In favor of on-site DOT training


If you are new in the business, I think a 4-day seminar is a great starting place.

But, there is some training that all members of management should have.

BLUF: (bottom line up front) – The whole management team needs some DOT training, because without it, you might make a bad mistake that gets you in trouble with the DOT, and also because the DOT requires training for every employee, including mgt and drivers.

The biggest reason I say this is, I’ve seen so many situations where an organization runs like a well-oiled machine, but invariably someone makes a really bad decision that is a DOT violation they did not know about.

Example I: ‘Burns MFG’ runs like a giant Swiss watch, or like some big churches, with various management positions reporting to one another, creating a visual image of a wiring diagram you can see simply by whose office is biggest and who answers the phone when it rings etc.

But if there are, let’s say, 19 people working in the office and one person is designated Safety Manager, it’s a good bet the safety manager is the ONLY one who has a clue when to do a post-accident drug test and when not to do one. This may be one of the most common examples of that: when there is a wreck, the safety manager goes to the crash scene and whoever is in the office decides about what comes next.

Do we need to do a drug test? Yes, we will do a drug test, just to be on the safe side.

It seems like a safe bet, but it’s actually a critical violation if it shows up on a compliance review. This happened to one of my favorite long-time customers just a week or so ago.

Example II: Let’s just call them Echo Imports – they have several trucks and several good mechanics who fix things as quickly as the drivers break them. They had some good management practices that had been in place for years, but the original brains behind the operation has since moved on. Then, there’s a new CEO who is into cost cutting: Why are you putting those stickers on the outside of the truck? Is it required by the DOT? No? Well, let’s stop doing that – we’ll save $2.13 on each annual inspection.

Two years later, I’m doing a compliance assistance visit; I noticed the frequency of roadside inspections has increased and the frequency of violations as well. There are several things we can recommend to reverse the trend, but one of the recommendations I always make is to use those red stickers. They are not a DOT Requirement, but using them decreases the frequency of roadside inspections and violations. At Echo Imports, no one knew that, so they had stopped using them.

Example III: Let’s call this Dixon Land & Cattle; they have a feedlot and 21 trucks are used to transport feeder calves, hay, grain, machinery and equipment, and whatever else needs to be done. At one point, all the employees were either friends and neighbors or relatives. Over the years, they’ve grown and in the last 5-10 years, most of the entry-level employees they have hired were not known to them prior to hiring, and several of these are driving CMVs; including CDL trucks.

One of these drivers was a little sketchy about his previous work history; said he worked for company XYZ for the last 4 years, but when we sent a letter to that previous employer and got one back, it said he had only worked there for 2 years. Not understanding how important this discrepancy was, whoever was doing the hiring overlooked it.

6 months ago, that driver was in a collision and when the DOT realized they had a DQ file with an egregious contradiction between the driver’s work history and what a previous employer said, the company came close to being shut down over this and 2 other critical or acute violations.

This one is an acute violation, for presenting a false document to the DOT, when you knew or should have known it was falsified.

Example IV: Yelnushka is a small business engaged in importing rugs and fixtures from some country I cannot pronounce, but here in the US they accept deliveries at their distribution center, then make deliveries to home-décor stores and others, using their straight trucks and one F-450 with a trailer. All their employees are from the home country, but most have attended college in the US before becoming involved in the business, so they speak English well enough.

The business has been growing gradually for about 20 years, but in the past 5 years, it seems all their customers are becoming a little more demanding; they want to know with pinpoint accuracy when a delivery is going to arrive and they are asking to have some deliveries made directly to the end user. Along with the fact the business is growing at a healthy clip, this is beginning to present a more-challenging problem for the dispatcher each day.

So 2 years ago, they invested in a GPS system that tells them exactly where their trucks (and therefore the customer’s merchandise) are at all times. But the operations manager who made this decision doesn’t really talk to the person who keeps all the drivers logs and everything else the DOT might examine one day.

After being involved in a serious crash, involving 7 automobiles and their truck, the DOT comes in to look at their logs and supporting documents, among other things. There was no evidence of deliberate falsification on daily drivers logs, but the records the GPS system keeps is a discoverable supporting document and it never matches the paper logs exactly.

The DOT investigator found hundreds of examples of log falsification, AND the  GPS system was set to preserve delivery records for 90 days, so there was a false-log violation AND another for not keeping supporting documents.

