Fleet Safety: Why Corrective Action Training Must Be Part of the Solution

In many areas of life, average is acceptable. However, when it comes to truck fleet safety, average may not be good enough.

When an incident occurs, plaintiffs’ attorneys often investigate the history of the carrier. Has regular vehicle maintenance been carried out? How about driver training? Did it meet minimum regulatory standards?

But even shippers who do this sometimes have loopholes, and lawyers are well compensated for finding those loopholes. To a jury, this gap makes all the difference in deciding whether and how much damages should be paid to victims and their families.

“Meeting legal minimums would earn truckers a C-Minus grade if that were the school. That wouldn’t impress a jury,” said Mark Schedler, senior editor for transportation management at JJ Keller & Associates, a safety and regulatory compliance specialist. “FMCSA and juries expect carriers to have corrective measures (safety management controls) in place to eliminate unsafe or non-compliant behavior and prevent accidents and subpoenas.”

Take electronic logging devices and dashcams, for example. By law, most drivers operate under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ELD rule, and many fleets are now taking the extra precaution of adding dashcams, either forward or forward and forward, and in some cases both. ELDs and dashcams are good at capturing behaviors such as: B. whether the driver complies with the working hours regulations or is driving while distracted. However, if this information is not used by the carrier to mitigate future risks, the same information becomes liable before a jury.

Welcome to the critical role that corrective action training plays in a world-class fleet safety program.

Why corrective action is a must

JJ Keller, which offers its Encompass fleet safety management program, which includes an optional dashcam, has developed a five-step approach to building a world-class safety program.

“To be defensible, it is imperative to consistently exceed regulations and adhere to company policies. Inconsistent or nonexistent corrective action could be viewed as negligent monitoring and would likely add zeros to a judgment or comparison,” Schedler said.

The program includes information on how to develop best practices to secure executive takeovers, follow policies and procedures, exceed minimum legal requirements, and share safety data and progress with drivers and insurance companies. But one of the keys to the program is building a strong component of Corrective Action Training (CAT).

For a plaintiff’s attorney, missteps become an argument for fault. Having policies/procedures in place but not following them consistently (no one should be exempt), communicating them, or providing follow-up is a recipe for disaster.

JJ Keller identifies several points to ensure policies/procedures are followed. Among them are:

  1. Communicate expectations clearly.
  2. Prioritize risky behavioral events and trends for timely coaching.
  3. Provide a balance between recognizing a job well done and correcting unacceptable behavior.
  4. Outline how and when disciplinary action will be taken and verify that the policy is being followed.

For more information on what investigators are looking for and how to avoid additional screening, see JJ Keller’s free e-book, Corrective Action Training: Five Steps to a Best-in-Class Safety Program.

Reduce risk and retain drivers

An effective CAT program reduces the likelihood of being found negligent in an incident, but can also result in improved driver retention. According to a 2021 Workhound survey, drivers who were critical of training were 50% more likely to quit their job.

Truckers should have policies in place to provide consistent training, establish hiring procedures to weed out bad drivers, and determine when drivers need training, discipline, or fire.

All of this is part of the process of creating a safe working culture, but they also reduce the risk of a negligence finding in court. A plaintiff’s attorney is often able to prove negligence if they can show that the airline failed to follow policies or procedures, failed to proactively guide drivers to improve their behavior, or failed to identify high-risk and unqualified/non-compliant drivers resigned.

prevent crashes

“Timely identification and correction of unsafe behavior reduces safety and operational costs, minimizes potential liability, and minimizes the impact of litigation in the event of an accident,” noted JJ Keller in his e-book. “A well-designed corrective action training program, driven by timely driver compliance and safety exception data or video, can reduce accidents and violations while improving driver retention.”

Additionally, Schedler suggested basing corrective action training on monthly compliance, safety, accountability (CSA) assessments and citations, DOT incidents, and insurance loss incidents that are reactive. Dashcams, ELDs, and telematics data can all be used to identify and troubleshoot compliance and performance issues before Crashes or citations occur, he said.

Within Encompass is a video event management solution that includes a dashcam. This allows truckers to gain additional insight into events, allowing safety managers to review, assess, and assign corrective action training to drivers in near real-time. There is also a video recall function.

When conducting corrective action training, Schedler suggested focusing the training on a specific issue, keeping it to less than 10 minutes, and conducting it as soon as possible after the incident. The instruction could include classroom training, one-on-one training, ride-along with the trainer, or a corrective action training module.

Schedler encourages shippers to use Encompass Training to implement and maintain a CAT program. The software provides corrective action training modules on a variety of topics including operating hours, ELDs, inspections, distracted driving, hard braking and drug use.

take security seriously

“The goal is to convey that you take security and compliance seriously and that remediation is mandatory,” the e-book says. “Once training is complete and documented, continue to monitor the driver to ensure corrective action training is working. Documenting positive changes in behavior is critical when the driver is involved in an accident or incident.”

When conducting corrective action training, Schedler said, it must be aligned with the company’s discipline policy, which should be progressive in nature. Documentation should be retained in accordance with the company’s document retention policies. Never destroy related documents when an accident occurs as this could result in liability for spoliation (destruction of evidence).

Managing a successful safety program that includes a corrective action training component is a tall order for many shippers. Third-party vendors can assist in this process by providing some or all of the management and implementation of a security program.

“Failing to identify and correct violations and unsafe behavior can be devastating for auto transport companies, as it becomes difficult to defend them after a serious accident,” noted JJ Keller in his e-book.

Click here for more articles by Brian Straight.

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