The DOT Road Test (Part 3)

Volvo 2040

Driver safety performance is as important as vehicle performance. A driver performance test can help determine safe driver performance.

The Pre-trip Inspection

The road test should start with a pre-trip inspection. A pre-trip inspection is required under §391.31(c)(1).

The driver-applicant should explain what he or she is observing and what specific vehicle or component checks (s)he is conducting. The applicant should explain what defects/faults he or she is looking for during the pre-trip. This portion of the test may take up to 30 to 45 minutes or longer, depending on the type and configuration of the vehicle.

Range Portion

Before the road portion, the applicant should demonstrate the following skills: steering, stopping, shifting and backing (straight and 90 degree angle) and, if the equipment he/she will drive includes a combination unit – coupling and uncoupling of the combo-unit (per §391.31(c)(2)).  Allow at least 20 minutes for a “range” portion.

A vehicle control test area of at least 200 feet by 300 feet in size is required, the bigger the better. Driver candidates can be tested with the following maneuvers:

(1) Forward Stop: Pull the vehicle forward through a straight alley and then stop the vehicle so that the front bumper is within 2 feet of the forward stop line.

(2) Straight Line Backing. Back the vehicle through a straight alley and then stop the vehicle so that the front bumper is within 2 feet of the stop line.

(3) Right Turn. Drive the vehicle forward approximately 30–50 feet, and then turn the vehicle right around a cone or other point. Bring the rear of the vehicle within 6–12 inches from the cone without touching it.

(4) Alley Dock. Pull the vehicle forward past the alley, keeping the alley entrance on the left. Back in a 45 degree curve into the alley without touching the sides, and stop the rear of the vehicle within 2 feet of the stop line at the rear of the alley.

The Range is usually scored on a point system, with points given or taken away for hitting cones, crossing lines, or falling short of where the vehicle needs to be.

Why Do a Range Test?

The answer is safety. A range can show if the driver has basic control of the vehicle. A range helps the driver to become familiar with the vehicle, if the vehicle and/or its controls are new to the driver. If a driver does really badly on the range, then for reason of safety, the test needs to end. The driver’s proficiency in the parking lot (range) should be adequate enough to determine that the applicant will drive safely during the on-road portion of the test.

The Road Test *

The road portion should be on a predetermined route of in-traffic driving.

Tip: Have at least two routes available so that the alternate route is available if construction or traffic prevents using the original route.

On the route be sure to include:

Four left-hand and four right-hand turns: turns at traffic lights, stop signs, and uncontrolled intersections. The turns should range from easy to somewhat difficult for a heavy vehicle. Try to include a mixture of types of intersections so that they vary in complexity.

A straight section of urban business streets. The section should be 1 to 2 miles long. It should contain through intersections, and intersections with traffic lights, and have moderate traffic density. Try to get a section where the driver can make lane changes somewhere along the route.

Two through intersections, and two intersections where a stop has to be made. If possible, these intersections should be included in the urban section.

Two railway crossings. Try to get at least one uncontrolled crossing. The crossing should have enough sight distance to determine if the driver makes head search movements when approaching each crossing. The driver’s attempt to look left and right down the track will often be the only way to tell if the driver noticed the crossing. If the test area does not have any railway crossings, you may simulate this exercise.

Two curves, one to the left and one to the right. Try to get curves tight enough to produce noticeable offtracking on a tractor-trailer.

A two-lane rural or semi-rural road. This section should be about 2 miles long. If there is no rural road near the motor pool, an industrial street with few entrances and a higher speed limit is a good substitute. An undeveloped suburban road is also a good substitute. In general, use any road that has characteristics similar to a rural road.

A section of expressway. The section should start with a conventional ramp entrance and end with a conventional ramp exit. The section should be long enough for a heavy vehicle to make two lane changes during the section. A section of highway can be used if there is no expressway available.

A downgrade. The grade should be steep enough and long enough to require gearing down and braking. A steep short hill is the next best choice if a long grade cannot be found. If the area does not have any steep grades, simulate this exercise.

An upgrade. The grade should be steep enough and long enough to require gear changing to maintain speed. A steep short hill is the next best choice if a long grade cannot be found. Use the same grade for both the downgrade and the upgrade if it is hard to find steep grades in the area.

A downgrade for stopping. This is a grade where a vehicle can safely stop (or pull off) and park for a minute or so. The grade only needs to be steep enough to cause a vehicle to roll if the driver does not park properly. If the area does not have any steep grades, simulate this exercise.

An upgrade for stopping. This is another grade where a vehicle can safely stop and park for a minute or so. If necessary, use the same grade as for the downgrade stop.

One underpass or low clearance, and one bridge. The underpass should have a posted clearance height. The bridge should have a posted weight limit. If there are no underpasses or bridges with posted limits, use ones that do not have posted limits. If necessary, substitute a bridge for an underpass, or an underpass for a bridge. If there are no low clearances or bridges, look for places that have signs a heavy vehicle driver should see. Examples of such signs are: “No Commercial Vehicles after 11:00 PM,” or “Bridge with 10 Ton Weight Limit in 5 Miles.” b.

When designing a route, try to get all of the specified maneuvers into the route. If there is no ideal example for a maneuver, find the closest substitute.

There is no minimum length for a route and no minimum amount of time that a route must take. A route is acceptable whenever it has all the specified maneuvers.

At the End of The Road Test

Be prepared to give the driver positive feedback followed by any areas that need to be improved. If the driver is hired, make note of any weak spots for later refresher training. A signed copy (by both examiner and applicant) of the road test and certificate of completion must be kept in the Qualification File. A Certificate of Road Test Completion should also be given to the applicant.

Thank you for reading this.

*Source: AR 600–55, which was modeled from current U.S. transportation practices.

More: The DOT Road Test (Part 1) 

           The DOT Road Test (Part 2)

The DOT Road Test (Part 2)


The purpose of the road test is to evaluate the driver’s ability to drive safely

The Driver’s Road Test

One key requirement and responsibility of an employer is for their CMV driver to pass a driver’s road test or equivalent.

While the regulations permit a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) holder not to be road tested, there are a number of reasons this step should never be skipped.

  • The driver may lack experience in the type of vehicle driven. For example, a driver may have used his Class A CDL to drive a hot-shot combination and has little or no experience in driving a tractor-trailer.
  •  The driver may simply have no driving experience. For example, some foreign nationals may have had a drive’s license in their country, but have had little actual lifetime driving experience.
  • The driver’s skills may be stale, Perhaps he or she was unemployed or on workman’s comp and has not driven for a long while. For larger trucks, not driving more than six months can be a long time, and a driver could need a refresher course to get back into commercial driving.
  • The driver may have injured himself since his last DOT physical and is not physically able to drive.

