Top ELD Violations to Avoid

Top ELD Violations

Top ELD Violations (Used with permission from CTSE, link below)

The Little Things Make a Big Difference

When it comes to keeping electronic logs, the little things make a big difference. Or as at least one professional driver once told me, there are no small mistakes in trucking.

Since  April 1, 2018, the ELD “enforcement deadline,” all ELD violations are reflected in a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score. The violations fall off after two years, improving the score. This means it’s important NOT to incur these violations as your company can be stuck with them for a while.

Every violation is assigned a ‘violation severity weight’ by the DOT. For example, operating with a device that is not registered with FMCSA (49 CFR, Part 395.22A) has a violation severity weight of 5, on a scale of 1 to 10.

Severity weights help differentiate varying degrees of crash risk associated with specific violations.

All logging violations are considered fairly serious.The good news is that they are all controllable, and hence preventable.

What does your Insurance Company Expect?

All violations and crashes are funneled by the DOT into one of seven Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). A higher BASIC score reflects negatively and several BASICs with higher scores can trigger DOT safety compliance reviews, which in turn can result in a negative safety rating (like “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory”).

The BASICs are not only used by the DOT for enforcement purposes, but also by private industry as an indicator of safety. Shippers and brokers use these scores to vet motor carriers. Trial attorneys like to pound the table with a carrier’s high BASIC scores, if a company is involved in a crash, even a minor fender bender.

And insurance companies use BASICs as a risk indicator.

Each BASICs can range between 0 to 100%. For insurance purposes, every individual BASIC should not be much over 20%. Any BASICs in an “alert” status are not acceptable to the insurance industry. This cannot be emphasized enough. Again, a high BASIC and a fender bender can result in a policy cancellation or jump in premium.

For a small company or a new company, staying under a 20% threshold for any BASIC is very difficult. If a carrier has one out-of-service violation from two roadside inspections, on paper it looks bad. The only way they can improve their situation is by having several more “clean” roadside inspections.

What’s the Solution?

The best cure when it comes to navigating the DOT’s regulatory system, is prevention. Drivers need to know how to use their ELDs, keep essential and supporting documents on the truck, keep paper logs to back up the ELD in case it fails, and know what they are doing when they use their ELDs.

Top Tip: Stop at rest-stops before any open inspection stations and do a quick walkaround, checking tires, lights, logbook status, etc. Fix anything before going through the roadside inspection station. You will likely need to fix it anyway, and don’t need a possible fine and citation, DOT scores in alert status, and higher insurance rates. ■

Thank you for reading this.

Thanks to The Center for Transportation Safety Excellence for use of their graphic.

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John Taratuta, Insurance Safety & Risk Engineer

Reading the Federal Regulations

truck convoy

Bit O’ Trucking History

Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, which regulated motor carrier transportation under the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) until January 1, 1996, when the ICC was discontinued.

All “Acts” and other federal laws are codified in the Code of Laws of the United States of America, also known as United States Code, U.S. Code, U.S.C., or USC.

One of the first trucking rules the ICC issued in 1937 was No. MC-2, which established the Hours of Service rules. Although the Hours of Service have been modified over the years, such rules are not part of the United States Code, but part of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). (See

How to Read or Cite the CFRs

The CFR is divided into 50 subject matter titles. Title 49 CFR covers Transportation. The titles are further divided into chapters, parts, sections and paragraphs.

49 CFR 395 is read as: Title 49, part 395 (the part for Hours of Service or HOS).

The part number is divided from the section number by a period. The order of the sections is numerical: 395.1, 395.2, 395.3 . . . 395.15, etc.

49 CFR 395.11(c)(1) would be read as “title 49, part 395, section 11, paragraph (c)(1).”

The section symbol, §, may be used to shorten a citation: § 395.11(c)(1). The section symbol always “stands alone.”

The Federal agency in charge of enforcing and occasionally updating the Hours of Service regulations is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The FMCSA has jurisdiction over any regulated drivers and motor carriers.

Definitions of HOS terms used by the FMCSA are generally found in § 390.5 or § 395.2. For example:

Driver means any person who operates any commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

An automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD) is a device that meets the requirements of § 395.15 Automatic on-board recording devices. All AOBRDs  placed into service before December 18, 2017, need to be replaced with ELDs before December 16, 2019.

An electronic logging device (ELD) is a device used to electronically and automatically collect information needed for HOS requirement compliance, replacing (but not totally eliminating) paper log books (also known as the Record of Duty Status or RODS)

Driving time means all time spent at the driving controls of a commercial motor vehicle in operation, per §395.2 Definitions.

Most of the terms in the regulations are defined in the beginning of each section.

How to Flip Between the USC and CFRs?

Sometimes it is necessary to see what the intent of the lawmakers was when they wrote the law by going back to the USC. Some aspects of transportation law (disclaimer I am not an attorney) may not be clearly codified in the CRFs. There is a better way than trying to Goggle what you want to find—the Table of Parallel Authorities (opens in .pdf).

Regulated drivers, safety managers, driver supervisors and company management should be more than familiar with the rules that govern safe highway use. One of the better ways is to keep a copy nearby. Knowing what the regulations say is the great foundation for any safety program.

Get a Copy of the Code of Federal Regulations

There are at least three vendors who sell the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. All motor carriers and drivers should have a current copy (not over a year old).

Thank you for reading this. Please visit our website for more information on how to increase profitability in the surface transportation business.

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John Taratuta, Risk Engineer, Ph. 989-474-9599





Drivers . . . Chock Your Wheels

Roll-away_mixerReady Mix Trucks Rolls Away

A 48-year-old ready mix truck driver was fatally injured Wednesday April 13, 2016 while working under his vehicle, which passed over him when it started to move, then rolled about the length of a football field into an unoccupied house.

No one else was injured or hurt in the incident. The name of the driver was not released, but the driver was said to be well known and respected in his community.

Drivers . . . Chock Your Wheels

Did you know that all wheel chocks are not created equal?

The size and type of wheel chock used is really dependent on several factors including the vehicle’s size and weight and the angle of the road surface (slope or grade). There is actually a formula to determine maximum slope angle of a chock.

We’ll skip the math today, but keep in mind that parking on an angle greater than 10 degrees increases the risk of the vehicle rolling over the chock. The surface under the chock needs to be firm, as well, or the chock can be squashed down.

Parking on inclines greater than 30% gradient (16.6 degrees) is not recommended with wheel chocks. (Another sort of anchor may be appropriate for safety purposes.)

Wheel chocks are covered under SAE J348, but the standard itself is not helpful as it is under revision.

What To Know About Wheel Chocks

Wheel chocks are designed to supplement the parking brake. I can recall, for example, a time when trailers were not equipped with parking brakes and wheel chocks were essential to even unhook the trailer. Everybody carried 4x4s in the cab for this purpose. Today that is not the case, but there is still a place for wheel chocks, as large vehicles roll away every day, especially if parked on a grade, even a slight grade.

