Commercial Insurance Best Practices Save You Money

Best Insurance Practices

The following best practices are ways you can save money, avoid towing fraud, lower your out-of-service (OOS) scores, determine if an accident really is a DOT accident, and help stabilize rising insurance premiums.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #45

Notify your Insurance Company on a claim . . . even if you have already contacted your Attorney

Some companies and organizations keep an attorney on a retainer basis to go over any potential legal issues, including accidents, incidents or potential claims.

Some attorneys simply insist on staying informed of any situations involving potential liability for the business.

And some attorneys may provide their clients with “coverage opinions,” on whether or not the insurance liability claim on their vehicle would be covered. They will review if the policy was in effect, if the claim involves the insured or an additional insured, if there were any exclusions to the policy, and any exceptions to the exclusions, if the terms and conditions of the policy apply, and what is the effect, if any, of the endorsements on the policy.

If you do discuss an incident or claim with an attorney, be sure to also report it to your agent or insurance company.

Says one insurance company, “While we all hope to not have a claim, we know that things happen. The first thing to remember is to report the incident to your insurance company immediately.” (IFG Claims page)

Why do some policyholders delay in reporting a claim?

Some policyholders fear that reporting incidents or claims will result in higher rates, more restrictive policy terms, or even a potential nonrenewal of the policy. It’s a legitimate concern.

Some want to “handle it themselves,” perhaps paying out-of-pocket (think twice before proceeding in this direction—as it can be seen later as a possible “admission of liability”), or they rely on counsel’s opinion that the potential claim “might not be covered.”

Reality check! Delay in reporting an incident or claim can result in forgoing your insurance company’s advice and assistance in resolving the matter. Only the insurance company can make the determination, if they will cover the claim. And to do so, any claim needs to be promptly investigated.

If not notified of a claim within a reasonable time, the insurance company may be relieved of their responsibility to defend, and ultimately pay the claim. This could be costly to your company, as in some claims, the defense tab can exceed the actual claim.

Make sure your workforce reports all incidents and accidents to you, so they get properly and promptly handled.

If you have a concern your premiums will jump because of the number or claims submitted, this could be a cue it might be time to find another insurance company. As one risk manager noted, the same insurance company raising your rates because of the number or claims submitted, is the same insurance company likely to also deny claims submitted. It might be better to pay a little more in premiums in return for better service.

In Summary:

  • Always promptly report any claims to your agent.
  • Don’t merely rely on your counsel to determine, if you are covered under an insurance policy. Let the insurance company make that determination.
  • Don’t pay any claims out of pocket, unless this has been agreed to by the insurance company.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #46

A Quick Start to Lower Premiums

For some business owners, insurance is kept on the back burner for most of the year, except perhaps in the two or three months before renewals. There is always a lot going on in the business, and this insurance stuff always seems to eat up a lot of time and energy.

Reality Check: The market is firming up. Adopt a longer view, a long-term strategy when dealing with your insurance needs.

A change in mindset on how you approach insurance might be needed.

  • Can you change your structure to lower your insurance costs?
  • How much risk can you retain?
  • Are there other options in the marketplace?

Check with your agent or broker how much your premiums would go down with a higher deductible.


  • A 500 unit fleet, had a $10k deductible. Bumping that up to a $75k or $100k deductible might save them about $80,000 a year, if not more.

Some fleets “stair-step” higher deductibles, for example starting at perhaps $50k, then $75k the next year, and $100k the year after.

  • Even with a higher deductible, the claims process is the same—all claims are still handled by the insurance company.
  • Quick Tip: Retaining more risk (with a higher deductible) opens up the market to getting more quotes back from underwriting!

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #47

Was It an Accident? The Answer Could Affect Your Premiums

The U.S. DOT requires DOT regulated carriers keep an “accident register” or list of accidents with specific data.

All DOT “recordable accidents” should be listed on this required document (involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) rated at 10,001 pounds GVWR and greater).
Insurance companies also are interested in this information.

  • For DOT reporting purposes it is irrelevant whether an accident is classified as a “preventable” or “non-preventable” accident.
  • “Fault” does not matter here for recording purposes.
  • So what is an accident?
  • What is the DOT criteria for an accident?
  • Where is it found?

If the federal regulations were put in a book, then Part 390 would be called “Chapter One.”

Specifically, in the beginning section of 390.5 Definitions, the term “accident” is defined, as well as other terms and words that make up the definition.
To understand the definition, you need to understand all of it, including the terms as they are defined and used.

An accident . . .involves a CMV . . . on the highway . . . which results in:

  • (i) A fatality;
  • (ii) Bodily injury to a person who, as a result of the injury, immediately receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident; or
  • (iii) One or more motor vehicles incurring disabling damage as a result of the accident, requiring the motor vehicle(s) to be transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.

The DOT also excludes from the definition of a recordable accident:

  • Only boarding and alighting from a stationary motor vehicle; or
  • Involving only the loading or unloading of cargo.

Where it happen? A highway “means any road, street, or way, whether on public or private property, open to public travel.”

  • So a DOT accident can happen on any road, any where, if it is “open to public travel.” This could be a parking lot or yard, unless it was gated, guarded, or had some means of controlled access, making it NOT open to public travel. If access to the location was controlled, then it was not a DOT recordable accident.

Was anyone fatally injured?Fatality means any injury which results in the death of a person at the time of the motor vehicle accident or within 30 days of the accident.”