The list goes on. I can cite example after example of drivers who should have never been allowed to drive, but were able to fall through cracks in the system: drivers with missing limbs, color blindness, hard of hearing, suffering from psychosis, etc.

It is always a best business practice to road test every new hire using a standardized checklist or rating form. Most insurance companies expect you are doing this, as well.

Studies Show . . .

Research by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) on Driver Selection Tests & Measurements has found top motor carriers use multiple driver selection tools, with emphasis on driver performance testing of every applicant. TRB’s case studies included companies using:

  • Cutting-edge procedures as a driving simulator with an experienced safety professional monitoring the driver’s performance.
  • A standardized, 3-hour driving road and range test, that can result in up to a 50% failure rate.
  • Driver observations by no less than three managers, who each take notes and write up their observations, concerns, and conclusions.

“Driving is a habit. People cannot change their habits,
even when they are being observed.” A person can mask
driving habits for 10 minutes or so, but not longer. TRB Report


Road testing of drivers is not the only driver selection tool, but it is often one of the main selection tools. Other related best practices dictate that motor carriers should:

  • Inform driver candidates as much as possible about their driver requirements and any specific hiring procedures.
  • Maintain a detailed assessment file for each driver.
  • Requiring a probationary period for new hires.
  • Establish written hiring standards, that include standardized road testing.

Who you decide to bring on board to operate one of your vehicles is one of the most important business decisions you ever will make.

Thank you for reading this.

Forms . . . Record of Road Testing (MODOT)

The DOT Road Test (Part 1)

Peterbilt and 53' Great Dane

Testing 1-2-3-4

In the age of everyone-gets-a-gold-star (or two, for bothering to show up), does the word test have a place anymore?

It does in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Part 391.31, simply titled ‘Road Test.’

Best in class employers conduct a driver performance test for every Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver they hire. But it doesn’t end there.

Top employers not only road test new driver candidates but conduct driver check rides from time to time or whenever drivers are having safety performance issues. Top companies road-test their drivers every year or so for coaching purposes – or as part of their post-accident policy.


The purpose of the road test is to evaluate the driver’s ability to drive safely. Safe operations are determined by a driver’s attitude as much as by his or her mechanical driving skills.

Who should conduct the Road Test?

Any competent driver who is qualified with experience in the type of vehicle being driven may conduct a road test. The examiner needs to be a thoroughly qualified operator. Generally this would be your most senior driver. Sometimes trucking companies use their mechanic to conduct road tests. If so, the mechanic should have some actual driving experience.

The test shall be given by a person who is competent to evaluate and determine whether the person who takes the test has demonstrated that he/she is capable of operating the commercial motor vehicle, and associated equipment, that the motor carrier intends to assign him/her.

§ 391.31 (b)

This section says you cannot test yourself.

Tip 1: For non-CDL type vehicles, owners and managers can be given a road test by an employee-driver.

Tip 2: The same person should administer all road tests in the same way, on the same route.

Tip 3: The road test may be conducted before administering the DOT pre-employment drug screen.After receiving results of the drug test and after a job-offer, the DOT physical can be administered.

If a motor carrier cannot find someone within the organization, they may choose someone from outside of the organization to conduct the road test. Additionally:

  • The examiner needs to be familiar with the road test route and the testing procedures.
  • The examiner needs to practice administering the test to a regular licensed driver qualified on that type vehicle.

What Should the Road Test Cover?

Any well-administered road test should cover the driver’s/applicant’s technical and physical skills associated with driving a commercial vehicle as well as the driver’s/applicant’s attitude while driving.

The regulations specify eight areas to be tested, depending on the type of vehicle, including:

  1. Pre-trip inspection.
  2. Hooking/unhooking a trailer.
  3. Placing the CMV in operation.
  4. Use of the CMV’s controls and emergency equipment.
  5. Operating the CMV in traffic and while passing other motor vehicles.
  6. Turning the CMV.
  7. Braking and slowing the CMV by means other than braking, and
  8. Backing and parking the commercial motor vehicle.

These are the minimum areas on which a driver is to be tested.

Continued in the next blog . . .

Thank you for reading this.

Removing Tire Debris with a Gasket Puller

Tire Inspection Quick Tip

Gasket Puller

The gasket or seal puller hand tool.











Here’s a tire inspection quick tip: Use a gasket (seal & bearing) puller tool to remove debris found in the grooves of the tire.

Every day small stones, bits of rock and sometimes even metal can get stuck between the grooves of truck tires. Although some tires have built-in rubber stone ejectors, they can fail to do the job they were engineered for.

Stones or bits of metal or glass can start working their way into the tire and need to be removed before causing greater damage to the belts or cords or ultimately tire failure.

A gasket puller makes quick and easy work of tire debris removal.

A gasket puller can be found at most automotive part stores for about $10 or less. Get the most of out your tire investment by frequent inspections and a professional level of care.

Removing tire debris with a gasket puller.

Removing tire debris with a gasket puller.











Use the gasket or seal puller when doing a pre-trip, en-route or post-trip inspection, while waiting at a dock or anytime after driving on areas where road debris is found.

Thank you for reading this.

File Under . . . Driver Hiring Standards Undone

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

Put It in Writing . . .

A driver hiring standard looks something like this:

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Alert: A Disturbing Dashcam

kingpin_pullerMalicious Mischief

malicious mischief in criminal law, the crime of damaging another’s property. It requires a deliberate disregard of the other’s property rights, so cannot be committed accidentally.

If you have taken a professional truck driving course, you might have talked about it. If you have driven a tractor-trailer, then you probably have heard about it. But few truck drivers have actually seen it happen . . .

Until now.

We are talking about someone intentionally and deliberately releasing the trailer kingpin, so the unaware driver drops his trailer somewhere up the road. The trailer may drop immediately when the driver pulls forward. The trailer may drop on the first turn. The trailer may drop miles up the road.

As there is no predictability when and where the trailer will drop, this is a highly dangerous and even sometimes deadly criminal act.

detached trailer









Damage will occur to the landing gear. Damage can occur to the parking lot. A tow truck is required to lift the trailer so it can be hooked-up again. In some instances, the trailer kingpin can catch the tractor’s lightbar and rip that off. Damage can run into thousands of dollars.

Careers have ended due to this sort of malicious mischief. Many companies have a policy requiring automatic termination of employment of a driver who drops a trailer. It’s always the driver’s responsibility that the trailer remains attached until properly unhooked. Truck drivers can be criminally charged for dropped trailers . . .

