With less goods being purchased by consumers, there’s less to ship. That means smaller profits for trucking companies. How are trucking companies dealing with the financial pressures? The concern is that they are cutting safety corners.
According to the American Transportation Research Institute, (ATRI), the representative research arm of the trucking industry, driver shortage is a major concern going forward. In addition, the Department of Transportation allows for fewer allowable driving hours, and there is an aging driving force. One answer for trucking companies? Recruit new drivers and establish new entrance programs that enhance drivers’ confidence in less training time.
This is a scary proposition. Compare this approach with the fact that legal liability is also a major concern of the ATRI. For instance, ARTI’s 2007 study proposes
“a vigorous education campaign aimed at identifying specific ways in which citizens are harmed by imprudent damage assessments [designed to] promote legislative action, resulting in damage caps…”
In other words, avoid legal responsibility for reckless drivers while at the same time utilize less experienced drivers who get on the road in big rigs with less training.
Trucks have a more difficult time compared to private passenger motor vehicles of stopping, turning and maneuvering. This is the basic physics behind vehicle/truck collisions. Enhanced driver training and stricter enforcement is the answer.
The federal government has stepped in with a significant game changer counterbalancing the trucking industry’s approaches. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has instituted a new comprehensive safety analysis (CSA 2010) designed to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities. The teeth behind the program is the seven Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) which will create a database on fleet truckers and driver violations, warnings, DOT reportable accidents and other truck driver activity which are instantly available to trucking companies and FMSCA. “The CSA program will help us more easily identify unsafe commercial truck and bus companies,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Better data and targeted enforcement will raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and empower them to take action before safety problems occur.”
According to M. Thomas Ruke, Jr., president of Insurance Business Consultants, Inc., the federal government has not been shy in saying that it is increasing efforts to put the 20 percent of motor carriers it believes are bad operators out of business and making the ratings available for public viewing in real time.Under the new CSA 2010, roadside inspection information will be included in the federal database. The available information will be immediate and continuous for each driver. In other words, there will be no lag time from when a violation occurs until is available to shippers and FMCSA. And, for the first time, drivers will be held accountable for their personal driving record and out-of-service violations. This includes speeding violations, violations for following too closely, or failing and being within the required hours of service to name just a few, will all factor into a trucker’s safety rating.
Juries have always held trucking companies responsible for unsafe drivers who cause accidents that result in serious injuries. But now that CSA 2010 provides new information that says whether a driver is fit, marginal or unfit. As such a shipper’s viewpoint of a trucker — and their liability if an accident occurs — will change.Trucking companies are going to have to screen their drivers in more detail than they ever have before.
Ruke had this to say in the article “2010 A Revolutionary Year For Truckers Insurance” in the May 2010 edition of Insurance Journal:
“What happens if the federal government determines that the driver’s actions have led to a rating that he’s/she’s unfit to drive and that information is readily available online. Imagine standing before a jury trying to defend a driver that has been rated unfit to drive. If they are unfit, why did you give them a load? If you had not given them a load, they would not have been there to kill or hurt that person. [The new safety ratings have] placed a layer into the system that is almost impossible to defend.’