So there are four clear examples of companies that could benefit from some customized, onsite training for management:
Example I – Burns – Critical D & A violation

Example II – Echo – Maintenance

Example III – Dixon – Driver files

Example IV – Yelnushka – HOS

In each of these cases, there are several people involved and just sending ONE PERSON to a seminar in Las Vegas, Chicago, Houston, or Dallas or one of the other cities we visit might not have prevented it.

But, if we have the chance to visit your company and present a one-day, two-day or even a half-day customized presentation on the rules that are most likely to impact your business, to a larger group, you might have the ability, as an organization, to avoid some of these really common pitfalls.

The D & A violation can come from only one person knowing when to do a post-accident drug and alcohol test or when to do a company-directed drug and alcohol test instead.

The Maintenance violation can come from an inexperienced management team shaving pennies here and there, and a failure to know about a common best-management practice that could have saved them a pickup truck full of pennies.

The Driver File problem can come from HR getting someone involved, with the safety manager thinking, “OK, I’ll just let them do this part, I’ve got too many things going on, anyway.”

The HOS violation can come about because a high-level decision-maker who decided how to do something operationally was unaware how it might impact the company’s DOT-mandated safety management processes.

In each of these cases, numerous members of a management team are involved in making important decisions every day. But none of them knew ANYTHING about how their decisions caused their business to be in jeopardy because of one or more Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

These rules apply to every business entity that dispatches commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce, and they are NOT written by pencil-necked bureaucrats sitting behind desks, arbitrarily making transportation rules.

These rules are arrived at, one at a time, after a lot of people have lost their lives due to what was originally an innocent mistake. But, since the DOT has to make a rule, they made one called “General Applicability” that goes something like this:

  • These rules apply to every employer, employee and CMV.
  • An employer is NOT prohibited from requiring more stringent requirements.
  • Every employer shall be knowledgeable of. . . Every driver and employee shall be instructed. . . and shall comply. . .

So the bottom line is, you should have some DOT training for ALL Decision-makers, not just that one person who is primarily responsible for making sure these things are done, AND you should have some DOT training for everyone BECAUSE the DOT DIRECTS IT.

It’s a good investment; a lot of people do it; and we specialize in it.

If you are interested, contact our office; they have a list of 1-and-two-hour presentations that make up 4 days or more; we will make suggestions, but you can select a customized slate of training topics for your management team and we can deliver at your location or, if necessary, we can arrange a venue.

Who is DOT Compliance Help, Inc.?


So, who is DOT Compliance Help, Inc.? Any time I am introduced to a new company, I want to know:

  • Where did they come from?
  • What do they do?
  • Who are the key people?
    • In the next few pages, I hope to answer most of these questions
    • I want to help you know who we are

As many business managers have learned, DOT regulations are not just for trucking companies. If you are in ANY type business, including, but not limited to: construction, manufacturing, importing, distribution, etc., and you need a 10,000-lb-plus truck for any business chores, chances are the DOT regulations apply to you.

The way the agency puts it this way: “The rules. . . are applicable to all employers, employees, and commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) that transport property or passengers in interstate commerce.”

To fully understand this we have to look at the definition of CMVs and the definition of interstate commerce.
Commercial Motor Vehicle: “self-propelled or towed vehicle used on public highways in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when:

1) The vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds; or

2) The vehicle is designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver; or

3) The vehicle is used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding. . .”

 

Interstate commerce: “trade, traffic, or transportation in the United States—

(1) Between a place in a State and a place outside of such State (including a place outside of the United States);

(2) Between two places in a State through another State or a place outside of the United States; or

(3) Between two places in a State as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the State or the United States.”

 

But if you are, let’s say, a company specializing in the manufacture of beer, cupcakes, dogfood, greeting cards, frozen pizzas, bicycles, ball bearings, sporting goods, toy tanks, toy trucks or toy airplanes, and you have one or two trucks that are used to bring raw materials or take finished goods to UPS for shipping, you are going to hire people that know how to make these things, and not people that have been educated in the FMCSA safety regulations that apply to the operations of CMVs.

Sooner or later, someone in top management says to some newly-hired member of the management team, “Here, read up on this DOT stuff and let’s make sure we do this right, so we don’t get in trouble with that agency” or some words to that effect.