Police probe a case of reckless driving

A case of reckless and negligent driving has been opened after a trailer disconnected from the truck and went over a motorcyclist on the corners of Herschell and Maydon roads in Durban yesterday afternoon.
Matthew Zenda (23) sustained a fracture in the right leg and injuries to the left leg and a scar on the fore head. He is in a serious but stable condition.
The truck driver will have to wait for the investigation to be over to know his fate.


What do the regulations say?

§ 392.7: Equipment, inspection and use.
(a) No commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order, nor shall any driver fail to use or make use of such parts and accessories when and as needed:
Service brakes, including trailer brake connections. Parking (hand) brake. Steering mechanism. Lighting devices and reflectors. Tires. Horn. Windshield wiper or wipers. Rear-vision mirror or mirrors. Coupling devices. Wheels and rims. Emergency equipment.

This section is somewhat controversial among safety personnel and drivers. Drivers will argue the wording of the regulation implies they are not required to inspect these items each time before they drive, as long as they are “satisfied.”

A contra-argument is that these items are listed specifically for a reason. Each item is considered a critical item, essential for safe operations.

A much stronger argument, in my opinion, is that the federal regulations are the minimal safety requirements, and cannot cover every possible situation and driver. As such, more specific instruction is required via detailed policy and procedures.

While having detailed policy and procedures is a step skipped by many start-ups and smaller operations, having them in place:

  • Ensures safer operations,
  • Sets a minimum level of safety,
  • Will reduce insurance premiums in the long run, if enforced.

Tip: It’s a fact: larger operations pay less (per unit) for insurance. One reason is that they have many more safety controls in place.



Each time a driver leaves an unattended tractor-trailer, they need to visually check the king-pin release before driving.

Some drivers also set the trailer brakes and do a tug-test or two. One retired Teamster said he would always set the trailer brakes and then backed into the trailer.

Thank you for reading this.

John Taratuta

What is the DOT’s New Entrant Safety Audit?


§ 385.311: What will the safety audit consist of?
The safety audit will consist of a review of the new entrant’s safety management systems and a sample of required records to assess compliance with the FMCSRs, applicable HMRs and related record-keeping requirements as specified in appendix A of this part. The areas for review include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) Driver qualification;
(b) Driver duty status;
(c) Vehicle maintenance;
(d) Accident register; and
(e) Controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements. (Part 385.311)

If you have registered for a new DOT Number, depending on your operations, you may be subject to a New Entrant Safety Audit. If so, you will be notified several weeks in advance.

The safety audit is an examination of the new entrant’s safety management systems, including records and documentation to see if your operations are compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), any applicable Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) and related record-keeping requirements as specified in Appendix A of Part 385. The areas for review include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) Driver qualification – Parts 383 and 391;
(b) Driver duty status – Part 395;
(c) Vehicle maintenance Parts 393 and 396;
(d) Accident register and copies of accident reports Part 390; and
(e) Controlled substances and alcohol use and testing. Part 382

Other areas looked at may include:

• Commercial driver’s license standard violations Part 383;
• Inadequate levels of financial responsibility Part 387;
• The use of unqualified drivers Part 391;
• Improper use and driving of motor vehicles Part 392;
• Unsafe vehicles operating on the highways Part 393;
• The use of fatigued drivers Part 395;
• Transportation of hazardous materials, driving and parking rule violations Part 397;
• Violation of hazardous materials regulations Parts 170 to 177;
• Hazardous materials incidents – Part 171.

Safety audits do not result in safety ratings.

Biggest Problem Areas

It’s no secret how new entrants fail the safety audit. The FMCSA recently reported on a new entrant who admitted he was too busy to concern himself with learning about the federal regulations. This wasn’t what the auditor wanted to hear.

Not responding to a request for an audit, or not having requested records is another way not to pass. Not responding (short of a “life or death” type of circumstance) can result in a cancellation of the DOT number and the need to re-apply in 30 days. In the mean time, you would not be able to operate your DOT regulated vehicle(s) in interstate commerce (and intrastate in some states).

Certain rule violations are considered automatic failures. Drug and alcohol compliance is high on the list. So is having a qualified driver, a vehicle with a periodic inspection and insurance, and adherence to Hours of Service rules.

Failure is Not An Option

A new entrant who fails the safety audit may be allowed to submit a written corrective action, within 45 or 65 days, depending on the type of their operations. Waiting to the last day to submit the documentation is not a good idea, as it needs to be approved.

The good news is that most new entrants will be successful, if they follow the federal regulations and keep good records (if it’s not documented— it’s not done)..

Crash Rates Are More Than 5 Times for Stubborn Apnea Truck Drivers (Who Don’t Use Device)


Truck drivers who ignore their sleep apnea treatment have a five times higher preventable crash rate than drivers without apnea, says a new study in Sleep journal.

A 2002 study found that up to 28.1% of heavy truck drivers have mild, moderate or severe sleep apnea, according to the the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). the most common of several types of sleep disorders, in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.

This new study is called “Non-Adherence with Employer-Mandated Sleep Apnea Treatment and Increased Risk of Serious Truck Crashes,” Sleep, March 21, 2016. Lead author is Stephen V. Burks, Professor of Economics and Management at the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM).

In this study 1613 drivers at Schneider National, who were diagnosed with sleep apnea, were prescribed positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy and provided with a self-adjusting CPAP machine. Results of the study were compared to a control group of the same number of drivers.

“We found that truck drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are at dramatically greater risk of serious, preventable truck crashes, consistent with the greatly increased risk of motor vehicle crashes among automobile drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea,” said study co-author Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Drivers with sleep apnea who did not follow therapy eventually were terminated after given the another chance and choice to stick to the treatment.

Facts about Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a treatable sleep disorder.

“An apnea is defined as complete or near cessation of airflow for a minimum of 10 sec with or without associated oxygen destaturation and sleep fragmentation.” Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine 5th ed.

OSA, if untreated, can lead to daytime sleepiness and increases fall-asleep-crash risk.

Over 10% of truck drivers have moderate to severe OSA.

This high prevalence of OSA in truck drivers is unsurprising, as they tend to be middle-aged, male, and obese, according to a paper cited by the NCBI.

OSA remains largely undiagnosed in commercial truck drivers.

Doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine office visits. Also, no blood test can help diagnose the condition.  U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Polysomnography (PSG) aka sleep study or Sleep Lab (technologist attended), is only accurate test, know as the gold standard, as the Portable monitoring study while a less costly alternative method is not as accurate.

The Problem(s)

Several people I have spoken who were prescribed CPAP machines don’t use them because they don’t like the mask. Some don’t the feel of the mask or don’t like getting wrapped up in the hose at night. Older machines tended to be loud at night. Truck driver Christopher Hill says it’s no big deal.

