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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Does a Safety Manager need be a truck driver?
Very interesting discussion started by and thanks to Stephen Powers in the Transportation Safety Group on LinkedIn. Link to the original is below. Comments are welcome. My opinion? Being a former driver isn't necessary but certainly would be beneficial!
I was "counseling" a driver regarding his speeding behavior and the effect it may have on company liability and the CSA SMS scores for both the company and his CDL. I was quire taken aback when the driver stated that I had no idea what I was talking about as I was not a driver and could not understand the intricacies of driving up and down hills with loaded tankers. It was true, I do not have a CDL. I have been managing drivers for over 28 years and never thought I needed one. I asked that driver why I needed a CDL to determine if a professional driver is violating the law or not. I also questioned him if a driver goes through a roadside inspection and receives a violation; would he ask the State Trooper if he had a CDL to determine if he knew what he was talking about? I then also asked if the professional foodball player ever questioned the Ref's call for never having played the game professionally? Of course, the driver's remarks were imature, made in frustration from being in a defensive position. This discussion got me to thinking though. In my experience, a non-CDL Safety Manager tends to see the Regulations in black and white; you either in violation or not. A Safety Manager with a commercial motor vehicle driving background may better relate to the driver and the circumstances related to the incident but none the less; either holds the offending driver accountable or not. I was wondering how the group felt about this.
1 day ago
Lawrence Thomas likes this
GLYNDEENA BRANDIMARTE • No you do not need to be an ex-driver to know the regulations. The laws are there for a purpose. I drove for 9 years and knew the regulations from a driver's perspective, but that did not make me a better Safety Director. The regulations are there in black and white. They need to be followed. It seems, though, that once I tell a driver that I am an ex-driver, he tends to listen to me with more attention. That is the only difference I can see.
Rudy Wiebe • In our Safety Dept there are two of us. One is ex-DOT and the other is an ex-driver, then driver trainer. Knowing the regulations is one thing, but being able to relate to the day to day issues that drivers face is also important. I believe in our situation, we have both of those angles covered.
Ted Matthews • I moved from 20 yrs of operations experience into the Safety Director position. Having performed the necessary safety functions in the field for years, sometimes not knowing why. I know the regulations, and can speak on authority on those issues, but can I shft gears and maneuver a rig through traffic, no, I leave that to the driving professionals. I don't see any correlation between interpreting the regulations and communicating these to our workforce and having the ability to drive a truck.
Rocky D. • Rudy, I think you covered it pretty well, as for all FMCSR Regulations being black and white (NO THEY ARE NOT) If they were there would not be the issues in Minnesota with the local authorities putting their own interpitation on the regs. We would not be having other issues through out the US with mis-guided perceptions. DOT is one of the easiest government committee's to work with, but there is a lot of gray area and they know it. That is another topic.

As for needing to be an ex-driver, in my opinion no you do not, but as regulations continue to change for the better or worse, it will continue to make our jobs more complicated as of those of the drivers. It has been my experience that if you can council a driver on regulations and they know that you are aware that it is not the perfect world out there, then you will eventually have better morral amongst your drivers as well as the will to corporate with you in keeping eveerybody in compliance.

And Then there are some that are not cut out to be
Jim Renshaw • You are right. You do not have to be a doctor to manage a hospital.
Rocky D. • Manage the process'es, Lead the people
Jim Backus • Hi Stephen:

I looked at your profile, which lists Director of Safety & Compliance at J & S Transport, Inc. I will assume your company established that job title, based on their needs, i.e., they need a person qualified to be a Director of both Safety and Compliance. While the FMCSA tends to preach that compliance with their regulations is a Safety Program, those of us trained in both disciplines know differently. You earned the designation of CDS so you have received formal Safety Training.

When I went through the CPSA course decades ago, the question you posed was part of our training. The answer was simple; The Five Functions of a "Manager" are to:

Direct, and

A manager is not responsible for performing the functions of those he or she manages. There is tremendous benefit in understanding as much as you can about your subordinates responsibilities. That said, knowledge of a specific job function it is a benefit, not a requirement.