Here is where DOT Compliance Help Inc. brings value to the transaction: If you just appointed someone, or if you are the unhappy patsy that just got appointed, in order to become the subject matter expert on what no one really wants to know about (DOT Compliance), you have several choices to get up to speed: One, You could try to read the regulation; (I’ll give you a shortcut, but I don’t recommend this technique: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov).

Two, you could read a book; (I’ll give you a shortcut for that too, but I also don’t recommend this technique: www.labelmaster.com – FMCSR).

Or, third, and my recommendation, is: Go to a 4-day seminar and get some training from an expert. I’ve both run a business and I’ve worked for the agency, and I’ve been a consultant for 10 years now.

I’ll help you understand, first of all, how the FMCSA, DOT, federal and state motor carrier safety regulations can impact your business, and give you some pointers how to avoid the most-unpleasant interactions. (The FMCSA calls these “Interventions”), as well as those pesky roadside inspection violations.

In 1988, I left a short career as a newspaper reporter, and took a job as a junior member of a company that dispatched CMVs, and when the topic of DOT Regulations came up, I was the one that drew the short straw, and had to get up to speed really quickly as we were already up and running, following some rules and unwittingly breaking others.

From 1988 through 2005, I held various management positions including safety manager, office manager, owner, and general manager of a motor carrier (Company operating a fleet of CMVs) and transportation manager for a distribution company. During this time I also was a commissioned officer in the Army reserves / National Guard (I actually changed from AR to ARNG and back to AR), being activated twice. I moved from Missouri to Ohio, then Colorado and finally to northern Illinois, where I live now with my wife and three misfit dogs.

As a military officer, I got some training and experience leading soldiers, organizing deployments, constructing roads, bridges and buildings, and had a lot of interesting experiences, most of which were enjoyable and all of which helped me become the person I am today. While my responsibilities ranged from operating a field hospital, a cavalry unit (think tanks that move back and forth in the area between US Forces, our allies and the enemy), and several types of military engineering, safety was always an important part of my job and on one occasion it  was my primary responsibility. I retired from the reserves in 2007, after a total of 28 years.

In 2005, I took a position with the FMCSA as a field auditor, leaving in January 2007 due to extensive travel and changing work conditions. While working with the FMCSA, I encountered a handful of “Safety consultants” and I was unimpressed with their knowledge or their helpfulness. I considered getting another job in fleet management, but thought I would try something different first: What if I could become a consultant and help several motor carriers with their fleet operations? This idea led to the creation of DOT Compliance Help, Inc. We were incorporated in August 2007, but I cashed the first check that was written to me as a consultant in March 2007.

Here is what I thought I was going to be doing: I thought I would be, more or less, the head of the safety department for 6 or 8 trucking companies, (hopefully close to home), with the administrative effort done by others. Instead, we learned that a lot of people just wanted me to come in and show them what is supposed to be done in a few days. The first 8 or 10 of these companies put people in the top safety management position that didn’t know anything about the DOT  regulations, and I told each of them they need to go to a seminar to learn about the DOT regs. All these people called and emailed me repeatedly for weeks, telling me they could not find a seminar to attend.

Soon, we put together a training event; initially there were 4 sessions: Two for management and two for drivers. Over the last 10 years, that has grown into the 4-day seminar we have. It’s not done; I’m never satisfied with it. When we first started, we (my wife and I) read a book called ‘consulting for dummies’ or something like that. We don’t do everything exactly the way the author suggested, but there is one thing: “Update your charts”. I do that constantly.

I enjoy speaking with small groups, because I like helping people. When they first file in I see fear in their eyes, as they are completely afraid the DOT will just walk in one day and find something they do not like about the business, and shut it down or levy huge fines or worse. After the first day, and increasingly as they come to understand the way to learn and apply the FMCSRs, I see the fear melt away, and when the seminar is completed, I see people walking away with some confidence they can develop and implement a world-class safety management system back at their company. Or, at least, keep their co-workers out of trouble with the DOT.

Sometimes attending a seminar is not enough; sometimes it is helpful to have us come in and help with the driver qualification process, the drug & alcohol testing process, or other aspects of managing a fleet. I try to avoid non-FMCSA questions, but ultimately, I get a few (like: how or whether to incorporate, or what computer systems to use, or how to communicate with drivers, or where to get good loads.)

