Carriers, drivers aligned on need for shift in enforcement priorities

| May 14, 2013

What is the most effective enforcement strategy?An overwhelming majority (79 percent) of Overdrive readers find themselves in full-throated agreement with a message delivered by American Trucking Associations Vice Chair and Bulldog Hiway Express head Phil Byrd at the April Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance workshop. Namely, Byrd presented data showing an ever-increasing share of driver/vehicle inspections among state enforcement actions against large trucks. He called on a shift in nationwide enforcement priorities away from such vehicle inspections and driver credential checks to boosted visibility in police presence on the roadways as well as robust enforcement of traffic laws.

While close to 90 percent of accidents are directly linked to errors in driver behavior, today only 10 percent of safety-intervention activities — from traffic stops to inspections and carrier investigations — are actually focused on behavior.

Traffic enforcement, Kentucky scalesReal safety is taking a backseat to clerical errors on logbooks,” wrote William McKelvie, commenting under this story about the subject on “Maybe we should give [Anne Ferro] points every time she or someone in [FMCSA] offices makes a clerical mistake, then fire them when it gets to a certain point level? Grand idea!”

Fat chance, noted another commenter, who offered the viewpoint that “most roadside inspectors don’t know their job — they think they are tax collectors instead of safety inspectors.”

“So true,” noted Michael Bechara. “It’s not about safety, it’s about the bank!”

Andrea Sitler agreed, too, and suggested the FMCSA and state partners work on a safety-enhancement program designed to be based on rewarding carriers for safety, rather than penalizing them with points that correspond all too often to non-safety-related violations. “If you want real safety,” she said, “work with the companies to improve their vehicles and driver habits. Use a reward system instead of a punitive one. Positive reinforcement has been proven to provide much greater results than negative punishment.”

Ray McKenzie, commenting on Overdrive‘s Facebook page, emphasized, too, the low-hanging highway-safety fruit that he saw as stronger enforcement of “the laws that are in place for four-wheelers and how they conduct themselves around trucks. The list is far too long to mention, but in most cases it has been the experience of the truck driver that has saved an accident from happening.”

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  • Jason Haggard

    When I can go into a scale and have an enforcement officer try to cite me for a supposed violation and then I point out in the FMCSA handbook that the statute he or she were referring to does not address the issue or doesn’t even fall into the same ballpark as the violation then there is something severely wrong with the system.

    The other thing that stands out in my mind are the DOT “safety blitz’s” if safety were the real concern then why wouldn’t they be focused on these concerns all year long instead of just a set period of time. These practices smell of something other than safety being the main concern.

  • localnet


  • Jason Haggard

    I left it unsaid because I was sure people knew what I meant and you nailed it…….the almighty cash cow that are truck drivers.

  • localnet

    Not for much longer, at the rate they are going who will be even qualified to drive a truck? One incident and most guys are gone. Look at all of the ads for drivers, I know up here in North Dakota they are having a heck of a time finding drivers that are clean enough to even set foot into the state. And most jobs start in the 6 figures, but so few qualify. Even two points on your record will disqualify you at the better companies up here.

  • Craig Vecellio

    I assume those jobs are pulling sand and water for the oilfield…other than that, ND is barren for freight, even more than the rest of the country. 30-40k is typical, if you stay out and never come home. I worked in the oilfields directly for a while. When my company needed to pull us from PA to ND we got extra pay for the travel, but the local workers only made about 60k…in a job that also required a CDL.

  • localnet

    There is sand, water, crude, gas, and gravel. Most places have some sort of housing. Crude is a good job, I hauled propane, did around 120k last year, easy clean work, free housing. Crude, figure around that same number, if not more. We are ramping up right now, I’m currently unemployed, have 5 companies pulling my strings right now, all 6 figure offerings…. Holding out for a job right now that has me in the field, in a pick up, sick of this DOT crap. Me and a buddy of mine rented a house, so it makes it a bit easier to go for more lucrative opportunities. Plenty of work here.

    If you have a clean record, hazmat, tankers and doubles/triples, these outfits will fight over you tooth and nail. Not many guys that come up here can even pass a drug test, much less have a clean driving record.

  • Cwbintennessee Michael Winton

    God forbid the police do their job like they’re supposed to and make their presence more known on the highways to actually affect safety!

    Nooooo, let’s bring in all the trucks and write up erroneous violations because we can!

    Yeah, right….. Jason’s onto something. and that something sounds like a cash register and smells like money for the DOT.

