‘Someone is watching you,’ trucking executives warned

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“The more inspec- tions you get, the more money it costs you on the bottom line,” warned Jeff Davis of Jet Express, speaking to trucking executives Tuesday, June 10, at the CCJ Spring Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

During his presentation “Someone is Watching You” about safety oversight, Davis — vice president of safety and human resources for the Dayton, Ohio-based carrier — said all trucking companies should be aware of how inspection-related incidents play a role in their SafeStat scores.

“Mile by mile, driver by driver, safety event by safety event, your company is building its ‘e-perception’ of safety,” Davis said. That “e-perception,” he warned, can be viewed online by the motoring public, shippers, competitors, insurance underwriters, litigators and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Davis explained that SafeStat records three safety-related events — accidents, inspections and tickets — and that information from those incidents is filed into one of four categories: reportable crashes, driver out-of-service traffic enforcements (including driver logs and speed), equipment out-of-service, and closed enforcements.

Davis advised Symposium attendees to be more aware of “triggers” such as speeding that spark an inspection by authorities. “Reducing speed only makes logical sense,” he said. “It has nothing but positives. Nothing bad can happen to us by cutting our speed back.” Driving 10 mph over the speed limit is usually the biggest “trigger,” Davis said: “That’s when the inspections really start.” The more inspections you get, the more violations that are found, which will be followed by even more inspections. The easiest, most effective way to avoid inspections is to control speeding, Davis said.

“Seldom is an inspection a random event,” said Davis, who said that 95 percent of inspections, “we bring on ourselves” with minor infractions such as a burnt-out light. A tractor-tractor can be taken out of service for any one of 1,417 possible violations, Davis said. “It usually comes down to the ‘BLT,’ ” he said, referring to brakes, lights and tires.

“Work with drivers, and hold them accountable for their roadside performance,” said Davis, who also advised the audience to also be aware of broker liability; more often, courts are ruling that carriers are responsible for checking SafeStat to evaluate other companies prior to brokering loads to them, he said.

The quality of the SafeStat data collected by states has been an ongoing concern, Davis said. “The information is looked at one-dimensionally, equally against other states, but some states have better enforcement than others,” he said. “States should be handicapped by how strong they are in areas of enforcement.”

FMCSA’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 is scheduled to replace SafeStat in August or September of 2010. Davis said that under CSA 2010, each company will be evaluated under seven categories: unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, controlled substance, vehicle maintenance, improper loading/cargo securement, and crash history.