  • The DOT uses a thirty (30) day counting period for accident fatalities. If a person dies as a result of injuries received in a traffic crash with a CMV within thirty days of the date of the crash, that victim is considered a traffic fatality, and the accident is DOT recordable.

Was anyone injured? Bodily injury means injury to the body, sickness, or disease including death resulting from any of these.

  • The classification and type of injury are not important as the timing of the treatment. It must take place “immediately.” DOT says:
  • Guidance:The term ‘‘immediate’’ means without an unreasonable delay. A person immediately receives medical treatment if he or she is transported directly from the scene of an accident to a hospital or other medical facility as soon as it is considered safe and feasible to move the injured person away from the scene of the accident.
  • Question 20:A person involved in an incident discovers that he or she is injured after leaving the scene of the incident and receives medical attention at that time. Does the incident meet the definition of accident in 49 CFR 390.5T?
  • Guidance:No. The incident does not meet the definition of accident in 49 CFR 390.5 because the person did not receive treatment immediately after the incident.
  • Any type of vehicle, privately owned or an ambulance, may be used to transport an injured person from the accident scene to the treatment site, but it must occur immediately after the crash.

Some motor carriers only utilize the information listed on the police accident report. This can be misleading.

  • If there were really any injuries making the accident recordable, further investigation may be necessary to properly determine if any medical treatment was received, or if the person merely had a check up, or went for observations.

Was there any disabling damage requiring towing?

  • Disabling damage means damage which precludes departure of a motor vehicle from the scene of the accident in its usual manner in daylight after simple repairs.
  • (1) Inclusions. Damage to motor vehicles that could have been driven, but would have been further damaged if so driven.
  • (2) Exclusions. (Not DOT Reportable accidents)
  • (i) Damage which can be remedied temporarily at the scene of the accident without special tools or parts. (A mirror or fender can be pulled back into place.)
  • (ii) Tire disablement without other damage even if no spare tire is available. (Flat tire.)
  • (iii) Headlamp or taillight damage.
  • (iv) Damage to turn signals, horn, or windshield wipers which makes them inoperative.

Other nonreportable events would include:

  • A commercial motor vehicle becomes stuck in the median or shoulder, without contact with another vehicle. (Interpretation Question No. 12). A tow in this instance normally does not make this incident into an accident.
  • Other vehicles that leave roadway without contract from motor carrier vehicle (Interpretation Question No. 28)

Be sure to also check the DOT’s Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS), which contains a Crash summary of 4 years, and individual crashes of 1-2 years (from State crash reports).

DOT Accident Summary

  • All accidents are not necessarily DOT accidents. Be sure your required DOT Accident Register reflects only those accidents which meet the criteria for DOT Accidents.
  • Where did they occur (on a highway)? Was there a fatality (within 30 days)? Was there an injury (requiring immediate treatment)? Was there a towed vehicle (due to disabling damage)?
  • Is the DOT’s MCMIS data correct for your company?
  • Have you reviewed your Company Safety Profile in the last year?

Insurance Saving Tip #48

Understanding Towing Insurance Fraud

  • The illegal towing and recovery of commercial vehicles has become an issue for some fleets.
  • Towing operations are regulated by state or local jurisdictions, so performance can vary from area to area.
  • Some jurisdictions require a separate tow bill for a trailer, thereby doubling the bill for a combination unit.
  • While most towing operators are honest, a small number has been criticized for sharp business practices, including exorbitant fees or holding equipment and cargo hostage. Prevention of towing insurance fraud is always your best defense.

One area drawing attention recently is towing insurance fraud:

  • Non-consensual towing* of vehicles without the owner’s or operator’s consent.
  • Vehicles that are towed at the direction of law enforcement without the prior consent of the vehicle’s owner or operator
  • Towing by an unauthorized tow operator
  • Unreasonable storage and access fees
  • Towing insurance fraud can directly affect your insurance premiums.

*Non-consensual towing occurs when a wrecker makes a tow without the driver’s consent, or at the direction of law enforcement, in the interest of clearing the roadway.

Tips to avoid towing insurance fraud:

  • Ensure drivers do not park a truck on private property, then leave the premises, without an authorization to park there.
  • Become familiar with the laws governing towing in the jurisdiction of the tow.
  • Follow the TMC’s recommended practices RP 527A Vendor Selection Guidelines for Towing and Recovery
  • Carefully review towing and storage bills for inflated items or services not rendered.
  • Ask the towing company to always mail you a copy of the itemized bill.
  • File a complaint with the law enforcement unit responsible for managing the rotation wrecker list, if issues cannot be resolved.
  • Is the towing company properly licensed and adequately insured?
  • Ensure drivers are on the lookout for “runners” or “chasers” showing up offering their tow services at the scene of an accident without being requested by law enforcement or any parties.
  • Make sure you have adequate tow insurance in your policy.
  • If a towing company indicates at an accident scene that they are authorized by the insurance company to be there, verify this information with the insurance company.
  • Ensure drivers know not to sign a “consent to tow” form.
  • Drivers should photograph any tow equipment involved in a tow or recovery.

2021 Insurance Saving Tip #49

Lower Your “Out-of-Service Scores” for Lower Truck Insurance Premiums

The Out-of-Service (OOS) status reflects one or more OOS violations in a single inspection, for either the vehicle or the driver, and, if any hazardous materials were present, for any hazmat violations.

  • The OOS percentage is duly noted by Underwriters

Your Out-of-Service (OOS) Scores reflect certain roadside inspection data over the last two years, based on the number of inspections.

