Critical Questions to Address if You Use Yard Jockeys

Critical Questions to Address if You Use Yard Jockeys

Nearly all freight moves on trucks at some point. Most likely, a yard driver, also known as a yard jockey, hostler or switcher, helped get the goods to the destination. The short move in a trailer to and from the dock is a vital link that must be done safely by skilled and qualified employees. 

To avoid compliance and liability issues and have a safe and efficient yard, there are at least two critical questions to address, which are:

1. What regulations cover yard jockeys (yard drivers)? 

Suppose yard drivers or yard goats only operate in an area that prohibits public travel due to posted signs or restrictive gates. The yard is then considered off-highway. In that case, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) do not apply to the driver and the carrier employer. However, off-highway operations are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulations. 

Most yard operations involve vehicle combinations of more than 26,000 pounds and trailers rated at 10,001 pounds or more. If the yard driver needs to travel on a "highway," which is any area open to the public, even if on private property, the driver must: 

  • Be qualified under Part 391,
  • Have a commercial driver's license (CDL) per Part 383, and 
  • Participate in a drug and alcohol testing program under Part 40 and 382.

2. In what areas should a yard jockey be trained? 

Whether you can use non-CDL drivers or are required to use CDL-qualified drivers in your yard operation, proper skills assessment, training, and certifications are a must. A combination of online, classroom, and range training can build necessary knowledge and skills. 

Skilled yard drivers are invaluable in maintaining yard efficiency (trailer moves per hour) and avoiding damage to trailers and vehicles. Comprehensive training can also minimize the likelihood of dangerous events such as: 

  • An unexpected trailer disconnect from the truck onto the ground,
  • A vehicle tip-over when cornering too fast while the hydraulic 5th wheel was too high, 
  • A landing gear collapse due to a structural defect that went undetected, or 
  • A forklift-driver fall from a trailer onto the ground.

Train all drivers in the following areas to reduce liability and to avoid accidents, injuries, or worst-case, fatality:

  1. Following facility safety policies and procedures;
  2. Conducting vehicle inspections, including yard trucks, trailers, and intermodal containers;
  3. Coupling to and uncoupling from trailers; 
  4. Maneuvering safely and making efficient use of yard space; and 
  5. Docking and undocking trailers. 

In closing

Yard operations must have compliant, well-trained drivers to move trailers efficiently and safely. Conduct yard-driver training to protect your people and your business. 

Talk with a Compliance Specialist today at 833-982-1236

Critical Questions to Address if You Use Yard Jockeys

How J. J. Keller Can Help

J. J. Keller® Yard Driver Training delivers specialized instruction to improve the safety of your yard drivers and ensure they operate your vehicles properly while moving trailers in the yard.

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