Carriers should be provided access to data that identifies their drivers' convictions
Lately, the wheels of the trucking industry have rolled into the new millennium with regulations that at one time were thought to be the future of the industry and have now brought the future to our doorstep. Technologically advanced rulemakings focused on items such as CSA 2010, Pre-Employment Screening Program and EOBRs have brought computer-assisted driving, training and hiring to the forefront of our industry. In the eyes of the industry, however, with advanced technology integrated into the everyday workings of fleets across the country, one rule seems quite antiquated, i.e., Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) Part 383.31: Notification of convictions for driver violations.
Federal regulation 383.31, or 383.33 for that matter, requires each employee or independent contractor to self-report to their motor carrier any conviction of violating traffic laws or of having their license suspended, revoked or canceled. Is it me, or do these regulations seem oddly outdated considering the advanced technologies upon which the industry currently relies? Ever since FMCSA announced a driver's safety measurement scores will only be available to the enforcement community and the drivers themselves under CSA, motor carriers find themselves continually relying on the driver's annual motor vehicle report or for their drivers to self-report infractions in a timely manner. In a nutshell, it's now time to develop federal programs that carriers can rely on to notify them of any driver violations.
An employee notification system (ENS) communicates a driver's CDL status to the employer in the event of a change, such as a violation conviction or cancelation, in a timely manner. In the past few years, various ENS programs have been developed in several states across the country on a volunteer basis; the service is also obtainable through vendors across the industry, but the need for a federally administered system is clear. The development of a federal program to communicate CDL status changes would assist carriers nationwide in creating safer fleets. It would also allow carriers that lack the economic means to contract with a vendor the opportunity to receive safety-related updates on their drivers in a more timely and reliable manner.
An ENS would go a long way towards making carriers safer by allowing them to field their best team of drivers. At this point, with the evolution of CSA, the umpteenth rewrite of hours of service regulations, and other issues that have affected the stability of rulemakings, it seems as though valuable programs such as an ENS have fallen into the logjam of regulatory purgatory.
As an industry that wants to keep moving forward, improvement of employee violation reporting processes represents an opportunity for even greater advancement in the safety performance of carriers across the country. With the technology available through CSA and the Compass program, the self-reporting of violations should be rendered obsolete. Carriers should be provided access to data that identifies their drivers' convictions. ENS would not only eliminate the process of trusting a driver to self-report, but would streamline it too. Remember, the driver has 30 days after the date of conviction to notify his or her employer. Using today's technology, that 30 days can be whittled down to almost an instant, allowing carriers to take action sooner to ensure that only their safest drivers are on the road.
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to Safety411@truckload.org.