  • ilovdieselsmoke

    It’s politically incorrect for the FMCSA to launch a full-scale crackdown on immigrant driver trainees. There’s an unwritten rule to stop harassing truckers who cannot speak the Kings Language. Our government won’t support any roadside deportation of the ATA’s future guest workers before they have had a chance to implement a nationwide customer oriented cheap driver campaign. Remember Wal-Mart is a world power too so we need to subsidize the royal Walton families economy with US taxpayer money. Eleven million should take care of that looming driver shortage quite nicely very soon…

  • Kenneth R. Bevel

    what would happem if all trucks and drivers parked and went to sleep while this 72 hour supper blitz was going on? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • No Reform

    They let thousands of illegal aliens drive thru their scales every day……they have Fake Id……dont even BELONG on the Scale….he gets the green light and the American Citizen gets nailed to a TREE!!

  • No Reform

    Smear Brow Shoe Polish on your face…you will be free to go.

  • Kenneth Fennell

    I’m staying home that week. count me out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Earl Conlon

    what D.O.T. is doing is nothing more then revenue collections. the Legal term for what the police and the courts do to a citizen is a “Cause of action” NOT all laws are legal/Constitutional order to have a “Crime you have to have a Victim.. one of the 3 elements that gives the court “Standing” is you MUST have violated one of the three elements in a “Cause of action” those are INJURY, DAMAGE, OR VIOLATION OF SOMEONES CIVIL LIBERTIES…if you have NOT do any of these the court has NO STANDING!! making a mistake on my logbook violates NONE of these!
    As for the POLICE PRESENTS …We have to many as it is already… hell their kicking in peoples doors without warrants..
    where do the Government place MEAT INSPECTORS? at the meat plants… so if it is about safety then why aren’t the police at the shippers or recievers or trucking companies making sure the trucks are safe for the road BEFORE THEY ROLL OR HAUL A LOAD?????

  • MC

    It is all about the money. Need tax money, go to the trucking industry. This is not about safe. If the inspector does not find things what do you think his boss will think. It is always about the money….

  • Owner

    Why don’t you shut your mouth if you have nothing constructive to add!

  • Josef

    You right about this. I have been inspected on one of the scales and the trooper couldn’t find nothing wrong with the truck so he wrote me up for light that was actually working but it was dirty. I said that I will wipe it out and he stated that he have to find something because he’s been told that there is no way that he can not find something on the inspection and if he can’t find something he’s not doing his job correctly.

  • Josef

    I have been written up on the scale in Riviera, TX for not having spare fuses. When I pointed out that my truck doesn’t use fuses the inspector ask me with arrogant tone of voice if I want him to go out there and find them for me. I agreed and for next 20 minutes he had me open all kinds of compartments and could not find them. So he went inside and for another 15 minutes look at the computer with another officer just to find the this truck uses circuit brakers so he took it off of the ticket but I spend over an hour on the scale for his stupidity.

  • Hooty

    Law enforcement has not been concerned about real safety in the last 50 years. They are just a money machine working for the government and the trucker is the cash that makes the machine work. I really doubt enforcement will ever really change, they got too much of a good thing going.

  • Deb Lipsitz

    If the trucking industry, safety groups, and the government were actually serious about safety in the trucking industry, the CSA system would rank drivers and carriers the exact same way. But, as it stands, so long as a trucking company’s safety record is no worse than up to 85% of other motor carriers, there are no consequences for putting profits ahead of safety. They are effectively scored on a dynamic curve that does little to encourage safety, and violations drop off after just 24 months.. Meanwhile, a trucker is graded solely on what they are doing (not based on any industry average in any way), and something as minor as a bogus seat belt ticket is instantly harmful to that truckers career for 36 months.

    A fair system would be to grade truckers the same way their employers are graded. If the trucking industry, safety groups, and our elected officials were actually concerned about trucking safety, carriers would be rated the same way their drivers are, on a fixed score that has nothing to do with what others are doing. But fairness and safety aren’t what existing rules are about, given that drivers have little, if any input on those rules, and our concerns are largely ignored. Meanwhile, the ATA (which represents large motor carriers for the most part) can afford to have lobbyists and contribute to political campaigns, which means they get to make the rules that make drivers pay for safety issues firmly out of their control.

    In other words, the trucking industry has their own very effective union that generally gets anything they want (read anything they can afford), while most truck drivers have no union representing them. Hence why nearly all truckers are paid in a way that encourages unsafe practices. Trucking companies figured out a long time ago to work together towards a common goal (usually maximizing profits through increased deregulation). Unfortunately, most drivers barely talk to one another, getting them to band together for a common goal has become impossible.