So if you are the new guy and someone just “threw the book at you” (made you responsible for your company’s DOT Compliance efforts), take a look at our seminar schedule.

Chances are, we have a seminar soon that fits your schedule.

If you would like us to train more than 4 – 5 members of your management staff, it might be more economical for us to come to you with a customized presentation.

If you can’t get away for 4 days initially, maybe you want to attend a 2-day seminar, or day 1 and 2 of a 4-day event. But, after a couple months, we hope you find time for the last half, so you will understand the big picture.

If you have more than a few trucks and there is a big mess (Like no driver files, no records of duty status, that sort of thing) we can help you get a system up and running.

Thanks for taking a minute to read up on DOT Compliance Help Inc.

We look forward to helping you as you improve your knowledge of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and what they mean for you and your business.

DOT Compliance Help, Inc.

Mike England, President and Senior Safety Consultant

847-836-6063

http://www.dotcompliancehelp.com

DOT Fines and Violations Updates


Someone reminded me a couple days ago, the DOT made some adjustments in their fine amounts earlier in 2016. Some of the changes were not terribly dramatic, some of them were pretty interesting. It doesn’t even show up on the DOT Website as a news release. But sometimes I think it is useful to review what some of the DOT’s potential fines are, as people have never heard them. I’ll touch on a few; and if anyone is interested in the chart, I can send it via email.

Failure to submit to a request for information: It was $1,000 and now it’s $1,028 – the key to remember here is, it’s that much PER DAY.
There’s a different penalty that sounds pretty much the same; you’d have to read the regulation carefully to see what the distinction is: Failure to respond to request to testify or provide records: it was $10,000 per day, and it went to $10,282 – again, they can charge you this much per day.
I read about a guy who was charged with the 1st count for 37 days or something, so his find was $37,000 to start. Did he actually say “I”m not going to cooperate with the agency”? Nope. He forgot to change his phone number. Moved a couple miles, wanted to change his phone number, the phone company was jacking him around, and he said ‘to heck with it, we use cell phones for everything anyway’, and the FMCSA tried to call him on a dead line. So, how do you avoid the 1st one? keep your MCS-150 up to date.

Requiring or permitting operation of a vehicle that has been placed out of service: There are nine different versions of this one; fines were $3,100; (now $1,782); $21,000; (now $17,816); $3,100; (now $1,782); $21,000; (now $17,816); $850; (now $891); $25,000; (now $25,705); $16,000; (now $22,587); $16,000 (now $14,502); and $11,000 (now $22,587).

Some of these go up, a few go down; the point of the update in June 2016 was not necessarily to INCREASE fines; it was to correct an administrative regulation that was around for more than a decade that rounded things off to the nearest thousand dollars. Apparently the regulation was in conflict with an underlying law.

But when you see the amounts, you should realize everything is PER DAY or PER DOCUMENT. For instance, if you fail to submit to a CR, it could be $1,000 per day or $10,000 per day, but if you pay attention and know what is going on, you are NOT going to refuse to comply.
If you allow someone to operate a vehicle that has been declared OOS, it might be as little as $891 per day or as much as $25,705 per day.

One of the most common mistakes people make is to allow drivers to falsify their logs (Let’s be honest, some motor carriers encourage or compel the practice). If you get caught, the fine might be as much as $11,000 per page; more commonly $500.

Here is the point I always try to help people understand in my business; Most of the rules in the FMCSR are things an honest person can do without meaning to, and the DOT is pretty lenient as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice in 6 years. BUT, there are a few things the agency is really strict about – some Hazmat rules carry a fine of $171,000 per incident. The key is to know what the agency’s “Hot-buttons” are and avoid making those mistakes. These are what the DOT calls Critical and Acute violations – I spend a lot of time teaching about those rules.
The agency is talking about scrapping the list of Critical and Acute rules, but they are going to implement another list that is almost identical, so if you read something about the critical and acute list being removed from the regs, look for comments about the ‘table 2 and table 3’ rules.

The DOT says you are supposed to know what the rules are, too, so if you haven’t already done so, look at our schedule and come to a seminar near you soon.
If you have been but it was more than 3 or 4 years ago, a refresher is probably a pretty good idea. I hope to see you there.

Have a safe day.

-Mike England

President, DOT Compliance Help, Inc.

