Screening is Key

AS MENTIONED in the April Insurance Trend, employing safe drivers is the most important factor in keeping vehicle accidents to a minimum. The article listed the six keys to managing safe drivers and expanded on the first key, driver selection. This article explains the second key, driver screening.

While the selection process is concerned with new hires, the screening process seeks to identify and weed out current drivers with characteristics that could lead to problems behind the wheel. Though most screening will take place during the initial hiring process, many screening procedures should continue throughout a driver's length of employment. Additionally, many of these procedures are mandated by federal Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.

Prior truck driving experience does not always ensure good driving habits and skills. The best way to evaluate those skills and habits is with a road test. The test should be documented with a checklist form that evaluates all major skills behind the wheel, including following distance, lane position, turns, backing, etc.

No waste company wants to put a driver who may have drug or alcohol problems on the road. Drug and alcohol testing regulations apply to drivers of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 26,000 lbs. A waste company must have proof of a pre-employment drug test before the new employee is allowed to drive. All drivers should be subject to an ongoing random drug/alcohol testing program. Additionally, the management of a waste company needs to be aware of the regulations regarding post-accident and reasonable suspicion drug/alcohol testing.

Aside from drug and alcohol issues, certain health or medical conditions may disqualify a person from driving a commercial motor vehicle. The biennial DOT physical is the best way to screen drivers for safety related medical issues.

It is strongly recommended that a DOT physical be performed by a physician or clinic that specializes in occupational medicine and not a family doctor, as the physician should be knowledgeable about medical conditions that can disqualify a driver under DOT guidelines. A physical should be done at the time of hiring and every two years thereafter.

A driver's motor vehicle record (MVR) should have been evaluated during the initial driver selection process. However, MVR checks should also be part of the ongoing screening process. The driving record of every person in the company who drives company vehicles should be reviewed at least once a year. Many states have a program that will notify the waste company if there is any activity (violations, accidents, suspensions, etc.) on the MVR of their drivers.

Waste companies want to do everything possible to avoid putting drivers who have issues that make them more likely to be involved in accidents behind the wheel. A program of initial and on-going driver screening can go a long way toward making sure that these issues and conditions are identified before problems occur.

Bruce A. Hooker R.F. Mattei & Associates of CA Insurance Services Sacramento, Calif.