BACK TO THE BASICS

In the April edition of the Mercertown newsletter, I wrote a piece called “Changing Times”, which addressed things that I see on the horizon coming from both the DOT and the EPA.  I got a lot of driver feedback and questions from that, especially on the EPA stuff.  I appreciate the good questions, thoughts and everyone’s observations. The environmental stuff will be industry-changing, but we’ll get through it, probably long before the ice caps melt.

I am concerned, however, that some drivers are still not taking the pending CSA 2010 inspection changes seriously enough. Shippers are, including the military. Insurance companies are, and many of our competitors are. The bottom line is that carriers will not be able to utilize drivers who cannot consistantly get clean roadside inspections. We cannot  have log problems, equipment problems, driver problems, securement problems or hazmat problems.

The majority of our ladies and gentlemen get clean inspections. Unfortunately, there are still those who don’t get it about securement, vehicle maintenance and logs. As a few drivers have already learned, OOS securement violations earn you a no-expense paid trip to Louisville for flatbed orientation class. OOS vehicle violations earn a trip for a Louisville inspection. OOS  log violations get log orientation and log probation for six months.  Still, some are not taking the current situation and the pending new enforcement seriously enough.

That is about to change. I have begun to track individual driver inspection history just as I currently do with moving violations and accidents. Drivers who get written up for hours of service violations, especially not retaining seven days of logs and 11 hr violations will very likely lose their Prepass and Norpass for a period of time. Repeat offenders, particularly on OOS vehicle items (truck, trailer and/or securement) will more than likely get to truck elsewhere. This stuff is important, and with both CSA 2010 and probably electronic logs headed our way, non-performance in the inspection area will directly affect our ability to get freight in a negative way. Everyone’s mindset needs to be focused in this direction. That is the reality of our highly competitive environment.

The standard for Mercer drivers has not changed.  A Mercer unit is expected to pass an inspection from any law enforcement agency at any location at any time. Period. That is what being first-string and top tier is all about.

For those who get good inspections, thankyou. For those that don’t, it’s time to ratchet up your game. Or take it someplace else. This is serious stuff. Everyone needs to help. Be safe.

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  1. jpdubois
    August 6, 2009 at 9:21 am

    The world she is a changing. Some of us ole timers who have progressed from the outlaw era to the present are slowly being domesticated or retired. I can say that it requires a new mindset such as putting effort into running legal rather than sitting and trying to figure out a way to get around the rules and once that mindset is incorporated it gets a little bit easier. One easy way to operate is to pretend you already have an EOBR in your unit.

    One little change that I feel could help, not knowing the logistics side, would be for the Louisville yard to provide “courtesy” inspections for units passing through. The semi and annual inspections do a great job but a lot can happen in 6 months or 100K miles that we may just not notice even with a thorough pretrip.

    This is one reason I love the blog. Information like this can get diluted when it has to come to us via the truckstop grapevine. It is better and more timely when it comes direct from the hoss’s mouth.

  2. Len Dunman
    August 6, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Good thoughts, John (or Peggy)…..Our truck inspectors have been told to inspect anyone that asks for an inspection. Some inspectors in the past didn’t like doing that and we had to make some changes in both mindsts and people. I also walk all of our lots at some point each day and make “courtesy inspections” of my own.

    That said, there are two main things to consider when this comes up: First, at a certain time every Monday and Wednesday, the inspectors must be available to inspect the new trucks in orientation. In addition, the priority is on the trucks who are due now, especially if they are under load. All of those folks need to be done ahead of the optional stuff. Second, say you are due in October and you want a courtesy inspection in August. If the inspector finds an OOS item, you’re dead in the water until it is fixed, regardless of whether or not you are due for an inspection. Some drivers really get upset about that. But it is no different than a scale. Most trucks are technically not “due” for an inspection when they get pulled around for a Level 1. We simply cannot due a courtesy inspection, find OOS items and ignore them.

    As long as everyone understands this, we’re good.
    Oh, and if you really want one and the guys are backed up, call me. I keep a set of my coveralls in my closet and I’ve done several hundred of you charming folks before, anyway. I love nice-looking, well maintained equipment.

    As one who learned this business in the ’70’s and has been at Mercer since ’82, there’s a part of me that kinda hates to see the old outlaw ways fade. There is no doubt in my mind that it is much safer now, but it certainly is not as fun. But our world has changed and is continuing to change and we’ve got to embrace the changes and do it better than anybody else. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Barb
    August 17, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Keeping your truck in top notch condition was much simpler when freight was running better and rates were higher,we could put away a little nest egg to cover expenses.We are now being asked to haul lower paying freight,even after sitting for over a week and make less money while the prices of everything connected with our job gets higher. Add to this the financial help once offered by the company no longer available and it gets much much more difficult to keep equipment maintained.Thank goodness I still have a small egg to fall back on.The recession has certainly hurt many of us and has taken its toll on the “nest egg”.I realize its not the company’s problem when something on our truck breaks or their responsibility to make repairs,but sometimes some still need that helping hand. I know most Mercer drivers want to keep their trucks in top repair,but this economy has certainly hurt all of us to some degree.I also know several drivers who are really struggling trying to keep maintenance done on their trucks and could certainly use that helping hand. I believe Mercer’s new policy falls a little short and each driver should be evaluated on their own merit such as time with the company,performance and safety. Passing inspections 100% of the time is also not very realistic because if an inspection officer wants to bust you he/she will nit pick until they “find” a reason to ticket you weather a problem is real or not(have seen this happen,but have aced two inspections in three months). We all need to work together and keep our track record as good as possible,but sometimes things happen and its not always the drivers fault so each offense should be examined on a individual basis and not lumped together to make policies governing the drivers.Even the best drivers who check their loads often can develop a problem with a loose chain or strap between checks Enough of my soapbox for now. Everyone be well and stay safe.

  4. Ray
    August 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I’m shocked no one has commented on this Barb, I will. Good thoughts, well said. Several weeks ago it was said that the law has taken the term “safety pays” to a new level, sounds like they want to increase their profit margin just a tad doesn’t it. We should all keep that in mind. I’ve been empty and available for 6 days now, I won’t be racheting up my game this week.

  5. Jason Schaftlein
    August 21, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Ray, I think that the quote “safety pays”, is not as true as “poor safety doesn’t pay”. I agree with you Barb, it is tough to pass all inspections 100% of the time. But, over the years, Mercer has been one of the safest, and most reliable companies in the industry. I think that Len feels that we are making more simple mistakes than we have in the past, and we need to tighten our game up. We all know that shut down items directly affect out Safer score, and that directly affects how often our entire fleet is stopped at scales, and determines how many customers want to do business with us. Our standards have always been, and will always be very high. Our safety record is what sets us apart, and it keeps customers loyal to our company. We want the best for all of you. But for us to do the best we can to keep you loaded, we need you all to be as safe, and compliant as possible.

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