Out of Service Score

There are five levels of DOT roadside inspections:

  • Level 1 – a complete inspection
  • Level 2 – a walk-around inspection
  • Level 3 – a driver-only inspection
  • Level 4 – an inspection for a special study
  • Level 5 – a vehicle-only inspection
  • Level 6 – Level 1 inspection plus additional examination of Radioactive Material

The OOS scores are calculated based on the following types of roadside inspections:

  • Vehicle Inspection
  • Levels 1+2+5+6
  • Driver Inspection
  • Levels 1+2+3+6
  • Hazmat Inspection
  • Levels 1+2+3+4+5+6 (when Hazmat is present)
  • The National Average % is the percentage of all inspections conducted in the USA that resulted in an “Out of Service” status.

National Average

This carrier has about 3,000 units and is well below the national averages. This is where you want to be!

  • The fewer OOS violations found on roadside inspections, the lower the OOS percentages.

Are percentages near the National Average % acceptable?

  • Short answer—Yes. Few insurance companies will expect you to be better than “average.” Slightly below is a good goal.
  • Long answer: If you are in the long game, do everything you can to keep your vehicle and driver inspections with as few OOS violations as possible for the best possible insurance premiums.

How can we improve our OOS percentages?

  • Take advantage of every opportunity to accrue “clean” roadside inspections.
  • Remember the three Fs: Find it. Fix it. But don’t Forget it.
  • Ensure drivers are always physically and medically qualified to drive a CMV (Parts 383 and 391, especially Subpart E of Part 391).
  • Vehicles must meet the inspection and maintenance standards (Parts 392, 393 and 396).
  • If you are not a hazmat hauler, make sure drivers can identify any loads containing hazardous materials, and they always check in, if they have questions on what they are hauling.
  • If you do haul hazardous materials—Follow the standards in Part 397 and U.S. Department of Transportation HM regulations Parts 171, 172, 173, 177, 178, 179 & 180.
  • Over-communicate: Keep drivers current on what they need to know.

Make sure drivers are aware of how they can be placed Out-of-Service, and what they can do to eliminate potential violations. ■

Check Your CSA Scores

Crash Indicator BASIC

Know the Score

If for no other reason than ‘occasionally mistakes are made,’ it is a good practice to check your motor carrier safety and performance data on a regular basis—say, monthly.

What kind of mistakes? As motor carriers as tracked by their individually assigned U.S. DOT number, it is not unheard of to have another motor carrier’s violation show up under your DOT number, if someone mistakenly puts in a wrong digit of the number.

Drivers may forget to inform you of a failed roadside inspection or that they were stopped and ticketed for a traffic infraction, moving violation, or a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

How to Check Your Score?

To check your CSA scores and profile, go to the CSA landing page.

Then, in the box under “Check Motor Carrier Safety and Performance Data,” type or paste either the name or company under which you registered with the DOT or your U.S. DOT number. This will take you to the “Overview” page.

On the Overview page, you will see your “Out of Service Rates,” expressed as a percentage, for Vehicles and Drivers. These percentages should stay under the national average.

Further down the Overview page are the individual Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). As a rule, these should not go above the 20 per cent line in any of the seven BASICs, of which only five are available for viewing by the general public. For insurance purposes, none of the BASICs should ever be flagged in an “Alert” status.

Below the BASICs on the Overview page is a link to your “Complete SMS Profile.” Here you will find a “Violation Summary” showing a list of violations, and a “Inspection History” showing a listing of inspections.

Study the Inspection History for new violations, any violations which may be unknown to you, or violations that may be listed here by mistake. Investigate these violations to your satisfaction.

Next is a Crash Activity Detail or a listing of vehicles “involved” in a crash. Under a new proposed method, certain crashes (deemed nonpreventable) will likely not be tracked in the future.

Study the Crash Activity Detail section to make sure it is accurate. Generally you will not find any “property” damage accidents or incidents listed here, so it may not be as complete as your insurance loss runs.

Why Bother?

The main reasons to check your CSA safety and performance data are as follows:

  1. Insurance companies are interested in the data when they underwrite policies
  2. Shippers and brokers are interested in the data in assigning loads
  3. The press and media can use this information, if your company is involved in an incident/accident/collision
  4. Mistakes can occur, and, if not corrected, can affect the above
  5. The bottom line: Your reputation is at stake. Bad data or incorrect data can lead to bad judgments about your operations

Correcting the Mistakes

In an upcoming blog we will discuss how to correct mistakes on your safety profile using DataQs.

Thank you for reading this.

Picture of John Taratuta

John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599



Marsh: Most Truck Crashes From Drivers Being Sleepy or Distracted

Fatal hard braking

On Friday, April 22, a single-vehicle accident took the life of this truck driver when he slammed on the brakes and his load shifted forward in Angola, Indiana.


“We have seen some nuclear verdicts, large liability claim settlements, many of them coming from the vantage that the driver was fatigued.” Richard Bleser,  Marsh Risk Consulting.

“Sometimes, I work . . . until 10 or 11 at night. Then I have to get up at 2 AM for trucking.”  Steel hauler

The DOT wants all truck drivers to be tested for apnea, a sleep disorder which can affect safety, if untreated. On March 8th, 2016 the FMCSA, along with the FRA, opened a ninety day period for public comments on its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) for sleep apnea.

Nuclear Verdicts

A nuclear verdict has been defined as a verdict in excess of $10 million, or perhaps less than $10 million, but still high considering the injuries and damages. The majority of the recent nuclear verdicts, involve not only driving while fatigued, but some form of distracted driving according to Marsh.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task: driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Distractions are classified into the types: visual, manual, and cognitive.

distractionsThe CDC cites studies showing some type of distraction is present during 52% of normal driving, be it engaging in a conversation, talking on a hands-free cell phone, eating, or even simply daydreaming.