Another problem is cost. Sleep studies can run into thousands of dollars and are generally an out-of-pocket expense as sleep studies are not covered by health insurance. The CPAP machine runs into hundreds of dollars and the mask and head-straps have to be replaced several times a year. As these items are federally regulated medical devices, nothing is ever cheap.

Public law 113-45, signed into law on October 15, 2014, requires  the FMCSA to enact rules “if the agency decides to establish requirements for commercial truckers to address certain sleep disorders among drivers.”

In January 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a Bulletin on the physical qualification requirements for drivers with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  The American Trucking Association stated this was in error as it contained no specific guidelines and violated the spirit of PL 113-45 which requires an objective cost-benefits analysis.

On Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 the FMCSA opened a ninety day period for public comments on sleep apnea.

While we can expect FMCSA rulemaking in the future, the controversy about truck drivers and sleep apnea will probably not end there.

Is there a problem with truck drivers with sleep apnea? If so, who should make that determination?

Thank you for reading this.

Gary Flaherty: Making Motor Carrier Insurance Pay

controlling costs


Making Insurance Pay

On Thursday, March 17, Gary Flaherty, head of Canal Insurance Group’s Risk Management Services, partnered with the Vertical Alliance Group and presented a webinar on how to make motor carrier insurance pay.

Canal, a privately held company with assets in excess of $1 Billion, and an A.M. Best rating of A- (Excellent), specializes in trucking insurance, especially for smaller, independent long-haul owner-operators (about 80%) as well as intermediate-haul and local firms. They insure all kinds of cargo, including petroleum products, but don’t insure anything that’s designed to explode (Class 1 Explosives). Canal operates in most states.

Loss Control as Cost Control

One sure thing, the more losses (crashes, collisions, and claims) your company experiences, the more your insurance premiums will increase.

But it doesn’t end there . . . increased DOT violations can also drive up insurance premiums.

Why? Because in many cases DOT violations can be controlled by having solid policies and procedures (P&P) in place, strong hiring standards, and an actively involved management.

Insurance should be considered an investment. “You have to put in what you want to get out,” said Mr. Flaherty.

And the investment is not just in writing a premium check when it is due. No matter which insurance carrier you deal with, you need to communicate well with your insurance team.

Who is on your insurance team?

  • Agent
  • Outside Consultants
  • Insurance Carrier
  • Claims
  • Your company

Each team member has a role to play. The Agent, for example, knows stuff and may have resources he can provide. His job is to help you and to make you more appealing to your risk partner.

Compliance vendors can assist your company get its safety and regulatory house in better order.

Your insurance carrier may have Risk Management or Loss Control people, both in-house or outsourced who can point out areas of improvement (at no additional cost to you).

You, the Motor Carrier, however, have to hold up your end of the log by actively participating in the Risk Management/Loss Control process. Your involvement never really ends, “if you want to get anything out of it.”

The Loss Control Engagement

When will insurance Loss Control people contact you? Anytime:

  • Pre-bind
  • Post-bind
  • Prior to expiration
  • Throughout the Policy Life-cycle

Tip: This is your time to shine— not shell up.

Nothing happens without people: introduce key staff members. Show your policy and procedures, as well as safety practices. Have you invested in any new technology as on-board cameras or electronic logging recorders?

Ask questions: How can I improve? What are any weak spots?

Push back— if necessary.

Have a dialog with the risk consultant.

Things To Talk About

What new and creative solutions can Loss Control provide? What kinds of data and analysis can they provide? New ideas?

What best practices do they recommend.Keep in mind each insurance company does things a little differently.

The Value Proposition

How do you get the most value from a loss control visit?

React quickly.

• Treat any recommendations with due attentiveness (especially those classified as Critical, or Important).

Communicate often.

• It’s a two-way conversation. Sometimes information is not available at the time of the visit. Don’t be afraid to follow-up later.

Tip: Get the risk consultant’s contact information!

Be transparent.

• Okay, so you haven’t been keeping good records on drivers or vehicle maintenance. The worse you can do is side-step or evade providing an answer. Every five years or about 1 million miles or so, a safety event may occur. If so, the regulators or litigators may see anything missing as a blatant attempt to evade safety regulations. It costs nothing to be transparent.

Experience lower costs/premiums.

• Expect a return on investment (RIO) on your efforts resulting in lower overall costs. Many safety initiatives result in additional productivity and other intangible benefits that cannot be easily measured.

Q & A Session

Gary Flaherty finished his talk with a question and answer session.

Q. What are the top three mistakes Motors Carriers make?

Hiring: standards may be too loose, or high, but not enforced.

Collisions: lack of a preventable collision program in which all collisions are investigated on the question of preventability.

Lack of proper investments: for example, now is the time to get on-board with Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), not near the deadline.

Look upon your relationship with your insurance people as a partnership, communicate frequently, and see your premiums go down.

Thank you for reading this.

Disclaimer: One company that I work with in the area of Loss Control does business with Canal Insurance Group. Any expressed opinion’s are the author’s own and do represent any advice or suggestions of any particular group, person, or organization.

John Taratuta is a safety advocate and Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

Top Hours of Service Survival Tips

Roadside InspectionTroubles, Troubles, Troubles

Troubles, Troubles, Troubles, was once a popular blues song sung by B.B. King, and could be the theme song of many organizations when it comes to Part 395 – Hours of Service of Drivers.

While the rule section is not that many pages, for many drivers and their motor carriers it can be an almost perpetual source of trouble. Out-of-Service rates for drivers average about 40 percent per year for logbook violations and 28.7 percent for Hours of Service violations. Fines for both drivers and the employer can quickly run up, drivers may be placed out-of-service – even arrested, and the employer/company may end up with bad safety rating or be subjected to the “intervention” process.

The troubles don’t stop there. In the event of a serious collision, any Hours of Service records come under close scrutiny by not only the DOT but by the litigators.

Any error or discrepancy in a log, no matter how small, is breaking the law. Trial Lawyer


It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

Here are a few top tips to avoid Hours of Service troubles . . .

Tip #1.

Avoid unnecessary roadside inspections.

About 35.4 percent of roadside inspections are triggered by speeding. Don’t speed. Don’t employ drivers who make a habit of speeding. Take any speeding tickets seriously.

Tip #2.

Do good pretrip inspections.

Roadside inspections brought about by vehicle defects:

  • Lighting 16.6%
  • Load Securement 15.7%
  • Tires 9.4%

This wheel was held on by one lug nut. If you were the DOT inspector, wouldn’t you want to see what shape this driver’s logbook was in?











