By, Jerry Gillikin 

Onboarding a new trucker costs thousands of dollars. So does losing one – a setback that’s more common than ever.

With the U.S. truck driver shortage on the rise and driver turnover at 95 percent,1  fleet carriers are especially sensitive to the liability of sidelined trucks. Desperate for drivers, though, fleet carriers are more likely to take a chance on new hires, a risk they really can’t afford.

Sometimes what drivers are doing off the job is what actually creates significant risk for fleet carriers. It could be a car crash, a suspended commercial driver’s license (CDL) due to failure to pay child support or because the driver skipped his Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA)-required annual physical. In many cases, the driver is pulled over for a routine highway search, or inspected at a weigh station, and is subsequently sidelined due to his suspended CDL, resulting in cargo being left literally on the side of the road.

When this happens, everyone loses. Fleet carriers have to send another truck to pick up the stranded driver, and the cargo on the side of the road is exposed to theft until another trucker can finish the haul. Even if the haul eventually gets safely to its destination, the end result could be a breached contract, fines or loss of a customer. 

Another scenario to consider is if a driver with a suspended CDL gets into an accident while on the on job. The fleet carrier will almost always be held responsible for the crash, and face additional charges for sending a driver out -- unknown to them -- with a suspended license. Claims like these have already led to a five to eight percent increase in annual insurance premium costs for all fleet carriers.

What can you do? 

A safe driver with a valid CDL is a retained driver. Establishing policies and procedures and clearly communicating them to drivers during onboarding will help fleet carriers minimize sidelined trucks. Consider the following 4 best practices:

Regular MVR monitoring. Beyond the required FMCSA annual motor vehicle record (MVR) report, consider an ongoing MVR monitoring program that alerts fleet managers immediately of any changes in a driver’s eligibility. An inexpensive tool for fleet managers, regular MVR monitoring can reduce your risk and costs by identifying high-risk drivers before they become a problem. For this reason, regular MVR monitoring is now required by some insurance carriers. Your HUB transportation specialist can connect you with preferred MVR monitoring vendors offering discounted rates. 

Encourage communication. Demonstrate open communication with your drivers. Be honest with them, and encourage them to be honest with you in return. Let them know that if they tell you about their revoked license or outstanding child support payments, you’ll help them find a way to resolve the issue so they can get behind the wheel soon. 

Pre-employment screening. Pre-employment screening is another inexpensive tool that gives you a window into the driver’s life before you hire them. FMCSA’s PSP program gives carriers electronic access to the driver’s five-year crash and three-year inspection history, and has been proven to lower crash rates by eight percent, and driver out-of-service rates by 17 percent.  

Benefits. Extending employee benefits to drivers – medical and voluntary – can help you attract and retain quality employees. If the required FMCSA annual physical is covered by their benefits, it will be easier for them to comply. By helping drivers to care for themselves and their families, you’re providing them with a significant value-add for little extra cost. 

CDL Suspension can be a huge road block for the fleet carrier and driver alike. Contact your HUB transportation specialist for help with instituting these and other best practices that can help keep your truckers on the road.

Learn more tips that can help you attract and retain the best drivers.