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New safety management tool: Will it break the cycle of truck companies looking the other way?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 29th, 2013

FMCSA safety measures won’t change corporate culture of cutting corners and taking risks to drive up profits unless enforcement becomes meaningful

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released new safety materials recently to identify, monitor and address safety and compliance issues. The Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable applauds this.

Among these new materials is the Safety Management Cycle (SMC). The SMC is a tool that is designed to help truck companies operate more safely.  It is also meant to help on-site accident investigators working for the Agency. The tool is designed to identify exactly what the safety problem is, the cause and how to fix it.

The SMC is broken down into a six part cycle:

  1. Policies and procedures: seeks to identify and establish the best practices, and document those practices to protect carriers.
  2. Roles and responsibilities: trains personnel accordingly.
  3. Qualification and hiring: guides the trucking company’s hiring practices, installs checks to make sure effective drivers are being hired
  4. Training and communication: effectively trains all personnel involved in the transport process.
  5. Monitoring and tracking: monitors compliance with the safety procedures and policies.
  6. Meaningful action: provides numerous ways to punish infractions. For instance, an individual driver’s violation can affect the safety score of the company.  This step also mandates retraining and courses for certain violators.  All in all, this is a well thought out and helpful system.

But…

There is still a large problem. The problem of course, is not the Safety Management Cycle. The problem is the attitude of so many of the trucking companies and motor carriers that we litigate serious injury cases with.  Way too many of these accidents were completely preventable, but were caused by motor carriers that intentionally cut safety and maintenance corners to save money.

All the training and policy in the world will not make a carrier who cuts corners to save money, “safe.”

Though this tool certainly has utility and value, it does little if anything to combat the corporate culture of “profit at all costs.”

Perhaps the better approach is to penalize offenders more harshly.  Part 6  (meaningful action) actually penalizes companies by reducing their safety score for their driver’s infractions. These kinds of penalties will likely be the more effective tool in forcing companies to be safe in the future.

The FMCSA should build on this, and really crack down and penalize those companies who think they can cut corners on safety for higher profits.

Related information:

Understanding FMCSRs

Misguided FMCSA proposal will cause more truck accidents

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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