Distraction was present in 68% of crashes that involved injury or property damage, according to one study. CDC

The highest-risk driver by age, most likely to be involved in a fatal collision due to distracted driving, are between ages 20 to 29, followed by those between the ages of 30 to 39 says the CDC.

What Smart Companies Do

Safety experts agree the best way to avoid liability or potential nuclear verdicts is to not have the collision in the first place. As the nature of the risk is changing, so must organizational efforts to mitigate or even eliminate the risk.

Tip: Space + Focus = Collision-free Driving  Marsh

• Smart companies start with a comprehensive Distracted Driving Policy: Avoid driving when distracted, including, but not limited to, when eating, drinking, smoking, or emotional /stressful conversations. A formal policy serves as the foundation of your distracted driving prevention program.

Fact: Most people (86% according to a survey by Coalfire) use their smartphone for both personal use and work. Your Distracted Driving Policy should limit, and preferably eliminate, both uses while driving. In many jurisdictions cell phone/smart phone use while driving is already illegal. And doing illegal things while driving is never helpful . . .

• Train everybody (drivers, managers, and staff) on your Distracted Driving Policy. Once is not enough. Reinforce training with emails, newsletters, bulletin boards, and notices in vehicles to communicate your policy.  Update your Disciplinary Action Policy in the Employee Handbook.

• Hold management and staff accountable. Enforce the policy. Monitor and review your efforts. Use new technology to augment your safety efforts. Set the example.

• Have a fatigue management program. Fatigue Management Programs (FMPs) are interventions intended to assist in reducing driver fatigue. New technology can help here.

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$&..

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.


NC Insurance Commissioner Wants to Purge ‘Nonresident’ Truckers

Night loading at papermill

Cheap Shots . . .

North Carolina has some of the lowest insurance rates in the U.S. and North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin wants to keep it that way according to WRAL.

Calling the nonresident truckers ‘liars’ and posers, Goodwin, is drafting legislation to distinguish between NC based trucking companies and those who operate out of another state.

NC once had out-of-state car drivers signing up for the lower auto insurance rates but changed the laws. NC has the cheapest insurance in the U.S. as NC residents pay 41 percent less than the national average, according to Fox8. (The most expensive state for auto insurance is Michigan.)

While there are a number of reasons NC insurance rates are lower (including good drivers subsiding the bad drivers), the main reason, according to  Stuart Powell, Vice President of Technical Affairs at Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina, Inc., is that personal injury lawsuits are difficult to win in North Carolina, if the driver contributed to the collision.

The Facts . . .

As noted in Friday’s blog, personal injury claims involving trucks are over $1 million, on average, and rising.

Other facts:

In 2013 Heavy Vehicle Registrations included:

  • 8,126,007 single-unit trucks (straight trucks)
  • 2,471,349 combination trucks (tractor-trailers), and
  • 864,549 buses

There are about 5.8 million CDL drivers and millions of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

Motor vehicle crashes are on the increase. In the first half of 2015 there was a 14% increase in fatal accidents according to the National Safety Council (NSC).

Fatal truck accidents occur 11 times every day and are on the rise.

More than 100,000 people are injured every year in truck crashes. Multiply each truck injury by $1M and the annual cost would be over $100,000,000,000. That’s One Hundred Billion Dollars. At one time you could run the whole country on that and have spare change.

The cost of a fatal crash involving a tractor-trailer is over $7 million.

More miles driven, more cars on the road, more accidents. Tom Wilson, CEO Allstate

Motor-vehicle deaths may exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007, according to the NSC.

Options for Lowering Your Truck Insurance

(1.) Hold the current course.

80% of companies will not make an effort to craft their culture, according to culture design expert Maria Giudice.  There are a lot of good safety information and resources out there, perhaps more than ever before. Become safe by design, not by default. Many times business owners tell me “Well everyone knows that,” but they have not reduced their policies to a written form. Don’t ignore or fail to implement your safety plan until safety becomes an issue. Then it’s too late.

It is not necessary to change. Survival is optional.  Dr. W. Edwards Deming

(2.) Be proactive.

Being proactive means acknowledging there is a steep learning curve to deal with of the industry changes, regulatory changes, compliance changes, and changes in whatever stage your organization is in at this time. Make an effort to stay ahead of the curve. This may involve some risk, but the rewards are well worth it.

(3.) Be transparent.

Being transparent means having crystal clear policies that everyone knows— and follows because they are enforced. Simple policies, like wear your safety (seat) belt and never use your cell phone while driving, carry huge safety implications to your risk partners (insurance companies) and regulators (DOT, DPS, OSHA, etc.). Your risk partner likely has a Loss Control (LC) department that will assist you in crafting basic safety policies and procedures. There are no fees or charges for LC services.

Thank you for reading this.


Alert: I-35 Truck Crashes on the Rise

I-35 Truck Crash -- About 120 truck crashes happened in 2015

A big-rig crash on I-35 . . .

Austin, Texas is not only the fastest growing city in the U.S., averaging about 2.9% growth, but growing congestion and inattentive drivers are contributing to several truck crashes each week on I-35.

On Thursday (Feb. 18, 2016), an out of control tractor-trailer hit the center guard rail and was rear-ended. The truck driver was hospitalized with serious injuries. When it was over, another rig and five cars were involved in the crash— mostly from damage from debris at the crash scene. Both directions of I-35 were shut down for several hours.

