Since deregulation no longer controls the industry and the unions have lost control, we move into a new era. For years, we have had the DOT punish the driver for the crimes of the company. This was a ploy to "teach" drivers to choose their company wisely. Did it work? Yes, and no but I feel mostly no. Drivers have greener grass syndrome and go with the flow. Others are happy just to be employable. Few know/knew how to grade/judge a carrier so most of these efforts were for not. The criteria drivers used was based on work of mouth not stats, therefore, these punitive efforts were useless.
Now we move into an era where companies are made liable for their drivers. Okay, that makes sense. You are the employer and you are responsible for the actions of your employees. With the change of HOS the other year, the idea was to raise awareness of regulations with shippers and carriers. Companies who are still dispatching with the notion of "just get it there" and not looking into available hours need to change their business mode. These are all attempts at doing so. Recall when there was talk about having shippers check the logbook to be sure the driver could run the load? Well this all of that the snowball coming together.
Real problem, the DOT/FMCSA does not have the power to enforce. Due to this, the policing of regulations are being passed in an outward spiral from driver to company to shipper to who knows next, receiver? When comes the day that if you sign for your package and don't check the logbook to be sure it was delivered in a legal manner, then you are liable? If this is allowed to continue then there is no real end in sight.
What we can do to protect our position - shippers take an active role. Don't say well I called my 3PL and now it's their problem. Set criteria that your 3PL must follow on your behalf and write it into the contract. We, The DOT Doctor, have done this for a number of our customers. Then, at the warehouse level, have someone to check that the carrier you contracted is the name on the side of the door. If not, don't load the truck. Want to go one-step farther, look over the logs or if e-logs, have the company send you the last 8 days to review along with the driver's information.
This ends sub-brokering and allows each company the right to bid on a job instead of taking a giant's crumbs. Who knows, this may in fact, lower the rates in the end. Of course, you will need those savings to pay for the extra hand you hired to check all this info at the dock.
Bottom-line, each of us plays a role in regulatory compliance. None of us is free and clear. Think of the person of steals the TV and then sells it to the pawnshop broker. They in turn sell it to a buyer who ships it to his kid for Christmas. Now each party is liable for the movement/handling of stolen goods. The pawnshop should have asked for a sales receipt or some proof of ownership. The customer should have asked for proof of ownership before purchasing. Substitute car for TV and now we are talking major felony. The point is, everyone is responsible for their own actions in business as in life. Accountability is what this is all about and always has been.
What score should I cut off the carrier at to protect my company, you ask. The government says 75% requires intervention. Well "A"s and "B"s kept mamma happy during school days. Why not protect yourself with an 80% cutoff for FAK? If you ship high value or hazmat, I would go for an "A". Look not only at the scores but also at the OOS status and why. Perform a little analyzation on perspective carriers. Build a database of "approved" carriers. Re-check their standings at least every 3 months. Monthly would be better. Share this list with your 3PL as the only carriers who may haul your freight. Allow other carriers to "audition" to be on your list. Build personal relationships with your carriers and not just names on the side of a door.
I created a trucking matrix years ago that allowed my client to see the best rate vs. time of service on a designated lane. Carrier grading is now being incorporated into this matrix. The DOT Doctor customizes this list to your needs. We update it and maintain the database. This is a service we proudly offer but it is also one a good analyst who understands trucking and has a good working knowledge of Excel and database software (i.e. SQL, Access) could create in house. Taking the time to do so, helps protect your company and yourself. It is worth the cost and effort.
Even with this matrix in place, you still need a person to check the doors at time of loading. This is a two-part ordeal. Miss either piece and your protection factor is gone.
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