Three Steps to a Best-in-Class Safety Program

Do you want to improve your company's safety metrics, reduce the chance of costly post-crash litigation, and better retain your drivers? Here are three steps to get there.

Published On: 07/13/2022
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J. J. Keller Senior Editor Mark Schedler

Written by:

Mark Schedler

Sr. Transportation Management Editor — J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

Do you want to improve your company's safety metrics, reduce the chance of costly post-crash litigation, and better retain your drivers? Of course, you do. However, you can't improve what you don’t see and measure consistently.

Dash cams and ELDs help you see and measure the frequency of your drivers' non-compliant and unsafe driving behaviors. They allow you to transform your safety culture, reduce risk, and improve retention by establishing and maintaining a best-in-class safety program.

When supported by leadership and paired with continuous coaching and training of your drivers, you can improve safety metrics and driver retention. Start with a commitment to:

  1. Maintaining and consistently following policies and procedures,
  2. Exceeding regulatory minimums, and
  3. Implementing a corrective action training program.

Let’s consider each of these elements.

1. Maintain and consistently follow policies and procedures

Your organization must reinforce safety as a value and a priority through clear policies and procedures that define acceptable, safe behaviors and unacceptable, unsafe behaviors and the associated consequences. Exceptions to safety policies for alleged "high performers" should not be allowed.

Once you develop (or update) and communicate your policies and procedures, drivers and office employees will understand performance boundaries and know better how to drive improvement. Inconsistencies in following procedures harm your chance of success should litigation arise.

2. Exceed regulatory minimums

Meeting regulatory minimums would earn most carriers about a grade of C- if this was school, and would definitely not impress a jury. To have a best-in-class safety program, you need to excel in these three regulatory areas, as they are the most scrutinized areas in post-crash litigation:

  • Driver qualification — Each driver, full-time or part-time, or anyone else who operates your commercial motor vehicle on a highway in interstate commerce per the definition in 390.5 must have a driver qualification (DQ) file. Retain the DQ file for the length of employment plus three years. You must also have processes that keep your drivers qualified.
  • Drug and alcohol testing — Anyone who could operate a CDL vehicle for you is subject to the DOT and FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations, including leased owner-operators, fill-in or temporary drivers, or mechanics. Ensure you're not placing non-CDL CMV drivers in a DOT random testing pool.
  • Hours of service — One of the most challenging supervision issues is hours-of-service compliance. If your driver or a dispatcher made a poor decision before a crash and the driver was over hours or falsified their log, this can give the plaintiff's attorney a detonator for a nuclear verdict. A culture of compliance and "safety first," or a fear of getting caught due to frequent audits, stops a driver from falsifying their log or running over hours. If neither is in place, the driver will not stop as the driver's motivation (pay, get home, make delivery on time, dispatch pressure, etc.) is to keep driving.

3. Implement a corrective action training (CAT) program

You need to have a proactive monitoring program that identifies drivers for coaching and possibly training. Corrective action based on the following is reactive:

  • Monthly CSA scores and citations,
  • DOT accidents, and
  • Insurance loss-run incidents.

The most successful carriers use dash cams, electronic logging devices, and telematics data to find and fix compliance and performance issues before crashes, citations, and unnecessary turnover.

The proactive correction, or “meaningful” action as FMCSA refers to it in the Safety Management Cycle, can minimize the impact of litigation by helping carriers uphold their "duty to act" — a primary consideration for a jury.

A "duty to act" means that you should have corrected the problem if you should have been aware of a safety issue. You must fix problems like running over hours, log falsification, harsh braking, unintended lane departures, distracted driving, or following too close, regardless of your choice to review the data.

Failure to identify and correct non-compliance and unsafe behavior can be devastating and make it difficult for you to defend your organization after a significant crash. For some carriers, there is too much data to monitor, manage, and assess. If this sounds like your operation, engage an expert such as J. J. Keller to help establish and manage a best-in-class safety program.

Best-In-Class Fleet Management with Encompass

Now more than ever, your business survival depends on being compliant, storing your documents electronically,  and staying up to date. J. J. Keller® Encompass is a comprehensive fleet management system that helps you organize, store, and manage DOT-required records. It also provides award-winning training that you can pair with ELD telematics and dash cam-captured events to manage risk proactively. Talk with a compliance specialist today at 855.693.5338.

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