847-836-6063

www.dotcompliancehelp.com

The Private Motor Carrier as Sun Tzu (The Art of War) Part 2


In our continuing discussion of Sun Tzu The Private Motor Carrier, we think about what the Chinese mercenary general might do if he was hired to run a private fleet for an existing construction company.

Last time we talked about the steps Sun Tzu might take in order to:

“Know Yourself” – the first part of Sun Tzu’s best-known quote:

“Know yourself, Know your enemy, and prepare the battle-field”

To review, I suggested he might:

  1. Make a list of his assets (CMVs)
  2. Study the accident register and loss runs, as well as moving violations
  3. Review all training records for the most-recent 24 months.
  4. Conduct his own informal survey of the organizations safety posture

Now, we’ll discuss how Sun Tzu might tackle the 2nd part of his most-well-known truth: “Know yourself, know your enemy, prepare the battlefield.”

When you are focusing on safety management controls, who is the enemy?

Some people think the FMCSA is the enemy, but they really aren’t.

I can see how people feel this way; but the FMCSA is really all about saving lives. I could spend all afternoon speculating about how the agency’s inconsistent enforcement effort levels the playing field, giving an advantage to the small motor carriers who don’t have much to lose, while handicapping larger motor carriers who fear being shut down as a result of even one or two mistakes.

The enemy is complacency.

Drivers know they are supposed to pay attention, but they get bored by running the same routes or travelling over the same roads. Periodic, meaningful training regarding safe driving practices can have a mitigating impact. When was the last time they had defensive driving training?

The enemy is fatigue.

The worst thing you can allow is for people to work a long day, then drive 100 miles or more to get home. You have to develop some policies to mitigate this common problem, and you need to communicate them clearly. And, of course, no policy is meaningful unless it includes a monitoring process.

The enemy is bad driving.

In my illustration, you are in the construction business, so you hire machinery operators who may or may not be good CMV operators. You have to have some sort of training standards, and stick to them.

The enemy is drug use.

Too many people – and the percentage is going up – use illegal drugs, or use prescription medicines illegally. Is your drug and alcohol testing system really being administered properly?

The enemy is bad roads.

At least do some research. If you are sending a team from Springfield MO to do a job in Pittsburg, KS, what road will they take and what is the condition of that road? Your knowledge might not always be perfect or complete, but at least you can check the ATRI’s Bottleneck report:

http://atri-online.org/2015/11/18/congestion-impact-analysis-of-freight-significant-highway-locations-2015/

What is the enemy you face?

Is it one or all of these? Or is there someone or something else that bedevils your efforts, as a company, to operate in a safe and professional manner?

Next time we will discuss: Preparing the Battlefield

The Private Motor Carrier as Sun Tzu (The Art of War) Part 1


Sun Tzu the Private Motor Carrier

 Sometimes I refer to Sun Tzu during seminars; and I always start by saying “Some of you have probably heard of Sun Tzu.” It’s not unusual for people to have read something about this Chinese mercenary general who lived 5 centuries before Christ.

But most people have never thought about this: If Sun Tzu was here today, and he was the traffic manager for, let’s say, a construction company, how would he approach the role?

Here’s what we know about Sun Tzu: One of the most-frequently-quoted truths found in Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, is this one:

 “Know the enemy and know yourself”

As an engineering officer in the Army, I was told Sun Tzu said “Know yourself; Know your enemy, and Prepare the battlefield”.

While this might be an imaginative interpretation, stemming from some charismatic Army staff officer in the 1980’s, we don’t know that Sun Tzu didn’t say this. And, we can easily apply these 3 rules to every challenge, every decision, every challenge we will ever face. I will demonstrate:

  • Know yourself.

If Sun Tzu were assigned the responsibility of managing a fleet of construction vehicles today, I believe the first thing he might do is to make a list of his assets, or ask someone to do it for him. Depending on the size of the organization, you may be a one-man shop or you might be able to delegate some mundane tasks. Either way, you must have a list of CMVs, by year, make, model, and GVWR.

Then, he would probably study the accident register and loss runs, as well as moving violations in the past 24 months. This last is easily done by signing on to SMS. Your recent history is the most-reliable predictor of your immediate future.

