I don’t really want to be one of those “I told you so” people, but just last week I received two e-mails from companies with CSA score problems. The first e-mail was from a company in Oklahoma with about 200 drivers and a Satisfactory Rating. The safety director e-mailed me that they had just lost a customer over their CSA score and wanted to know when they should start enforcing CSA.
When I looked this company up, the reason was so obvious. The FMCSA has stated many times that under the old system a carrier could have a “Satisfactory Rating” but still a high CSA score under the new methodology. I told the safety director, in my opinion, the customer left because they did not want to be involved in a lawsuit that the carrier might get into due to an accident. Simply speaking, the carrier had four alerts out of seven categories. Furthermore, the carrier had not taken any corrective actions to reduce future points against them.
The other e-mail came from a Mexican carrier with 40 drivers and a terminal in the United States – they also had a Satisfactory Rating. The owner wanted to know why the DOT was taking such a hard line with them. His story was much the same as the other carrier, but he had not lost a customer (yet). I am positive that this scenario will crop up even more in the future if motor carriers do not start taking corrective actions now.
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has now proposed requiring nearly all interstate commercial carriers to install electronic on-board (data) recorders (EOBRs) to monitor their driver’s hours-of-service (HOS) compliance. The plan would also ease the current requirements that fleets keep paperwork to document drivers’ HOS records. The proposal calls for interstate carriers to have these EOBRs installed by June 2015. However, short-haul interstate carriers that use time-cards to document drivers’ hours would be exempt from the requirement. The FMCSA said the cost of purchasing and installing EOBRs would range from $1,500 to $2,000 per truck, in addition to several hundred dollars each year in service fees for each unit. The rule would require that carriers still retain HOS records for six months. Carriers that violate the EOBR requirement would face penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense.
The California Court of Appeals for the First Appellate District recently held that the driver of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), although legally parked, can still be held liable to other motorists for creating an unreasonable risk of harm. A Safeway tractor-trailer was parked legally on the roadside of US Highway 101 in northern California, near an intersection, where a pickup collided with a motorcyclist. Both parties contended that the Safeway rig obscured the pickup truck’s view of traffic on the highway as he attempted to cross a portion of the highway and turn left onto the highway. Safeway and its counsel defended on the basis that the tractor-trailer was legally parked and, under those circumstances, no duty of care was owed to other motorists.
The appeals court reviewed a lower court verdict in which the jury apportioned liability almost equally between Safeway, the State of California and the third defendant, the pickup driver. The court noted that the general rule is that all persons have a duty to use ordinary care to prevent others from being injured as a result of their conduct. And, it began its opinion by observing that drivers ordinarily should have no liability if they are legally parked, and that obscured sight lines from parked vehicles are an unavoidable risk with which drivers must generally be expected to cope.
But, the court then held that the facts of this case involved a risk of foreseeable harm that was unreasonable and avoidable, and imposed a duty on the commercial driver. The court found four factors to support its reasoning: 1) the accident involved a large commercial vehicle; 2) there was expert testimony that commercial drivers are trained to take into account the sight lines of other drivers; 3) the highway had a high posted speed, increasing the potential of serious injury; and 4) the Safeway driver had other nearby places to safely park.
Recognizing that the resulting verdict was a decision of first impression in the state (California), the court justified its conclusion by pointing out that similar holdings could be found in Connecticut, Missouri, New York, Kentucky, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Washington. Hopefully, this decision will not lead to a multitude of additional claims bringing in carriers and owner operators. It does, however, provide one more weapon in the plaintiffs’ arsenal against the transportation industry.
Remember, you are a “Professional Truck Driver” – on the road, you are held to a higher standard. In light of this, it seems appropriate to remind everyone of the definition of a “preventable” accident: Every accident in which a professional driver is involved is considered preventable unless there was no action which the driver could have reasonably taken to avoid the accident and that his or her actions in no way contributed to the occurrence of the accident. A driver must drive in such a way that he or she commits no errors and so controls his or her vehicle to make due allowance for the condition of the road, the weather and the traffic, and so that the mistakes of other drivers do not involve him or her in any accident. Any accident involving a vehicle which results in property damage and/or personal injury, regardless of who was injured, what property was damaged, to what extent, or where it occurred, in which the driver in question failed to exercise every reasonable precaution to prevent the accident, is considered to be preventable.
Yep, you guessed it – basically, every accident (at some level) is preventable. Be careful out there, but stop blaming everyone else and start acting like a professional!
~ NTA is a name and organization you can trust. Not only is our website (www.ntassoc.com) an official US DOT Internet Training Site, but we are also the administrators of a Nationally Accredited Drug and Alcohol Program. If you have any questions, call me at (562) 279-0557 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month, “Drive Safe – Drive Smart!”