Tip #3.

Keep all paperwork in order.

Establish a filing system where timesheets, logbooks and their supporting documents can be easily found and matched for the last six months.

Even with the new mandatory Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), up to eight supporting documents are required for every 24 hour period. Now is the time to get better organized.

Tip #4.

Audit your drivers’ logbooks or timesheets.

Some drivers have never been properly trained in Hours of Service rules. They may be too embarrassed to admit they are not sure on how to log.

Omissions in the Log – Indicating Possible False Logs
• Frequently omitted daily mileage.

• No on-duty time.
• Failing to show the name of the place the driver reported for duty.
• Failing to show the driver’s location at each change of duty status to conceal work performed.

• Failing to show the name of the place where the driver went off duty for the rest of the day to conceal actual driving times.

All omissions are very serious and need to be corrected.(Log Audit Manual)

Tip #5.

Train and retrain on Hours of Service rules.

One of the biggest and most common mistake I see is trying to teach all of the hours of service rules in one session. On first glance, it seems straightforward: show a short video, review a few of the rules, ask if anyone has any questions, and then send the drivers on their way. This is one area that calls for the best training you can provide. Break it down into a series of short sessions with frequent review and assessment of learning. The key is not only in gaining knowledge, but obtaining understanding.

Thank you for reading this.



Using a Commercial Motor Vehicle as a “Personal Conveyance”


What is use of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) as a personal conveyance?

A driver has gone “off duty” at the end of his run or shift and needs to eat at a local restaurant or make a personal purchase of something from a local box store.

What rules apply? Will the driver have to log on-duty to drive there? If the driver has no available hours, does he or she need to call a taxi? What do the regulations say?

Personal Conveyance is use of a motor vehicle for non commercial purposes.

Are there any specific regulations covering use of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) as a personal conveyance?

To answer that we need to look at Question 26 the DOT’s Hours of Service guidance  . . . (DOT Guidance, while not subjected to all of the rigors of the rule-making process, are clarifications of the regulations and, as such, are binding on drivers and motor carriers.)

Question 26: If a driver is permitted to use a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) for personal reasons, how must the driving time be recorded?


a driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work, time spent traveling from a driver’s home to his/her terminal (normal work reporting location), or from a driver’s terminal to his/her home, may be considered off-duty time.

Similarly, time spent traveling short distances from a driver’s en route lodgings (such as en route terminals or motels) to restaurants in the vicinity of such lodgings may be considered off-duty time. The type of conveyance used from the terminal to the driver’s home, from the driver’s home to the terminal, or to restaurants in the vicinity of en route lodgings would not alter the situation unless the vehicle is laden. A driver may not operate a laden CMV as a personal conveyance. The driver who uses a motor carrier’s Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) for transportation home, and is subsequently called by the employing carrier and is then dispatched from home, would be on-duty from the time the driver leaves home.

A driver placed out of service for exceeding the requirements of the hours of service regulations may not drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) to any location to obtain rest.

Personal Conveyance Guidelines In Summary

  1. The driver is off-duty
  2. All travel by CMV is local.
  3. The vehicle is unladen (carrying no freight, or even pulling a trailer)
  4. The driver cannot have been placed Out-of-Service (OOS) for exceeding his or her hours.

While in Personal Conveyance mode, all other CMV safety and safe driving rules apply. It is verboten, for example, to use a CMV to drive to a local store to buy alcohol § 392.5: Alcohol prohibition (or to consume alcoholic beverages while driving the CMV off-duty §382.201), to give unauthorized passengers a lift (§392.60: Unauthorized persons not to be transported), or do anything work-related (like repairing or servicing or fueling the vehicle) .

To avoid misunderstandings, your vehicle operating policy should cover the use of a CMV or company vehicle for personal conveyance, as well as breaks. I recommend to always keep a copy of this policy in the CMV (and a copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)), to avoid any potential hassles if a driver stopped while driving a CMV in the personal conveyance mode.

Thank you for reading this.

Comments via Linkedin:

Paul Johnson, R. L. Leek Industries:

If he is using it for personal use he may stay off duty but must note miles and flag off duty driving.

Max Doman, Hazardous Materials Specialist:

Depends. Is he the owner or a company man. What if he was rear ended, is it defendable in court? Always cover your a$&..

Truck crash scams: One More Reason for an “Event Recording Device?”

preventing fraudCrunch Time!

Insurance fraud is any act committed with the intent to obtain a fraudulent outcome from an insurance process.

The incidences of cars pulling in front of trucks to intentionally collide are increasing. Many motor carriers are not aware of this growing problem. These scams are not only dangerous, but raise everyone’s insurance premiums.

Fact:  Since 2008 car-semitrailer insurance fraud has grown 24 percent nationwide.

Called a “staged wreck,” it involves a car slowing down or suddenly stopping in front of a truck or tractor-trailer so it is rear-ended. Shortly after an insurance claim is filed against the motor carrier.

Staged accidents are schemes in which an accident is predetermined to occur on a vehicle. The schemes are organized by rings and the culprits move from one area to another. They often use the same vehicle over and over, which is sometimes what causes their scheme to be uncovered. Insurance Fraud Handbook


Insurance Fraud Countermeasures

How can a driver or motor carrier protect themselves against insurance fraud?

The number one tool to fight insurance fraud is awareness of the problem, to avoid being victimized by the scammers.

• Report suspected fraud to your insurance company. More than 4 of 5 insurers have trained insurance fraud investigators.

• Drivers should never tailgate and learn to watch out for a setup.

Swoop and squat: A suspect vehicle suddenly swoops in front of you and jams on the brakes, causing a rear-end collision.

Drive down: You’re trying to merge into traffic, and a dishonest driver slows down and waves you forward. He then crashes into your vehicle, but denies waving you into traffic and blames the accident on you. Crooked drivers may also wave you out of a parking space with the same come-on.

Sideswipe: Be careful if you’re driving in the inner lane of a dual left-turn lane at a busy intersection. Crooks will deliberately ram you if you drift into the outer lane while turning. Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

All drivers need to be well versed on defensive driving practices and techniques. If a crash does happen, be observant.

• Never tailgate : allow plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you. This will give you ample time to stop if the lead car suddenly jams on its brakes.

• Look beyond the car in front of you while driving. Apply your brakes if you see traffic slowing.

• Count how many passengers were in the other vehicle if you’re in a collision. Get their names, phone numbers and driver’s license : more people may file claims than were in the car. Also get the car’s license number. Note: Keep a pen and paper in your glove compartment so you’re always ready.

• How do the passengers behave? Did they stand around and joke, but suddenly act “injured” when the police arrived?

