Maintenance Matters . . .

no maintenance

Don’t Worry About It . . .

Long ago I checked the oil on a company F-350 that I needed to use to haul some wood mouldings. Nobody told me to check the oil. It was already an ingrained habit from operating farm equipment. Always check your fluids — all of them.

The oil was black and tarry. I had never seen anything like it before.

I mentioned this fact to the company owner.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s on a lease.”

I cringed when I heard that. To make a long story short . . . the truck later required some major service . . . and the wood moulding plant — built with a government loan — experienced several fires, resulting in the eventual loss of the business to the auction gavel.

The Golden Window of Opportunity

Anything made has a service life. Almost anything made needs both routine and preventative maintenance (PM) or it won’t even come close to its expected life. Pay now or pay later.

But investment in maintenance shouldn’t be a burden. In fact it can — and should— represent an opportunity.

That window of opportunity presents itself in the period of time a part or system starts to show poor performance — prior to a repair being made. The part may be in a sub-critical condition and is doing its job, but could be showing signs of wear, a need of an adjustment or a service. This is the time replace the part or do the repair — before it fails.

The window of opportunity is the basis of a good maintenance. Good maintenance means preventative maintenance. Most of our maintenance efforts (translation: 80%) should be preventative maintenance.

Another key to good maintenance results is the preventative maintenance inspection.

Risk-Based Preventative Maintenance Inspections (PMI)

• Insure risk of failure is reduced to as low as possible.

• Result in optimum inspection schedules.

•.Focus inspection efforts on the the most critical areas.

• Create value from inspections.

There are many apps out there that can help in setting up or refining your preventative maintenance program.

Than you for reading this.

Worth Repeating . . .


Officials said a man was driving a box truck with his son in the passenger seat when he swerved to miss a tractor trailer that was pulling off of the shoulder back into the travel lane.
The box truck reportedly struck the rear end of the tractor trailer.

Worth Repeating

It appears from the above photo that the tractor trailer was in the breakdown lane. The breakdown lane is named the breakdown lane because it is for emergency use only.

Why was the driver in the breakdown lane? To make a phone call, according to WSOC-TV.

The tractor-trailer driver is being charged with “misdemeanor death by vehicle” and is being held on a $1 million bond.

The diver of the box truck has been hospitalized and his passenger — his 12 year old son — did not survive the collision.

It is worth repeating: if you do not have an emergency, then stay out of the breakdown lane. Making a phone call, checking a map, even running out of fuel, are not considered roadside emergencies.

Check your fuel, check your map and make your calls before getting on the highway.

No Passengers

A second point that arises from this incident — one you may not like — is that trucks are no place for additional passengers.

I say that having ridden in trucks from an early age.

Passengers can get hurt by climbing in and out of trucks. A while back, a young lady fell out of a cab in Michigan and was fatally injured.

Each passenger represents an element of risk.

The Federal regulations say no passengers in any commercial vehicle and they are there for a reason. Most (if not all) insurance companies do not want commercial vehicles or work trucks to carry any unnecessary passengers . . . ever.

That’s all for now.

Thank you for reading this.

Are You DOT Regulated? One Neat Trick from Loss Control


Stop! In the Name of the Law . . .

You are driving your work truck down the road, pulling a trailer, when flashing emergency lights appear in the mirrors. You pull over to let the police car pass, but lo and behold, the police car pulls behind you. You are puzzled because you know your equipment and driving habits are good.

You might be a contractor, builder, racer, have a masonry or landscaping business. There might not be a trailer, if you are a welder, or operate a service truck,

You’ve never had a problem before. But this time it’s different. Perhaps your work took you across the state line (interstate commerce). Perhaps you passed a weigh station. Perhaps you drove on an interstate highway.

And you’re getting cited. Perhaps it’s a warning ticket or even a $100 fine.

What did you do? You have been ticketed for failure to register for, and to display U.S. DOT Numbers.

When did that start?

Oh — about thirty years ago, says the officer.

It Doesn’t End There . . .

If you’re lucky, you won’t be cited for not carrying a DOT medical certificate, not having an annual (periodic) inspection on your vehicle (truck and trailer), and not keeping a Record of Duty Status (RODS) or an exemption sheet.

Once you register for a U.S.DOT number, there are some record-keeping requirements that go along with it. Not having a DOT number is not a legitimate or legal excuse for failure to follow these requirements.

How Do I Know . . .

“If you have a truck or trailer with company signs, and/or a trailer with more than one axle, I will be writing you a ticket if you do not have a U.S. DOT number.” DPS Officer

The rules for interstate commerce (movement of goods or people between state or national lines) seem fairly straightforward . . .

