Blind Areas Around Big Trucks

MirrorPoster_72dpiAll vehicles have areas (or “zones” or “spots”) around the vehicle where it is difficult to see other cars or trucks even with the help of various mirrors. Most commonly, the area immediately behind the driver’s door on the left side (or the passenger door on the right side) present “hiding spots” where other vehicles may lurk out of sight.

At highway speeds, merging or changing lanes can become a disaster if your movement connects with another vehicle that was in your “blind area”.

To help minimize blind areas, some folks install additional mirrors, cameras or even specialized sensors to detect and alert to the presence of vehicles in these blind areas.

For larger tractor trailers, the size, shape and location of blind areas presents special concerns to truck drivers. While they must do their part to scan around their truck, other motorists have a responsibility to cooperate by understanding that their car may be virtually undetectable within the blind area and do their best to keep out of that zone. Passing large trucks promptly instead of dwelling alongside is one example of a productive, courteous step to avoiding crashes.

The Utah Department of Transportation (as one example) has invested in public education materials to help all motorists and commercial drivers reduce crashes by working together. A colleague shared an example of their video on blind zones around large trucks (called “NO ZONES” in the video — as in these are not the zones to hang about in).

Take a look:

Another video in their series is closely related to this topic — since we’re hoping motorists (and other commercial drivers) won’t hang out in the “no-zone”, we also want the to complete their pass or merge safely.  One danger of passing a big truck is cutting them off (cutting directly in front of them).  This robs the big truck of stopping distance in case of a need to stop suddenly and increases the risk that you’d be hit from behind in such an instance.

Take a look:

These are short, easy to understand modules.  More topics can be found at

Remember, traffic safety is every driver’s responsibility!

SafetyZone-Safety Goal

PSP Use Affecting Crash Rates Among Regulated Fleets

LTBCS 2011The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a study in October which concluded; “…carriers using PSP reduced their crash and driver OOS rates over the general carrier population.

What is PSP?  The Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) was launched on May 11, 2010, and is a voluntary program that enables motor carriers to obtain five years of crash data and three years of inspection data on prospective new hires.  The system is specifically designed to help determine whether a driver applicant should be hired by the carrier.

So the question has lingered since the introduction of PSP — would its use make a difference in results?

From the study:

Since the mission of FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and FMCSA data indicate that many crashes are due to driver error, the impacts PSP has on the safety performance of drivers and the motor carrier industry is of particular interest to the Agency.

The methodology examines crash rates and driver-related out-of-service (OOS) rates of the portion of the motor carrier population using PSP. Safety performance of these carriers is compared for a 12-month period prior to and 12 months after the start of using PSP. These data are then compared to a control group of motor carriers that did not use PSP.

FMCSA’s analysis determined that both the PSP group and the control group (non-PSP) experienced a decline in crashes in all size classes. However, the motor carriers using PSP witnessed a greater decline in crash rates over the non-PSP group in the four size classes. After adjusting the crash rate improvement of the PSP group by removing the control group effects, the PSP group still showed improvement in all four size classes (although statistical significance was shown in only two size classes). The overall adjusted improvement in the crash rates for the PSP group, across all size classes, was statistically significant (see Table 1). The PSP group also experienced a decrease in driver OOS rates in all size classes. When adjusted for control group effects, this improvement in driver OOS rates was still statistically significant in all size classes.

So the answer is, YES, carriers using PSP seem to have done a better job in qualifying and selecting candidates that perform better on the job.  Interestingly the use of PSP is steadily increasing, too.  “Currently, there are about 35,000 PSP users making about 70,000 requests per month.”

Accident Analysis

As reported in an article (click here) at, the specific results were impressive:

“The overall adjusted improvement in the crash rates for the PSP group, across all size classes, was statistically significant,” said the report.

Another example of a blended scoreIt also found those using PSP experienced a drop in driver out-of-service violations.

Overall it found crash rates declined 8% for carriers while driver OOS violations fell 17.2% for fleets using PSP, as opposed to those who haven’t

Declines in crash rates were even bigger for carriers who have between 6 and 20 drivers, falling 20.6%, and those with between 21-100 drivers, declining 21.1%.

FMCSA says the 12.4% decline in the crash rates with trucking operations that have 1 and 5 drivers, and a drop of 3.4%, for those with more than 100, are not statistically significant.

