Feature Article: Feeling the heat

Todd Dills | March 01, 2010

In the case of a company driver, “not all ‘alleged violations’ contained in an inspection report can be blamed on the driver,” says Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association spokesperson Norita Taylor. “There is no requirement for drivers to perform a Level I inspection on their truck prior to operation and that is the only kind of detailed inspection that is going to uncover maybe half of all violations noted. This is a big deal for company drivers.”

A leased owner-operator could suffer similar problems with a carrier’s trailer.

In the Cargo-Related BASIC, accountability might better be shared with the shipper, says Allen Smith, a fuel hauler and the man behind the AsktheTrucker.com website. “On a lot of these loads, drivers aren’t even allowed to watch the load being secured,” he says, and some of those loads are locked, preventing inspection by the driver.

“I had it happen to me – big 3,000- to 4,000-pound rolls of paper. One of the braces came off of it and it came out of the trailer. If they’re going to put points on the driver for a load he’s not able to survey, that’s wrong.”

Dart Transit Vice President Gary Volkman and others are skeptical of the inclusion of violations like speeding warnings for which no legal recourse is available for contesting an officer’s determination. He says, “If the driver goes to court over a warning, the judge says, ‘What are you here for? It’s a warning.’”

He notes a similar predicament for not-at-fault crashes. “If I’m stopped at a stoplight and some idiot drunk with a carload of people slams into my trailer, I’m cited for four injuries in that crash.”

Schneider National’s Don Osterberg says this is a big problem for carriers and drivers: “We have to fix [crash] accountability issues, really take that one on. Law enforcement and FMCSA have taken the view that it would be too hard to fix.” He proposes that if it’s clear to the officer on the scene that the crash wasn’t the fault of the rig’s driver, “put it on the form to begin with. And non-preventable fatality crashes then should be rated differently than preventable ones, even if it’s undecided who was at fault.”

Volkman adds that of crashes that are DOT-recordable – involving a fatality, an injury requiring direct treatment or a totally disabled vehicle – about a third are preventable. “They’re not all our fault, but we’re there and it’s a big truck,” he says.

Learn more

Visit www.truckerwebinars.com to hear two programs in which experts explain the CSA 2010’s effect on drivers and answer questions from listeners.

Don• Register there for the free, one-hour afternoon program slated for March 17, “CSA 2010’s impact on the driver force,” with Don Osterberg, Schneider National’s safety vice president.

Mike• And under Archives, you can download the Jan. 21 session, “CSA 2010: New accountability for drivers,” with Certified Fleet Safety Director Mike Rone. 


Regulations open door for onboard recorders

Schneider National expects the Qualcomm MCP 200 series unit to be in every one of its trucks, including those of its owner-operators, by August. That’s significant because it includes not only Internet capabilities and GPS voice navigation, but also automatic electronic logging.

“There was a day when commercial drivers were viewed as the elastic link in an otherwise rigid supply chain,” says Schneider’s Don Osterberg of drivers’ “creative” logging to adhere to hours of service limits. “But you really look at the current HOS rules, and it doesn’t allow for that creativity.”

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