dead Give Away

Here’s a sign of marijuana use in a truck— used by safety staff in top transportation companies and by law enforcement nationwide— called a “dead give away” of a marijuana user.

Top Tip: Check for little burn holes in the truck seat.  These are not from the “cherry” falling off the end of a cigarette, but from pot seeds that burn through the paper or pop out of a pipe.

Another secondary sign of smoking marijuana in a company vehicle (sometimes more easy to obliterate or disguise) can be “black stains” from ash, burnt pot, or resin on the seat.

An Ounce of Prevention . . .

Have a drug and alcohol policy with crystal clear explanations of what behavior will not be tolerated and what consequences will follow from drug or alcohol use at work.

Consider enrolling staff not covered by 49 CFR Part 40 in a Drug Free Workforce Program.

Never put a CDL driver to work without having the results of their pre-employment drug screen.

Owner-operators and motor carriers who have only one CDL driver are DOT regulated and are required to do DOT drug and alcohol testing per 49 CFR Part 40.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

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

Safety Culture versus Safety Climate


“Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get.”

Safety, like weather, can be measured. Instead of temperature averages, we measure unsafe acts, incidents and accidents. We also investigate accidents. We also want to know the reasons why accidents occur and how to prevent them in the future.

Tip: Serious accidents have the same root causes as minor accidents as do incidents with a potential for serious loss. It is these root causes that bring about the accident, the severity is often a matter of chance.

All accidents should be investigated to some extent, based on the loss potential. This is part of Loss Control, an essential characteristic of top performing organizations and businesses.

Immediate causes (unsafe acts and conditions) are obvious and easy to find, and may indicate poor safety attitudes and/or a lack of proper training.

Root causes are not so obvious, and may point to organizational failure in the management’s safety system and controls.

Tip: Beware of “Safety Creep” — Staff unintentionally drift away from safety controls by replacing procedures with short cuts.

Safety Culture and Safety Climate

How your organization or company responds to safety events, accidents and incidents is based on its underlying beliefs and values. This will determine what is known as your Safety Culture and Safety Climate.

Safety Culture is about “what people do.” Safety is, after all, about behavior — being safe. Safety Culture is stable over time and can be applied to the organization/company as a whole. Safety Culture is affected by policy and the tone at the top.

Safety Climate is the perception in the workplace of how safety is managed or “how people feel,” their attitudes and mindset.  These can reflect the views of your smallest units – teams, departments, groups, silos, etc. Safety Climate can best be changed by safety training and enforcement of policy.

Safety Culture and Safety Climate are sometimes described as two separate ends of the same piece of string. The term “safety culture” first appeared in a report about the  Chernobyl disaster. In many cases the terms Safety Culture and Safety Climate are often used interchangeably.

The bottom line is that attitudes toward safety matter and can affect overall accident and incident trends. An organization or company can work to achieve what is known as a positive safety culture.

A Positive Safety Culture

Safety experts have identified five indicators (or facets) of a positive safety culture:

• Leadership,
• Two-way communication,
• Involvement of staff,
• The existence of a learning culture,
• The existence of a just culture

Leadership sets the “tone at the top,” the direction, the safety vision. Only leadership can impart the importance of a strong management commitment to safety.

Effective two-way communication between management and staff is essential for an open and honest discussion of safety, to learn local information and give feedback, and place sufficient emphasis on the impact of careless behavior and unsafe acts. This would include:

  • Developing and issuance of a good safety policy statement, throughout the organization or company.
  • Communication via methods as warning sheets, videos, interactive systems, and safety newsletters.
  • The communication of major risks. Many driver hazards are not from vehicle collisions but from slips/trips/falls or material handling and overexertion.
  • Effective reporting from staff of frontline safety issues and problems. (In turn this requires management followup and action or reporting will wane.)

Involvement of staff — Staff at different levels of the organisation should be involved in identifying hazards, suggesting control measures, and providing feedback, thus leading to a feeling that they ‘own’ safety procedures.

A learning culture enables the organisation or company to identify, learn and change unsafe conditions. An effective learning culture shuns clever theorizing because it understands well the eloquence of action, seeking progress over perfection.

A *blame culture is the opposite of a just culture that holds people accountable to one or more behavioral choices as:

  • Doing anything that is intentionally reckless or risky
  • Following a procedure or policy in a specific way
  • Doing something with an expectation of a defined result or outcome

*A blame culture emphasizes individual blame for the human error, at the expense of correcting a possibly defective system. Blame is the process of shaming others and searching for something wrong in them.

