…but I got that ticket while in my personal car!

During my many years working in the field as a Loss Control Professional for the P&C insurance industry, I heard many employers (especially those who employed CDL license holders) asking about granting exceptions on MVR reviews when the driver had gotten a conviction while driving their own personal car “on the weekend”.

I was taught (in the insurance world) that it doesn’t matter what vehicle you were driving at the time of the violation — “behavior is behavior“.  If you speed on the weekend, you’ll probably speed on the weekdays, too.

PoliceA lot of managers pushed back on this notion by stating that people drive differently when behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound piece of steel.   That may be accurate, but learned and practiced behavior runs to the core of our personality and provides a strong governor of our actions.  When I learn to speed and roll through stop signs without getting caught for a long time, I take more risks and I learn to de-value the potential cost of risk taking.

Well, unfortunately for one driver (but perhaps an object lesson for others) the loss of a CDL has very publicly occured from personal driving violations.

According to published news reports,

“the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled Feb. 7 in the case of James Sondergaard v. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation and Bureau of Driver Licensing, that Sondergaard’s CDL would be suspended for life.  According to court records, Sondergaard was convicted twice of DUI in 2010. Both arrests occurred while Sondergaard, a CDL holder, was driving his personal vehicle. The Pennsylvania Driver Licensing Bureau then suspended his CDL for life in August 2011.”

Arguing that state law was not clear, a series of court battles ensued, but culminated with the lifetime suspension of his CDL.

As pointed out in Land Line Magazine (Click Here to See Source Article);

“While the state law may not be straightforward, the federal regulations governing truckers is crystal clear.

The federal regulations outline varying durations of disqualifications under 383.51 The regulation spells out the various “major” and “serious” violations. The lengths of the various disqualification are a minimum standard set out to the states. States have the option of increasing the length of the suspensions if they so choose.

Federal regulation 383.51 states that the first conviction of being under the influence – even in a non-CMV – results in a one-year suspension. The second conviction is a lifetime suspension.

However, lifetime may not necessarily be lifetime. Reinstatement is possible after 10 years if that person has voluntarily entered and successfully completed an appropriate rehabilitation program approved by the state, according to 383.51(5).

Summary

So reviewing a driver’s MVR is important for a lot of reasons.  First, the employer should spot exceptions such as suspensions to protect their own legal interests.  Secondly, the employer should care enough about their operator to alert them that their continued aggregation of violations and convictions can lead to disaster — whether measured by collisions from risk taking habits OR loss of driving priviledges which affect employment.

Making exceptions or attempting to rationalize violations doesn’t do the driver or the employer any favors even though it may seem that way.  “Letting a violation slide” becomes an enabler of inappropriate (or at the very least, risky) habits.

If your current MVR review policy grants exceptions, please revisit that decision soon.  It’s possible that there may be certain situations where granting an exception could be justified, but it should be the true, rare exception rather the commonplace occurance.

Finally, remember that MVRs are vital, but not perfect.  There have been many situations documented by studies where violations and convictions are not reported, are masked, or have simply been lost when they “slipped through the cracks”. 

Additional Resources:

  1. Identifying drivers who may be at risk of becoming involved in a collsion:  MVR Analysis http://my.safetyfirst.com/newsfart/UnderwritingTrends8-2006(MVR).pdf
  2. Why Order & Review MVRs on Drivers? https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/why-order-review-mvrs-on-drivers/
  3. How to Use Individual Driver Motor Vehicle Records to Manage Risk  http://www.bbdetroit.com/news.php?id=166
  4. Do How’s My Driving? Programs Really Work? (See section titled “The MVR GAP”) http://www.fleet-central.com/resources/AF11supp_p22_25LR.pdf
  5. New MVR Ordering Features added to E-Driver File https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/new-mvr-reporting-features-added-to-e-driverfile/
  6. Deciphering MVR Profiling https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/deciphering-mvr-profiling/
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