Trucks and trailers can roll-away, even if the parking brakes are set if:

  • brakes are out of adjustment
  • brakes are worn
  • brakes have been poorly maintained
  • a combination of the above

Brakes can easily get out of adjustment if a driver does not do his/her daily air-brake checks. Brakes that are out of adjustment are frequently cited on roadside inspections.

Automatic slack adjusters are really a misnomer, because if a driver does not fully apply the service brakes, the adjusting ratchet may not properly adjust. Most braking is light pressure (between 8 p.s.i. to 15 p.s.i on the application gauge). Rarely does a driver need to jam on the brakes during normal driving. But unless full-brake applications are made, the slack adjusters will not adjust themselves.

One way to help the automatic slack adjusters to properly adjust is to do daily pre-trip inspection brake checks: (a.) check the air brake gauges, (b.) do the Parking Brake Check or “Stall” Test, and (c.) the Air Loss or Leak-Down Test. They check (d.) the Low-air warning devices and do the (e.) Protection valves POP-OFF test.

Chock Your Wheels

So always use wheel chocks whenever:

  • parked on a grade
  • working around the truck
  • working under the truck
  • parked in high wind conditions
  • at docks (per OSHA or state rules)

Make sure the vehicle is always properly secure with wheel chocks . . . and it will be.

Thank you for reading this.

More  . . . Test Your Air Brakes

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.


Trucking—Insurance Companies’ Bad Bet . . .

betting bad

On Thursday, February 25, Dan Petrillo and Adam Harris of LaPorte & Associates’ Transportation Division, partnered with the Vertical Alliance Group and presented a webinar on how to save money on truck insurance.

The more you understand the process, the more you can exert control.

The talk started out with a review of the basics— Insurance 101. Insurance companies, like most businesses are competitive and make a 2% to 3% profit. But that’s in good times. Insurance company profits come from investment income and from business savvy underwriting. With the overall investment markets not doing so hot, that shifts most of the burden on underwriting — or vetting of risk — an arduous task in itself.

Another trend affecting insurance company profitability is the rising cost of personal injury claims . . . over $1 million on average in 2013.

Take low, “razor-thin” profit margins, rising costs and lower investment ROIs, and what do you get? Break-even or worse. When the insurance company sneezes, high-risk sectors like transportation will catch a cold.

The Transformation of Underwriting

The traditional criteria for underwriters comes from the insurance application, looking at such factors as: drivers’ age and experience, scope of operations (radius and commodities hauled), MVRs, and third-party snapshots as SAFER, CSA and CAB reports.

These criteria are historical and would be considered lagging indicators.

Underwriting, however, is changing. The emphasis is being placed on more forward-looking criteria— or leading indicators.

Leading indicators are measures of future safety performance.

Equally important as a good safety record are the measures a company takes to recruit, train, and monitor its drivers. How do these processes happen? How are drivers rewarded or incentivized?

The focus is on driver behavior.


Keep the conversation going with your insurance broker.

Invest in new technology.

Can you articulate your ‘philosophy of insurance?’ What role do you see your risk partner playing in your business? Should insurance be there for catastrophic protection or for maintenance or warranty protection? How much risk are you willing to assume?

How do you balance Revenue versus Safety? Are you willing to park your truck if you do not have the services of a qualified driver? Do you park your trucks from time to time?

Do you frequently interact with your insurance service team members — the broker, underwriters, risk management consultants and claims adjusters? Do you review claims?

Do you deploy new technology, telematics or GPS? Do you score your drivers?

What kind of training do you do?

The Out-of-Standard Insurance Market

An option for those for walk the safety talk, the “best-in-class” for safety, is to assume more risk (and rewards) by a Captive Insurance arrangement. Insurance premiums in Captives are solely based on your loss experiences and can result in savings.

It’s a Wrap

Dan Petrillo and Adam Harris warped up their talk with an informative Q&A session. Vertical Alliance Group invited attendees to learn more about their training resources.

I found the talk was highly informative on the direction in which truck insurance is heading. Nobody said the words “hard market” but it seems a transformation is taking place in the world of insurance and every carrier needs to establish a good rapport with their risk partners.

All safety metrics, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Key Risk Indicators (KRIs), leading and lagging safety indicators should be based on your safety goals. These in turn need to be directly linked to the organization’s high level objectives.

As one company owner said, Any mistake you make in trucking is a big mistake.

Then all bets are off . . .

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta


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

Accidentally— On Purpose: The Angry Truck Driver


Angry truck driver

This truck driver laid on the horn before getting dangerously close to the vehicle ahead and locking up his brakes — all caught on video camera.

Danny Leonardo Gonzalez, 50, says the reason he ran a dozen vehicles, including two loaded school buses, off of the northbound lanes of I-65, near exit 112 at 6:30 AM Friday morning (February 12, 2016), was because he snapped.

Gonzalez hit one truck, then repeatedly rammed a Cadillac, pushing it out of the way. After leaving I-65 at exit 121, “he allegedly ran over street signs and a stop sign, before his truck became stuck in a field,” according to WDRB. He was ordered out of the truck at gunpoint and placed under arrest.

“He looked like ‘this is my road and I’m taking it,’” said one of the bus drivers who swerved out of his way.

Gonzalez  was “charged with wanton endangerment, criminal mischief and leaving the scene of an accident.” A puppy was found in the truck, resulting in an additional investigation of animal cruelty.

Who is the Angry Truck Driver?

The angry or “high-anger” truck driver is part of American lore. There are angry truck driver jokes, even angry truck driver video games.

Often known as road rage, it’s a problem that seems to be increasing year to year and is responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Road rage is:

When a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


One study by psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, found high-anger drivers:

  • Engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. High-anger drivers report more judgmental and disbelieving thoughts about other drivers than low-anger drivers do. For example, they’re more likely to insult other drivers or state disbelief about the way others drive. They also have more vengeful and retaliatory thoughts about other drivers, sometimes plotting ways to physically harm them.
  • Take more risks on the road. High-anger drivers in his studies report more risky behavior in the prior three months than low-anger drivers do. They more often speed–usually 10 to 20 miles per hour over the speed limit–rapidly switch lanes, tailgate and enter an intersection when a light turns red.
  • Get angry faster and behave more aggressively. High-anger drivers most commonly reported the following aggressive behaviors: swearing or name-calling, driving while angry, yelling at the driver or honking in anger. They were angry slightly more than two times a day and averaged just over two aggressive behaviors per day, whereas low-anger drivers were angry slightly less than once per day and averaged less than one aggressive behavior per day. This pattern held for low- and high-anger drivers who drove equally as often and an equivalent number of miles.
  • Have more accidents. In driving simulations, high-anger drivers have twice as many car accidents–either from a collision with another vehicle or off-road crash. They also report more near-accidents and receive more speeding tickets. However, the two groups are equal in the number of accidents they have that involve major injuries; Deffenbacher speculated that’s because these types of crashes are a rare occurrence anyway.
  • Experience more trait anger, anxiety and impulsiveness. High-anger drivers are more likely to get in a car angry, which may stem from work or home stress. They generally tend to express anger in more outward and less controlled ways as well as react impulsively.