Declines in the driver OOS rates for carriers using PSP as opposed to those not using it, ranged between 10.1% for those with 21 to 100 drivers, to as much as 18.3% for those with between 1 and 5 drivers.

Most carriers use the system to verify or validate that the candidate accurately reports information about past OOS and crash data on their applications.  Some even use the data to help validate prior employer information and such.  Again, from the report:

  • The motor carriers that responded obtained a PSP report on every driver they
    hired. The most frequent use of the report, as described by the carriers FMCSA queried, is to assure that drivers are accurately reporting all information on their applications, and not omitting places of employment or crashes.
  • Violations in the PSP report for pre-trip inspections, logbooks, and speeding were high on the list of concerns and were generally believed to be a better indication of a driver’s safety performance rather than violations that the driver had little direct influence to avoid.
  • Motor carriers responded that they can also observe if drivers have worked for companies with poor safety ratings in the past.

smc 1All in all, the combination of screening and selection methods available to motor carriers seems to be enhanced greatly when using PSP consistently.  The combination of MVR, previous employer checks and PSP data can be insightful — SafetyFirst is able to provide PSP data and MVRs from all 50 states.  Let us know if you’d like more information on our driver risk profiling services, online training or GPS platforms.

The FMCSA report concludes with this observation:

“Anecdotally, companies that use PSP think the program has value, they use PSP for all of their hires, and they plan to continue using PSP. These companies tend to believe drivers with favorable PSP data are more in demand and, potentially, more marketable and valuable.”

A slide show summarizing the report is available by CLICKING HERE.


Why Order & Review MVRs on Drivers?

There are many reasons for employers and insurers to obtain the driving history of operators — called a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) by some or Driver’s Abstract by others — the history report summarizes recent violation activity, and confirms the current status of the license — valid, suspended or revoked (just because a license is revoked doesn’t mean that an operator won’t posses the physical license — while they should surrender the document, they might hold on to it for varied reasons).

An employer that permits operators to drive on company business without proper qualification of that operator’s skills and privilege status exposes themselves to various theories of legal liability in the event of a collision.  Negligent Entrustment, Negligent Supervision, Negligent Hiring, Vicarious Liability, and Respondeat Superior are just a few of the terms that could be tossed around following a crash depending on the specific circumstances. 

Many of these issues were covered in an article titled “Road Safety and the Law — When Is a License Check Not Enough?” Originally published by CPCU Society, theRoad Safety and The Law article gives a succinct review of legal theories and concerns for employers of drivers.  If you’d like to review the article, (click here).

Another great resource for “why to pull MVRs” can be found at the Insurance Services Office — (Click Here)

In addtion to those references, we wanted to call your attention to a recent study that was published by the California DMV.  The study provides a renewed perspective on the critical nature of simply validating that an operator has been licensed to drive (is NOT Un-Licensed) and that their credentials are not Suspended or Revoked (S/R). 

The study, entitled Fatal Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers, found that compared to licensed drivers, suspended/revoked and unlicensed drivers are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash.  Additionally, unlicensed drivers tend to be more hazardous than suspended/revoked drivers.  Examining crash data over a 23-year period, the study found that the at-fault crash risk of suspended/revolved and unlicensed drivers has not decreased over time.

Among the Report’s Key Findings:

  • Compared to validly licensed drivers, suspended/revoked (S/R) and unlicensed drivers are 2.60 and 2.73 times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure.
  • The study results provide strong evidence that S/R and unlicensed drivers are much more hazardous on the road than are validly licensed drivers. Compared to licensed drivers, those who drive without a valid license are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure.
  • Unlicensed drivers tend to be more hazardous than S/R drivers.
  • The at-fault overinvolvement rate for unlicensed drivers did not change systematically following enactment on January 1, 1994 of California Vehicle Code Section 12801.5, which prevents issuance of a driver license to individuals who cannot provide the required documentation to show that their presence in California is authorized under federal law.
  • The annual fatal crash involvement ratios range from 0.81 to 0.91 for validly licensed drivers, 1.44 to 4.29 for S/R drivers, and 1.60 to 3.50 for unlicensed drivers, respectively, over the 23-year time period studied. The fact that the rates for S/R and unlicensed drivers exceeded 1.0 in every year indicates that these drivers were consistently more likely to be at-fault than to be innocent in their crashes.
mvr crash sceneThe risks of crash involvement and subsequent litigation posed to an employer of operators who are either unlicensed or Suspended/Revoked are huge.  Requiring employees (and any other permitted drivers such as spouse, child, independent contractor using your vehicle) to supply a license and give consent to allow their MVR to be obtained/reviewed is a great step in reducing the potential for crashes. 
Once the MVRs are obtained showing the license status (i.e. valid, suspended, revoked, etc.) you may want to closely review the number, frequency and types of violations reported to see that some drivers have a greater tendency to receive violations than other drivers.  The relative risk of two drivers — both driving similar equipment on a similar number of miles — where one gets multiple violations over the course of time and the other receives none is less likely to do with luck than behavior/habits.  After all, driving faster than the speed limit is the number one cause of getting a speeding ticket! 