Another step Sun Tzu would probably take is to review all training records for the most-recent 24 months. Have we done some good training? Have we put it off? Have we been overly-reliant on some pre-recorded training materials of dubious quality?

Finally, I believe Sun Tzu would rely on his instincts, walking around and taking an informal measure of the organizations safety  controls and the way people respond to them. Do people ignore rules that are clearly posted? Do people follow rules to the letter, grudgingly? Or do people cheerfully follow the spirit of company safety rules, because they know these rules are meant to save lives?

This might include visiting some construction jobs, listening to people talk, taking an informal measure of how well-developed the company’s safety management controls are and how seriously people are taking them.

Next time, the 2nd part of Sun Tzu’s first lesson; know your enemy.

 

“Don’t lose the lesson” – Root Cause Analysis


During seminars, I always try to encourage people to devote a percentage of their time to case studies. “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson” I say. “Learn from your mistakes. But, don’t wait ‘til you have had a tragedy to find a way to improve your own safety management controls. Learn from other’s mistakes.”

So pick up a newspaper from time to time, particularly when there has been a truck crash near you or in your industry, and read the article with a critical mind; thinking about root cause.

A lady in a car T-bones a school bus while she is talking on her cell phone. No one is hurt, but maybe this is a reminder to do some training on the consequences of distracted driving; with particular emphasis on decreasing cell phone use while operating CMVs. Maybe you even want to review your company’s policy on the practice.

In May 2013, A 51-year old man driving a garbage truck, talking on a cell phone, ignores an unmarked rail grade crossing, crossing in front of an oncoming train. The resulting derailment was caused by a driver who was talking on a cell phone using a hands-free device. Here is a shortcut to some news coverage of the NTSB report: http://www.wbaltv.com/news/ntsb-distracted-truck-driver-caused-rosedale-train-crash/29275356. Now, even though the driver was held to be responsible, there were also some changes made to the immediate surroundings and there was some serious discussion of who is responsible for maintaining infrastructure immediately adjacent to a rail-grade crossing. But we can all think about that driver using a hands-free device; do you have drivers who do this a bit too much? Maybe just a sobering word is all you can offer them. Personal cell phone use is a difficult thing to monitor, but you can try to share with your drivers some reasons they should consider cutting back, if they are on the phone constantly.

When I was a young man getting started in life, I joined the Army and soon found myself in the 82nd Airborne Division. I still read news items about paratroopers; possibly more than the average person would. In September 2013, there was a tragic parachute incident that took the life of a senior officer, and the Army conducted some really serious root-cause analysis: if you’d like to read about it, this is pretty sobering. It’s not about trucks but it’s about an organization learning from its mistakes: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/military/article25874407.html

I think, to some extent, all organizations do a pretty good job of learning from their mistakes. But how about learning from other people’s mistakes? I think we could all do a bit better; even my favorite organization: What if the officer who died on a routine parachute jump in September 2013 was in the French Army? Or the British Army? Do you think we would have made the same adjustments? Now let me ask another sobering question: What if this exact incident happened to a French staff officer in 2012, and the US Army ignored it, then a senior commander in the US Army suffered a similar fate in September 2013. You would say the Army failed to learn an important lesson, right?
So the next time there is an article about a truck crash in your local newspaper, or you hear about something on the radio, listen to the details and ask yourself “What caused that crash” or “Why are those people dead now?”. Sometimes you have to wait days, weeks, even a year or more, to find out what really went wrong. If it is a multiple fatality, the NTSB will eventually release an in-depth report. Look for lessons learned. Look for root cause. Think about what you can do to keep the same incident from occurring with one of your drivers.

Remember, “when you lose, don’t lose the lesson”.

But don’t wait until you experience a tragic loss; learn from other people’s mistakes and misfortune as well. It will accelerate your learning curve as an organization.

Mike England

DOT Compliance Help Inc

www.dotcompliancehelp.com

847-836-6063

Transportation Bill Thoughts


The US House of Representatives is apparently focused entirely on the transportation bill this week – there are some interesting articles coming out about it. The way they make laws in this country – it’s terrible and it’s ugly but it’s the best system ever devised.

Here’s this bill, all about transportation, and the country’s future and the (possible) solution to the crumbling infrastructure and everything, and the first step is, they have to vote up or down on a hundred amendments, many of which have nothing to do with transportation. But some do.