• Take cell-phone pictures of the other car, the damage it received — and the passengers.

• Call the police to the scene. Get a police report with the officer’s name, even for minor damage. If the police report notes just a small dent or scratch, it’ll be harder for crooks to later claim serious injuries or car damage.

• Get involved if you’re a witness. Watch for the warning signs of a scam, and help the honest victim with details. Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

Motor carriers are also installing Event Recording Devices to capture crash details on video. One large motor carrier will install over 6,000 devices in its fleet.

Will your company be the next victim?

Thank you for reading this.

Situational Awareness: Could This Collision Have Been Avoided?

Situational awareness Who’s Fault Was It?

In piloting commercial vehicles, the most important operational aspect is safety. Safety means risk elimination at best and risk mitigation at worse.

One key component of fleet safety is a preventable collision program in which all collisions are investigated on the question of preventability.

“A preventable accident (collision) is one which occurs because the driver fails to act in a reasonably expected manner to prevent it.”  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

In the photo above it seems obvious that a car was trying to illegally pass a pickup truck.

situational awarnessThings didn’t go as planned. But note, the truck driver seems to have been taken by surprise; the brake lights are not on.

situational aarenessFinally, the truck driver is aware and braking and is in emergency mode.

Other than some bent metal, it appears that no one was seriously hurt in this three vehicle collision.

Could This Collision Have Been Prevented?

As the commercial vehicle was involved in a collision, the question remains, is there anything the truck driver could have or should have done to prevent this collision?


  • The pickup and car were riding next to the big truck for several miles.
  • The pickup seems to be intentionally blocking the car.
  • The car driver grew impatient and made a risky passing maneuver, striking the guardrail, then forcing the pickup into the tractor trailer.

According to Hartford Insurance, often there is a relationship between collision preventability and defensive driving.

A Defensive Driver:

  1. Commits NO driving errors.
  2. Makes due allowance for lack of skill or improper driving practices of others.
  3. Adjust driving to compensate for unusual weather, road and traffic conditions.
  4. Not tricked into a collision by unsafe actions of pedestrians or other drivers.
  5. Alert to collision inducing situations.
  6. Recognizes the need for preventative action in advance.
  7. Takes necessary action to prevent a collision.

In this particular situation . . .

2.) Did the truck driver make due allowance for lack of skill or improper driving practices of the other drivers next to him?

Truck drivers really don’t like other other trucks or vehicles next to them. For example, in a similar collision that occurred on Nov, 3, 2015 on I-10, Steven Shawn Clark, 26, of Theodore, Ala. was killed when a pickup truck tried to pass another 18-wheeler by using the right shoulder of the highway, striking that truck before forcing Clark’s truck off the Pearl River bridge into the Pearl River. Cars on either side of a truck, or running in the middle of a “wolf pack” limit the options a driver has to deal with in emergency situations. We can’t control other drivers — but we can drive defensively.

5.) Was the truck driver alert to a collision inducing situation?

While it was perhaps impossible for the truck driver to see or predict the car driver’s actions, was he aware of the pickup about to strike his vehicle? This collision happened near Batavia, New York. Illegal passes made on the shoulder are not that uncommon in the North Eastern parts.

6.) Did the truck driver recognize the need for preventative action in advance?

Could the truck driver slowed down some so the vehicles next to him could have moved on?

7.) Did the truck driver take the necessary action to prevent a collision?

Could the truck driver covered his brake sooner? Was the truck driver aware of the situation? What could the driver have done differently?

Here is the real-time video of how this collision evolved, viewed over 5 million times.

Could this collision have been prevented?

Thank you for reading this.

Background Checks Matter


runaway truckDriver and Company Being Sued

Both the driver of runaway truck that careened through a busy Austin, TX intersection and his company are being sued by the family of a 19 year-old woman who was T-boned in the crash according to KXAN.

The lawsuit alleges that not only was the driver negligent in his control and operation of the vehicle, but his employer was negligent for hiring a driver with a criminal record who had several convictions for ranging from DUI, driving without a valid license to battery.

“Bottom line is that truck should not have been on the road and that driver should not have been driving that vehicle.” Justin McMinn, Esq.

KXAN  was not able to reach the parties named in the lawsuit.

When Do Background Checks Matter?

Anyone who employs a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver must “qualify” that driver under Parts 383 and 391 of the FMCSRs and that includes a background investigation (Safety Performance History), a Road Test conducted by your organization, or a Photocopy of a CDL in lieu of road test, a Medical examiner’s certificate or proof of current medical certification as shown on the MVR.

This is the minimum a driver employer needs to do. There is also an implicit obligation to to develop one’s own internal hiring standards. In some cases that means not hiring someone with a bad driving record. In other cases, if your organization often goes to Canada, it means not hiring someone with a criminal or perhaps even an arrest record. In any case, it means carefully screening and vetting and qualifying any potential drivers.

Have a Written Driver Hiring Standard

Every organization should have a written driver hiring standard or hiring criteria. Sometimes driver hiring is done infrequently (once a year or less often) or done rarely, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

I find smaller organizations tend to even skip this step and rely on their insurance company and their rule book to vet their drivers. This may not always be a good idea for a number of reasons. Your risk-partner may error on the side of caution and you may lose a driver who might work for you. This can happen when an insurance company may have set a minimum driving age of X years (21, 23, 25, etc.) and the driver in question is near (less than a year or so from) that age. Then it might be a good idea to talk with the underwriter and present your case why this driver is acceptable to you. You may find that in the case of an individual driver, age might not be that big of a deal. You will never know unless you ask . . .

Talk to Former Employers

In addition to written hiring standards, potential employers need to talk to the prior employers. As Mike Coffey, a background specialist,  of Imperative Information Group recommends, ask the prior employer, among other questions, if they would rehire the driver in question. Again, you will never know unless you ask . . .

In the final analysis, trying to sort out all of these things in a legal venue is not the best way to find out what could have been done differently. Be proactive. By following a few of these proven pointers you can avoid hiring drivers who keep having bad luck.

Thank you for reading this.

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

Dry Van Loading Tips

dry van

“The Load Shifted!”

A truck rolls in a curve. A driver loses control. After the incident the driver is quick to volunteer that the load shifted.

Why do loads shift?

Sometimes the trailer may be sealed and the driver has to rely on the loader’s good judgement. (I found from hard experience — hand unloading a trailer all night from a shifted load — that not all loaders have good judgement). Sometimes due to house rules the driver is not allowed near the dock when loading.

In other cases, the driver may be inexperienced or have lots of driving experience but little with a particular commodity.

The center of gravity should be less than 8 feet from the ground.

