What is the #1 Safe Driving Behavior?

camera cops

Operation Peek-A-Boo on I-5

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

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

Examples of not doing this safe driving behavior:

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

 But there is more to the story.

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

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

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

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

Why don’t drivers do this?

Some reasons cited by drivers are because they:

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

Safe Driving Countermeasures

Implement a written safety program.

Monitor the CSA Violation Summary

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

Provide job coaching and counseling for errant drivers.

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

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

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

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

false log

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

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





Understanding Whistleblower Protection

Uncle Sam

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

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

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

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

Employer Responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Avoid an STAA Claim

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

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


Safety Culture versus Safety Climate


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety Culture and Safety Climate

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

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

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

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

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

A Positive Safety Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

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

Deadly Com·pla·cen·cy

detached trailer

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

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

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

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

After a trailer detachment, the truck driver:

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

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

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

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

Training Competence

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

tractor with no fifth wheel hitch

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

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

What is a DOT Safety Audit?

safe What is a DOT Safety Audit? Backgrounder . . .

It started with the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act (MCSIA) of 1999 (Public Law 106-159) which established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000.

Section 210(a) of MCSIA, now codified as 49 U.S.C. 31144(f), required regulations specifying minimum requirements for applicant motor carriers seeking federal interstate operating authority, including a requirement that new entrants undergo a safety audit within the first 18 months of operations. These safety audits started January 1, 2003.

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) [Pub. L. 112-141, 126 Stat. 405 (July 6, 2012)], requires the FMCSA to complete safety audits within 12 months for property carriers and within 120 days for motorcoach passenger carriers.

FMCSA has started nationwide implementation of the Off-Site Safety Audit Procedures. Beginning in summer 2015, FMCSA will do off-site new entrant safety audits in the following 11 States: Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and Washington, DC. Passenger and hazmat haulers do not qualify for off-site audits. The remaining states and territories will move to off-site audits over the next 36 months.

audit ahead

Rules and Regulations

49 CFR Part 385 describes Safety Fitness Procedures. New motor carriers need to register for a DOT number and any required authorities (a federal certificate to haul) before beginning interstate operations.

49 CFR 385.5: The Safety Fitness Standard requires carriers have adequate safety management controls in place over the following areas:

(a) Commercial driver’s license standard violations (part 383),

(b) Inadequate levels of financial responsibility (part 387),

(c) The use of unqualified drivers (part 391),

(d) Improper use and driving of motor vehicles (part 392 ),

(e) Unsafe vehicles operating on the highways (part 393),

(f) Failure to maintain accident registers and copies of accident reports (part 390),

(g) The use of fatigued drivers (part 395),

(h) Inadequate inspection, repair, and maintenance of vehicles (part 396),

(i) Transportation of hazardous materials, driving and parking rule violations (part 397),

(j) Violation of hazardous materials regulations (parts 170-177), and

(k) Motor vehicle accidents and hazardous materials incidents.(various parts).

Safety management controls means:

The systems, policies programs, practices, and procedures used by a motor carrier to ensure compliance with applicable safety and hazardous materials regulations which ensure the safe movement of products and passengers through the transportation system, and to reduce the risk of highway accidents and hazardous materials incidents resulting in fatalities, injuries, and property damage

49 CFR 385.321 gives the reasons for audit failure as (a.)  failures of safety management practices (as described in Appendix A), and (b.) a table of violations that lead to automatic failures of the audit (such as not having an approved DOT drug and alcohol testing program in place, using drivers with no CDL or driver’s license or who were disqualified, not having insurance, running out-of-service drivers or equipment or a vehicle without an annual (periodic) inspection).

In Summary . . .

Every motor carrier regulated by the U.S. DOT needs to apply a set of principles, framework, processes and measures to prevent accidents, injuries and other adverse consequences that may be caused by unsafe commercial drivers or unsafe commercial motor vehicles (CMV).

Please see part380.com to learn more.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

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

The Top Risks of 2015 . . .

Top 2015 Risks

Risky Business

In May, the Travelers Indemnity Company released their Second Annual Travelers Business Risk Index (.pdf) based on a survey of 1,210 business risk managers.

Transportation: Medical cost inflation tops the list of worries by a wide margin (75%). When asked what specifically worries them, risk managers in this industry said they worry about driving accidents caused by their employees (60%), employee injuries (60%), and distracted driving (57%). Employee safety training is widely used (61%) as a prevention measure.

Risk is part of any business. Risk, like rust, never sleeps. It is always there and never goes away. Risk, unlike safety, is never controlled, only managed.

But small business (the bulk of trucking companies are small) does not consider Risk Management much of a priority. In one of their press releases for this study, the Travelers said :

Few respondents consider risk management a strategic priority. Decision makers at small businesses (11 percent) were least likely to name risk management as a strategic priority or an important management activity, compared with medium-sized (20 percent) and large (36 percent) companies.

Strategy is defined as a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.

Certainly, putting together a plan of action for a business sometimes seems like an exercise in futility in our era of rapid changes. But the implications of the above numbers (11% vrs 36%) seem clear: bigger businesses do more planning and have more carefully thought-out policies than do smaller businesses or organizations.

From the above chart, it appears that the biggest risks for transportation today are in rising costs. Costs will only continue to rise. There is still some turbulence in the world economy, leading to uncertainty. The only way to beat the cost game is by higher productivity. Higher productivity can only be achieved by working smarter— which means more planning, prudent risk taking, and intelligent risk avoidance.

Top Tip: Many small fleet owners do not realize their insurance company or insurance producers have safety support resources available. These resources range from safety websites and online training materials, loaner videos, loss control guides to partnerships with safety-technology vendors or safety experts. These resources are already included in the cost of the premium. Participation in some safety programs may result in a discount. Contact your insurance agent for more information.

Thank you for reading this.

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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.