Many employers have devised a risk scoring system to evaluate the number of and “severity” of various violations.  Many hold drunk driving out as an example of egregious behavior while some permit multiple speeding tickets to accrue before refresher training is required.  What works at one employer may not be a fit for your firm depending on the specifics of your operation (i.e. cross-country trucking versus pest control services — each operates in different settings and may have different concerns).

Dump Paper Reporting — Consider A Managed Data System Instead

Traditionally, employers obtained paper reports on each driver — often with varied state Blended Risk Scorecodes, state violation descriptions and state-based “point systems”. 

This diversity of reporting made the analysis of driver records tedious and subject to errors by employers. 

To compare one driver’s history from Oregon to another based in Texas required translating the paper report into a consistent format for codes, descriptions and points. 

Very recently, managed solutions are being deployed to automate the process for employers.  These systems can:

  • Specialized reporting, including blended scoring using telematics data, how’s my driving data, preventable crashes,
  • prioritize the frequency of MVR orders based on driver risk score (more frequent MVRs for drivers with more activity)
  • Pre-Order “data scrubbing” to minimize “couldn’t complete request” charges from states (i.e. catch format issues, missing DOB, illegal punctuation marks, etc.)
  • driver renewables reporting (i.e. license renewal alerts, DOT qualifications such as medicals, refresher training certification alerts, etc.)
  • integration of state-driven, proactive reporting of alerts (i.e. California EPN, New York LENS,
  • increase consistency in formatting, points, descriptions, (Up-to-date AAMVA ACD Coding for all 50 states, Canadian translation to ACD, etc.)
  • deliver faster results (*instant turnaround and scoring in many cases)
  • improve compliance with applicable state and federal regulations,
  • streamline mandatory (State driven) file audits
  • manage by exception and radically cut the administration burdens of your staff
  • set roles and responsibilities for management users — by territory, by job function
  • email alerts for exceptions
  • Integration with your HR platform for hires/fires updating automatically (available for larger employers)
  • Automate your orders, order one-by-one, or use our flexible batch/group ordering process to run hundreds at a time!

Unlike earlier “do it yourself” systems that only charge a transaction fee to connect to the state and obtain a paper report, the new systems which provide managed services support typically charge a database or services fee on a per driver basis in addition to the transaction fee.  Still, the ability to consolidate all the reporting and get consistently formated data sets make the investment highly worthwhile.


The risk of letting even one driver “fall through the cracks” of a paper based system put the public at risk of a preventable collision.  Obtaining an MVR used to be a tedious task, but a necessary one.  Now, with managed services, the system can be tailored to your own point system and incorporate additional data sources like telematics alerts, EOBR data, and more.  The real question isn’t should we, but can we afford not to subscribe to a managed service?

“E-DriverFile” and “My Driver’s Data” are two managed service programs provided by SafetyFirst Systems. 

Copy of Copy of EDF LOGO (final)E-DriverFile provides expanded solutions for crash reporting, training tracking, DOT compliance support and other features.  

The “My Driver’s Data” system is a bare bones approach to managed services for employers who “only want to do MVRs” and nothing else.  It provides a robust platform for delivering results without the added costs of the “full” E-DriverFile program.

If you’re struggling to manage your MVR program, want to explore what’s possible now with the new systems, or have a need to start building an MVR program from scratch, give us a call (@ 1-888-603-6987).  While most of our direct subscriber clients have more than 1000 MVR pulls per year, we are also working to make our systems available through participating insurance providers as part of their “value added” services (you have to pay for the MVRs directly per FCRA/DPPA regulations, but the service platform expense may be covered by participating insurers).