Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!

Stop playing Russian roulette with trucks

By Mike Regan, Chief of Relationship Development, TranzAct Technologies
February 14, 2014

“I will continue to use any resource within my authority to hold shippers accountable.”
-FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro,, January 3, 2014

Last week, the issue of truck safety made headlines when a horrific truck accident killed an Illinois Tollway worker and left a state trooper in critical condition. Unlike the weather-induced crash two weeks ago in Northern Indiana, which involved 15 trucks, this accident was caused by a truck driver who was apparently at the end of a 36 hour marathon trip.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the driver allegedly falsified his log books and had been previously cited for numerous other safety violations. And, as you might suspect, the motor carrier’s safety record should have raised numerous red flags for any shipper or third party. That is, any shipper or third party who bothered to check that readily available data.

Why was this unsafe trucking company still in business? Because shippers continue to tender freight to unsafe carriers who have no business being on the road.

And that brings us back to Administrator Ferro’s comments. The FMCSA is committed to getting unsafe truckers off the road, and Administrator Ferro has, in essence, put shippers on notice. Stop playing Russian Roulette with trucks! If your company uses even one unsafe carrier, and something bad happens, your company will pay a price and (in the words of Administrator Ferro) be “held accountable.”

Why are companies using unsafe carriers?

Unfortunately, the debate over the FMCSA’s CSA program has obscured a business reality. Companies with rigorous vetting and control programs to govern their suppliers often throw common sense out the window when it comes to selecting their motor carriers. Why does this happen?

With capacity tightening, and carriers moving to an auction environment, dock personnel have a dilemma: What do they do when they have a “hot” load on the dock that has to be delivered, and they can’t find a carrier to pick it up? When desperate, they often play “Dial for Carriers,” or call a broker and tell them, “Find me a carrier—any carrier—and get this freight delivered!” They throw caution to the wind instead of telling the VP of Sales or CEO that the freight isn’t going to get delivered on the desired date.

Three ways to minimize risk in selecting motor carriers
Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize your risks when selecting motor carriers.
Before giving freight to a carrier, check the FMCSA’s database to see if there are any glaring red flags. If you are too busy, then hire a firm to verify that the carrier has, at a minimum, valid operating authority, appropriate insurance coverage, and that their safety record is not suspect.

Verify that you have valid transportation contracts, with adequate liability provisions, for 100% of the carriers that haul your freight. As an ex-auditor, when someone tells me that it is impractical to have contracts with every motor carrier, I ask: “Is there any other department within your company that does business with critically important suppliers without a contract?” The answer is most likely, “No!” Why should your transportation suppliers be treated any differently?

Have your internal auditors or risk managers review the insurance policies of the carriers who serve your company to make sure they have adequate coverage to protect your business—and that they remain insured within the parameters they originally represented when you hired them.

Additionally, use a systemic process to validate the information provided on the Certificates of Insurance. Based on experience, we know that relatively few shippers have any idea whether their carriers’ insurance coverage will protect their interests in the event of a lost or damaged shipment.

Vet your carriers or pay the price

Expect to spend more time vetting your carriers in the future. If you are relying on or expecting the FMCSA to audit every carrier and tell you which carriers you can use, here are some sobering words: “You’re dreaming!” Don’t expect the FMCSA to tell you which carriers you can use. They FMCSA does not have the manpower, the inclination, nor the resources to do your job! They put the data out there for a reason. They want shippers and third parties to use the data and resources to make informed and sound decisions when selecting carriers.

If your company is unwilling to use internal resources or hire a firm to assist in vetting your carriers, you run the risk of using a questionable carrier. When that carrier is involved in an accident with a fatality or serious injury, you could be liable. If you are taking that risk, you should contact your attorneys right now and tell them to brush up on transportation law. When Administrator Ferro follows through on her threat to hold shippers accountable, they could be very busy!

About the Author

Mike Regan
Chief of Relationship Development, TranzAct Technologies

Mike helped grow TranzAct Technologies to become one of the largest privately held logistics information and freight audit and payment companies in the United States. He is extremely active in and participates on numerous boards of industry specific organizations and is a highly sought after speaker for transportation related topics across the country. 

Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities recently voiced his endorsement of this trade legislation

While many auto executives expect more industry recalls in 2015 and 2016, just 8 percent use advanced predictive analytics to help prevent, prepare for, and manage recalls, according to a recent online poll from Deloitte.

Purolator white paper highlights common Canadian shipping mistakes. From failing to appreciate the complexity of the customs clearance process to not realizing that Canada recognizes both French and English as its official languages, U.S. businesses frequently misjudge the complexity of shipping to the Canadian market. This often results in mistakes - mistakes that can come with hefty penalties and border clearance delays, and that can result in lingering negative perceptions among Canadian consumers.

At a certain point, it seems like the ongoing truck driver shortage cannot get any worse, right? Well, think again, because of myriad reasons we could well be in the very early innings of a game that is, and continues, to be hard to watch. That was made clear in a report issued by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), entitled “Truck Driver Analysis 2015.”

Coming off of 2014, which in many ways is viewed as a banner year for freight, it appears that some tailwinds have firmly kicked in, as 2015 enters its official homestretch, according to Rosalyn Wilson, senior business analyst at Parsons, and author of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual State of Logistics (SOL) Report at last week’s CSCMP Annual Conference in San Diego. The SOL report is sponsored by Penske Logistics.

Article Topics

Blogs · Trucking · FMCSA · All topics


Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

© Copyright 2015 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA