• Top Grade: Passing Your Fleet Inspection

    April 1, 2009
    Andrew Larson, CEO of the Gustave A. Larson Co., has a saying, “If you don't inspect, don't expect.” This statement is especially true when it comes to wholesalers managing their fleet of trucks. The question becomes, what is the best way to inspect?

    Andrew Larson, CEO of the Gustave A. Larson Co., has a saying, “If you don't inspect, don't expect.” This statement is especially true when it comes to wholesalers managing their fleet of trucks. The question becomes, what is the best way to inspect?

    In Packer Country (Wisconsin), a service we use faxes us a notice when one of our drivers receives a traffic citation. Unfortunately, our company has locations in 13 states, and Wisconsin is the only state that does this type of reporting. Now, what should we do? First thing is to make sure you're pulling an MVR (motor vehicle report) on all drivers once per year. It is a law that all drivers holding a CDL (commercial driver's license) have this stapled to their performance review and filed in their driver's folder. A driver's folder should not be kept in the same place as their personnel folder. A CDL driver is someone who does at least one of the following: drives a truck rated over 26,000 pounds, drives interstate or carries hazardous materials over 1,000 pounds. When the CDL license came out to take the place of the chauffeur's license in 1990, all states were going to use the same laws and regulations. Unfortunately, this has not held true. Therefore, always use your insurance broker or local state trooper to verify laws in the states you're operating in.

    Well, this is good information to have, but we feel confident our drivers will tell us if they had a citation, right? If you really believe this, read no further. For the rest of us, let's keep moving along.

    All commercial vehicles must have their Department of Transportation (DOT) number on the side of their truck. This number allows your state police to check and see what kind of report card your fleet is hauling around. Now we get to the good stuff!

    SafeStat Online is a website that not only allows you to keep your fleet in line but your insurance company happy. What is SafeStat? It is a data-driven analysis system that determines the current safety status of individual motor carriers. It involves assessing a motor carrier in four Safety Evaluation Areas or SEAs:

    • Accident

    • Driver

    • Vehicle

    • Safety Management (which will be elaborated upon later)

    The assessment is done based on:

    • State-reported crashes (last 30 months)

    • Recordable crashes from compliance reviews (last 12 months)

    • Roadside inspection violations (last 30 months)

    • Serious moving violations (last 18 months)

    • Compliance review violations (last 18 months)

    • Closed enforcement cases (last 6 years)

    Most insurance companies now include SafeStat scores as part of the underwriting process. It is extremely important that you review the information quarterly to make certain everything is correct.

    When one of your trucks crosses a scale, the person inside is taking your DOT number and entering it into the SafeStat website. This employee operating the highway scale looks at the driver's profile and score, and makes a recommendation based upon the results. If the company's overall score is low, it will tell them to pass. If it's in the middle range, it will tell them it's optional to inspect. If the score is high, it will tell them to inspect. Each state sets up parameters on who should enter the scale. In some states, no matter the truck size, as long as it's a commercial vehicle, it must exit. Also, don't assume the person working at the scale is an expert. If you receive a citation, do some research, especially on the issue of what is considered a CDL truck.

    OK, so we made it to the website but aren't sure how to navigate the Web page. Two websites should be able to answer your questions. The first is http://tinyurl.com/cq45q3 and the second is http://tinyurl.com/dc6at6. Both will help you obtain the information needed to help you inspect — so you can expect!

    On SafeStat, sections concerning Driver, Vehicles and Accidents will be fairly easy to understand. What can be confusing is Safety Management. It consists of DOT audits and their findings. During audits, the DOT is looking at driver files and log books, and making sure you're in compliance with your random drug-testing policy.

    A couple of years ago, DOT audited our facility. We looked forward to the audit because we spend a lot of time making sure we are DOT-compliant. To our surprise, at the end of the audit, one of the officers asked us, “Where is your Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Security Plan?” We were a little confused on what they were asking for. They explained the government required a plan for any company that transports hazardous materials weighing more than 1,000 pounds. After 9/11, DOT wanted to ensure that terrorists would not use large vehicles in any kind of attack. Unfortunately, we did not have a plan in place. DOT levied a fine against us resulting in an increased SafeStat score to an unacceptable level. Since the audit, we have spent a tremendous number of hours conducting training to comply with these new laws.

    The DOT does not take into consideration a slow economy when issuing their fines. Take advantage of the time you have and get your house in order. Also, if you're heading to one of the HARDI meetings this year, make sure you plan on making it to the Distribution and Logistics Committee portion. This year, we plan on recapping F.O.B. freight terms, SafeStat and the Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Security Plan. After that, we will leverge our combined power to reduce freight costs.

    I hope to see as many people as possible at future HARDI meetings. Remember, “If you don't inspect, don't expect!”

    Greg Toler is vice president of Distribution and Logistics, Gustave A. Larson Co. Contact him at 262/542-0200 or [email protected].