Real Life Examples Abound

As anyone with a cell-phone can make a video, there are many behavioral examples of angry truck drivers on social media platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. They are simply out of control and have no control of their own behavior or of how they operate their vehicle.

But even more troubling is the fact that even when they have not reached their flash-point or trigger spot, high-anger drivers drive aggressively, speed excessively, drive impulsively, have more collisions and rack up more tickets. They may confront and even try to punish other drivers by insults or aggressive driving.

How to Help the High-Anger Truck Driver

Use any available vehicle telematics to monitor for sudden braking or erratic driving.

Investigate any collision, no matter how small.

Pay attention to outside reports of aggressive driving, verbal confrontations with other drivers, or a string of tickets or collisions.

Have crystal-clear policies and standards in place covering driver expectations. (This is a big problem area in my opinion).

Do thorough background investigations and ask former employers if they would ever hire the driver again.

*Indoctrinate drivers to:

  • Allow more travel time to get to your destination. It reduces stress dramatically.
  • Come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs.
  • Never run yellow lights.
  • Let other drivers merge with you.
  • Obey posted speed limits.
  • Don’t ever follow other drivers too closely.
  • Resist the temptation to teach someone “a lesson.”
  • Concentrate on driving, not on any electronic devices, the radio, passengers, eating, or other distractions.
  • Remember that you can’t control traffic, but you can control yourself, your driving, and your emotions.

*FHWA Smooth Operator Tipsheet

Thank you for reading this.






Rising Use of Synthetic Cannabinoids by Truckers

OK women's softball team bus

Zombie Trucker

The truck driver seemed seemed shocked and dazed after traveling 950 feet across a medium, striking a bus carrying the North Central Texas College women’s softball team, then traveling hundreds of feet down an embankment and into some trees.

Rescuers found 53-year-old Russell Staley about 45 minutes later, still in the cab. He says he only remembered running off of the road. First responders said the truck driver seemed like he was in a zombie-like state.

Photograph by Oklahoma Highway Patrol

Photograph: Oklahoma Highway Patrol

The Evidence Mounts

Police later found a pipe on the floorboard in side the truck, with the burnt residue of 5-fluoro-AMB, a synthetic cannabinoid — known on the street as “spice.”

More troubling, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on the Sept. 26 2014 crash concluding not only was it highly likely the truck driver was incapacitated, but that he had a history of synthetic cannabinoid use.

Other findings of the NTSB include:

  • Motors Carriers were in compliance
  • §40.85 does not include synthetic cannabinoids
  • Synthetic drugs are widely available
  • Research on synthetic drug use is needed
  • Plans to detect and deter synthetic drug use is needed

What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are mind-altering chemicals that mimic the effect of THC – one of the ingredients in cannabis. THC is the part of cannabis that results in a ‘high’ for the user. These chemicals are sprayed on a mixture of herbs and sold under brand names such as “Kronic”, “Spice”, and “K2”. Such products were developed to be a legal alternative to cannabis, however many synthetic cannabinoids substances are now banned.

The first synthetic cannabis appeared in 2004, sold under the brand name Spice in Europe. Since 2006 K2 and Spice have been marketed for use as incense in the U.S., but smoked for its effects.

K2 or Spice can be anywhere from 4 times to over 100 times more potent than regular marijuana (THC). While often smoked, it can be mixed with food or drink.  K2 and Spice are sold for about $30 to $40 per a three-gram bag (equal to about 3 sugar packets),

Despite being considered illegal Schedule I substances, synthetic cannabinoids products are widely available. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States — or any accepted safety for use under medical supervision. New variations of synthetic marijuana are coming out in liquid form. Synthetic drugs are labeled as “not for human consumption” to avoid FDA regulation and mislead authorities.


Legal cannabis, legal pot, legal weed, herbal highs, herbal incense, herbal potpourri, K2, fake weed, synthetic pot, noids, synth, and fweed

Short-term Effects

  • loss of control
  • lack of pain response
  • increased agitation
  • panic attacks
  • pale skin
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • profuse sweating
  • uncontrolled/spastic body movements
  • elevated blood pressure
  • elevated heart rate and palpitations
  • threatening behavior and aggression
  • terrible headaches
  • inability to speak
  • psychotic episodes

The effects of synthetic drugs may range from a few hours up to more than eight hours. Death from violent behavior or suicide have resulted from Spice abuse.

Users can also become addicted to Spice.

Other Signs of Spice Abuse

K2/Spice has a pungent odor similar to marijuana.

Spice and other synthetic drugs do not show up on drug screens, unless used within two hours prior to the drug test.

There may be changes in the user’s mood, productivity or hygiene.

DOT Considerations

Drivers are prohibited from engaging in a safety-sensitive function when the driver uses “any controlled substance” (except under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner). 49 CFR 382.213(a)

CMV drivers specifically may not use Schedule I drugs and be qualified to drive CMVs.

Company policy should prohibit possession or use of synthetic cannabinoids or synthetic marijuana.

Thank you for reading this.


Trucks vrs Bikes: No Winners . . .

Amelie Le Moullac's bicycle










The bicyclists was following the rules of the road when she approached the intersection. The 26,000 GVWR truck came up from behind, overtook the 24 year old female rider and hit the bicycle as the truck made a right turn, resulting in a fatal collision.

The truck driver made an unsafe lane change, without signalling, according to a witness— and later retrieved video of the collision. After the collision, the driver called his company— before calling 911.

Merging into the bike lane and making a right turn is the number one question test-takers get wrong on the California Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s license test.

Merging into the bike lane, however, should be logical to any driver, who knows what a solid line (don’t cross except to park) and a dashed line (merge over when safe) mean.

Bike lanes

The above turn on the left is known as a “hook” and should be avoided.

A motor vehicle — regardless of size — when making a right turn, should always turn right from the curb. This avoids “conflict” (collisions) with bicycles and for larger vehicles like tractor-trailers blocks cars from getting between the truck and the curb (right turn squeeze-play).

Bicyclists have the right-of-way in a bike lane. Right-turning drivers need to to safely merge into the bike lane where the solid line becomes dashed, and then yield to bicyclists.

But many people are confused on this point. (2 minute KRON video on YouTube)

This confusion on Bike-Lane rules of the road may have one reason prosecutors declined to charge the truck driver with vehicular homicide or any criminal charges in the death of the bicyclist.

