Bad drivers’ days are numbered

Linda Longton, Editor
llongton@rrpub.com

Who would imagine a trucker with a license suspended in two states, seven prior suspensions and countless citations for speeding and reckless driving would still be driving a truck? Yet on March 19 on the Washington Beltway, such a driver – Roger Scofield – drove his rig into the back of a Honda Accord, then into two other cars, injuring two people and killing Jose Villalta, 33, the father of two young children.

March 19 on the Washington Beltway, such a driver – Roger Scofield – drove his rig into the back of a Honda Accord, then into two other cars, injuring two people and killing Jose Villalta, 33, the father of two young children.

Not surprisingly, the company Scofield drove for has an equally bad safety record. B.K. Trucking and its predecessor received unsatisfactory ratings four times in 16 years, according to The Washington Post. And although the company had a compliance review the month before the accident, it failed to uncover Scofield’s problems because such reviews focus on company drivers, said Calvin Scovell, inspector general for the Department of Transportation, before a Congressional hearing last month.

While B.K. Trucking and Scofield have since been ordered out of service and are facing legal action, it’s too little, too late for the Villalta family. But the accident does shed light on a system with holes so big it let such a problematic driver slip through.

Drivers are to blame in 87 percent of crashes in which the commercial motor vehicle is at fault, according to last year’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, produced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Yet current FMCSA systems do not evaluate the safety fitness of individual drivers.

That is about to change. Through its Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010, FMCSA is exploring new ways of using its resources to identify drivers who pose safety problems and to intervene to address them. A big part of the initiative is a comprehensive database that will provide a single source for all safety data on carriers and drivers.

Once CSA 2010 takes effect, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for carriers to get away with using unsafe drivers and owner-operators. Independents using brokers don’t escape scrutiny, either. The courts are beginning to hold brokers financially responsible for accidents involving owner-operators to whom they broker loads, so it’s in their best interest to be careful with whom they do business.

All of this means your unblemished CDL is like gold in your wallet. Assuming these initiatives help FMCSA rid the roads of unsafe drivers, owner-operators with stellar safety records will be more in demand than ever before and may even command a higher rate for their services.

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