By Steve Binkley
InfoStream Safety Consultant
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the following are the top five driver-related violations in 2020:
- Speeding 6-10 mph over the posted speed limit
- Failure to obey a traffic control device
- Failure to use a seatbelt while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)
- False report of driver’s record of duty status
- Lane Restriction violation
Four in this list are moving violations that often result in a DOT inspection regardless of citations issued. Inspectors will assess points in the carriers’ Compliance, Safety, Accountability score (CSA), which impacts the carriers’ Unsafe Driving score, as listed in BASIC (Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories).
Most drivers know that the DOT posts these inspection violations to their Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) report. If there are repeat violations, it develops an unwanted reputation, and the carrier becomes a priority for future inspections.
False log violations generally occur when drivers attempt to disguise or hide on-duty time. Examples include logging as off duty for loading/unloading, fueling, and pre-trip inspections. Often inspectors find the driver logging out of their electronic logging device (ELD) yet continuing to drive. These violations usually result in inspectors placing the driver out of service. The driver’s employer is assessed points in the CSA Hours of Service BASIC.
I had a long career in the transportation industry, and I witnessed these violations firsthand. By interviewing drivers about how the breach occurred and reviewing their input, I gained valuable insight for prevention. Of course, I heard varied excuses, but it became apparent that carriers must develop and put into place strategies to promote driver compliance, so their drivers understand the company’s expectations.
Below are some of the steps that, when implemented, showed marked improvement related to violations:
Speeding 6-10 mph over the posted
- Train the drivers on the CSA and the Unsafe Driving BASIC and its impact on their reputation.
- Identify the “hot” spots where drivers often receive violations.
- Emphasize how speed kills as speeding is one of the leading causes of accidents, fatalities, and injuries.
- Send daily safety messages reminding drivers of the importance of knowing the posted speed limit and compliance.
- Drivers need to know that there can be consequences for speeding violations.
- Are your trucks governed for speed? If not, invest in technology that tracks truck speed and knows the posted speed limit of most interstates and highways. Some technologies can even take over the control of the accelerator and slow the truck down to adjust to the posted limit.
Failure to obey a traffic control device
This violation includes running a traffic control device, bypassing weigh stations, and not complying with traffic signage specific to commercial vehicles.
- I used genuine examples of traffic signage and posted them in training facilities to help drivers become familiar with shapes, colors, and rules.
- Train drivers about the CSA program and how a failure to obey violation can impact their reputation and their PSP report.
- Remind drivers that state weigh/inspections are often located right near state borders. Suggest traveling in the right-hand lane as they cross state lines and look for signage that directs them to the weigh station.
- Don’t hurry through traffic lights and recognize “stale” green lights (lights that have been green for a long time and may turn yellow soon.)
Failure to use a seatbelt
- Drivers not wearing seatbelts are more likely to be injured or killed in accidents, and I’ve investigated too many accidents where that was the case.
- What is the motor carriers’ position if drivers are issued a seatbelt violation? Is there some disciplinary program in place?
- Post a company safety rule on the expectation that all employees must wear their seatbelt, regardless of the type of vehicle they operate.
- Instruct drivers that both the shoulder and the lap belt must be in the proper place and used
- Does the carrier have a bright color “patch” in contrast to the shoulder belt, so it’s easy to see if the driver is using the shoulder belt?
False driver logs
- Initiate random driver log audits.
- Provide in-depth hours of service training, and show examples of false logs.
- Out-of-service is the typical result for drivers who receive this violation.
- Remind them that sitting idle due to out of service still means lost revenue.
- Make it very clear what is the company policy and the consequences if a driver receives this violation.
Lane restriction violations
This violation generally means the driver is driving in a lane of traffic that prohibits commercial motor vehicles.
- I found that drivers who received these violations were often inexperienced and unaware of the roadway signage.
- Train your drivers where they can expect to see these signs, such as in larger cities that restrict trucks from being in the left-hand lane or used for passing. Instruct drivers to be aware of signage informing truck drivers to operate in the right lane on steep uphill grades.
- Send reminders about lane restrictions through the truck’s communication system.
- Make sure drivers understand the consequences of this type of violation.
There are no hidden secrets to avoiding these violations. It requires quality training, drivers knowing what the expectations are, and accepting the consequences. Drivers need the confidence they can call and have access to accurate safety information. As a safety professional, you know you are just as concerned about their reputation as truck-driving professionals.
Put a plan in place, follow it for consistency, reward drivers for good performance, and see if these violations begin to trend positively for your company. My experience says it will.
Steve Binkley is a safety professional with 39 years of experience, including 26 years with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, where he retired as captain of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division. He also worked as an associate instructor with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration National Training Center and vice president of safety at a large-tier motor carrier. Today, Steve serves as a safety and compliance consultant/instructor at North American Transportation Management Institute and speaks publicly about trucking safety.