The old adage in trucking says the easiest way to avoid violations is to be proactive about compliance. For some, that’s easier said than done. Many commercial transport companies believe that compliance with regulations is sufficient. This is especially true when it comes to pilots.
In accordance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations title 49 §391.25, motor carriers (or their delegates) must remove a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) from anyone driving a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce (or, in some cases, intrastate drivers only when the state requires it). A new driver’s record must also be checked out within 30 days of hire for a non-CDL driver and sooner for a CDL driver to verify their health status. The carrier must request the driver’s abstract at least once a year and document this review of the MVR.
But according to experts from compliance specialists JJ Keller & Associatesfetching records only once a year could miss important events that would trigger a decommissioning violation and could create legal liability for a fleet if an incident leads to litigation.
Kathy Close, transportation safety editor at JJ Keller, said she has spoken with several clients over the years who have been caught off guard by suspended licenses for administrative reasons such as non-payment of child support. or reimbursement of child support.
“Since the reason was not safety-related, there was no pattern or history of dangerous driving to question the status of a permit,” she said. “However, the driver was not qualified to drive a commercial vehicle. Had the customer used an MVR monitoring service rather than requesting the minimum annual MVR, the driver would not have been disabled by law enforcement. ‘order.
An MVR records a driver’s current information with the state driver’s licensing agency, including driver’s license (number, class, endorsements, restrictions, expiration date), violations, disqualification, misdemeanor offenses or convictions, accidents, medical condition and state-based driving record points. . It should be noted that travel violations in any type of vehicle are recorded, including personal vehicles and those operated for non-VMC fleets.
“A driver’s driving habits in a personal vehicle are a good indicator of how well they will drive your commercial vehicles,” Close said.
Violations may include speeding, driving under the influence, seat belt violations, violations of traffic control devices, and reckless driving. In fact, the majority of Top 10 Driver Violations during roadside inspections each year relate to these types of issues, not hours of service as many assume.
All of these violations will impact carrier CSA scores to varying degrees. For example, speeding between 6 and 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit counts as 4 CSA points (on a 10-point scale). Not wearing a seat belt is 7 points and driving a VMC without a valid CDL is 8 points. Rack up enough points and FMCSA listeners might come knocking on the doors of the fleet.
Tracking all of this information is complicated with records in multiple states and each state keeps records for varying lengths of time. But the important caveat is that this information could potentially deem a commercial driver ineligible to operate a commercial vehicle, and if a carrier misses this, it increases the overall risk profile of the fleet.
For carriers looking to be proactive in avoiding breaches, monitoring MVR once a year is not a good option. More frequent monitoring of the MVR helps fill any gaps that may exist. While CDL drivers are supposed to notify a motor carrier if they lose their license or receive traffic convictions, not all do. JJ Keller said not knowing a driver’s status is no defense in an FMCSA audit — nor would it likely be an acceptable defense in a courtroom.
Close said another client told him about a driver whose medical card had been downgraded by his state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Fortunately, the carrier learned of the downgrade through an alert in its MVR monitoring service,” Close said. “The client avoided a traffic offense and the decommissioning of his driver. The driver was on a dispatch at the time – 1,800 miles from home. The carrier therefore removed the driver from the road and decommissioned him at another company terminal. The driver was flown back by carrier’s choice to resolve the issue at the DMV in the state of origin.
What is MVR monitoring?
MVR monitoring comes in different forms. Many use a pull service (sometimes called self-service). In this case, the carrier or his representative must log in to the State Department of Motor Vehicles from which the driver obtained the permit. That means potentially connecting to as many as 50 different systems.
Push or Employer Notification Services (ENS) are offered by some states and can be a useful way for carriers to receive updates, but as of September there are only 19 states who provide these services. In all other states, the process is manual. For fleets with even a few drivers in different states, the time needed to monitor an entire fleet of driver records can quickly add up.
To maintain recording compliance and as a means of providing ongoing monitoring of the MVR, third-party services such as JJ Keller can be used. These services comply with FMCSA requirements and relieve some of the compliance burden on fleet managers. Services can provide an annual MVR service or more comprehensive MVR monitoring.
Why monitor MVRs more frequently?
As already discussed, more frequent or even continuous monitoring of MVRs can help fill the gaps where drivers may not be licensed to drive but the carrier is not yet aware of it. MVR monitoring also provides coaching opportunities to mitigate the risk of a breach or a larger future incident.
Proactive coaching can help prevent behaviors from becoming habits, Close noted, and create a pattern of fewer traffic convictions, reducing the chances of an FMCSA audit due to high CSA scores.
However, the benefits go beyond the regulatory bar and could include lower exposure to negligence claims in lawsuits and lower insurance rates as the overall risk profile of the fleet decreases.
Many roadside inspections also start with a traffic violation, so the reduced chance of a driver being arrested will correspond to a lower likelihood of an inspection, which could trigger additional violations and even rest orders. out of service that sideline freight. of the road.
How to Create a Corporate MVR Policy
Whether a carrier chooses to monitor motor vehicle records themselves or contracts with a third party to handle the task, several steps can be taken to ensure the information gathered is useful, Close said.
Start by designating someone to implement MVR’s global policy and make sure it’s enforced. Similar to how the FMCSA created a Violations Dashboard to generate CSA scores, consider assigning values to MVR data. Use this information to find patterns of behavior, especially dangerous driving behavior. The data showed that past behavior is an indicator of future behavior.
Using this MVR data, create a progressive discipline program. It’s important to remember to conduct the training in a positive light and not just point out bad behavior, Close said. The disciplinary program must be guided by the seriousness of the situation and the number of infractions. Corrective actions such as coaching and refresher training may be appropriate, but larger violations (or repeat violations) may require letters in the driver’s record, suspension, or even termination.
Close advised using a remedial training library with behavior specific training that can be used to ensure refresher training is targeted. Targeting training helps the driver get back on track through a teachable moment rather than general safety training that might discourage the driver.
It is also important not only to train on dangerous driving behaviors, but also to reward good behaviors. Close said drivers can be rewarded for good driving records and accident-free and violation-free miles. Prizes, gift cards and bonuses are some of the possible rewards. Sometimes companies rewarded drivers with special advertising on their trucks or, in some cases, with new or customized trucks.
With all the risks motor carriers face today, a more proactive approach to safety is almost universally considered a best practice. But annual MVR audits can leave significant gaps in that safety program that, if left unaddressed, increase risk on the roads and in the courtroom. Developing a program that includes continuous monitoring of the MVR, whether in-house or through third parties, is quickly becoming a key pillar of security programs.
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