In January 2015 a jury awarded her family a $4 million dollar judgement against the truck driver and his company. The attorney for the family noted the 47 year-old truck driver was not required to have a CDL license, but suggested this be changed and everyone driving larger vehicles have training in their safe operation.

Key Lessons

Everyone has the right to use or cross the roadway if they are following the rules of the road. In fact, in cities like San Francisco, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 13. (SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12)

Bicycles can leave the bike lane if they feel it is safer for them. If the bicyclist feels safer outside the bike lane, they can ride in other vehicle travel lanes. Motor vehicles should not crowd the bicycle. Some states have a three-foot rule.

As of December 2015, 26 states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Utah, West Virginia,  Wisconsin and Wyoming—and the District of Columbia have enacted 3-feet passing laws.

Two states have laws that go beyond a 3-feet passing law. Pennsylvania has a 4-feet passing law. South Dakota enacted a two-tiered passing law in 2015; with a three foot passing requirement on roads with posted speeds of thirty-five miles per hour or less and a minimum of six feet separation for roads with speed limits greater than thirty five miles per hour.  In 9 other states there are general laws that provide that motorists must pass at a “safe distance.” These laws typically state that vehicles must pass bicyclists at a safe distance and speed; Montana’s law, for example, requires a motorist to “overtake and pass a person riding a bicycle only when the operator of the motor vehicle can do so safely without endangering the person riding the bicycle.  National Conference of State Legislatures

Drivers need to become knowledgeable on the rules of the road regarding sharing the road with bicycles.

Thank you for reading this.

Related blogs: Preventing Roll-overs of Pedestrians

How can Pedestrian Collisions be Prevented?

Why Invest In Safety?

Bob Riley of Dixfield climbs out of the ice shack he made from a 1996 Freightliner tractor-trailer cab. Named Haulin' Bass, he hauled it onto Roxbury Pond in Roxbury on Jan. 1 and has been fishing out of it every weekend since.

On the ice: Bob Riley of Dixfield, ME climbs out of the ice shack he made from a 1996 Freightliner tractor-trailer cab.

The Cautious Approach

The cautious approach, proclaims the Wall Street Journal, has taken hold of executives of some of the largest U.S. companies.

Acknowledging a tough business environment based on recent trends, CEO’s are delaying capital investment and, in some cases, even laying off staff. And it is not only happening in the oil and gas sector where an oversupply and low prices have upset the oil boom. Even manufacturing and transportation have been affected.

The Safety Investment

One area we cannot afford to cut is workplace safety. (While the word safety is defined many ways, one definition is a work environment that is free of hazards).

Investment in Safety or SH&E (Safety, Health and Environment) is a core business strategy at top companies. Some would argue, sure, that’s because these companies have more resources.

But if a company has fewer worker’s comp claims, doesn’t that result in having more resources? Fewer or no lawsuits? Better insurance premiums?

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).released a white paper in 2002 on the Return on Investment (ROI) for Safety, Health, and Environment (SH&E) Management Programs. (A white paper is a type of report that is particular in terms of its intended purpose, audience, and organization.)

ASSE found that in the majority of cases — yes, there is a R.O.I. from safety as a core strategy.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) knows from data and anecdotal information that investment in a SH&E program is a sound business strategy, for any organization regardless of size, and will lead to having a positive impact on the financial bottom line

As every business or business operation is different, like any investment, results may vary. While there is no rule of thumb saying a dollar invested in safety will get you three in six months, research shows top companies invest heavily in people, processes and technology, including risk management. And coincidentally, these same top companies have higher rates of profit. (Profit is the result of the efficient use of limited resources.)

I prefer the The $1-$10-$100 Rule:

A $1 not spent in Prevention will increase to $10 later spent in Correction or $100 in the cost of Failure.

Unnecessary Risk

From my interactions working with smaller fleets, I find they generally have a lot of experience, they know their  business inside-out, and are doing things the safe way— to a point.

The point where unnecessary risk begins is in a lack of formal safety systems.

Everyone has safety procedures and processes in place  — but they do not write them down.

Everyone tells me they have frequent safety meetings: quarterly, monthly, weekly and even daily — but the safety meetings are never documented.

Everyone has a policy on use of safety belts, electronic devices, passengers, personal use of the company vehicle, etc., — but the policies are never reduced to writing and/or a written acknowledgement is never made.

Ditto for maintenance records, driver files, drug and alcohol testing, handbooks, etc.

Your Risk Partner Has Dark Thoughts

One statement I frequently hear, and have heard for years is, Well, we’ve never had an accident.

That’s an interesting fact, in of itself. Your risk partner (a.k.a. “the insurance company”), however, makes a number of assumptions. If yours is an average company, then one assumption is that your company has an average chance of an insurance claim — based on totally random events. (It may not even be your fault . . .)

If your company lacks formalized safety systems and processes, any claim against it will be harder to defend. By your own actions or inaction, you have given up on your right to the most forceful legal defense.

What’s my point? The little things make a big difference. Remember the $1-$10-$100 Rule. A small investment in safety and safety systems can make a big difference later.

Do you want to invest $1 now or $100 tomorrow?

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is a Risk Engineer, and Safety Advocate. (989) 474-9599

A Bad U-Turn

Spun out in the medium.

There are some things a tractor-trailer was never designed to do . . . like ditch riding.

A driver waiting in a backup on I-70 captured an impatient driver attempting a U-turn . . . across the medium.

Going through standing water in the ditch.













The first clue this was not a good choice to make was the standing water splashing up in the ditch. Although there is no snow on the ground the soil is moist. Even if there was no ditch and the medium was flat, crossing would be near impossible.

The I-70 traffic was backed up for over an hour or so. Odds are this escapade took much longer than waiting would have to resolve, It involved at least one heavy tow truck, and resulted in a ticket and a possible court date.

Other Bad Consequences

The video was posted on January 31, 2016 and got over 20,000 views. This is not the best way to get your company name known on social media. In risk-management parlance, this is known as reputation damage.

The driver made an error in judgement. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, which could have been the case if he had pulled it off and climbed back on the roadway.  Yet it still looks bad and this error could ultimately result in the driver losing his job.

And yet safety experts would not pin all the blame on the driver Nor would legal experts, if someone had gotten hurt.

Management has a duty an obligation to constantly train drivers. In this instance, there was a medium and ditch separating high-speed lanes of traffic. An expressway, by definition, is a controlled-access highway. A U-turn is clearly illegal because it would be highly dangerous and risky to the freeway traffic.

And yet if the driver had gotten away with it, odds are other impatient drivers would have followed his example.

No other drivers attempted to make an illegal U-turn and they were promptly on their way when the road was cleared.

Other Recent Bad U-Turns

In September 2015 Cameron David Corbitt, age 20, of Homerville, GA was killed when he ran into a tractor-trailer driver made a U-Turn in the fog . . .

