How To Improve our Industry’s Image – And Your Bottom Line

May 13, 2012 | Articles

Several high-profile cases involving safety and compliance have resulted in trucking companies shut down by the Feds.  How do these cases affect the rest of us who run legal and clean?  What can we do to enhance our image?  It’s not your imagination – more trucking companies are forced to shut down by regulators than ever before.

The trucking industry wants to run safely and legally.  A few people want to make a quick buck – mostly new trucking industry entrants.  The FMCSA knows this.  In Bellevue, WA at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s April workshop, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro addressed this situation.  She discussed the agency’s “imminent hazard” authority, used to rid the highways of high-risk drivers and carriers.  “We’re making sure we’re getting the bad actors off the road, giving them a chance to rehabilitate, improve or just stay off the road altogether,” Ferro said.

So how is the FMCSA using imminent hazard authority?  We’ve seen numerous examples this year.

U&D Service from Indianapolis ignored multiple warnings.  Problems included log book violations, overweight violations, drivers who could not communicate to officers in English, and dispatching drivers with no CDL.  This food transportation company was previously investigated for transporting products at unsafe temperatures and cross-product contamination.

Lancaster, PA – based milk hauler D.A. Landis Company has been cited for requiring and encouraging drivers to keep two sets of log books.  Drivers and managers used secret codes on their hand-written logs to tell managers in which file to place specific logs.  Owner Dean Landis faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The company faces up to 5 years probation and a $5.5 million fine.  In addition, the company sold tainted milk to a New Jersey cheese company, since they could “make a little profit” instead of dumping the milk.   

Gunthers Transport from Maryland was shut down by the FMCSA as an imminent hazard to the public.  The drivers were allowed to falsify log books, their vehicles were found to be in poor condition, and their drivers were not required to perform pre-trip inspections.  Their 18 vehicles were inspected 192 times in 2 years and placed out of service 58% of the time.  Their drivers were inspected 245 times in 2 years, and placed out of service 16% of the time.  Owner Mark Gunther has been in the news before, his previous company Gunthers Leasing was the first to be criminally charged for altering drivers log books back in 1995.  Gunther spent 2 years in jail and paid a $170,000 fine for instructing drivers how to falsify logs.

Reliable Transportation Services of Pleasant Grove, UT is the second company owned by Jay Barber to be shut down in 2 years.  They had numerous Hours of Service violations, no drug and alcohol program, employed drivers without CDL’s, resulting in the FMCSA calling them an “imminent hazard”.

In North Carolina, Mabe Trucking owner Roger Mabe and consultant James Brylski have pled guilty to falsifying drivers’ logs.  The fines can go as high as $500,000 and probation as long as 3 years.  It is especially interesting – Brylski is a former FMCSA inspector. 

What can we do?  Clean equipment, drivers that are trained and aware, and management attitude all help our cause.  It’s more than just safety meetings.  Managers’ attitudes are reflected by drivers, supervisors, and mechanics.

Stay on top of Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports – responding to every request or condition report.  Even if that request or equipment report is misguided or unnecessary, let drivers know that you’re watching every inspection.  This is best accomplished by using LoadTrek’s automated Driver Vehicle Inspection Report.

Nothing is more visible than equipment appearance.  Most successful fleets utilize an equipment cleaning program, and most indicate that this program actually pays for itself.  Fleets report that drivers take better care of equipment, mechanics spend less time on repairs, and that equipment is pulled over for roadside inspections less often.  Driver appearance matters, too.  Encourage your drivers to take pride in their profession and show respect for themselves and their customers.

LoadTrek allows you to monitor your trucks and drivers while they are on the road and out of sight.  Many fleets have embraced a driver monitoring program for years.  A comprehensive driver monitoring program includes automated Hours of Service, and driving performance measurement.  The financial return on investment from a driver monitor program is well documented, and immediately recognized.  Other benefits include improved driver morale, a better reputation in the enforcement community, and increased litigation protection.

The right technology, a top-down safety culture, appreciation for your good drivers, and careful attention to vehicle maintenance are good business.  

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