In an era of critical driver shortages and sky rocketing insurance costs, your Inspection Selection System (ISS) score does a lot more than indicate whether your fleet’s vehicles should be inspected.  Being able to tell drivers that they are less likely to be stopped for a roadside inspection is a huge differentiator when it comes to hiring. Even though these scores are not public, insurance carriers calculate them regularly to assist in determining safety performance of your fleet as well. 

In other words, you’d better have a good one. 

The ISS score is determined by a complex algorithm that utilizes all roadside inspection data and DOT-recordable crash information on a rolling 24-month period. The lower your score, the better you’re rated compared to other commercial vehicle fleets. Think of the rating system like a traffic light (this is actually the way scale operators see it):

  • Red (Inspect): 75-100 
  • Yellow (Optional): 50-74
  • Green (Pass): 1-49 

Staying in the “green range” can be challenging for fleets that put on a lot of miles and pass through areas of high enforcement. Use the following best practices to maintain a fleet remains attractive to drivers, customers and insurance underwriters.

Unsafe Driving

Speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, using a radar detector, lane change violations and handheld use of a cell phone – anything that warrants a moving violation - are among the most common violations in the unsafe driving category. Many drivers don’t realize that a warning counts the same as a ticket in the ISS score.

What can you do? Manage your fleet as if you were on a mission to have zero crashes.  This starts with hiring good drivers by reviewing their history, including their pre-employment screening program (PSP) report and motor vehicle record(MVR), conducting road tests pre-hire and asking questions during the interview process to determine an applicant’s attitudes on safety. Utilize telematic data and conduct on-road observations for even relatively short distances. Most importantly, when an issue arises with a driver, don’t wait to address it when it is most convenient, communicate the issue and provide tools for improvement as soon as possible.

Hours of Service 

With ELD devices in most trucks today, the biggest issue is no longer about keeping a compliant log but rather about teaching drivers how to properly use the ELD system and planning to stay within the allocated hours. Drivers are being written up for not having ELD instructions in their truck, not changing their duty statuses and not using the technology correctly.  

What can you do? Pick an easy-to-use ELD system that fits your operation and educate drivers effectively on how to use it. Select a few technology champions that can serve as mentors to others.  Although the system is automated, you’ll still need to review the data regularly for mistakes and other issues.   

Driver Fitness

The most common violations include driving a commercial motor vehicle without a valid medical card or drivers’ license, and not wearing corrective lenses or hearing aids when required.  A suspended license could be caused by unmet court requirements that the driver is not even aware of. When a driver with a suspended license is involved in a crash, the risk to the fleet operator is  multiplied. 

What can you do? Conduct random checks of drivers before they are dispatched to ensure that they have their medical card and CDL on them. Utilize an MVR monitoring service to notify your organization when there is a change in a driver’s MVR status. Educate drivers on the importance of protecting their MVR as with the PSP.

Controlled Substances

In recent years there has been a substantial increase in positive driver drug tests as a result of increased availability of opioids and marijuana. Some drivers also do not realize that alcohol cannot be transported in the cabs of their trucks, and the legal limit for alcohol while driving a commercial motor vehicle is a .04. Drivers usually spend little time with their supervisors so it can be very challenging to identify substance abuse  and the associated changes in driver behavior.

What can you do? Managers should observe their drivers as much as possible, in person and over the phone. Provide managers with reasonable suspicion training and educate them on commercial vehicle driver regulations  concerning drug and alcohol use. Have a strong policy in place that spells out what will occur if a driver were to test positive for alcohol or a controlled substance.    

Vehicle Maintenance

Common vehicle maintenance violations include engine leaks, tread depth, burnt out lights and brakes out of adjustment. It is important to remember that any non-working light, including marker lights are a violation and vehicles placed out of service for maintenance, will need to be repaired out on the road. Truck leaks, weak tire treads or breaks, a broken break light or lack of annual maintenance inspection are all violations in the vehicle maintenance category.  

What can you do? A strong maintenance program that includes regularly-scheduled PM’s are critical. If you use an outside vendor, spend time auditing their work and hold them accountable. Safety lanes where mechanics inspect vehicles leaving or entering the yard identify issues that may otherwise be overlooked and teach drivers what to look for when they are conducting pre and post trip inspections. Educate drivers about the importance of vehicle inspections and match any violations with both inspection reports and recent repairs.   

Hazardous Materials

Drivers must have a hazardous materials endorsement when hauling placarded loads. Common violations when hauling hazardous materials include not having the correct placards in good condition on the vehicle and not having completed paperwork within arm’s reach. If there’s an audit, transportation of hazardous materials without proper documentation could become even more of an issue.

What can you do? Impress upon drivers the importance of having the right paperwork on hand to support their load. Educate them on how loads need to be segregated and how to use the Emergency Response Guidebook that needs to be in each vehicle hauling placarded loads.  

Crashes

DOT-recordable crashes per million miles are closely monitored by insurance carriers and the FMCSA.  Crashes with injuries or fatalities are weighted more heavily than when the only issue is a vehicle being towed from the scene. 

What can you do? Driver selection, training (fatigue management and defensive driving) and monitoring will give drivers the tools they need to be safe on the road. Identify at-risk drivers and take remedial action when necessary. A new FMCSA appeal program can remove non-preventable crashes from your ISS score. Make sure all the crashes that show up under your fleet’s online profile occurred with one of your vehicles, and that they are recordable crashes as it is not uncommon for an officer to incorrectly input data after a crash. 

ISS Score Is a Chief Indicator 

A lot that goes into an ISS score, and even more goes into maintaining a good one. When everyone within the organization does their part to keep vehicles safe, drivers will be happier and both customers and insurance underwriters will take notice of your efforts, making your fleet as profitable as it possible.  

Contact your HUB transportation advisor to see how we can keep your drivers safe and ensure your fleet operation is properly insured. We can analyze your ISS score, claims data and business processes to identify root causes and develop a plan to improve your scores. 

To learn more about attracting and retaining drivers, visit our resource page.