First, a Wisconsin Republican sponsored a bill, co-sponsored by 3 Democrats from OR, NC, and MN, to allow states to raise the weight limit on trucks from 80K to 91K., and it went down in flames yesterday. 
This means the final vote will NOT include this provision.

Second, the way the bill is written today, the CSA scores will be secret until some mysterious review of the algorithms is completed. 
There is an amendment that would keep the scores public until the review is completed.

Third, there is an amendment that would allow states to raise fuel taxes but it would also make states responsible for maintenance of the interstate highways within their borders. I remember reading about this a year ago. First time I remember seeing the word “Devolve” in a federal law of any kind. (as in devolve authority and responsibility to a lower level – think limited government and leaving everything to the states that is not specifically done by the federal gov’t according to the constitution).

Apparently there are as many as 250 amendments, transportation-related and otherwise, being discussed, and the prediction is, the highway bill will be voted on, in it’s entirety, by the end of the week. 
The end of the week, if I am not mistaken, is Thursday. These hard-working lawmakers have to have a 4-day weekend every week, you know.

Of course, this is the house version of the transportation bill. The senate already passed a different version and the two will have to be reconciled. Still, we may have a six-year bill by the end of this year. The biggest question, I believe, is how the whole thing will be funded.

The reason this is not a part of the overall omnibus funding measure that allows for budgets for most other government functions is, transportation infrastructure has long been paid for, in theory, by the fuel taxes. Since fuel taxes have always been a per-gallon thing and not a percentage, the transportation budget takes a hit when we put more-fuel-efficient cars and trucks on the nation’s highways.

So a lot of ink will be spilled to describe how the whole package will be funded for the next six years. The last I heard, there was this hocus-pocus theory about the one-time tax windfall that might result from repatriation of oversees funds held by American corporations. 
(HUH? – whatthehelldoes thathave to dowith transportation?) 
I hope they come up with a better solution than that. I really do. 
This is all smoke and mirrors and projections that may or may not come to pass.

OK, I admit it. I kind of enjoy watching government work. Just a little. It’s kind of like watching a train wreck; it’s awful but you can’t take your eyes off it. . . wait, that would be the FRA’s jurisdiction; are they included?

Yeap, that’s part of the transportation bill also. 
(funding for the federal railroad administration) 
I wonder where their funding comes from? 
I better go read some more.

4 Solid Reasons to Attend a Conference


  1. Networking (Meeting People Like YOU)

Many times, you are the safety person for your company because NO ONE ELSE is. Which means you are working with people who aren’t doing what you are doing. It’s nice to meet, interact, and bond with people doing the SAME work as you are.

    2.  Ideas

Like above, if you are the only one at your company working toward safety, it can feel like you are stranded on a deserted island! Coming up with custom solutions and inventing ways to make your work successful is hard on your own. Taking a conference and just listening to other situations can foster new ideas and ways to work on problems you would not know if you spent time alone in your office. Conversations and live training foster creativity.

3. Focus

Again, it’s hard to focus on safety when many times your colleagues need you for other things. We often lose sight of what our job is in an effort to help everyone else in the office meet their goals – but what about your goals? A conference can help you focus your efforts to make them easier for others to help with, which leads to another bonus post-conference: productivity!

  1. Knowledge

This may be so obvious, sometimes it’s forgotten. A conference gives you the gift of content – pure and simple. In our industry, many times the information we are expected to know is not easy to understand and apply because it is written legalistically. An instructor with years of experience can quickly tell you what you need to know faster than if you were to sift through a regulation book and try to decipher it.

Are Printers needed for EOBRs?


I received a question from a client recently and thought I’d share the response to help clear up confusion about AOBRs (automatic on-board recorders), EOBRs (electronic on-board recorders) and some other related technologies out there.

“I had a driver pulled over yesterday Read more of this post

Costs of Transportation from ATRI


And now, for something serious. . . The American Transportation Research Institute – a not-for-profit organization affiliated with the DOT – just released the annual industry study on costs of transportation. Once again, costs are up – this time it’s $1.68 per mile but there are a lot of variables. To read the report, go to http://atri-online.org/ – there are a lot of ‘white-paper’ briefings there – you have to go through a few steps but it’s well worth it. One of my favorite recent ATRI papers was the one that looks at the utility of sending drivers to a simulator to make them better drivers (statistically a very good investment).