Tip: The center of gravity should be less than 8 feet from the ground.

Here are some dry van loading tips . . .

Before Loading:

It’s always a good idea to do some housecleaning . . .

  • Sweep the trailer
  • Pull any nails out of deck
  • Check for any holes (climb inside and have someone shut the door to inspect for light coming in) and patch if necessary
  • Verify Trailer number to manifest and destination


Load cargo tight and secure, nose to rear.

Cargo must be loaded evenly to distribute weight front to rear.

Do not load trailers side or top heavy.

Proper blocking and securement for loading reels, pipe, poles or lumber is essential as this type of freight loose inside a trailer during a tear out the sides, doors and /or nose.

Do not load loose steel in an enclosed trailer. Steel can easily slide forward through the nose (into the cab) or back through the doors.

Do not load steel coils with proper load securement inside. A coil can go through the wall of a trailer like it was made of tissue paper.


For Freight Placed Directly in the Trailer

Load Shipments together, Arrows Up, Labels Out
Heavy items go on the bottom, Light on the Top
Load Shipments Tight, Side to Side
Place any Taller freight on the Right Hand Side
Pails – stack a maximum of two high (unless unitized),
Support under pipe and Tubing – per §393.106(c)(1)
Chock reels or any freight that will move.

Cargo in vans falls under the general securement rules and all cargo must be secured.

Carriers have received citations for fully loaded vans that did
not have rear cargo securement as load bars or straps.












Make and Keep a “Solid” Load

To make a successful solid load, fill ALL the lengthwise space with
either product or fillers.

Trailer walls cannot hold wood bracing. Do not nail anything to the walls.

Only wooden floors in enclosed dry vans (or wooden decks on a flatbed) can have blocking nailed to them.

Do not overload the trailer. Compute the total weight of the shipment.

Under no circumstances are nails to be driven into the walls, floor, or nose of a refrigerated trailer.

Following these tips, driving carefully and prudently and defensively should help to keep any of your loads from shifting, resulting in a loss of control or rollover.

Thank you for reading this.


Solving the Truck Parking Problem

positioning the vehicle

What Do You Want: A Job . . . or a Position?

– a particular way in which someone or something is placed or arranged.

What, you might ask, does a Rolls Royce have to do with truck parking?

Years ago when putting together a curriculum for training truck drivers I did research on some of the top driving schools in the world. What made them the best? What did they do?Everyone knows that Rolls Royce is one of the best cars in the world. Even that People’s Revolutionary Lenin took possession of a Rolls, no doubt in the name of the people. One of the things I came to find out was that professional Rolls Royce drivers never park their vehicle — they always position the car. 


While that might be a subtle nuance, professional Rolls drivers are informed (indoctrinated) that how the vehicle is parked (errr— positioned) should make a difference.


With new truck prices now often exceeding the price of a Rolls, one would think that the idea should catch on. Parking stress is one of the top concerns of many truck drivers. Parking lots can become quickly congested and there is always the element of danger when large trucks try to maneuver around each other in tight spaces. Collisions, injuries and even fatalities are bound to occur.

But there’s another emerging problem that goes beyond a lack of parking spaces —  there are some drivers who just don’t get it. They simply don’t know how to park.
Here’s an example . . .
over the line
 These two trucks in the middle in the next photo are angled so another truck cannot park next to them. The two middle trucks are taking up at least four parking spaces . . .
 bad positioning

This was recently shot at a packed truck stop by V-blogger Trucker Josh,  who gave his two cents on the matter . . .

What’s up with this?
That is skill to take up five spots with two trucks. Bravo.
Don’t be those guys.
Get out of your truck . . .
Every time I park, I walk around my truck and I walk away from it and I look at the whole thing from a distance. I ask myself a few questions . . .
1. Am I straight?
2. Am I between the lines?
3. If I can’t see the lines, I imagine lines and ask myself again, Am I between my imaginary lines?
4. Can everyone else around me get out, so I won’t get woken up at 4 in the morning when they want to leave? Can they get out? Are they going to hit me when they get out?
These are all questions that I ask myself as I am walking around the truck looking at my parking . . . Then, if I can’t see the lines, I look at the other trucks that are parked there, then imagine lines . . .


And that is how one professional driver positions his truck . . .


If positioning was done properly, I believe we could potentially solve some of the parking problems drivers are experiencing. Drivers need to know how to properly position their vehicles without being a hazard to the trucks next to them and, most of all, without taking up two or even three desperately needed parking spots. 

Other Parking Horrors . . .

Here are two more bad parking examples . . .
Bobtail backed over curb.

Bobtail backed over curb.

 A tractor trailer is parked tightly against the curb . . .
Buffing the curb.

Tires scrubbing hard against the curb. Not a good thing . . .

There are a number of other tricks of the trade when it comes to positioning a truck or tractor trailer.
  • Pulling forward tight against a curb can lock the shifter of a truck with an automatic transmission.
  • There are some places a truck should never park . . . like on ramps and expressways. It’s automatic termination, for example, for Landstar drivers who violate that company policy.
  • Know emergency stopping procedures. One recent lawsuit was settled for over $2.5 million when a driver did not put on his four-ways and set-up his triangles . . . We all pay for this kind of foolishness in higher insurance premiums.

Positioning the vehicle correctly every time does make a big difference.

Thank you for reading this.

The Walkaround Inspection



A daily safety inspection is required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

Inspection/Inspect – this refers to personnel performing a visual examination usually performed using a checklist, a flashlight, and personal protective equipment (PPE) as gloves, goggles, bump cap, and an air gauge.

Tip: When walking up, approach vehicle from a different direction each time.

Look for:


Fault – a defect in need of correction ranging from minor to serious or major.

Damage: new damage or “mystery” damage to vehicle,
Check body exterior for accident damage, scratches, dents, rust, etc.

• Note if the Vehicle is leaning or tilted to one side indicating:
– a flat (80% or less of rated inflation) or underinflated tire
– a broken spring or suspension,
– a shifted load.
Things and people around and under vehicle:
– other vehicles (yard trucks or smaller vehicles)
– low power lines, tree branches, overhead or low building overhangs,
– people around or under vehicle*
• Fluid puddles under engine area: oil, transmission fluid, etc. ,
• Loose or hanging items under the vehicle.

* A teen was found sleeping under a trailer at a terminal. Intoxicated persons have been found sleeping under trailers, or a mechanic may be working under the vehicle.

Body Exterior

a.) Check that no body damage has sharp edges or protrusions that could present a snagging or hazard to people around the exterior of the vehicle.

b.) Body panels, rivets, or other components are damaged or corroded to the point where joint strength or body structural integrity is compromised.

c.) Body has rusted through areas on body panels or water leaks

NO-GO: Until repaired: b. above; record all other defects.