    One motor carrier I’ve been keeping an eye on regularly hires drivers who have no driver license at all, have non-commercial licenses, or are operating as a solo driver on a learner’s permit. Enough such drivers have been caught doing this that the carrier score just barely went into the scoring threshold for increased scrutiny (which only their drivers will pay for).

    If there were a real concern by the FMCSA over trucking safety, I suspect they would find far more unlicensed drivers behind the wheel than they actually caught, and the carrier would be shut down. But they are one of the larger employers in the state they are based in, as well as in states they have terminals in, so it’s business as usual. The unlicensed driver that was caught wouldn’t be arrested, and the customer’s load wouldn’t be sitting on a freeway shoulder or behind a scale house, and maybe someone would be alive today, had the carrier played by the already existing rules, and at least checked to see if the driver had a valid commercial license to begin with.

    But safety has long ago taken a back seat to profits in the trucking industry, and the big companies can afford to donate to political campaigns and hire lobbyists to represent their financial interests. Law enforcement is encouraged to ignore serious safety issues with cars, because the fines for even the most minor of infractions by a commercial vehicle are much higher, and those tickets, bogus or genuinely deserved, are always paid for by the drivers who can’t afford to take the time off to go to court and fight them.

    This is just one way safety is actually discouraged. There are many others the industry uses to insure their profits continue to increase, even as the casualties increase along with it.

    And then we have the companies that refuse to hire any driver not already currently employed as a driver for their competition, unless that driver has little or no experience, in which case they can pay them much less. Tens of thousands of truckers were forced out of the industry just for being unemployed for more than a few days, many more because of a single seat belt violation 2 years earlier. Meanwhile, those same companies complain to Congress they can’t find enough qualified, safe, professional drivers to get behind the wheel, and use that complaint as an excuse to demand Congress greatly expand the so-called “guest worker” visas so they can import a few hundred thousand.

    And the sad part about the whole mess we refer to as the trucking industry is that we truckers did this to ourselves, or at the very least allowed it to happen, and most of us run around complaining about it as if we were professional victims. I guess that until drivers see trucking as a profession, rather than a lifestyle as we’ve all been conned into believing, things will only get worse for drivers.

    It all kind of makes me think the last carrier I worked for did me a favor by crippling me so I couldn’t drive anymore. I still care about the safety of other drivers still on the road, but more often than not I wonder why I care so much, when most drivers could care less.

  • joseph morris

    Again, I see the emphasis is not on identifying the pronlem and finding a workable solution, but finding someone to blame. Truck driving is NOT a JOB ||| t is a way of life that is unique. Your time off rarely coincides with either your family or friend off time. Many functions are missed because of work conflicts. Keeping your equipment in good shape is a matter or pride and safety not law enforcement. When I started we limited our work day to a double shift in a factory- 15 hours including meal breaks followed by a mandatory 8 hours sleep. If a truck was at the side of the road it was usually a breakdown that needed another pair of hands to fix and another driver would stop and help because next time it might be him that needed the help. hen the LAW stopped he could usually call a good local mechanic to solve the problem quickly, cheaply. Why did we change???

  • Dave

    FMCR Must be able to read,write,speak and understand the English language clearly. Anyone see a problem with this. Lets put Mexico on the side a moment. And go a little further. How about Islamist,Muslim terrorist truck driver. Here in Columbus,Oh. The government caters to Somalians,Kenyans Muslims. The amount of them driving trucks is overwhelming. No permanent citizenship, very little english if any. What they get. Government money for their own trucks and companies, authority to run all 48, $200,000 homes,college money. And their wives are running over dogs and hitting people like they are a piece of garbage. With cars, but the males driving semis. Scary! 3 terrorist here in Columbus the last couple of years. Truck drivers! That can be looked up to be verified. Our Rep.Governor has folded. Will not step up for nothing. We don’t even need to mention the other party. The American driver is done. Know one will fight anymore. These new hours of service,will kill business. But, no fight. Immigrants running our freight cheap. No fight. We need to take a lesson from the Canadian drivers. Yes i said it. It killed me. When they get pissed, they shut it down. Not on a weekend when everyones home. They put the freight on the trucks and stop the country. Like the old days here in America when drivers stuck together. Now every one whines. And sits and thanks OOIDA or ATA is going to get it done. The sight of “o shit, our product isn’t getting shipped, shelves are not going to get stocked”. Now BIG BUSINESS IS INVOLVED. Its all about government and money. Well big business is money. They start screaming. People will wake up.