Case Study: A Positive Safety Culture— the U.S. Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service operates 211,264 vehicles (FY2014) and experiences about 23,000 crashes.

The US Postal Service starts each new employee with eight hours of classroom driver’s training and four hours training, per type of delivery vehicle, on the obstacle course. At the end of the training, the new employee must pass a road test.

To encourage safe driving the US Postal Service participates in a Driver Award Program and gives special recognition for safe driving, as the Million Mile Award. Drivers are also evaluated with an internal disqualification matrix. Drivers are considered “at-risk” for the first two years.

Thank you for reading this.

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

Deadly Com·pla·cen·cy

detached trailer

Any DOT Roadside Inspector with some experience will tell you one of the most shocking discoveries they make time and time again, are how many tractor-trailers they inspect with the trailer not secure to the tractor. In some cases the “jaw” is not secure to the trailer’s kingpin. In other cases, critical components like the kingpin are totally missing, but the trailer “sits” on the tractor.

Recent news tell of the deadly consequences of a trailer not secured to the power unit.

  • March 17, 2015 — Four people were killed and two injured after a trailer detached from the tractor on a foggy U.S. 27 in Palm Beach County, in Florida
  • April 7, 2015 — a semi-trailer detached on on South Park Avenue Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, PA, killing an oncoming truck driver.
  • May 7, 2015 — a woman was killed when a trailer detached from the tractor on the I-5, south of the Kern and Kings counties line, near Bakersfield, CA.

Many trailer detachments occur on smaller roads and go unreported. Trailer detachments unfortunately are fairly common, but almost always preventable.

After a trailer detachment, the truck driver:

  • may be charged with homicide by vehicle or vehicular manslaughter, or Recklessly Endangering Other Persons
  • may have his CDL license suspended
  • may be put on probation or incarcerated
  • face civil court cases/lawsuits

An investigation by Lower Providence Township Police and the Montgomery County Detective Bureau revealed that on the morning of the fatal crash, the defendant (driver) failed to properly secure the trailer component of his tractor-trailer before setting out from a business in Reading, Berks County. (Police Report)

The truck driver is responsible for any trailer detachment. A dropped trailer is usually grounds for termination of employment. If the driver is not sure about the equipment condition, the driver has an obligation to inform management of his inspection and observations, and have the equipment professionally inspected, and if necessary, repaired. This would be evidenced by a mechanic’s signature on the Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR), per FMCSA regulations.  All companies and carriers and drivers regulated by U.S. DOT are bound by FMCSA regulations. 

Criminal charges can be brought against drivers pulling a trailer that breaks free or becomes detached.

Training Competence

Never assume a new driver knows how to drop and hook. This aspect of driving is not on the CDL test and therefore is not always practiced. It is possible to have a CDL driver who has never dropped or hooked a trailer in his life.

tractor with no fifth wheel hitch

This “tractor” in a CDL school has no fifth wheel.


Drivers must visually inspect the jaws/kingpin each time before they set out.

Drivers must visually inspect the jaws/kingpin each time they leave the truck and trailer unattended.

Drivers must preform trailer hook-up procedures according to accepted safety practices or manufacturer’s guidelines including: setting proper lineups and heights, doing several pull tests, visual inspections, brake tests, checking to ensure the 5th wheel is free of ice, snow, excessive grease or any other debris, etc.

Management has a duty to be knowledgeable on safety policies and FMCSA regulations.

Management has a duty to enforce safety policies and FMCSA regulations.

Cold weather can affect hook-ups. The locking mechanism may need extra time to work in very cold conditions.

Proper uncoupling procedures are important as well, and uncoupling should be done in mind with making the hook-up as safe and as easy as possible.

Thank you for reading this.

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

It’s All in the Hands . . .


Ingrained Habits . . .

The above picture shows a truck driving student in simulator training. One could argue that the “hands-on” training will probably include safer steering methods, but if so, why not start out the right way from day one?

Keeping a motor vehicle under control at all times is important. This is the essence of driving, defined as:

  • the control and operation of a motor vehicle
  • to direct the movement of (a car, truck, bus, etc.)
  • to move in a specified manner or direction.

