By Warren Hoemann, PrePass consultant, former FMCSA deputy administrator
The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic will unveil a new world of trucking. New attention will be paid to sanitation of equipment and work areas. Social distancing will likely continue at terminals and weigh stations. It’s possible that the public will even continue saying “thank you” to truckers.
As the new future for the trucking comes into focus expect change in the very composition of the industry. Many smaller fleets are closing shop. After the initial consumer response to the pandemic, with restocking of shelves driving freight volumes, demand has slowed up. Gone, too, are many local businesses whose shipping needs fed the smaller fleets. Some independent truck drivers are choosing to spend time at home until the economy rebounds and freight rates rise.
When the economy does return, it will be a time of major readjustment. Some drivers from shuttered fleets will have new carrier management. Fleet operators will work with new drivers. In many instances, the old customer base will be gone. For everyone in the industry, trucking will shift some focus from personal safety to highway safety, as regulators and commercial vehicle law enforcement return full-time to their traditional missions.
Making this transition work will require the attention of both management and drivers. Here are four immediate steps to take:
Make truck safety job #1
Operating in the post-COVID-19 trucking environment may seem like starting a new company. Everyone will need to understand the mission of all members of the team is safety. That takes clear, regular communication from management – in person. It means management analysis and action – for every citation, roadside inspection issue, audit result, or crash. For drivers, safety means attention to good practices every trip. Focus on safety now, while everyone sees this as a new beginning.
Update truck driver credentials and drug tests
During the pandemic, some drivers were excused from routine drug tests for good cause. In other cases, drivers with commercial driver’s licenses or Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, also known as “TWIC cards,” due for renewal received a temporary pass. Schedule those tests and renewals now – there will be a rush at the doctors’ offices and state driver licensing agencies. Management needs the workforce and drivers need the work. These are legal requirements that cannot wait.
Clean up your crash history
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) just established the Crash Preventability Determination Program which gives motor carriers and drivers the opportunity to have some crashes determined as not preventable. While the crash record itself will not disappear, this offers a great topic for management to bring up with customers or insurers, as well as helping to keep FMCSA from knocking on the door. For drivers, a not preventable determination will be noted on his or her Pre-Employment Screening Program record, helping the driver obtain or retain a job. An FMCSA Crash Preventability Determination Program ruling can take two to three months – get started now.
Keep PPE handy
The immediate virus threat may have abated, but the threat of hot spots or a return next flu season remains. Some customers may still insist that drivers wear personal protective equipment. Prepare drivers with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Keep yourself and your teammates safe.
Read the second part in this series, “COVID-19 and Trucking, Part 2: Adjusting to New Customers, Receivers.”
Warren Hoemann is a former deputy administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, now a PrePass consultant. He previously held executive positions with the American Trucking Associations, the California Trucking Association and Yellow Corp., now YRC Worldwide Inc.