You need a U.S. DOT number if you operate in interstate commerce and:

• Operate vehicles that are over 10,000 lbs,
• Transport between 9 and 15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation,
• Transport 16 or more passengers, or
• Haul hazardous materials.

A continuation of an interstate trip is also considered interstate commerce. Examples would include: picking up passengers from another state at an airport, moving product from a dock that came from another state or country, or making the final delivery of a partial load that has crossed the state lines.

If you do any of these things, the above rules would apply, even if your vehicle does not cross state lines.

Do I need a U.S. DOT number if I operate in Intrastate Commerce?

Most states follow the federal guidelines for interstate commerce. If your vehicle is rated at 10,001 pounds or more, you haul people or hazmat, then you need a DOT number.

A number of states, however, follow their own guidelines and use a 26,001 GVWR threshold as the definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle. Some states may use a lessor weight as 18,001 pounds GVWR.

From personal experience, asking your state DOT or motor carrier enforcement for this information is generally difficult. The people with the exact knowledge are most likely in the field, not sitting by the phone waiting for your call.

Another information source is a state trade or professional association. They may have a knowledgeable compliance person on staff, depending on the size of the association.

The quickest and perhaps most reliable method to determine state DOT requirements is to go directly to your state code, via a Google search. Search for your state’s definition of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Ex: “Colorado CMV definition” or “CO code CMV definition”

Several searches should narrow down your state’s exact definition of a CMV. Once you know your state’s definition of a CMV, you will know what state rules you need to follow.

Thank you for reading this.

Condition White

Condition red

Dealing with Imminent Danger

Do you pay attention when you drive? Are you always “in the moment” when  you are behind the wheel?

Remember those post 9-11 alert colors that were to indicate a potential attack? It turns out a similar color code was used during WWII (the Big One) for pilot and gunner training to help them stay alert and stay alive.

  • Condition White – resting state
  • Condition Yellow –   Psychologically alert and ready.
  • Condition Red – dealing with imminent danger.

Researchers found If a pilot or gunner was day dreaming, and not alert and ready, they could not go from condition white to condition red.  They would fail at their task.

Driving a vehicle is similar. Like the WWII pilots, when we drive, at most we only pay attention to the road about 25% of the time behind the wheel. Our minds are not on the task at hand. We have a million things going on and driving is sometimes the least of our concerns. We drive in Condition White . . .

Worst yet, most of us don’t know that we are not paying attention to driving. Another factor: in the electronic age, new and improved distractions keep coming at us everyday.

When something happens in Condition White, it’s too late for us to do anything about it. We react — we don’t respond.

After the fact, we often excuse our bad reaction  . . .

The vehicle came out from nowhere . . . It happened so fast, I didn’t see it coming . . .  They shouldn’t have been there . . .

Condition Yellow

The idea here is to avoid dealing with imminent danger.

An imminent danger is any condition where there is reasonable certainty that a danger exists that can be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the danger can be eliminated through normal enforcement procedures. OSHA

By not exercising due care and maintaining a proper look out as good drivers should, we can put ourselves in a position of imminent danger.

And we can’t jump from Condition White (relaxed, not paying attention) to Condition Red (taking evasive actions).

The key to safe driving is to always maintain a mental state of readiness and alertness while driving. This is ‘Condition Yellow.’

Another name for Condition Yellow is relaxed concentration. Relaxed concentration helps in decision making . . . and driving is all about making decisions.

Another term that comes to mind is mindfulness. Mindfulness means you are aware of what is happening right here, right now.

Paying attention to driving takes effort. According to Daniel Goleman there are two kinds of distractions sensory distractions (things happening around you) and emotional distractions (your inner dialogue, thoughts, etc.). Emotional distractions can be the most powerful, especially while driving. Note how many accidents you hear about occur when people are traveling on occasions of weddings, funerals, job interviews, or some big life event. It’s easy to run a light, miss a stop sign or fail to yield right of way when something is on your mind . . .

So learn to both concentrate and relax while driving. This seems paradoxical, but driving in a state of relaxed concentration is a critical driving skill that can be learned and taught.

Thank you for reading this.

Your Loss Control Plan (Part 2)


Loss Control to Major Tom . . .

In Part 1 we reviewed inherent risk and the duty of a business to engage in reasonable diligence or due diligence in the conduct of daily operations. Not all risks are apparent. Every business faces risks that can be hidden. Reasonable diligence is about the management of risks. In business one effective tool to manage risk is a Loss Control Plan.