Advanced driving classes teach steering techniques as chopping the wheel to mitigate a front wheel skid or the importance of having an “out” and steering around a hazard rather than locking the brakes and crashing into it. But without two hands on the wheel, a second’s delay can make it too late to respond to an emergency.

Vehicle Control 101 – The Basics

  • Two hands on wheel, unless shifting
  • Drivers should not shift while turning or making turns
  • Drivers should not “palm” the steering wheel or rest their hands or fingers on the spokes of the wheel.*

*In a crash, a rack and pinion steering system can transmit crash forces to the steering wheel, injuring the driver’s hands.

hands on wheel

Top Tip: Keep your hands on the outside of the steering wheel—at all times.

Thanks for reading this.

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



Back to School . . . Safe Driving Tips for Bus Drivers

school buses

Today for many school districts across the U.S marks the official start of school. Hundreds of thousands of yellow school buses hit the roads carrying millions of students. Now is a good time to review some defensive driving techniques for bus drivers (and the rest of us).

1. It’s All about Attitude

Defensive driving is an attitude toward driving.

Fact: Surveys show that half of the population believes they will never get into an accident. “It can’t happen to me.” Another interesting statistic: most drivers involved in a fatal accident have never been in an accident before. In some cases their first accident will be their last.

Developing a defensive driving attitude among fleet drivers can reduce accidents and incidents by 25% up to 33% percent. Driving attitudes are important and the most important attitude is to drive defensively.

2. Bad Habits Die Hard

Over time, we all develop bad driving habits. It might be in putting on the turn signal late . . . or not at all, or stopping past the stop line, . . . or making rolling stops, etc. We get away with bad habits because other drivers have to compensate for them. They have to hesitate or second guess our intentions. This can lead to frustration, anger and even road rage.

There is only one cure for bad driving habits: bad driving habits need to be replaced by good driving  habits. Good driving habits are never automatic. Good driving habits take time and a lot of work to develop.

Top Tip: A number of bus accidents occur when the vehicle is empty. Don’t relax your defensive driving when the bus isn’t hauling students anymore.

3. It’s all about Managing Time and Managing Space

Did you know that most (up to 90%) motor vehicle accidents are avoidable? That’s a chilling thought when one looks at the annual statistics. The key is in managing time and managing space. There are many examples and situations where this principle can be applied.

For example, approximately thirty percent of accidents in the U.S. are rear-end collisions, By staying back at least four seconds (depending on the speed and/or weather conditions) when following another vehicle, it’s extremely unlikely a rear-end collision will occur.

Backing accidents can be avoided three ways (1.) don’t back, if possible (2.) back in position immediately upon arrival, so you don’t have to back out blind later, (3.) always have an adult spotter to assist in backing.

There are many examples of a driver giving him/herself more time and/or more space leads to accident and risk avoidance. It has been estimated that up to 90% of accidents could have been avoided if the driver involved had one extra second. Managing time and managing space can give a driver several seconds extra time to respond to a situation and avoid a collision.

4. Manage the Blind Spots

Every vehicle has blind spots, where nearby things appear invisible. Mirrors get bumped, get loose, get knocked out of adjustment. Mirrors need to be checked everyday, and adjusted if necessary.

Another blind spot is found behind the the “A” pillar, on the ends of the windshield.


The A-Pillar blind spot can hide a pedestrian in the crosswalk, motorcycle or even blend in to hide a tractor-trailer. Savvy defensive drivers have learned the Rock & Roll (or Crunch and Lean) technique to “rock and roll” in the seat, to look around the A-Pillar and other blind spots

Tip: Spend at least a full second in each mirror. 


5. Slow Down

Driving slower helps in management of time and space, allows for processing of multiple risks at the same time, or to deal with emergencies. In fact, driving slower may even be the law. For example, drivers should slow down BEFORE a curve or turn. Keep at least 10 miles under the posted curve speed. The posted curve speed is for cars not buses or other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).


Proper speed (and space) management means:

  • Positioning your vehicle between clusters of vehicles to your front and rear. Don’t ride bunched with other vehicles in a “platoon” or “wolf pack.”
  • Positioning your vehicle for the greatest visibility that allows you to “see and be seen” by other drivers.
  • Positioning your vehicle in a lane position for maneuverability. Leave yourself an “out.”

