How Truck Owner-Operators Can Reduce
Highway fatalities, soaring numbers of cargo thefts, attacks on drivers, blocked routes and commercial auto
prices that are through the roof – combine these with driver injury and skyrocketing health insurance and
health care costs, and you can see why truckers are looking for relief.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers in the trucking industry
experienced the most fatalities across all occupations, accounting for 11% of all American worker deaths in
2017. Truck fatalities in Canada were twice as common as other motor vehicle fatalities other than motorcycle
according to the latest statistics from Statistics Canada, 2016. This is just one key reason why you should
make risk management a top priority.
Industry data show that the most common causes of crashes are excessive speed, distracted driving and
driver error under poor roadway conditions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created
its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to address and correct many of these issues.
The CSA program uses a rating system that numerical scores safety events and then categorizes them for
Hazardous materials compliance
Data are collected through various means, including roadside inspections, crash reports and investigations.
Owner-operators with a higher score, signifying more violations, may be flagged for an intervention. In
addition, higher scores can also translate to higher insurance premiums because insurance companies also
access the CSA system.
If you are a safe driver, you may wish to show off your good record. Telematics are widely available to monitor
speed, hard braking, lane drifting and unsafe off-ramping. You can use these systems and provide your stellar
performance data to your insurance broker to improve your risk profile.
Some digital recordkeeping is mandated by law. For example, the FMCSA requires the use of an electronic
logging device (ELD). The ELD rule is “intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers and make
it easier and faster to accurately track, manage and share records of duty status (RODS) data.
An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate
hours of service (HOS) recording.” Nearly every commercial truck operating in the United States must have an
ELD installed, while Canadian truck drivers are facing a compulsory June 2021 ELD deadline.
You should also be aware of something new as of 2020: The FMCSA Commercial Driver’s License Drug and
Alcohol Clearinghouse is an online database that identifies commercial driver’s license holders who are
prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, such as operating a commercial motor vehicle, due to a
drug or alcohol violation.
The database tracks CDL holders who have tested positive for prohibited drug or alcohol use, who have
refused to take required drug tests or who have other drug and alcohol violations.
Employers and their agents are required to submit driver drug and alcohol violations to the database, and
employers must query the database for violations as part of a driver’s pre-employment screening.
The clearinghouse is intended to prevent commercial drivers who have violated drug and alcohol rules from
successfully lying about violations on job applications.
Training on safety is crucial to minimizing liability and property losses. It will also help you avoid some of the
worst health issues afflicting the industry and potentially save you thousands in out-of-pocket health and
property costs as well as lost income from downtime.
Learn about the effects of fatigue and lack of sleep as well as other health-related concerns for drivers, such as
diet and nutrition, exercise, ergonomics and smoking. Skyrocketing commercial auto premiums are in good
company with health insurance rates and health care costs in general, so consider what you can do to reduce
chronic medical conditions that come from lack of exercise, poor diet, low sleep quality and poor posture.
Your insurance broker may have access to ready-made wellness programs for truckers that you can follow, so
talk about what’s available.
You should also get smart about safety regarding attacks on the road. Everything from road rage to riots are
plaguing truck drivers these days, so get ahead of the hazards by learning how to avoid assault in the first
place and how to escape if necessary. You may need to consult both your legal counsel and your insurance
broker so you steer clear of problematic responses. You might be surprised what you can be held liable for!
Keep your truck maintained
A preventive maintenance program minimizes both safety and financial risks. You should have a formal,
written program and a log for your vehicle that shows when it was worked on, what was done, who did it and
the next required service date. Regularly scheduled maintenance should detect minor issues that can be
handled or repaired before they cause an accident.
Some of the specific ways a maintenance program can benefit the business operation include:
Increased safety: When items such as tires, brakes or engines are properly maintained, there are
often fewer accidents.
Increased productivity: Vehicles that are maintained are more reliable and have less unexpected
downtimes due to breakdowns. As a result, there are fewer delays in shipment deliveries.
Lower fuel costs: Maintenance items such as regular oil and fluid changes, engine tune-ups and
checking tire pressure can make commercial trucks more fuel efficient.
Better compliance: Regulators at both the provincial and federal level can impose penalties for
vehicles that don’t comply with maintenance requirements.
Guard your cargo
Cargo theft is up significantly, with second-quarter 2020 theft activity rising 56% over 2019’s second quarter
– an increase that included an 80% spike in the value of cargo stolen, according to SensiGuard.
Mixed loads represented the largest proportion of all cargo thefts, at 23%, followed by food and drinks at
20%. Full truckloads are the most common type of theft.
There are ways to safely guard cargo from the time loading begins to the time it is fully offloaded at its
destination. Here are a few ways to prevent cargo loss:
Take the keys. It seems pretty basic, but you should never leave your keys in the ignition of an
unattended truck. This happens all the time at fuel stops and warehouses.
Lock the doors. If you must – for climate or other reasons – leave your truck running while
unattended, you should lock the truck completely and hold on to a spare key.
Secure all entry points. Windows are a primary way thieves enter rigs. Even the little curb-view
window on the passenger door is enough space for a thief to enter, so lock or block those access
Don’t geotag. Though it is convenient and sometimes interesting to know what services or
products are nearby, geotagging through social media apps allows would-be thieves to track and
hit you at your most vulnerable locations.
Install a tracking system. In the event your truck or trailer is stolen, a tracking system will increase
the chances of recovery.
Consider an alarm. Thieves generally don’t like to draw attention to themselves, so any motionactivated
alarm system that makes a lot of noise can help deter criminals.
Insurance and risk
All companies that operate at least one commercial truck are required to carry commercial truck insurance.
Federal law requires all trucks to carry a minimum of $750,000 in primary liability insurance coverage in order
to obtain permission to operate.
However, additional coverage is available to protect your business and personal assets from catastrophic loss,
including commercial general liability, cargo coverage, umbrella liability and physical damage. Additional
specialty coverages vary and can include hazmat coverage or refrigerated truck (also known as reefer
Pursue safety as a top business practice and experience the financial rewards from loss mitigation to a better
insurance profile. You may save money in multiple ways.
This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing, financial, medical or legal advice.
You should contact your attorney, doctor, broker or advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or