The trucking industry is the backbone of commerce, ensuring the timely delivery of over 70 percent of goods in the United States1. Given the shortage of an estimated 80,0002 drivers, many companies are turning to hiring inexperienced individuals. While this may be necessary, it also introduces risks.
The foundation of a best-in-class safety program to minimize risk is a culture of safety, which includes, but is not limited to:
When safety is a core value supported by industry-leading best practices, inexperienced drivers are likelier to stay safe, be successful, and remain with the company.
Best practices to consider
Below are five best practices that fleet managers can adopt to minimize the risks of hiring inexperienced drivers while still harnessing their potential.
1. Driver qualification outsourcing
With short staffing and pressure to hire drivers, shortcuts happen, or honest mistakes can occur in the process. Both could be costly if defending post-crash claims of negligent hiring. Outsourcing driver qualification duties can relieve a carrier of staffing pressures and provide compliance assurances.
Employers need a painstaking process at hire and on an ongoing basis that guarantees:
Hiring experts is like taking out an insurance policy.
2. Video-based coaching, training, and recognition
The continual coaching and correction of unsafe behavior with newly hired drivers can improve safety as well as reduce the risk of claims of negligent retention. Coaching, training, and recognizing drivers based on video footage from road-facing, driver-facing, and auxiliary cameras reinforces the safety culture from the hire date throughout a driver's tenure.
If done correctly and documented with an integrated system, video-based feedback processes protect the company, challenge employees to improve, and improve retention.
3. Ongoing motor vehicle record (MVR) monitoring
An annual review of MVRs is the minimum requirement under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Carriers can request MVRs more than once per year to exceed the minimum standard. However, the most effective process is using an ongoing MVR monitoring service, which notifies users when anything changes on a driving record. Timely notification helps identify a problem early enough to take appropriate action.
4. Mentor programs
Pairing novice drivers with experienced mentors can foster invaluable on-the-job training and enduring relationships. Mentors can share insights on company requirements, route planning, load securement, adverse weather conditions, and other areas.
Mentors can also feel a deep sense of purpose.
The goal of a mentor program is to foster a successful, long-term career with the motor carrier for the mentor and the mentee.
5. Vehicle safety systems
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as automated emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), and lane departure warning (LDW), can prevent or limit the severity of crashes.
According to a 2020 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, semi-truck drivers could avoid 40% of rear-end crashes if the vehicle were equipped with automated emergency braking (AEB) and forward collision warning (FCW).
In conclusion, the trucking industry's reliance on inexperienced drivers underscores the need for a comprehensive approach to risk mitigation. Carriers assure their future by investing in compliance, safety best practices, and their inexperienced drivers' development and satisfaction.
1. U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 Commodity Flow Survey
2. American Trucking Association (ATA) 2021 estimate