6. Beware of the Risks While Driving

  • Drivers on their cell phones
  • Highway-rail crossings / train tracks
  • Parking lots
  • Inattentive drivers
  • Distracted drivers

(To name a few.) Look for and identify risks. One definition of safety is to be risk free. But risks need to be seen before they can be dealt with effectively. Make it a habit of actively looking for risks. Be on constant alert for new hazards. Once a risk or hazard has been identified, then take measures to avoid the risk/hazard situation.

reflective vest


One school district has bus drivers wear a reflective vest during their pre-trip inspection.


Defensive driving is an attitude. Every driver can choose to drive a little better by driving defensively. Often we are aware of everyone else’s bad habits. It’s much harder to identify and hopefully change our own bad driving habits. One effective way to drive defensively is by managing time and space to allow a safety factor for other driver’s mistakes. Knowing our blind spots and properly adjusting mirrors and properly using the mirrors helps to avoid collisions. Rock and roll in the seat to see around the A-Pillars. Slow down and manage vehicle position to see better and to be seen. Use the lane position that gives you the best line of sight and path of travel. Look for new risks and hazards while driving and have a plan to deal with them.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

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


Operation Airbrake Inspection Procedures

Roadside Inspection

Brake Safety Week is an annual nationwide enforcement program focused on improvement of commercial vehicle brake safety throughout North America.

National Brake Safety Week, starts Sunday September 6th and runs through Sept. 12.

Inspection Items (from CVSA

  • Driver License
  • Registration
  • Low Air Warning Device
  • Pushrod Travel (Adjustment)
  • Brake Linings/Drums
  • Air Loss Rate (If leak detected)
  • Tractor Protection System

Brake inspections conducted during Brake Safety Week include inspection of brake-system components to identify:

  • Loose or missing parts,
  • Air or hydraulic fluid leaks,
  • Worn linings, pads, drums or rotors, and
  • Other faulty brake-system components.

Antilock braking systems (ABS) malfunction indicator lamps also are checked. Inspectors will inspect brake components and measure the pushrod stroke when appropriate. Defective or out-of-adjustment brakes will result in the vehicle being placed out of service.

Results for 2014

Of the vehicles inspected, the Out-of-Service (OOS) rate for all brake-related violations conducted in North America was 16.2 percent, compared with 13.5 percent for the 2013 event. The OOS rate for brake adjustment rose to 10.4 percent from 9.0 percent in 2013. The OOS rate for brake components was 9.3 percent, up from 7.1 percent in 2013.

Note: All brakes and equipment need to be 100% (zero defects, zero mechanical faults) every time a commercial motor vehicle leaves the yard. That is the standard under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Most, do, meet that standard.


Semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention . . .

I-94_PawPaw 9-3-15

Date: 09/03/2015  Time: 14:15 hours ET.

Location: East bound I-94, near exit 60.

Vehicles Involved: Two tractor-trailers and five cars.

Sequence of events: Traffic was stopped or slowed for construction (crews were putting out a grass fire that may have been distracting), when a tractor-trailer fully loaded with apple pulp ran into the back of an SUV. That vehicle was pushed into a Pontiac car. The tractor-trailer ended up off of the road, on its side.


  • Four vehicle occupants were transported to area hospitals; two were critically hurt.
  • Seven people were treated at the scene
  • One fatality, male, age 72, from  Illinois man,  former Illinois state representative and college professor. The victim’s wife is hospitalized in serious condition.
  • Several vehicles were totaled.
  • Traffic was rerouted for at least three hours.

Probable cause of collision: ‘Inattentive’ semi-truck driver.

“Police said the semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention and didn’t slow down for construction in the area.”

Michigan State Police, Lt. Dale Hinz of the Paw Paw Post said the tractor-trailer driver is considered “at-fault” The driver was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

“Hinz said police are investigating why the truck driver was not paying attention to the road at the time of the crash.”

What is Inattentive Driving?

Inattentive driving is the failure to pay proper attention to the road while driving.

“Operating a motor vehicle in a manner which shows a lack of that degree of attentiveness required to safely operate the vehicle under the prevailing conditions, including but not limited to: the nature and condition of the roadway, presence of other traffic, presence of pedestrians and weather conditions.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holds that driver inattention is a major factor in most serious traffic crashes. In one study, NHTSA defined driver inattention as:

  1. Driver engagement in secondary tasks (those tasks not necessary to the primary task of driving)
  2. Driver drowsiness
  3. Driving-related inattention to the forward roadway
  4. Non-specific eye glance away from the forward roadway

dumptruck in wires

Inattention comes in many forms.