In January 2016, Phillip C. Matthews, 40, of Old Flat Creek Road, TN was killed when he struck a tractor-trailer making a U-Turn on U.S. 231 near the Shelbyville airport. The investigation continues.

A Solution

Training can quickly go stale. Safety must become part of an organization’s culture. Culture has been defined as what people do when they think no one is looking.

The only solution, in my opinion, is continuous driver safety indoctrination. For example, UPS supervisors spend a minute on safety at the beginning of the shift,

Drivers, driver supervisors and dispatchers all have to be reading from the same script. All have to work together for a good safety culture to emerge.

Thank you for reading this.



Top Trucker Loss Control Recommendations


Somebody is Calling and Wants to Know My Business?

Running a business isn’t easy. Fewer people are doing it and the ones who are face new challenges everyday.

One challenge is all the weird business calls you get, especially if you own a company with trucks. People want to sell you stuff. People are looking for work. People want to do Loss Control Surveys . . . now that’s really weird (in the sense of unusual).

Loss Control is an insurance industry term. Loss Control is sometimes defined as a plan of action to reduce or even eliminate the things in your business that can go wrong (and ultimately result in a “loss” to the business and your risk partner — the insurance company).

Generally the Loss Control representative (called many things: Risk Control Representative, Loss Control Engineer, Risk Engineer, Risk Manager, etc.) will contact a business owner whenever an insurance policy starts or renews, or shortly thereafter (“shortly” in insurance time could be up to a year or so later).

The Loss Control representative may visit you in person or simply ask you questions on the phone.

If you have a truck in your business, the questions will center on how you operate and the scope of your operations. Sometime after the talk, visit, or consultation, you will be sent a letter with a list of recommendations or “rec’s.”

Top Trucker Loss Control Recommendations

  1. Policy
  2. Procedures
  3. Processes
  4. Practices

Let’s look at a few examples . . .

A safety policy may be mandatory (a rule) or voluntary (a guideline).

Do you have a seatbelt (safety-belt) policy? Most companies do, however, is the policy in writing, with a signed acknowledgement from the driver? How about a cellphone policy? Passenger policy? Personal use of vehicle policy?

A procedure is a series of steps to accomplish a specific task, job, or project.

Do you have a driver’s handbook or manual? How will the driver ever know your specific way of doing things?

A process is a number of procedures, each working together to achieve a result.

Do you have written hiring guidelines that you follow? Many owners tell me they default to their insurance carrier’s rules. Hiring can be complicated when you add in all of the regulatory requirements you must meet.

Safety practices may be thought of as the methods, techniques or precautions we take while performing a task to make sure we or other folks don’t get hurt.

Do you have specific load securement that you need to follow? Does the driver know how to secure a load with the restraining devices given? There are van drivers who have never used a cheetah bar in their lives, and flatbed drivers who have never used a load-lock. Will your new driver know the basics of proper load securement?

Key Loss Control Tips

  1. Document, document, document. Put things in writing. All policies should be written and critical policies should be acknowledged in writing by the driver. Many times they are not.
  2. Have your drivers write stuff down, too. Logbooks or timecards, DVIRs, and everything in between. If it’s not documented, it’s not done.
  3. Keep good records. The new ELD rule will require up to eight driver records per 24 hour shift. Fair or not, will you have a process in place to capture the required records?
  4. Do you know your specific industry or state’s requirements? Some sectors are heavily regulated, some are not.
  5. Do you take advantage of your insurance companies loss control department?  Every company is different, but your loss control representative can provide you with mock DOT audits, training advice and materials, safety consultations and many other services — for free!

Always keep in mind, better loss control always results in lower insurance premiums. Better safety will improve productivity and this directly affects the bottom line.

Thank you for reading this.

Alert: Storm Kayla Ramps Up


Crazy Winds and Snowfall

Storm Kayla is the 11th named snowstorm of this winter. Sustained winds will ramp up on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 with heavy snowfall in Kayla’s path. Visibility is expected to be zero at times, even without the additional snowfall.

Heavy snow is expected from New Mexico, across Colorado and southern Wyoming, into parts of Nebraska, western Kansas and New Mexico.


Drivers should think twice about venturing out. Wind is unpredictable and wind gusts are an X-factor, especially if pulling an empty trailer. If roads are slick, a trailer can slide off. Even if traction is good, a sudden gust of wind can tip a tractor-trailer over.

Rollovers are one of the leading causes of fatal truck driving crashes.


Plan your routes carefully if operating in one of the storm’s danger areas. It can takes weeks of work to make-up for even a $1,000 deductible. A lost life can never be repaired.

This storm will affect about 18 million people and millions of drivers. Don’t become a statistic.

Travel across the region will become very difficult, if not impossible, by Tuesday evening. Plan ahead now. Postpone unnecessarily travel.  National Weather Service


Tips for Storm Kayla

• Don’t wait until the road is shut down. You could become trapped and become a hazard to other drivers and vehicles.

• If you have to have chains to drive, then you probably shouldn’t be out on the road at all.

• Drifting snow can pack and form ice on the road. Ice on the road is not good.

• If visibility in Storm Kayla is as bad as it is expected to be, it is possible to lose sight of the edge of the road and end up in the ditch. Worse yet, you may follow the vehicle ahead of you into the ditch.

• Nobody who ever was in a crash expected to be in one. About 25% of crashes are due to bad weather conditions. If you crash, you may given a ticket. If others are hurt, you will be legally liable.

• Stand down when you still have the chance. Nobody will be coming out to save you.

• 49 CFR § 392.14 says:

Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured.


Thank you for reading this.


Alert: Winter Storm Kayla

Snow expected

Winter Storm Kayla may produce blizzard and-blizzard like conditions across the Rockies and central United States. Heavy snow and high winds are expected over the next several days.

Blizzard warnings and watches are now in effect for parts of five states.

Expected snow for Monday Feb. 1, 2016

Plan on major travel disruptions from blowing snow and slippery roads,

A blizzard warning has been issued for travelers in the Sierra Nevada mountains. A number of alerts have been issued by the National Weather Service extending from Reno, NV to Marquette, MI.

Weather patterns indicate the potential for strong winds. Due to a low pressure front later Monday, winds may reach 30 to 40 MPH with gusts over 50 MPH. High winds may develop in parts of eastern Colorado, western Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. The combination of snow and wind may result in occasional blizzard or near-blizzard conditions in these areas.

Drivers should plan their routes and alternatives accordingly.

Colorado Note: All commercial vehicles traveling on I-70 between milepost 133 (Dotsero exit) and milepost 259 (Morrison exit) must carry sufficient chains to be in compliance with the Colorado chain law. The law requires commercial vehicles to carry chains on this segment of I-70 from September 1st to May 31st.

Drive With Caution

Many skids, jackknifes, and pileups occur when drivers are driving too fast for conditions. In blizzard conditions, drivers can expect whiteouts. The problem with limited visibility is that often traffic will travel at unequal speed. This can result in a rear-end collision, a jackknife if brakes are suddenly applied, or in a multiple-vehicle collision.