KXAN Investigates

KXAN-NBC investigated why so many truck crashes in Austin on I-35 are happening.

And the main reasons for so many crashes?

  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Drivers not paying attention.

Sen. Kirk Warson, D-Austin would like to see through-truck traffic take SH-130 to bypass much of the city. He would reduce SH-130 tolls for trucks during peak traffic times. A truck and trailer pay about $10 to run SH-130.


KXAN found most I-35 truck crashes happen between 12 PM and 3 PM.

Austin, TX Truck Crashes

Data from American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) shows Austin, TX ranks No. 16 for traffic congestion.

I-35 Peak traffic speeds

Traffic on I-35 slows to a crawl in late afternoons, according to this chart provided by ATRI. Even if trucks took the toll-road at that time, it is doubtful fewer truck crashes would result, in my opinion. Traffic is at a crawl by 6 PM.

Is Aggressive Driving to Blame?

It’s a fact. Most collisions are preventable.

The National Safety Council (NSC), defines a preventable collision as one in which the driver failed to do everything that they reasonably could have done to avoid it.

The next video is 58 seconds long and was viewed over 8 million times. Watch as a car attempts an unsafe lane change.

It may be possible that the vantage point from the camera is much better than from the driver’s seat — especially if the driver is sitting low.

Two vehicles attempted to occupy the same space at the same time. Fortunately for both, no one was injured.

But could this collision have been prevented?

Applying the Preventability Standard

The American Trucking Association (ATA), uses the following standard to determine the preventability in a crash . . .

“Was the vehicle driven in such a way to make due allowance for the conditions of the road, weather, and traffic and to also assure that the mistakes of other drivers did not involve the driver in a collision?”

This is not a legal standard to determine collision fault. This standard is simply to determine if proper driving precautions were taken to avoid a collision.

In this video one can only speculate if the truck driver is driving defensively or not. Because of that element of doubt, and without any further mitigating facts, I would be inclined to believe the truck driver could have started slowing down a little sooner— not only pulled off his lane onto the left-shoulder, and possibly no collision would have resulted.

The concepts of preventability and defensive driving are essential to the operation of a fleet safety program.
A fleet safety supervisor must diligently work to create awareness of not only the importance of preventability, but also the fleet and defensive driving procedures involved. Providing adequate training as well as holding drivers accountable for preventable accidents will not only reduce the vehicle accident frequency but improve the fleet operations and the company’s bottom line. Hartford Insurance and  National Association of Wholesale Distributors

Thank you for reading this.

More  . . . Beware The Indy Ramps


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.


That Well-Intentioned “All-Clear” Wave

X-ray of cyclist hit by truck given the "all clear" wave.

X-ray of a cyclist who was hit by truck given the “all clear” wave.

It happens time and time again. You know the situation. Two drivers stop at an intersection, and one waves the other on. The second driver see the “all clear” wave and takes right of way, and then bang! — collides with a person, cyclist or another vehicle.

Who’s at fault?

The answer may surprise you.

Fault really depends in which state the collision occurs . . . and may even be determined on a case-by-case basis. In the collision with the cyclist (photo above), the driver who gave the “all clear” wave was found by an Oregon jury to be 35 percent responsible for the crash. After the collision, the bicyclist went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing, and would have died had a doctor not been nearby. The bicyclist got twelve screws and a plate, four broken ribs, a broken scapula, punctured lung and a concussion, and sued both the driver in the truck-bike collision and his company, and the driver who gave the “wave” (and his company), for $670,000 in damages. 

Trucks Can Hide Traffic

Because commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are large, they can obscure an on-coming vehicle at intersections.  If a CMV-driver waves a car on, the car may do something the truck driver didn’t expect, like pulling into traffic, cyclists or pedestrians who have the legal right-of-way. This shouldn’t happen, but it frequently does.

Another potential “conflict” occurs when a tractor-trailer swings into the oncoming lane to make a right turn. If not timed correctly, traffic can back up quickly. If the tractor-trailer driver waves a car around his truck, there is no telling how the car driver might respond.

Giving an “all clear” wave can result in serious injury to others on the road.

Giving an “all clear” wave can subject well-intentioned drivers to liability.

What the Law Says

Gary Wickert, Esq., and attorney with with Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, and expert on insurance subrogation, wrote an article called Punishing Common Courtesy in Claims Journal.

A good argument can be made that “do-gooders” who bring traffic to a complete stop to wave somebody into the roadway create a dangerous blind spot for the merging vehicle and a very hazardous situation for all vehicles in the vicinity. This is especially true when the vehicle that comes to a stop is a large SUV or truck. Nobody wants to put their life in the hands of some well-intentioned motorist, and it is hard to precisely interpret a “wave.” Does the wave mean that it is clear to pull across both lanes of traffic or simply to pull in front of the stopped vehicle and proceed in the same direction? The “wave” usually consists of a signal which can be interpreted as “it’s clear to cross the street.” This debate makes for interesting bar chat, but when tragedy results from good intentions, lawyers enter the conversation. And, if the person attempting to cross the street is a pedestrian or if you extend the liability to a driver’s signaling that it is clear for a vehicle behind him to pass, when it isn’t, the liability for having a big heart can be significant.


Drivers Need to Know . . .

A driver signaling “all clear” can create a traffic hazard — resulting in personal injury or death.

A driver has no obligation to engage in signalling other drivers or “directing traffic.” That’s why we have the “rules of the road.”

A driver “directing traffic” assumes the same level of liability as a police officer does when directing traffic.