  • martymarsh

    It would be a great thing if no one could get any drivers, maybe then they would tell Washington to quit being a bunch of idiots that believe everything ATA tells them.

  • martymarsh

    Oh I could go on for days. But you already know all of the problems.

  • martymarsh

    Over paid glorified meter maids.

  • Cary Davis

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help but disagree with the vast majority of this post. It comes across as a disgruntled employee.

    The information your are citing concerning carrier scoring is skewed first off. I am going to break this down according to your remarks.

    “A fair system would be to grade truckers the same way their employers are graded. If the trucking industry, safety groups, and our elected officials were actually concerned about trucking safety, carriers would be rated the same way their drivers are, on a fixed score that has nothing to do with what others are doing.”

    I don’t know how you think carriers are graded, but let me explain it for you. Everything… Let me repeat that… Everything the driver does or does not do is how a carrier is graded. 100% control is in the drivers hands on operating their vehicle and maintaining compliance on their paperwork. Due to that fact a carrier can be crippled by drivers who simply don’t care enough to remain educated in a proffesion they chose that is ever changing.

    If a driver comes on board, goes through orientation, is given training materials and an FMCSA handbook, how many of those drivers do you think actually read the material? Is that the carriers fault if they don’t? If a carrier conducts manditory safety meetings throughout the year, does that ensure the driver is awake and paying attention to the material or are they merely occupying a seat so they can put their name on the sign in sheet? If they are given company policies concerning what is expected of them as a driver does that ensure the driver follows these policies? It has been my experience as both a driver, driver trainer, and now Director of Safety that the overwhelming response is a resounding NO!

    So back to your quote, the carrier is now stuck with one of these drivers jumping in his truck, and filling out a DVIR while sitting in the drivers seat never once getting out to check anything on his truck. Then he pulls in to a weigh station and gets a LEVEL II or a LEVEL V inspection and fails it horribly. Is this due to the carriers disregard for vehicle maintenance?

    This driver comes in from the road for time off. Does he unload his personal belongings and head to the house or does he report discrepancies to the safety department or maintenance department? Well if he is not conducting a thorough inspection of his vehicle PRIOR to use or while on the road, then he is not going to have anything significant to report.

    If this driver did report issues with the truck that are worthy of a safety violation during an inspection, does he ensure these neccesary repairs were made prior to heading out in that vehicle again? If not then once again he has 100% control of NOT operating that vehicle. If a company is going to tell you to drive an unsafe vehicle then it is time for you to move on as a driver. These companies will put themselves out of business if only the driver would take responsibilty for their actions or inactions. The company would have no one to drive their vehicles. It’s that simple.
    I can’t tell you how often I have driver turn in a DVIR for months and even years on end with zero defects listed. Really? Your truck NEVER has a mechanical issue during an inspection? A driver is the first and last line of defense on operating a safety deficient vehicle. PERIOD! There is no excuse for that no matter how you want to spin it.

    Now back to the carrier’s scoring. As a carrier you are at the mercy of this type of driver driving up the CSA BASIC scores due to performance failures on their part. These scores stay with a carrier for 24 months, but the added downfall is the driver can recieve remedial training, reprimanded, or terminated but the score stays with the carrier regardless. So I ask why wouldn’t a driver be tracked on their performance through the PSP program so that a carrier can make a sound hiring decision on the employee? I do not want a driver who is willing to drive an unsafe vehicle, or shows a history the they can never pass an inspection! It’s not rocket science, it is just making a sound business decision.
    How many times does a company driver pay fines for failing an inspection? None. Again it falls on the carrier AND to bear the burden of possible audits (which by the way carry hefty fines for decrepancies)
    It is a sad fact that our society is now at a point that no one wants to take credit for failure on their part. It is now always trying to blame others for poor decisions they make.
    I will add that in 20+ years of over the road driving experience with several companies, of which some were better equiped that others, I never once failed any road side inspection. Was it difficult at times to stay my ground against a dispatcher or owner concerning vehicle maintenance requirements I cited? You bet. But in the end I got the needed repairs. I call that due diligence. It’s just that simple.
    I will leave you with this thought and hopefully you will carry it with you with your careers…
    Don’t expect what you do not inspect!
    Have a Safe Day! :) strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.