Wind is unpredictable. Strong winds can blow a tractor-trailer off of the road, or tip it on its side.

Almost every major storm this winter has resulted in a pileup involving a number of tractor-trailers and serious injuries or traffic fatalities.

Sometimes the prudent thing to do is to park it. If the road is so bad you need chains to stay on it, then it might be a good idea to hunker down until conditions improve. Don’t drive beyond your personal safe driving comfort level.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

What are Supporting Documents?


Toll road







What are supporting Documents?

The purpose of supporting documents are to help verify the accuracy of driver’s HOS and records of duty status (RODS).

Any document that the driver puts his or her hands on – may become part of the log book. The DOT may ask to see the toll-receipts, fuel receipts, scale tickets, meal receipts, etc.

Fuel receipts are of interest because they can be directly matched against the log book duty status, and show a location and time. The RODS should show an on-duty status when fueling. What can happen is a driver pulls in to a truck stop, goes off duty to start his ten hours and then fuels the truck. This could be considered a false log, if audited.

When a fleet has more than 10% false logs, things can start to get interesting. The motor carrier can get fined. The motor carrier can be ordered by the DOT to start keeping certain supporting documents. Motor carriers have also been ordered to install electronic logging devices (for a “pattern of violations).

Key Elements of Supporting Documentation

A supporting document should contain the following information:
• Date
• Time
• Driver’s full name
• Trip number and power unit number
• Location – City and State

TRIP ENVELOPE – Should have trip number & tractor number listed.

If a lumper is authorized on the load, there should be a lumper receipt with lumper name, social security number, location service occurred, and the amount paid.

For a dropped load, there should be a copy of all of the bill of ladings. On the bill of ladings and trip envelope it should be noted by the driver that the load was dropped. If possible the bill of ladings should be signed by a guard, receiver or consignee and time stamped to verify when the driver was there.

For relayed loads, the trip envelope should note the location, date and time that the relay took place. (Relay load – a driver only takes a load a portion of the way, usually for the
duration of one shift — eight to 10 hours. The driver then turns the truck over to another driver to continue the trip.)

Motors carriers are required to have a system in place to check logs. One tool is supporting documents.

I recommend checking at least 25% of all drivers logs. If a driver is new, perhaps check 100% of his logs for the first six months.

Motor carriers get in trouble assuming drivers know how to properly log. Years ago, one of my first clients hired a driver with five years experience. The problem was he drove mostly local, intrastate and did not know how to log. He could make his grid lines but kept going over 70 hours. Nobody checked the logs until the company was audited by the DOT. The motor carrier ended up up a $10,000 fine for repeated violations (they appealed and paid about $2,000). Another of their drivers was arrested in Georgia for a false log. He didn’t know how to log either.

So check your drivers logs. Verify their hours of service with supporting documents. Have a system in place to keep supporting documents for at least six months and be able to match them to the logs.

If you don’t, things can get real interesting . . .

Many motor carriers have never been audited by the DOT and could be in for a shock when their logs are checked. In fact, the new ELD Rule mandates 8 supporting documents per each 24 hour period. If your motor carrier is not doing anything with supporting documents (a relatively new rule since 2004), then there is no better time than now to start.

Thank you for reading this.

Stopping Cargo Theft


In Germany cargo thieves unloaded iPhones while the truck was under power at about 55 MPH (90 km/H). This happens dozens times a year in Germany according to Trailermatics. The biggest lure, however, like cargo theft in the U.S., is unattended freight.

Similar thefts once happened to trucks delivering meat to New York City. Drivers were afraid to stop at red lights for fear that someone would bust the lock on the trailer and start unloading the product.

Protecting cargo was the subject of a talk on Wednesday January 27, by Samuel Tucker, CPCU, CRM, CIC. Mr. Tucker is the CEO of Carrier Risk Solutions, Inc., a firm specializing in risk management and insurance solutions.

Carriers have a lot on their plates these days driving down regulation alley. Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine that there are people out there who don’t just want a piece of the action, but want a piece of your action.

In his webinar, Mr. Tucker stated that larger companies often have trained personnel and risk management plans in place to thwart cargo thieves. Smaller carriers often do not.

Remember the Red Zone

About 90% of thefts are untended vehicles. So cargo theft, like most crime, is a crime of opportunity. Criminals will wait for the right moment to strike. Sometimes it will be at a rest stop area. Sometimes it will be when the driver is fueling or even eating.

The Red Zone refers to about a 250 mile radius from the origin of the trip that the cargo is most likely to become stolen. If a high-dollar load is being followed, many times the gang following the truck will break off after 200 to 250 miles.

What this means is that high-dollar loads should minimize or eliminate any stops in the Red Zone. Make sure the truck is fueled up, drivers have enough hours of service, and drivers don’t have to make any unnecessary stops in the first 250 miles.

In a recent study analyzing cargo theft in the pharmaceutical market, it was uncovered that “other” costs actually contributed up to five times the value of the actual stolen shipment. FreightWatch International

Because smaller companies often lack safety resources and cargo theft is becoming more sophisticated with cargo thieves, for example, using GPS jammers and  3D printers to create fake trailer seals, Mr. Tucker has formed a service to fight cargo theft called My Safety Manager.

Included in the My Safety Manager service is Cargo Alert! that alerts drivers when to be on the lookout for “hot” loads or missing tractor trailers.

“The first 24 hours are most critical to get the word out,” Tucker said.

Other advice included:

  • Have a good cargo theft prevention plan for operational and physical exposures.
  • Do full 50 state background checks and pre-hire background screens. Spot-check employees who may have hidden events from their past.
  • Teach employees to be alert and aware. Stay up on what’s happening.
  •  Air cuffs locks and other new technology help prevent cargo thefts.
  • Fictitious pickups are a fact of life. Learn how to properly vet new or unknown drivers picking up trailer-loads at your facilities.

Overall I found the seminar to be highly informative. Mr Tucker can be reached directly at (770) 756-7205 if you have any questions on stopping cargo theft.

Did you know most cargo insurance polices are not the same? Every cargo policy is different — not uniform.

Thank you for reading this.

Equipment Mug Shots from Recent Roadside Inspections

loose or missing

All the lug nuts are loose. Except for the one that’s not there at all . . .

Clues: Shiny metal. Steams of corrosion.

But it only gets worse . . .


This photo was also recently taken at a roadside inspection. There was only one lug nut on this set of wheels.

What was this driver thinking?

During a pre-trip inspection, drivers need to look for:
– Stud or bolt holes out of round.
– Cracks between the hand holes (or air vents).
– Cracks between hand hold and bolt holes.
– Cracks from handhold to rim.
– Cracks from bolt hole to bolt hole.
– Check valve stem for damage and valve cap is in place.
– Check valve hole for damage or severe corrosion.
– Look for illegal welds or repairs.