A good Loss Control Plan goes beyond a simple checklist. Some key elements would include:

Safety Policy — sets the expectation that it is the responsibility of all personnel to create and maintain a safe work environment. The Safety Policy should include a Safety Policy Statement:

  • Safety and health in our company must be a part of every operation. Without question, it is every employee’s responsibility at all levels.
  • We will maintain a safety and health program conforming to the best practices of organizations of this type. To be successful, such a program must embody the proper attitudes toward injury and illness prevention on the part of supervisors and employees. It also requires cooperation in all safety and health matters, not only between supervisors and employees, but also between employees and their co-workers. Only through such a cooperative effort can an effective safety and health program be established and preserved.
  • The safety and health of every employee is a high priority. Management accepts responsibility for providing a safe working environment and employees are expected to take responsibility for performing work in accordance with safe standards and practices. Safety and health will only be achieved through teamwork.  Everyone must join together in promoting safety and health and taking every reasonable measure to assure safe working conditions in the company. OSHA

The next part of the Loss Control Plan should detail everyone’s (Management, Supervisor’s and Employees’) responsibilities in meeting these goals. Additional topics should include:

• New Employee Orientation
• Training
• Safety Meetings
• Incident Reporting, Investigation & Analysis
• Standards & Procedures
• General Safety Information

Depending on the type of operations the following areas of concern may need to be covered:

• Hazard Communication Program
• Safety Data Sheets  (SDS)
• Lockout/Tagout Program
• Hearing Conservation
• Confined Space

Start With a Template

There are many templates (models or examples) available from sources as your insurance company and/or industry associations that can help in putting together a Loss Control Plan and all of its associated components.

Other Loss Control Planning tips:

Get inputs from staff, especially line staff. They know the risks.

Review your Loss Control Plan, especially in times of change.

Contact your insurance company for assistance. Many insurance companies have a loss control department. (It may be known as risk management, risk engineering, or a number of other names.) Usually there are no charge or fees for this help.

Thank you for reading this.

Your Loss Control Plan (Part 1)


A successful dairy farmer buys a tractor-trailer for his son-in-law to haul steel. Nothing unusual about that. Then the son-in-law breaks his arm. He can’t drive, but knows a friend who can. On the friend’s first trip he brakes hard, loses a steel coil and the coil takes the cab off of the truck. No one is hurt, but the trucking venture closes.

A potato farmer buys a tractor-trailer to make deliveries to a major city about 250 miles away. His son will drive the truck and is advised to get some experience. “What for?” he responds. “Any idiot can drive a truck.” On his first trip, in an exit ramp, the newly-minted driver rolls the fully loaded truck on its side. The truck is damaged and later sold after it was repaired. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

An 18 year old tractor-trailer driver takes a friend with him. Seven miles from the origin of the trip, he shows off how fast he can take an S curve around the “devil’s punchbowl,” a naturally occurring sinkhole. He rolls the truck in the curve and his friend is fatally injured.

Inherent Risk

All of the above disasters happened to people I know. All of these stories are examples of the inherent risk in trucking operations.

Inherent risk — the probability of loss arising out of circumstances or existing in an environment, in the absence of any action to control or modify the circumstances.

Every business has its share of risk. Without risk there is no reward. Most businesses share their risk with a risk partner — their insurance company. They have no choice. It’s the law.

The agreement to share risk is commonly known as an insurance policy. It is a contract. Its purpose is to protect the assets of the insured.

Being a contract, both parties to the contract have certain duties and obligations. One of the presumptions of any contract is that the parties act in good faith — that is honestly and fairly, so both can receive the benefits of the agreement.

Another presumption (at least on part of the insurance company) is that risks are controlled — reasonable efforts are made to prevent losses and/or harm to others. The contract language may call for commercially reasonable efforts, reasonable best efforts,  every effort, or even commercially reasonable and diligent efforts in this area.

What does this mean?

The standard of care would be reasonable diligence (due diligence).

— It means the care and attention that is expected from and is ordinarily exercised by a reasonable and prudent person under the circumstances.

It’s no coincidence that one legal definition of reasonable diligence arose from lawsuits involving transportation . . .

“A fair, proper, and due degree of care and activity, measured with reference to the particular circumstances; such diligence, care, or attention as might be expected from a man of ordinary prudence and activity.”

Due diligence in the prevention of losses (loss control) can mean to your business, depending on the level of risks involved, having a loss control plan.

To be continued . . .

Thank you for reading Part 1.