Find your way through Government Trucking Regulations
Dan Sullivan Plus Compliance, Inc
I have been a boater for over 30 years. A well-equipped boat will have a chart plotter - a cool instrument that uses built-in maps of the bottom and ties it together with GPS so you know where you are and what the bottom looks like. It will help you stay in channels, in deep water and help to avoid rocks, sand bars, reefs etc. It will also enhance your awareness, not replace it. Having a good sense of how to use it makes it useful in an emergency.
As a young man, I thought I knew where I was going and that I knew enough to avoid hidden problems that were in my path. I had this sense that I should own and operate a business and that it should be something I was passionate about. Trucking was the obvious answer. The federal government was deregulating the trucking industry and overnight there were a rush of new entrants into the business. We hauled all trailer loads. The loose ends were endless - cargo damage, tires, backhauls, collections, drivers, schedules, utilization and government regulation. My expenses for trailer leasing were huge, and I thought the trailer vendor had much less exposure.
My mental GPS was telling me that the trailer rental business had less aggravation, that it was more consistent and that fewer things could go wrong - fewer moving parts. After years in the trailer rental business, my mental GPS was heading for container rental. Containers had no tires, no engines, no annual state inspections and they were easy to fix. I still had to deliver them, but the trucking part was minimal. It seemed like the promise land. The container business generates cash flow, covers expenses, builds equity by paying off debt and lowers taxes with depreciation. In addition, fully depreciated boxes are sold at prices higher than book value.
Many container businesses began as a companion to another business such as construction, portable offices, waste removal and portable toilets. What do all of these businesses have in common? They use Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV)! And CMVs are subject to government regulation!
The government regulation of trucking has been an increasing area of oversight and enforcement. Along this long and winding road, I became involved in truck safety in 1984. It appealed to my inner geek!
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the agency responsible for truck safety and their mandate is to reduce highway deaths. It is a branch of the US DOT. State Police Truck Teams in most states conduct roadside inspections and traffic stops for various violations on the road. The FMCSA collects all of the roadside violation data and stores it in a public file for every company with a DOT number. A new program CSA (Compliance, Safety, and Accountability) introduced in 2010 gained momentum and is here to stay.
The aim of CSA is to measure carrier safety performance, identify potentially unsafe carriers and prioritize them for enforcement interventions - all as part of FMCSA's ultimate goal of reducing commercial motor vehicle crashes, fatalities, and injuries.
Under CSA, motor carrier violations, determined primarily by roadside inspections and crash data, are placed into seven Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).
The BASIC scores are made up of data from roadside inspections and accident data. Lower scores are the goal. Most trucks are stopped for visible violations such as lights not working, speeding, improper lane change and following too closely. Training your drivers and supervisors is the first step to improving your scores. If you already have high scores, a key to reducing them is getting clean inspections. Getting your drivers to do thorough pre-trip inspections will help. This link will take you to the FMCSA page with your BASIC scores. https://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/SMS/Default.aspx
There have been two recent changes to regulations:
Completed pre-trip inspection reports are not required to be kept unless the driver finds a defect on the truck. FMCSA's No-Defect DVIR rule is effective on the date it is published in the Federal Register, Dec. 18, 2014.
Hours of Service Rule RE 34-hour restart language now does not require 2 off-duty periods between 1 a.m. - 5 a.m. “Drivers are therefore authorized, as of 12:01 a.m. On December 16, 2014, to resume use of the previous, unlimited restart provision.” The controversial provision that was suspended said that when drivers used the restart, they had to take two periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and could use the restart only once a week. The provision now in effect does not have these restrictions. The notice also says that the suspension will continue until September 30th or until FMCSA finishes the study that Congress required. And it adds that the agency will give notice when the temporary suspension ends and the more restrictive restart goes back into effect.
I would not go out in the boat without knowing the rules, having a plan and using a chart plotter to keep me off the rocks and out of trouble. Running a business with trucks, I want to know where I am. The DOT website will let you know where you are, what your history is and where you are headed with DOT compliance…