Grab each lug nut and give it a hard twist to check for any looseness.
– Check for looseness indicated by rust streaks or shiny metal.
– Look for oxidation on aluminum rims.
– There should be no missing lugs or missing studs.

I like to highlight training points with newspaper stories.

Seriously injured by a loose wheel.

Now, Let’s Check the Brakes . . .

loose chamber

The old “piece of rope and bungee cord trick” to hold up your brake chamber . . .  A good way to someday meet in the judge’s chambers.


Been putting on some miles lately? Slick road meet slick tire.

Lastly, here is a recent, short video (less than 1 minute) that shows what happens when the suspension system is not inspected . . .

Incredible Tales of Woe

The stories coming from Roadside Inspectors are unbelievable. When you hear of the trucks with tires and wheels about to fly off (wheel offs), steering with massive free play, trailers with no kingpins, etc., it can send a chill down your spine.

When you actually see it, it’s hard to fathom how any driver would allow things to go that far or get that bad. Somebody is not doing their job. Part of the job is doing a good pre-trip inspection.

A Good Pre-trip Inspection

A good pre-trip means drivers should “Inspect to fail.”

Inspect to fail means to give as thorough an inspection as possible looking for all of a vehicle’s present safety defects or faults. Inspect to fail means, if a part, component or system on a vehicle (or the driver) does not meet, or fails to meet the standards in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, (FMCSRs) 49 CFR Part 393 Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation, then the vehicle is not roadworthy and should not be driven.

Keep in mind that the FMCSRs are the MINIMUM safety standards.

  • 392.7 Equipment, inspection and use.

No commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order, . . .

  • 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.
  • 393.1 Scope of rules in this part.

“Every employer and employee shall comply and be conversant with the requirements and specifications of this part. No employer shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, or cause or permit it to be operated, unless it is equipped in accordance with the requirements and specifications of this part.”

Drivers need to know these regulations like the back of their hands to be “conversant.”

Thank you for reading this.

Anatomy of a Fatal Truck Crash

Bokelman crash

Chicago, IL — On Friday, January 22, 2016 Andrew Bokelman, 25 plead guilty in a Cook County court to to three charges — all felonies — of operating a commercial vehicle while impaired or fatigued, filing a false log to conceal hours worked, and working longer than a 14-hour period allowed by law.


Shortly after 11:00 PM, on Thursday, March 28, 2013 Bokelman was traveling on on I-294, south of Willow Road near Northbrook, IL, when his tractor-trailer drifted to the left and then the left shoulder of the south-bound lanes.

Illinois State Trooper James Sauter was parked on the left shoulder and was rear-ended by Bokelman’s rig, and pushed over 500 feet, resulting in a fire. Although Bokelman attempted to help trooper Sauter, he was not able to because of the flames. A witness reported Bokelman had never touched his brakes prior to impact.

Bokelman received his commercial driver’s license (CDL) about six months before the crash.

Bokelman was driving from Waukesha, Wis., to Louisville, Ky and had driven about two hours prior to the crash. Alcohol and drugs were not a factor in this crash.

Officer Sauter was known as a “road dog,” who enjoyed highway patrol work and helping people. Although an Illinois State Police pilot, he requested to get back on the road.

Bokelman was not charged with reckless homicide charges, because in Illinois there is no precedent for doing so in cases when a driver falls asleep at the wheel. Bokelman started his work shift at 6 AM that morning and had worked 18 hours straight. His intentions were to not drive much further before the crash. A reckless homicide conviction in Illinois carries a sentence of between two to five years in prison.

On January 27, 2014 another Illinois trooper — Douglas Balder — was seriously injured and a toll worker killed when they were struck by Renato Velasquez’s tractor-trailer when Velasquez reportedly fell asleep. Velasquez had been driving over 28 hours on 3 1/2 hours of sleep.

Bokelman was sentenced to two years in prison but will be released in about a year due to time already served. The insurance company for Bokelman’s employer paid a $10 Million settlement to trooper Sauter’s wife.

There were some people not satisfied with Bokelman’s two-year sentence. They say it sends the wrong message, that it cheapens the lives of law enforcement.

Lessons Learned — Indoctrinate your drivers.

Running until you are dog-tired and nodding off at the wheel is simply knuckle-headed stuff. Stuff — that should never happen. But it keeps happening — again and again and again.

Start with the cold truth: Log violations and falsification are felonious. You can’t do worse than that.

Train drivers to protect themselves. The best protection is found in following the rules. The only driver protection is in following the rules. As I like to tell drivers — the insurance is on the truck.

Sure — bad things can happen to good people. Even good people following the rules. But by following the rules, a driver has what is known as a defense. The rules are there to protect everyone including the driver.

Somehow that message is not getting out there.

Something is wrong— very wrong when drivers are running 18 to 28 hour shifts at a stretch. It’s not productive. It’s not healthy. In fact, very quickly, it can and does turn counter-productive.

Back in the day, it was common practice to park and take a short nap if a driver felt it was needed. This was an unwritten rule in driving— when you reached your limit, stop, rest, and recharge before continuing.

It Gets Worse

The Illinois officer killed on the road before trooper Sauter, trooper Kyle Deatherage, was killed by a tractor-trailer driver who suffered from a medical condition that caused a loss of consciousness. The driver was allegedly in a state of unconsciousness when he struck and killed trooper Deatherage who was conducting a routine traffic stop on the roadside.

Another truck driver who should not have been on the road. Another unnecessary fatal collision. Trooper Kyle Deatherage won’t be there for his wife and kids . . .

Action Summary

Train and indoctrinate your drivers to protect themselves by knowing the rules, following the rules and documenting what they do.

Thank you for reading this.


Rolling Roadblocks by Trucks: Illegal or Not?

rolling roadblock

What Are Rolling Roadblocks?

Rolling roadblocks are a name for a tactic that has been used by police to control and slow down traffic.  An officer may weave across the lanes from side to side, or, the preferred method is to have the patrol cars drive abreast, one in each respective lane.

A rolling roadblock by police typically slows traffic while roadwork is being done, or a hazard is present on the roadway, ranging from a tire casing across a lane to a major collision scene.

Are trucks legally allowed to block traffic with a rolling roadblock?

Traffic laws in the U.S. are enforced by their respective states. One of the basic rules of driving is that slower traffic should stay to the right, unless passing. Some states ban trucks in the left lane.

PA § 3301.  Driving on right side of roadway.

(a)  General rule.–Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway

Pennsylvania, for example, like many states, recognizes a vehicle would be in the left lane if:

  • Overtaking and passing another vehicle
  • An obstruction exists in the right lane
  • An official traffic-control devices block the right lane
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic
  • Making a left turn or following a left-leading

Driving in the left lane (without returning to the right lane when it is safe to do so) is considered a civil infraction (a driver will be fined and pay court costs) under (MCL 257.634 in Michigan.

