I am a member of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association. This is an association of the traveling carnivals, fairs, and shows, which travel the countryside from March to October, in a tradition as old as the hills. I write the occasional article for their trade magazine. Below is my latest submission, on the importance of training. It will make more sense to you if you are a seasonal operator, but there are larger points there which apply to everyone. Enjoy.
This year, among other goals, you should be striving for a successful DOT season. That means, no accidents, no roadside tickets or Out of Services, and no DOT audits. If you can do that, it will increase your chances of having a successful year, dollars and cents-wise, as well.
There are some things you can do in the office to comply with the DOT rules. You should review your driver files, making sure they are complete. Check that all your drivers have current medical certificates before the season starts. Run all of your drivers’ license histories through the DMV. If you are hiring any new drivers, do your background checks. Make sure all of your CDL drivers have a pre-employment drug test, and double-check that you are properly set up to conduct random drug and alcohol tests throughout the season.
However, there is a limit to what you can do in the office. The primary personnel, who are going to determine whether or not you have a successful DOT season are your drivers. Therefore it is crucial they understand what you expect of them. If you simply toss them the keys, and say, “Stay safe out there”, you are going to have DOT problems.
Training is the key to getting your drivers following the rules. Many drivers do not know what the rules are, because no one has ever told them, and that includes those who have had their license for 30 years. Yes, it is true that some employees will not take direction, no matter what you do. However, the majority of your employees want to do the right thing, and do what you ask. They just need direction as to what that is.
Prior to the season, you should gather as many of your people as possible, and go over the DOT rules. This should take a few hours. The more time and effort you put into it, the more seriously your drivers will take it, and the more successful you will be.
How to do a proper pre-trip inspection is definitely one topic you should cover. Many of you in the carnival management are old drivers yourselves, so you should know the correct way to do a pre-trip inspection. JJ Keller, www.jjkeller.com, sells any number of training aids dealing with pre-trip inspection, including a video training package. One of their post-trip inspections, which itemizes all the parts of the truck is a good training aid, as it serves as a checklist for doing the inspection. The checklist is key, to make sure the driver does not forget anything. Pilots use pre-flight checklists, so should your drivers.
Logbooks are another area you should cover in your pre-season training. More OABA members get in more trouble over logbooks, and it is all very avoidable. Your drivers are very rarely in violation of the hours of service limits, so there is no excuse for getting in trouble with DOT over the logs. The drivers just need to understand what’s expected of them.
Each time a driver goes on the road, his log must be current to his last change of duty status. The driver must have his previous 7 days worth of logs with him at all times. Those previous 7 days should not say “off-duty”, if the driver was working on the show for a week. If a driver is taking tickets, or operating rides, that is on-duty time, and the log should reflect as much. Drivers must show at least 10 hours off-duty before starting their driving shift. Drives cannot work more than 14 hours. For example, if a driver starts his shift at 4am, he must be done by 6pm, regardless of whether he had any breaks in between. The only thing, which extends the 14 hour clock, is 8 hours in the sleeper berth. One thing you can use for training are properly completed logs. Make some copies of correct logs you have from a good driver, and give them to all the drivers to use as a guide.
Finally, you should cover accidents, or more specifically, how to avoid accidents. Defensive driving should be part of every training session you have. Many insurance companies have defensive driving videos they will let you use for free. JJ Keller has numerous safe driving videos. At a minimum, you should cover obvious tips such as not speeding, leaving enough space between your truck and the vehicle in front of you, and proper use of mirrors.
Taking the extra time to spell out for your drivers your expectations of them while they are driving the truck will pay dividends. You will have less DOT tickets, less fender-benders and accidents, which means more money for you.
Eric Arnold is a Former Enforcement Agent with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and a leading expert on USDOT compliance for small businesses. Do you have a question for Eric Arnold? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.