Your job is to Manage. Hopefully, the driver you counseled will come to understand that his response to you was inappropriate.

I've had much the same question posed to me on many occasions. My usual response is to take out a copy of a "Final Rule" posted in the Federal Register, which includes the Purpose and Intent. It does not matter which part of the regulations are involved. Next I take out the two to three years worth of information that lead up to the final ruling. Lastly, I get a copy of the actual regulations that changed. As you know, we are looking a hundreds of pages of information, of which the driver may only see a few paragraphs. Consider the HOS changes that were implemented and what is still pending.

After explaining how all the information is part of my job function to understand, (so I can implement the correct information for our drivers, dispatchers, etc.,) I ask the driver to explain to me how professional driving experience will serve the company in the performance of my job. I've never had a driver get through more than a couple pages before they change their attitude.

Richard Juba CRSP, OH&S • After 34 years in this industry 18 of which has been in safety, I am sorry I will only agree to a point with all of you. The experaince of haven been on the road and having to experiance the things the drivers have creates a bond with your drivers. I have seen non-drivers trying to relate to drivers at times pertaining to non-compliance issue and the drivers eat them alive. I go in there after and it is the total opposite. So yes I go agree that over the road knowalge is needed. Do some road evaluations with the drivers but do not do the evaluation just ride with them. I bet you with in a very short period of time you will see a culture change. I have just hired a lady a year ago with no transport experiance and one of her duties is to ride with a driver every couple of months. The drivers are gaining a great respect for her.

Rhonda Munoz, ASP, MS • Honestly, when dealing with drivers, my driving experience assists me greatly. Yes, the regulations are black and white; however, through my driving experience, I am able to offer solid solutions to any contradictions or problems associated with complying with the Regulations. I am able to relate to the drivers on their level and I am respected not just as a Safety Manager, but as a former driver. The drivers feel comfortable coming to me with issues and know they are not going to get a "canned" or "textbook" answer...the answer will come from merging my expertise in the Regulations with my driving experiences.

The previous comments were pretty good, I just wanted to add my two cents.

Kaelynne Aldrich • Wow, great disussion. I am on both sides of the fence with this one...I drove for over 25 years OTR and local, I also have my CDS and a boar load of other training to go with it.
Here is how I stand. No, you don't need to have been a driver to be a Safety Manager/Director. On the job training, experience in trucking or other related fields, education, etc. can make you an effective SM. On the other hand, being an driver, gives you first person knowledge of the "road life", and I think that makes one a better safety manager for several reasons, and can even make you a "tougher" SM, Why?
You know when you are getting BSed, and you also know the regs...
I've also found out, that if I go into a training session with out first telling my class, what I've done, and my experience, I am tended to get "tuned out", but if I tell them up front, how many years, safety record, and etc. I get a whole room ful of respect...

You also know that;
that mountain driving takes time "from available hours", Just because the map says it should take 3 hours to get point A to point B, if you going up and down mountains, you better add another hour or so (may-be more)
You understand the pitfalls of truck stop showers
You understand that some violations/tickets/stops can be bogus
You have empathy, not sympathy
You will work to get a driver home for an emergency (can be is daughter's first dance or play) or a true medical emergency
You have been sick in the truck, and unable to get to medical care
You have probably hurt yourself bad enough for medical care, but you slap a band aide on the wound, and go on

Some things can be taught in a classroom /OJT for a good SM, but other things, IMO, only holding a steering wheel give a person the insight for being a better SM. I hope no one takes offense at this.

Stephen Powers, CDS • Jim Baccus, excellent comment! I truly appreciate all the comments made so far. I figured that Safety Professionals would have their personal takes on this issue and nary a one would I disagree with. The take away from all our comments is that our goal is to keep our drivers safe, compliant with the regulations and continue to be valuable employees with our companies. Whether we drive or not, the main point is to have mutual respect for each other.

Kaelynne Aldrich • Stephen, Amen...
When I drove, the people who supervised me who had been drivers, where the ones in our corner when "it " the fan, (and it will and does)...But, the non-driver supervisors, where the ones trying to hang the driver first, ask questions later, group...
4 hours ago• Like

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