Driver fitness regulations lower your costs

An organization’s single largest threat to profits, reputation, and safety can be found behind the wheel of its fleet vehicle. Managing driver safety and “fitness to drive” goes a long way toward preventing crashes.

1.  Follow DOT regulations
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations were developed after studying scores of accidents and finding repeated administrative failures to address key issues. They’ve done the research, so you don’t have to. Adherence to DOT rules is the basis for an effective (and cost-saving) safety program.

The DOT is releasing detailed records of your company’s accident and inspection activity on its SAFER website. Banks, insurance companies, and even prospective customers can access this site to review your safety performance.

2.  Pre-qualify your drivers
According to section 391 of the DOT regulations, drivers must meet several specific criteria to be eligible to operate commercial vehicles. Here’s just a partial list. Drivers must:
• Be in good health.
 Be at least 21 years old.
• Know how to safely load, block, brace, and secure cargo.
• Have no clinical diagnosis of high blood pressure*, diabetes requiring insulin for control, disqualifying heart disease, or epilepsy.
Have 20/40 vision or better with corrective lenses.
• Have no history of drug abuse and no clinical diagnosis of alcoholism.

*Provisions allow limited recertification for drivers above certain blood pressure thresholds, allowing time for treatment and wellness improvements.

3.  Review driver qualifications

DOT regulations are very specific about what is expected in the Driver Qualification file. This includes an annual inquiry to your state agency maintaining driver records, other annual reviews of driver records, and current medical exam documentation.

4.  Make driver fitness an organizational priority
Create a culture in which your company commits to using only fit and qualified drivers. Begin with careful hiring practices and follow through with ongoing monitoring and safety education.

Establish procedures for monitoring driver qualifications and providing refresher training. Train dispatchers and drivers to understand that drivers cannot take a run if an illness impairs their ability or alertness. And, establish both disciplinary and incentive tools to improve driver fitness and safety habits.