Archive for July, 2015

Hair Testing…Why?

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A couple months ago an ACT driver called the Tennessee Highway Patrol.  He complained that people had been on his catwalk talking all day.  The astute troopers arranged to meet this driver.  They met, and to no surprise, there were no people on his catwalk.  Obviously, he was hearing voices.  They asked the driver if he was on anything.  “Meth,” he replied.  They found meth, cocaine and paraphernalia in his truck. He was arrested, terminated, the truck, trailer and load impounded and we were left puzzled, scared and trying to figure out what to do.

When I heard this, it chilled me to the bone.  We discovered this driver had been with us for a year.  He passed drug testing in orientation.  He seemed to be a good driver.  He didn’t look like a drug user. Our policy regarding drugs and alcohol has been a “no tolerance” policy for many years.  Any drug or alcohol related incident results in immediate termination.  Drugs, alcohol and trucking do not mix.  We had no clue we had a drug user in our fleet.  Perhaps we were naive.

This caused 59 CSA points on ACT.  But the implications are much worse.  I thought of the ramifications of this for a long time.  They are simply horrible.  A bad wreck caused by a driver on illegal drugs or alcohol could put any trucking company out of business.  Lots of people would be hurt and lots would lose their jobs.

But what can we do?  We are “by the book.”  We follow the law.  We have everyone in orientation do a urine test.  We do 60% random urine tests of our current drivers, more than required by law.  Could we do more?  Ridiculously, under the law, we cannot do more without a legally defined, “reasonable suspicion.”  We follow regulations, but regulations often lack common sense.  Privacy concerns sometimes trump safety.  The FMCSA is working on regulations for hair testing and for a drug and alcohol data bank to warn us who may be a problem.  But they are slow and it is not there yet.

I determined to make sure this never happens again.  We checked into hair follicle testing.  It is easy, safe, and more reliable than urine sample testing required by FMCSA.  It does costs us more, but if we can ensure our drivers are free of illegal drugs and alcohol, the price is worth it.

Accordingly, starting on July 1, 2015 all applicants in orientation undergo hair testing in addition to urine testing.  All random drug and alcohol tests include this as well.  We tell prospective applicants up front what to expect.  We have already caught another driver.

Some may find this intrusive, but it is a small price to pay for a true drug and alcohol free company where drivers can be proud of the safety and professionalism of all they associate with.  The office folks undergo the same testing.  In the long tradition of ACT, this is the right thing to do.  This directly reflects our core values of integrity and safety:  “Doing the right thing even when no one is watching,” and, “Going above and beyond what the law requires.”

As has always been the case, at ACT, we are raising the standard.

Happy and safe trucking!  Tom

The Golden Rule and Trailers

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Two of our important Core Values are “Integrity” and “Respect.”  Integrity means doing the right thing, even if no one is looking and even if nobody will ever know.  It is the honorable way of conducting yourself in life.  “Respect” is the Golden Rule.  Everything we do in trucking has an effect on others.  Everything others do has an effect on us.  The Golden Rule, “Treat everyone else as you would like to be treated,” is not only the “right” thing; it is good business.  If everyone in trucking, and at ACT, would live their lives and conduct their business in line with these principles, trucking would be easier and more profitable for all.

This brings me to the issue of trailers.  One of the age old frustrations I have heard from drivers over many years is the condition that trailers are left in.  I hear complaints of bald tires, damage to trailers, trailers being left jacked up too high, trailers being jacked up to low, and other problems.  Few things are more frustrating than showing up with a pre plan, ready to go with a boat full of hours, and finding that you are delayed, because the trailer is in poor condition.  It frustrates the driver and it frustrates us in the office as well.  It wastes time and costs us all money.

So what can we do?  When I confront problems in business or in life, I divide things into two categories.  On one side of the ledger, I list things I can control.  On the other side of the ledger, I list things I cannot control.  I don’t stress on things beyond my control, it wouldn’t change anything anyway.  I focus on solutions for the things I can control.  That is how we get better.

Do I have any control over how drivers or yard dogs leave trailers?  At first blush, my reaction is:  “I have no control over that.”  There is no way to police that.  I have no control over it and there is nothing I can do to help my drivers.  Perhaps this is just part of the bad part of trucking.  It then follows that I should advise drivers, not to stress over trailers because it is beyond our control.  It is stress for no reason.  Focus on things you can control.  (Last year, to help alleviate the obviously frustrating problem, we started paying something to drivers for taking a trailer in, although the customers will pay us nothing for this.  It is not enough, but it is something to help.)

But let’s review our list of things we cannot control.  Sometimes there are things that we seem to have no control over, but on further reflection there is something we can do.  These things might not solve everything, but could help.  I thought about trailers more.

There is nothing “I” can do…but there may be something “WE” can do.  What “WE” can do to help all of us is simple…, do our jobs.  What is that?  Every driver has the job of doing a post trip inspection.  If everyone did this, every time, and reported any problems, tires, scrapes, damage and the like could be fixed more rapidly and hopefully, before the trailer is loaded or the next driver arrives to pick it up.  What else is our job?  It is every driver’s job to pull nails and sweep the trailer out.

These things are not complicated.  They are about doing our jobs with integrity and respect for others.  If we all do it, trucking in general, and, trucking at ACT in particular, is better for us all.  I still don’t know what to do about problems yard dogs cause, but if you know of such a situation, report it to us.  If we see a pattern at a particular location, we can address it with the shipper.

My advice is…don’t complain.  Whiners never get anywhere.  Don’t stress.  All that will do is shorten your life.  Let’s do our job with integrity and respect and spread the word to all our drivers the importance of integrity and respect.

Will it happen?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  Can it happen?  I’m sure of it.

Happy and Safe Trucking, Tom