Thank you for stopping by.

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

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.

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.


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.

Previous . . . New DOT Reg Requires Electronic Logging for CMVs

Thank you for reading this. Our email is admin(at)part380(dot)com for your questions or comments.

Texting at 70 MPH: Dangerous Truckers

texting truckers

It’s no secret. Truckers are texting and talking on the cell phone while driving.

So are car drivers. The effect is mind-boggling: each year thousands of crashes are occurring, costing Billions of dollars in damages. It’s more than the budgets of a number of countries.

We all suffer greatly from this unnecessary indulgence. Costs are rising for insurance, comp, taxes to pay for the uninsured, emergency services (towing, ambulances, emergency room services, hospitalization, physical therapy and rehabilitation) police response, and legal and court fees to compensate victims for this wholesale negligence. .

Fatal Texting Crash

Somebody has to pay for this party.

Company owners like to question me why insurance rates are so high. Put the cell phone down and have your drivers do the same and reap the benefits of lower insurance premiums.

ABC News even captured one driver talking on two cell phones. Autonomous trucks are already here — you just didn’t know it.

There are studies showing how dangerous it is to not look at the road while driving, or dialing numbers, entering data or even merely conversing.

Drivers don’t believe the information, don’t believe it can happen to them, or sadly, in at least one case of an injured bicyclist, said they just don’t care.

Here is one driver who does not use his phone on the job . . .

“I see truck drivers doing it every day.”


A truck driver who gets in a serious crash while texting or talking on a cell phone:

  • would likely lose their commercial driver’s license
  • could be sentenced to prison
  • could be given thousands of dollars in fines
  • could face civil lawsuits.

During any period of probation, a convicted driver would have to surrender his CDL. The fines don’t go down for multiple-offenses. The company fines (up to $11,000) and higher insurance rates, if there is a crash, could be enough to put a smaller motor carrier out of business.

“If regulations governing pilots, captains and drivers aren’t enforced, they really are just words on paper.”  Superior Court Judge Craig E. Robison

Thanks for stopping over.

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

Odds and Ends

King of the Road

Transportation Research Board

Item 1. TRB Week

This week is TRB Week. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 95th Annual Meeting will be held January 10–14, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C.

The meeting is expected to attract more than 12,000 transportation professionals from around the world. The meeting program will cover all transportation modes, with more than 800 sessions and workshops, and 200 exhibitors. As such, this is the largest event in North America for U.S. DOT and State DOT Officials.

Two semitrailers collided early Saturday morning on Interstate 80 at mile marker 257 or the Elm Creek interchange that sent four to the hospital.

Item No. 2. Unrestrained Passenger in Bunk Seriously Hurt

Two semitrailers crashed early Saturday morning on Interstate 80 at mile marker 257 or the Elm Creek interchange that sent four people from the two trucks to the hospital.

One of the most seriously injured was in the sleeper at the time of the collision and was not restrained or buckled in.

393.76 (h) Occupant restraint. A motor vehicle manufactured on or after July 1, 1971, and equipped with a sleeper berth must be equipped with a means of preventing ejection of the occupant of the sleeper berth during deceleration of the vehicle. The restraint system must be designed, installed, and maintained to withstand a minimum total force of 6,000 pounds applied toward the front of the vehicle and parallel to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle.

Although this rule has been on the books since 1971, drivers still have questions about it. The DOT is currently putting a passenger restraint rule into place.

“When I was running team I had to make an emergency stop and my co-driver, who didn’t think he needed to use it, ended up in a heap against the shifter. He was really wide awake, too.” Driver


“Any authorized person sleeping in your vehicle while it is moving should use the bunk restraint. In an accident, an unrestrained person lying in a sleeper bunk could be injured. He or she could be thrown from the bunk.”  Driver’s Manual

A 2013 study  of over 700 collisions involving a passenger in the sleeper berth compartment by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center found that whether a passenger was in the seat or bunk did not matter to the extent of the driver’s injuries. What did and does matter how injured a passenger becomes in a crash is whether the passenger is restrained or not.

Remind drivers to wear their restraints while in the bunk. The life they save could be their own.

Institute a safety policy requiring drivers or their passengers use the restraint system when in the bunk while the truck is in motion.

Thank you for reading this.

A Dangerous Distraction

Exploding e-cigarette causes semi driver to crash.

The Facts . . .

On Tuesday, Sgt. Stephen Wheeles of the Indiana State Police for the Versailles District reported a personal injury crash occurred on I-65 northbound near the 35.5 mile marker at the Jackson/Scott County.

The driver suffered burns to his face, and had lost a lot of blood due to cuts.

The culprit?

An electronic cigarette exploded in the driver’s face, injuring the driver and resulting in loss of control of the vehicle. The driver was taken to the hospital for treatment for his injuries.

An informal Survey of Smoking Policies

A number of companies follow a smoking policy like that of C.R. England . . .

It is the trainer’s choice on rules for smoking and chewing tobacco in the truck, such as no smoking or chewing, no smoking in the sleeper, opening the window, etc.

Other company policies say . . .

Smoking shall be permitted in designated areas only.


Distracted driving is an issue in the area of collision prevention. Distracted driving is the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity and distracted drivers are estimated to cause anywhere from 25% to 50% of collisions. Common distractions are the use of cell phones and electronic devices.

Other deadly distractions while driving include cokes, smokes, eating and engaging in conversations.