Another issue to take into consideration is the fact that what is not enforced in one state, may be enforced in another state or even in a different part of the same state.

Trucks engaging in a rolling roadblock could be ticketed for:

  • impeding traffic (OH)
  • obstructing traffic (PA)
  • improper passing
  • improper lane use (MI)

Key Driver Indoctrination Points

Truck drivers should not participate in creating rolling roadblocks.

Law enforcement may consider a rolling roadblock, even with good intention, the same as drivers taking traffic control into their own hands — an illegal act.

Motorcycles have been encouraged by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to use the shoulder for safety during expressway slowdowns. Lane splitting (the practice of riding a motorcycle between clearly marked lanes) by motorcycles in slow expressway traffic is considered an “option” for motorcycles in California. Trucks should not move over in their lanes or to other lanes to impede motorcycles.

More states are encouraging merging traffic to blend together in what is known as the zipper merge.

Treat all merging traffic with common courtesy and expect other drivers to make mistakes.

Do not take right-of-way. Right of way can only be granted — never taken.

Action Summary

Train and indoctrinate your drivers about the legal consequences of engaging in rolling roadblocks.

Set clear expectations in driver handbooks and company policy (in writing) about rolling roadblocks, interacting with motorcycles and merging.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta


John Taratuta is a trucking safety advocate and Risk Engineer.

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), What Carriers and Drivers Should Know

 e-logsPresenting Annette M. Sandberg, Esq.

Yesterday, FleetOwner magazine with the sponsorship of Telogis, a logistics software provider, provided a webinar on Electronic Logging Devices, What Carriers and Drivers Should Know, by Annette M. Sandberg, Esq., former head of the FMCSA and principal at TransSafe Consulting, LLC. Before running the FMCSA she was with the  Washington State Patrol for 17 years.

The final ELD rule was published December 16, 2015 and gives motor carriers two years to comply with it — for an effective date of December 18, 2017.

Who needs to comply with the ELD Rule?

Remember the letter “L” in ELD. L means Log.

If a driver needs to run a Log Book, then they will have to upgrade to an ELD by the above date, with few, few exceptions.

Who does NOT need to comply with the ELD Rule?

Again, as the rule is now written, there are only a few exceptions.

  1. Drivers who do not run logbooks.

Logical, right? If a driver does not run a log book, then they would not need an ELD. Generally this means drivers who use “time cards,” “exemption” sheets, or short haul drivers:

CDL drivers who always return to their same starting location, never work or drive a total of 12 hours in a day and stay within 100 air-miles of their starting location (or non-CDL drivers who do the same but stay within 150 air-miles of their starting location).

But there is a crucial exception to this exception: in a rolling 30 day period these drivers will need an ELD if they have to use paper logs more than 8 days of any rolling 30 day period (if the driver must attach a logsheet to the time card).

So if a driver goes over their maximum 12 hour work shift, stays overnight somewhere other than their normal start location, or goes over the 100/150 air-miles, more than 8 days in a 30 day period, then they will need to install an ELD device.

2. Driveaway-towaway Operations

“Driveaway-towaway operation” means any operation in which any motor vehicle, trailer or semitrailer, singly or in combination, new or used, constitutes the commodity being transported when one set or more wheels of any such vehicle are on the roadway during the course of transportation, whether or not any such vehicle furnishes the motive power.

Driveaway-towaway operations get a free pass. No ELDs for you.

3. Pre-2000 model year trucks.

Older trucks cannot be wired for ELDs, in a cost-effective manner. Older trucks are, in a sense, “grandfathered in” into the new millennium. They, too, get a free pass.

That’s it. Everyone else who needs to use a logbook, needs to use an ELD device.

  • Fleetsize does not matter.
  • Truck size does not matter. (Truck age does matter).
  • Commodities hauled do not matter (other than Driveaway-towaway operations).
  • Nothing else matters, if you have to run a paper log, then you need to run an electronic log on an ELD device.

What is an ELD device?

Size, shape and type of device is not defined. It could be a smart phone, tablet, or any electronic device, as long as is mountable and secure when the truck is in motion, and available for law enforcement outside the cab, and displays the required trip data:

  • Driver name and ELD username, if one applies.
  • The motor carrier’s name and address
  • Engine hours and mileage for each driving period.
  • Any fault status if the ELD malfunctions.
  • A grid graph, hours and locations.

Key ELD Points

  • Original entries are permanent.
  • Any annotations and edits must be initialed
  • Data will be encrypted
  • All drivers must have accounts, including shop mechanics who test drive a truck
  • All mileage must be assigned or accounted for
  • Owner/operators cannot have an administrator account.

Automatic Duty Status Changes (Two)

  • If the wheels move (5 MPH), the device will default to on-duty, driving.
  • If the vehicle stops over 5 minutes the device will warn the driver, then default to on-duty (not driving).
  • No other automatic duty status changes are allowed (as the rule is now written).

But Wait . . . There’s More! Supporting Documents, the Crazy 8s

The logging may be electronic, but the paperwork never ends.

Supporting documents requirements take effect on the ELD rule Compliance Date December 18, 2017.

  • Up to 8 supporting documents (SDs) in a 24-hour period MUST be kept. As a rule of thumb, if you have them, then you must use them (but no more than 8).
  • NEW: SDs must be submitted to the carrier within 8 days.
  • Drivers need to produce SDs in their possession at Roadside Inspections.
  • Carriers must be able to match the SDs with the electronic logs.

There are five categories of supporting documents:

  • Bills of lading, itineraries, schedules, or equivalent documents that show the starting and ending location for each trip;
  • Dispatch records, trip records, or equivalent documents;
  • Expense receipts (meals, lodging, fuel, etc.);
  • Fleet management system communication records;
  • Payroll records, settlement sheets, or equivalent documents showing payment to a driver.

New: Drivers using paper RODS must also keep toll receipts – which don’t count toward the eight-document cap.

Required SUPPORTING dOCUMENT Information

Each supporting document must contain the following information:

  • Driver name (or a carrier-assigned identification number) on the document or on another document that allows the carrier to link the first document to the driver.  The vehicle unit number can be used, if that number can be linked to the driver.
  • Date.
  • Location (including the name of the nearest city, town, or village).
  • Time.

If a driver has fewer than eight documents with all four information elements, a document that does not include time can also serve as a supporting document.

Annette M. Sandberg answered many questions in a short amount of time.

Her final recommendations?

  1. Do your homework. Implementation will take longer than you expect. Line up your ducks in a row before the deadline. She gave tips on device selection.
  2. Things will change and the DOT promised to provide more information at their ELD page.

FleetOwner said they will post her webinar next week on their website. Check it out.

DOT’s Drivers ELD webpage and Carrier’s ELD webpage.

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