What HR Professionals Need to Know About Driver Safety Requirements

-If you have truck drivers on your staff, you might want to familiarize yourself with the safety regulations.
The United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) reported in 2001 that 4,489 FMCSA regulatory violation cases were settled against motor carriers, resulting in financial penalties totaling a staggering $21 million. The FMCSA has the legal authority to assess aggressive fines for especially egregious or for repeat violators of the safety regulations and can even shut down a motor carrier''s operation.

HR professionals are tasked with ensuring that internal policies reflect all federal and state laws and regulations regarding driver qualifications and other motor carrier safety requirements. An HR professional''s failure to know and implement these regulations can result in serious financial and legal trouble for his or her company. Knowledge of the FMCSA safety compliance requirements is the first step, but the practical, implementation steps that must follow require additional specialized expertise.

Regulations
The FMCSA has outlined several requirements that must be met by companies in order to legally have drivers on the road. These requirements cover the following areas:

Each of these requirements includes dozens of details, ranging from what information must be kept with drivers and in files to what physical and driving requirements must be met. It is imperative that HR professionals are not only aware of the specifics of these laws and how they relate to their companies, but also are able to keep up with these regulations as they evolve and change. If requirements are not met, the company may face a host of legal troubles. Up-to-date information on FMCSA''s requirements can be found at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

Penalties
Both civil and criminal penalties are authorized against any employer or driver who violates the U.S. Department of Transportation''s safety regulations. Companies face civil penalties of up to $500 per record-keeping offense, up to $2,500 total. Other types of violations may result in fines of $1,000 to $10,000 for repeat offenses. And a single violation that did or could have resulted in serious death or injury may be fined $10,000.

Numerous companies have felt the negative effects of failing to comply with driver qualification and management regulations. For instance, in 2000, an Iowa trucking company was shut down for violating federal hours-of-service and driver qualification regulations. In 2001, a now defunct driver-staffing company´s owner faced a one-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $100,000 for violating the drug testing regulations. The company itself also could be fined up to $200,000.

In Dec. 2001, a large fast food chain, which has about 15,000 drivers on the road each day, was charged with failure to maintain proper documentation on its drivers. It was fined $100,000 and is currently on a six-month probation. Any violations by the company during this time will result in termination of drivers´ privileges. These punishments are severe but they can be avoided.

Managing The Compliance Process
The complex FMCSA laws and regulations make management of the practical aspects of these requirements especially challenging and time consuming. Most companies either have a specialized team responsible for meeting these obligations or outsource their drug and alcohol, driver qualification file management and other safety regulation management programs to service providers who specialize in compliance issues. Compliance is a time-consuming commitment. Not only must those delivering these services be knowledgeable of the requirements, but also they must know how to generate the appropriate policies, set up the proper systems and follow through on the necessary program monitoring and record-keeping for each of the safety-related legal mandates.

This process can cause problems for companies big and small. Larger companies must keep up with a high volume of information on a large number of drivers and smaller companies have to expend a significant amount of time and manpower maintaining a system that may only be needed for a few drivers. Depending on the number of drivers a company must oversee, HR departments may need to devote anywhere from one to several employees solely to manage and keep current on this process. Specialized legal resources are also needed to ensure proper adherence to the laws and regulations.

The time and effort it takes to manage this important HR function internally can be overwhelming. As a result, outsourcing this work to a company that focuses on establishing and maintaining the driver qualification and file process, the drug and alcohol testing program, or other aspects of the FMCSA requirements is a popular option. Vendor service providers, such as ChoicePoint, work with businesses to establish and maintain systems that fit the company´s individual needs and ensure that the system is in compliance with the most recent federal and state requirements as well as the company''s internal policies. This allows companies to save on man hours and ensure that no financial penalties or other serious criminal or other legal sanctions result.

Conclusion
The responsibilities of HR professionals continue to expand in a variety of areas, and meeting FMCSA requirements is just one more example of the growing areas of specialization within the human resource industry. Making sure that your company is up to speed is no easy task, but there are resources out there that can help. For more information on some of these resources, visit www.choicepoint.net.

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