It is my contention that every motor carrier needs to have a crystal-clear driving policy covering all aspects of driving, including driving while distracted. Research shows distracted driving, like impaired driving, increases the risk of a crash. We may personally know, based on anecdotal experience, of drivers who crashed while pouring a cup of coffee, or choked on an almond or jelly bean, or while drinking a soda or a coke when driving. These incidents and crashes occur on a daily basis.

Several states already ban a person smoking in a vehicle with children present.(Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Louisiana)

Some cities  as Bangor, Maine; Rockland County, New York; Keyport, New Jersey; and West Long Branch, New York, also ban smoking in cars around children, as does the United Kingdom.

Smoking is prohibited on interstate passenger-carrying motor vehicles under §374.201. Passenger motor carriers need to announce to passengers that smoking is prohibited; and post and maintain international no-smoking symbols and legible no-smoking signs in all vehicles transporting passengers.

Some motor carriers are hesitant to enforce a smoking ban as the prevalence of current cigarette smoking by drivers is more than double the general population (51% vs. 19%). Smoking is considered a driver health risk factor like hypertension and obesity.

Forward-thinking motor carriers are establishing smoking cessation programs for their drivers. One excellent resource is Driving Healthy, co-sponsored by Travelers and Northland insurance companies, both leading underwriters of truck fleets.

Action Summary

Encourage drivers not to smoke while driving or to complete a smoking cessation program.

Develop a a crystal-clear driving policy covering all aspects of driving, including driving while distracted.

Formulate a policy on the use of electronic cigarettes or vaping while driving.

Thank you for reading this.

To learn more . . . Driving Healthy

Driving Blind



Winter Driving Woes . . .


Winter Woes

Trucking in winter can be challenging. Moisture can freeze in brake lines and valves. Batteries that were strong in summer become weak in the cold. Fuel can gel. Grease cups can freeze up. Drivers are susceptible to injuries from slips and falls.

The Case of the Missing Driver

A year ago Tim Rutledge went to check on his brakes in Indianapolis. But he didn’t think to chock his wheels before climbing under the truck.

Here’s the rest of the story . . .


Flooding is another problem that occurs almost every winter.

Detours due to flooding can run hundreds of miles off-route. But not for our next driver . . .

Please don’t try this at home, folks!

If this driver had given the matter some thought he might have reflected on the corrosion that will develop in his electrical wiring and lighting systems. We never want to expose the wiring system to any more moisture than necessary.

Secondly, the driver had no idea what was under water, as debris, a washed-out section of the road, glass or other tire hazards, etc. It’s never a good idea to drive in the ‘zone of avoidance.’

Strong Winds

Strong winds and wind gusts can be hazardous. Wind is totally unpredictable.

Drivers need to be cautious on windy days not only in driving, but in opening or closing the hood. In opening the hood, a strong wind can cause the hood to strike and injure the driver. Drivers have also become trapped under the hood and injured. Tarping a load can become impossible in a strong wind.

Action Summary

Review your winter operations policy for contingencies as frozen brakes and brake lines, gelling fuel, road flooding, and operations in windy conditions or inclement weather.

Make sure drivers know your expectations during the challenging winter months. Review all appropriate safety procedures.

Remind drivers that slips and fall are always among the top causes of injuries on the job. The risks increase in inclement weather.

Thank you for reading this.

The Dangers of On-Street Truck Parking

two burned out trucksThe car was traveling at high speed when it went out of control and struck the parked tractor-trailer. The resulting fire spread quickly, killing the three occupants of the car, and setting a second tractor-trailer with hazmat on fire.

“Despite no parking signs, neighbors said truckers often leave their rigs parked overnight.” WPVI-TV

This early Sunday morning collision in Philadelphia only illustrates the dangers of on-street parking.

Parking commercial motor vehicles (“garaging” to your insurance agent) can be challenging. Many municipal codes prevent overnight parking in residential areas. Some codes ban any standing, stopping or parking for any duration unless loading or unloading or some other work is being performed. Parking in an industrial area may expose the vehicle to theft or vandalism.

New startups like Truck Smart Parking Services are putting together apps and packages to help solve the problem.

In the meantime, I would encourage every carrier to have a clear parking policy. Drivers should be guided by the policy as to what is and what is not acceptable. Drivers may have permission to take their vehicle home and often park near their homes. If they are pulliing a trailer, this means they might park on the street.

These days street parking is not a good option (if it ever was— this is an old problem) because many drivers are distracted while driving or might not be alert to a parked vehicle. It doesn’t matter whose fault an accident was, or how legally parked the vehicle was, when someone gets hurt or worse.

My suggestion here is for management to craft a parking policy that encourages away-from-street parking to the extent reasonably possible, preferably in a secure lot. There are always trade-offs and risks no matter where a vehicle is parked. Choose wisely.

Thank you for reading this.

Related: Positioning the Commercial Motor Vehicle When Stopped


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.

Preventing Crashes at Intersections


On Thursday, a semi was headed westbound on Highway 24 when a pickup pulled in front of it at the intersection of Woodman in Falcon, Colorado. The truck driver was ejected from the truck as a result of the crash, resulting in fatal injuries.

40% of Crashes

About 40 percent of crashes are at intersections. Intersections range from complex expressway interchanges to simple, rural crossroads. In an uncontrolled intersection, there are no traffic control devices.

What is one of the main causes of intersection crashes?

In a study of intersection crashes by the NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, when comparing intersection crashes with non-intersection crashes, it was found that the “critical pre-crash event” — defined as an event that made the crash imminent (i.e. something occurred that made the collision inevitable) — was “turned with obstructed view.” NHTSA analysts  found  “turned with obstructed view”  occurs at intersection crashes  335 times more than at non-intersection crashes, usually in left-turns.