Studies Show . . .

According to attentional theory, our minds cannot simultaneously make sense of constant inputs from many sources. Intensely focusing on one particular thing can lead to a form of invisibility known as inattentional blindness, leading researchers to conclude that “the most effective cloaking device is the human mind.”


Gorilla spotting

In a now famous experiment, half of viewers did not recall seeing the gorilla in the video when asked to count how many times white-shirted players passed the ball.

Said one researcher, “Most of us are unaware of the limits of our attention—and therein lies the real danger.”

In commercial vehicle driving, inattention can be sometimes caused by white-line fever or highway hypnosis, hypnotic state induced by the monotony of driving a motor vehicle, usually on long, straight roads.

Driver inattention may be due to distractions as personal problems, emotional trauma, and a number of other factors. There is on-going research to determine the causes of driver inattention and driver distractions leading to collisions and other safety incidents and events.

Fact: Driver inattention is a growing problem.

Countermeasures to Inattentive Driving

  • Encourage “mindful driving.”
  • Commercial drivers need to cultivate a proper attentive mindset.
  • Drivers should not take any phone calls when driving.
  • Train drivers in proper mapping and route planning techniques.
  • Drivers should know how to manage breaks and take them when needed.
  • Motors carriers need strict, enforced policies on driver use of new technologies while driving.
  • Motors carriers need to investigate and deploy new technologies where appropriate for their particular operational needs.
  • Motor carriers need Fatigue Management Programs, according to the NTSB.

Finally, there is a key upside: “Our ability to ignore distractions around us allows us to retain our focus.”

Safe driving is possible. Good safety and loss control practices and polices can turn your transportation operations into the profit center you intended it to be.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe weekend.

J Taratuta

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








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 to learn more.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

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

Essential Driver Application Requirements

Driver application

One of the most problematic areas of DOT compliance, next to hours of service and drug and alcohol testing, are driver applications (Part 391.21). Driver applications may be audited by state and federal agencies and surveyed by insurance companies. Missing information, missing pages, or blank lines can lead to DOT write-ups, fines, and a request (more like an order) from the DOT to fix the mess. Here are some common DOT “application for employment” error areas to avoid.

Driver Application— Common Error Checklist

• Has the applicant listed his/her address for at least the last three years?
• Does it show an out-of-state address? If yes— then this means that the carrier needs to get the out-of-state Motor Vehicle Record (MVR), for each state listed.

• Has the applicant listed at least 3 years of past employment, if new to driving as a job, or if the driver has obtained a recent CDL?

• Has the applicant listed at least 10 years of employment if he or she had a CDL over 3 years ago?

Has the applicant explained any gaps in employment in excess of one month?

• Has the applicant answered YES or NO to each question for every job:
» Was this job subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations?
» Were you subject to drug and alcohol testing under DOT rules?

Note: These questions apply to both interstate and intrastate drivers.

(It may help to ask the applicant if they even understand and know what these questions mean. In many instances the applicant does not know if they were subject to DOT regulations in their previous job(s) and will check off they were, when in reality were not or were DOT exempt.)

• Has the applicant listed a date of birth?

• Has the applicant answered BOTH of the following questions:
» Have you ever been denied a license, permit or privilege to operate a motor vehicle?
» Has any license, permit or privilege ever been suspended or revoked?
If the answer to either of the above questions is yes, has the applicant given details?

The applicant needs to fully answer each section:

• Are there any “blank” answers?. If an answer is “none,” then the applicant must write “NONE.” (Not leave it blank or NA)

Top Tip: Have a statement on the application: “Every question must be answered. If the answer is “none,” then write “None,” not N/A.”

Has the applicant SIGNED and DATED the application?

Was the application completed by the applicant? The applicant, not a friend or family member, must fill out the application— in his own handwriting.

Are the Organization’s/Company’s Name and Address on the application??

The DOT driver application is an important document that forms the basis of the background investigation of the driver. Check your driver applications for these common errors. Don’t accept improperly filled out applications.

Applicants should be aware that improperly filled out applications potentially can lead to federal charges.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day. If you find this helpful, please pass this along.

J Taratuta

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

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