Three-to-One Odds are the Best You Can Get in This Horse Race – A Look at Violation Rankings

Puzzling to many managers in the motor carrier industry is how a carrier can go from a decent ranking within their peer group one month to one of the poorer rankings within the same group the next month. How can that carrier lose ground even in a month where they had no accidents, only a few roadside inspections, and no serious (meaning out-of-service) violations charged to them? Were all the other carriers in the same peer group perfect during the same month?

Time-weighting becomes a huge factor in answering these questions. For example, let’s say our carrier struggles with their performance and scores in three of the seven BASICs: Unsafe Driving, Hours-of-Service, and Vehicle Maintenance. The remaining four ― Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances and Alcohol, Hazardous Materials, and the Crash Indicator ― BASIC scores are low and therefore are not a real concern for the carrier.

The Unsafe Driving BASIC covers things like cell phone usage and texting while driving, speeding, not using caution when hazardous conditions exist, following too close, not using seat belts, and not obeying traffic signals. Many drivers struggle with these types of violations and more.

Hours-of-Service compliance is all about violations in Part 395 of the regulations. Incomplete logs or failure to log are always the most common.

The Vehicle Maintenance BASIC covers simple infractions, many of which could be noticed by a driver who does thorough pre-trip, enroute, and post-trip inspections of the vehicle. Violations concerning lights, tires, brakes, other equipment and accessories, and load securement issues populate this list of safety infractions.

So, our carrier may not have had an accident in the last month and did not have an unusual number of roadside inspections, but had been cited for a few violations during these inspections. What did hurt our carrier more than anything is the fact that our carrier received no “clean” inspections while other carriers in our peer group likely did.

Anytime a carrier receives a violation, even if the point value is just “1” for the first six months, it feels like getting three of those violations, whereas other members in the peer group with, let’s say, as little as one “clean” inspection can gain as much ground as having three “clean” inspections over other carriers! This is where time-weighting can heavily affect a carrier’s ranking. It also shows the true value of a “clean” roadside inspection.

It’s almost like getting three-to-one odds that you will finish above the rest.

Bob Rose is an editor in the Transportation Publishing Department of the Editorial Resource Unit at J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc., specializing in motor carrier safety and operations management.

Copyright 2015 J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Copied with permission

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