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Small Fleets Should Focus On The Driver – As HOS Rules Tighten

When faced with CSA, probable changes in Hours of Service rules, mandated use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) and more, David Owen of NASTC suggests small fleets do what they do better than the big guys: “finding, hiring and retaining drivers.” 

“This part of trucking is the only advantage that smaller companies have over the larger ones,” points out Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies or NASTC.

Behind the avalanche of regulations is the premise that the American truck driver is not able to make good decisions on his own, so the “safety people,” the government and the “technocrats” who are convinced technology solves all, are out to create a robot by telling the driver where to drive, when to rest and sleep, what lanes to drive in, how fast to go, where to fuel and more, Owen maintains.

“The government and big companies are moving diametrically in the wrong direction by micro-managing and dehumanizing the driver, taking away his confidence by [speed] governors, black boxes, EOBRs and Draconian HOS rules,” says Owen.

He says a small company can offer the driver the type of close-knit culture where if he has a problem he cannot only talk to the dispatcher, he can talk to the company owner.

The dispatch ratio at a small company may be 20 to one, whereas at a large company it’s more like 120 to one. To talk to the person in charge, the driver “has less layers of bull to get through,” Owen says. “It’s a totally different mindset and environment.” 

Owen is convinced that “we’re just beginning to see the tip of the driver shortage iceberg” and that small companies will be able to leverage fair play, fair pay and family atmosphere to get and keep drivers who flee the large, mega carriers.

In a dramatization of what not to do, called “A Tale of Two Companies,” Owen has created a look at two small companies (each with 20 trucks) with the same SafeStat and CSA scores and both of which are over the threshold in two CSA BASICs.

The difference is that Company A’s safety director rolls out a new plan that’s basically in line with what government regulators and large carriers are doing to deal with regulations and CSA and company B concentrates on helping drivers do the best job they can do and gives them in-depth training.

Company A’s safety director, says Owen, puts in speed governors and EOBRs in all its trucks; employs fuel optimization; screens any overweight drivers for sleep apnea; puts in GPS monitoring; and shows “zero tolerance” for drivers’ mistakes.

Company B, on the other hand, doesn’t impose speed governors on its drivers; concentrates on better training “to find the [engine’s] sweet spot and control idling time”; uses APUs if necessary; implements NASTC’s fuel program “to provide full facility truck stops to improve the health, welfare and safety of drivers every night on the road”; and implements a monthly, ongoing safety and awareness program through NASTC’s Professional Drivers Advantage Program.

The program includes a newsletter with coupons; help with the driver fitness BASICs; a safety CD that contains 12- 20-minute educational material on safety awareness and Hours of Service; and training in how to drive in all types of weather, among other things.

New drivers receive training on HOS and logs and NASTC’s program also addresses all three of the unsafe driver fitness BASICs.

Company B’s owners commit to monitoring CSA numbers monthly for the carrier, itself, and its drivers on all seven BASICs, including crashes and load securement. The company also commits to regular training and oversight for drivers to promote “consistent, accurate, pre-trips by drivers, enhanced by a mid-trip inspection program,” Owen notes.

He says Company B also commits to better pay plans for drivers, driver safety incentives and bonuses, and by adhering to all these programs impacts turnover, increases retention and driver longevity, lowers insurance costs and “impacts all seven CSA BASICs.” 

In short, Owen says, “It’s all about the driver.” 

In Owen’s scenario, Company A goes out of business while Company B grows and thrives because its drivers grow and thrive.

“I’m convinced CSA is going to push more good drivers to the smaller companies.
It will be a nightmare for the larger guys; the larger ones won’t be able to continue gaming the system,” he says.

Original article printed in TheTrucker by 
Dorothy Cox