NOTE: A sufficient repair for item b. would be a complete body panel replacement

walkaroundThere is no “right way” to inspect a truck as every truck is different.

Top Tip: Always do the safety inspection the same way every time.

Use and follow any Safety Inspection checklists your company provides.  Inspecting the vehicle is a legal matter, a safety matter and a Commercial Driver License (CDL) obligation.

Check the king-pin release, if you have been away from the truck.

Check the king-pin release, if you have been away from the truck.

Keep in mind that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) are the MINIMUM safety standards.


(a) The rules in this part establish minimum standards for commercial motor vehicles as defined in § 390.5 of this title.

Critical Inspection Areas – components or systems that need to be at a high level of safety, generally containing no faults.

Thank you for reading this.


5 Powerful Tips to Start A Trucking Company

insuremyrig.comYour Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

If starting a business is challenging, starting a new trucking business can be extraordinarily challenging.

Roemer Insurance was founded in 1934, specializes in truck insurance and has helped many companies succeed over the years.

One of Roemer’s most popular informational videos is about starting a trucking company. Having worked with a number of startups over the years, I believe their advice should be called the 5 Commandments of starting a trucking company— not merely tips

Here they are . . .

  • Tip #1 Start with one or more core customers
  • Tip #2 Have 90-120 days operating capital on hand before
  • Tip #3 Improve your credit rating
  • Tip #4 Start Small
  • Tip #5 Pick 3 professional advisers

Core customers are profitable customers and profitable customers are always difficult to find. Trucking is an extremely difficult business because unless you can find equally profitable return freight, half of your miles will be empty (deadhead miles). Some lanes of traffic simply might have little return freight because there are inbound states and outbound states for freight, as well as seasonal variations and business and economic cycles.

Having sufficient operating (working) capital means you can pay your bills (fuel, insurance, and wages, even if it is to yourself), while waiting to get paid. There are occasions, for various reasons, that you may not get paid at all or customers learn you’re okay with slow payments, or perhaps you are slow in your billing. How many months can you afford to wait? What if your main customer suffers a reversal or changes their policy and there is no money for a while longer than anticipated?

Your credit score may be used to determine what kind of risk you could be to the insurance company. This is turn may affect your ultimate premiums.

Pilot, pilot, pilot. Anyone starting a business is usually shocked at how quickly the bills add up. Not having done it before, a new business owner will find that there are many blind-spots, traps and pitfalls in getting a new business up and running. Everything, it seems, takes twice as long and costs two to three times more than expected. Do test runs and work the kinks out of your processes, paperwork, and procedures.

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”
― Oscar Wilde

Good advice is plentiful. So is bad advice. Good advisers are outnumbered by the bad advisers. Finding a helpful adviser you can trust is difficult.

In addition to having a good accountant, attorney, and insurance agent, find someone who is up on DOT regulatory requirements. Sometimes your insurance company has a Loss Control department that will provide help in this area at no additional charge to you. Another key player on your team is having a good, honest mechanic who is available when you need them.

Mike Lawrence from gives his Top 5 Tips . . .

The 6th Commandant

I would like to add a sixth tip. It is always prudent to write a business plan for your new business. Working in a business and running a business are two different things. Becoming a business owner is a new role that requires a new mindset. One of the most common errors I see in many transportation businesses is the lack of proper documentation. Start off right with a business plan to put you in the proper mindset. Many local community colleges may offer a class on starting a business and can help in this area. Learn how to document everything— all of your plans, policies and procedures — and get in that mindset.

What does any of this have to do with safety?

If you are not profitable, safety falls to the side.

If you aren’t at least break-even, you can’t pay your bills and maintenance will fall to the side along with safety.

If you can’t pay yourself, your business will become a burden instead of the joy it was meant to be and safety will falter.

Much thanks to Mike Lawrence from for his informative video.

Thank you for reading this.

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


Periodic Inspection Training (PIT)

cropped-mast1.jpgThe Michigan Trucking Association offers Periodic Inspection Training (PIT) classes each quarter. This is a two day class held in Lansing, MI.

What are Periodic Inspections?

Every commercial motor vehicle shall be inspected as required by this section. The inspection shall include, at a minimum, the parts and accessories set forth in Appendix G of this subchapter. §396.17 Periodic inspection

Part 396.17 refers to the the annual or “Periodic inspection” that must be done on every truck, trailer, and converter dolly if so equipped that is used in business (commerce).

Inspectors must be qualified. Are your Part 396.17 inspectors properly qualified? Most are not.

Inspector Qualifications


(a) Motor carriers and intermodal equipment providers must ensure that individuals performing annual inspections under § 396.17(d) or (e) are qualified as follows:

(1) Understand the inspection criteria set forth in part 393 and appendix G of this subchapter and can identify defective components;

(2) Are knowledgeable of and have mastered the methods, procedures, tools and equipment used when performing an inspection; and

(3) Are capable of performing an inspection by reason of experience, training, or both as follows:

(i) Successfully completed a Federal-or State-sponsored training program or have a certificate from a State or Canadian Province that qualifies the individuals to perform commercial motor vehicle safety inspections, or

(ii) Have a combination of training or experience totaling at least 1 year. Such training or experience may consist of:

(A) Participation in a commercial motor vehicle manufacturer-sponsored training program or similar commercial training program designed to train students in commercial motor vehicle operation and maintenance;

(B) Experience as a mechanic or inspector in a motor carrier or intermodal equipment maintenance program;

(C) Experience as a mechanic or inspector in commercial motor vehicle maintenance at a commercial garage, fleet leasing company, or similar facility; or

(D) Experience as a commercial motor vehicle inspector for a State, Provincial or Federal government.

(b) Motor carriers and intermodal equipment providers must retain evidence of that individual’s qualifications under this section. They must retain this evidence for the period during which that individual is performing annual motor vehicle inspections for the motor carrier or intermodal equipment provider, and for one year thereafter. However, motor carriers and intermodal equipment providers do not have to maintain documentation of inspector qualifications for those inspections performed either as part of a State periodic inspection program or at the roadside as part of a random roadside inspection program.

Options for Qualification

There are two and only options listed above in 396.19:

  1. Training, or
  2. Training and experience

There are few training courses available in the U.S. like the PIT classes at the Michigan Trucking Association.

Being a truck mechanic does not qualify one to do periodic inspections, even if holding a state license. This training is essential.


Michigan Trucking Association
1131 Centennial Way, Lansing, MI

Next class is April 6-7th, 2016 and it’s full.

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