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Employing The Best Drivers

If you’re experiencing driver shortages, you may feel compelled to quickly fill an empty position to avoid undelivered cargo that’s costing you money; however you may end up spending more money in the long run if you hire unfit drivers who are a risk to themselves, your company and the public.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck crashes produce approximately 3,800 fatalities every year. Truck crashes are not always the fault of the commercial driver, as the general public can be prone to inattentive driving, cutting trucks off and driving in truckers’ blind spots. But whether or not your driver is at fault in an accident, it is still important to employ the best drivers.

Characteristics of Risky Drivers

During the hiring process, consider some of the following risks.

Medical conditions and physical health: According to the FMCSA, medically disqualifying conditions for commercial drivers include hearing loss, vision loss, epilepsy and insulin use. The alarming fact is that some drivers qualify for full federal disability payments from the government while they are still driving trucks regularly. Be aware of drivers who “doctor shop” to get any doctor to sign off on their medical certificate so they are able to drive.

One medical condition gaining attention as a serious driving risk is sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue leads to performance problems such as slowed reaction time, lapses of attentiveness and distractibility. Each state has the jurisdictional authority to suspend a commercial driver’s license (CDL) if a person has sleep apnea. Usually, moderate to severe sleep apnea disqualifies a person from holding the license. The FMCSA reports that nearly one-third of CDL holders have sleep apnea. The disorder occurs most often in middle-aged males with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher.

However, drivers who get treated for sleep apnea and consistently comply with a treatment plan are able to do their jobs safely. Work with your driver to find out the severity and frequency of sleep apnea, the possibility of falling asleep while driving and how the driver responds to treatment.

While it increases the risk of sleep apnea, obesity as its own medical condition is also a risk, as it leads to poor driving posture and exacerbates back pain. Since many times drivers have to help unload cargo, obesity can also hinder the performance of this duty.

Finally, consider how drivers take care of their own physical health. Do they use tobacco regularly? Do they exercise? Do they have a proper diet? Poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking can cause or contribute to other health problems.

Educate drivers on the importance of addressing medical conditions that could be a serious risk to themselves and others if they drove. Empower them to seek help for their conditions, instead of imposing fear that they’ll lose their jobs.

Young or inexperienced drivers: Although they may have fewer medical conditions than older drivers, young drivers between the ages of 18- and 25-years old also pose a significant risk to your company. Younger drivers tend to lack experience with not only driving commercial vehicles, but also simply driving in general, and they are more willing to speed and drive recklessly.

If you do employ young drivers, create a safety training program and regularly educate them on safe driving.

Personality and behavior: Personality characteristics, such as aggression towards others, can translate into unsafe driving behaviors. Drivers who get angry, frustrated, stressed or distracted easily are also a risk. Also, consider those that have the inability to control their impulses, which can lead to unsafe driving behaviors, such as road rage.

Risk Management

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that the cost of all commercial motor vehicle crashes is over $80 billion each year. Undelivered cargo costs you money, but so does employing risky drivers. The following are some ways to mitigate this risk:

Use a strict hiring process: Use your hiring process to take a proactive approach and screen potential drivers. Create company safety policies that address driver recruitment, job duties, training, accident investigation, personal use of company vehicles and alcohol/drug testing of drivers. Eliminate risky drivers before they cause accidents and cost you money.

When hiring a driver, consider the driver’s past driving record and motor vehicle violations, the types of vehicles driven, past employer references and familiarity with driving routes.

Promote employee health and safety programs: Whether or not a driver has a documented sleep disorder or other health condition, it’s important to promote a company culture of safety to ensure that all drivers are healthy and well-rested before they begin driving. Promote employee wellness and safety over risky driving to meet deadlines when the driver is driving past the point of fatigue. Even if your drivers follow the DOT regulation on Hours-of-Service, be cautious of drivers who indicate they are still too fatigued to drive.

Establish a driver safety program, and make sure all drivers complete safety training regularly. Reward drivers who follow safety procedures and discipline those who don’t. Educate drivers on the DOT regulations, such as the texting ban for commercial drivers.

Also, create a health and wellness program to address poor diet habits, lack of exercise, sleeping habits and tobacco use. Conduct regular drug tests and wellness screenings to assess the fitness of your workforce.

Contact the insurance professionals at INSURICA for more help assessing your company’s fleet risks.

This Risk Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2012-2013 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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