It is found that regardless of type of traffic control device, traffic signal, or stop sign, illegal maneuver and inattention were observed significantly more than expected in crossing-over crashes, while turned with obstructed view and misjudgment of gap or other’s speed in turning-left crashes.

False assumption of other’s action was found as the most significant critical reason in turning-left crashes at traffic signal and in turning-right crashes at stop sign.

The next most prevalent critical reason for an intersection crash was “inadequate surveillance,” appearing about 6 times more often in intersection-related crashes than in non-intersection-related crashes.

Other reasons for intersection crashes include: illegal maneuver (4.1 times), false assumption of other’s action (3.8 time), misjudgment of gap or other’s speed (3.1 times). Reasons may vary by type of maneuver, whether vehicles were turning right, left, or going straight through the intersection.

The results show that significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as external distraction, false assumption of other’s action, misjudgment of gap or other’s speed and turned with obstructed view when they were turning left at intersections controlled by traffic signals. Also, significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as internal distraction, inattention, illegal maneuver, too fast or aggressive driving behavior, and critical non-performance error when they were crossing over at intersections controlled by traffic signals.

In short, if a crash happens at an intersection, the crash only occurred because one or both drivers made some sort of error. One driver may have misjudged the other driver’s speed or closing gap, while the other driver may have misjudged the other driver’s intentions, or may not have been paying attention at all. The result is chaos.

The results also show that significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as inadequate surveillance, misjudgment of gap or other’s speed and turned with obstructed view when they were turning left at intersections controlled by stop signs. In addition, significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as inadequate surveillance, inattention, external distraction, and illegal maneuver when they were crossing over at intersections controlled by stop signs. The crashes characterized by turning-right at stop sign have false assumption of other’s action assigned as critical reason significantly more than expected

Some Intersection Safety Tips

Here are some defensive driving tips for intersections . . .

• If you are stopped and a vehicle approaches with the turn signal on, do not assume the signalling vehicle is going to turn: wait until the vehicle starts the turn so you know for sure, before pulling out.

• Approach intersections assuming that cross traffic may not obey traffic control devices and anticipate the need for collision avoidance.

See and be seen. Keep vehicle lights and reflective devices wiped clean at every stop, and assure that all lights are operational. Keep the headlights on 24 hours of the day.

Rock and roll. Be mindful of the “A pillar” blind spot where the cab meets the ends of the windshield. This can obscure vision. Rock and roll in the seat to look around the pillars.

obscured view

This truck had a number of objects dangling in the driver’s view, when it was hit by a train. 

• Keep the windshield and mirrors clean and be sure the driver’s view is not obstructed.

• Use a window-wash treatment as Rain-X in bad weather. Keep a spare jug of window wash in the truck in winter.

• When practical, avoid making left turns. UPS follows a no-left-turn policy in about 90% of their turns.

• Always be ready to yield right of way at an intersection, to avoid a collision.

Cover the brake at intersections. Physically move your right foot from the throttle to over the brake pedal.

• Never signal another driver to proceed. The driver may not look and end up in a collision.

Know any other great intersection-safety tips? Please share them.

obsecured view

Thank you for reading this and have a safe weekend.

Stop and Think of Trucking Safety

safety aducational

How often do you think of trucking safety?

Many times we put great effort in safety programs, plans and initiatives. On an almost daily basis, vendors and manufacturers are coming up with new apps, new technology, new systems, and new programs. It’s difficult not to think of some aspect of safety . . .

It’s enough to make your head spin.

With all that is going on in a normal operation, we have to run to keep up with yesterday, let alone the needs of today or tomorrow.

Where does one even dare to start?

Stop and Think


The Safety Imperative

When the late Stephen R. Covey published his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his intention was to help people solve personal and professional problems. Early on in his book, Covey introduced the concept of paradigm shift — how two people can see the same thing, yet both differ on what they see.

Covey then introduced his Seven Habits, which he labeled imperatives, or powerful principles used by many of the world’s top executives and most influential leaders. Imperatives are principles that compel a person to act, such as Covey’s First Habit “Be proactive,” or take responsibility for your behavior — a key element of any safety initiative as well.

Covey’s Second Habit, “Begin With the End in Mind,” says we need to imagine or envision in our minds what we cannot at present see with our eyes. Envisioning the End in Mind, I believe not only relates to safety, but is an essential and often overlooked component of safety. Without having an idea where we want to go, a singular goal in mind, we’ll never get there. In that case, any road will do, because any road will take us there. And that is a mistake, a big mistake.

So as we approach the new year and plan for 2016 and beyond, let’s stop thinking about safety projects and start thinking about outcomes — What do we really want to achieve?

On a Mission . . .

Are your outcomes part of your organization’s Mission Statement? A mission statement focuses on what you want your organization to be and do.

Setting the mission is top management’s responsibility. A mission cannot be delegated to anyone except the people ultimately held accountable for it. — Jack Welch, Winning

Do you have a personal Mission Statement? Covey recommends:


  1. Write down your roles as you now see them. Are you satisfied with the mirror image of your life?
  2. Start a collection of notes, quotes, and ideas you may want to use as resource material in writing your personal mission statement.
  3. Identify a project you will be facing in the near future and apply the principle of mental creation. Write down the results you desire and what steps will lead you to those results.

Here is how Air New Zealand tied in a Men in Black theme with their end objectives in passenger safety . . .


Thank you for reading this.