Trucking Safety 101: Back to Basics


In the frenzied pace of motor carrier operations, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of fundamentals. For any business, three key elements are crucial to success: communication, teamwork, and planning.

Revisiting each of these elements periodically is healthy for the entire organization and can help the company achieve its objectives. However, one area that motor carriers tend to ignore in varying degrees is safety.

In the Spring 2019 issue of Safety Talk, we discussed how practical drift, an employee’s gradual deviation from established policies and procedures, can erode the effectiveness of a company’s safety efforts, and if allowed to continue unchecked, can negatively define the company’s culture. Senior management at a trucking company can contribute to this erosion as well. Here is an example:

A motor carrier may become complacent or resistant to change because it hasn’t recently experienced a crash or injury. Management then adopts a mentality of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This type of mentality introduces risk into what may otherwise be a healthy organization. If management cannot attribute the company’s success to effective loss-prevention practices, it is essentially saying pure luck is responsible for the company’s performance. Regardless of past loss performance, no company can afford to rest on its laurels if it expects to remain competitive.

A periodic review of basic safety practices is essential because new risks may be present that have not been accounted for. Whether a change in customers, equipment, commodities, or personnel, motor carriers should have a process in place to continually assess their risks and determine if current safety practices are sufficient. Below are some assessment methods.


Determine if the company’s safety practices are current and effective. For example, are road tests being conducted? If yes, do they reflect equipment, commodities, routes, etc.? If not, why?


Has the company defined in writing its standards for driver hiring and retention? If no, do so as soon as possible. If yes, determine whether the standards are consistently adhered to and enforced. Deviation from written policies adds risk.


Review curriculum for accuracy and effectiveness. Do not continually train employees on topics they already know. Identify gaps in knowledge, skills, and abilities, and then design training to fill those gaps.


Consider the return on investment (ROI) that technologies like collision mitigation, lane departure, or automatic transmissions would provide. Decide if they make sense operationally and financially.


Conduct a self-audit to determine if the company is meeting basic compliance requirements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers a free Carrier Compliance Questionnaire and other online tools to explain the regulations.


  • Conduct a DOT self-audit using the FMCSA’s “Carrier Compliance Questionnaire.”

  • Reference Great West’s “Road Test Evaluation” form to create your process to evaluate and qualify drivers.

  • Identify manual processes that could be replaced with automation or modern technology solutions.

  • Develop a schedule to periodically review safety policies, procedures, and training programs.


Note: These lists are not intended to be all-inclusive.

The information in this article is provided as a courtesy of Great West Casualty Company and is part of the Value-Driven® Company program. Value-Driven Company was created to help educate and inform insureds so they can make better decisions, build a culture that values safety, and manage risk more effectively. To see what additional resources Great West Casualty Company can provide for its insureds, please contact your safety representative, or click below to find an agent. 

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© Great West Casualty Company 2019. The material in this publication is the property of Great West Casualty Company unless otherwise noted and may not be reproduced without its written consent by any person other than a current insured of Great West Casualty Company for business purposes. Insured should attribute use as follows: “© Great West Casualty Company 2019. Used with permission by Great West Casualty Company.”

This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Great West Casualty Company does not provide legal advice to its insureds, nor does it advise insureds on employment-related issues. Therefore, the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds. Legal advice should always be sought from the insured’s legal counsel. Great West Casualty Company shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein.