We should see an announcement today from the Department of Transportation, about banning texting while driving for all commercial drivers.  We talked about this on the blog previously, and I think that most of you are in favor of this ban.  In fact, I  know that the majority of you don't even text at all anyway.  The only concern I have is if you are driving past a D.O.T. officer on the highway, and you are dialing someone on your phone, how will the officer be able to tell the difference between dialing and texting.  Best bet to not do either.  With the wonderful new rules of CSA 2010, you really don't need to give an officer another reason to pull you over.  I'm sure that they will really be enforcing this at first, just to prove a point.  It wouldn't hurt to use a bluetooth headset, and also use voice activated dialing on your cell phone if it's capable. It's official - http://blog.fleetowner.com/trucks_at_work/2010/01/26/banning-trucker-texting/

We have had several issues with the contractor web lately.  The problem occurs when you try to search for freight by an individual state.   The site will either be really slow in displaying the freight available, or it will be completely unresponsive.  We are addressing this issue, and hopefully it will be back to normal very soon.

I know that there has been some confusion about the drayage/flip service in California.  We do have drayage/flip service for our non-compliant trucks in Southern Cal. We are using a couple of different services out there so I don't know the exact rate to the driver.  It may be different on each load, depending on which company performs the service for us.  Best I can tell you for now, is talk to your coordinator about the container freight that is available, and they will be able to look in the order comments of the load to see what the charge will be.  I would imagine that it will be in the $100-$125 range, but it could change.   I will probably post more on this later, so stay tuned!

News released today that 2009 saw the biggest decrease in goods shipped by truck since 1982!  On the good side of that is that Truck Tonnage reached it's highest peak in December.  Hopefully, we will continue on the uphill climb!


I'm sure everyone is just as sick of reading about CSA 2010 as I am of writing about it. Unfortunately, a lot of folks just do not fully grasp the effect that this thing is going to have on drivers and motor carriers. Some have read about it and are beginning to get their arms around it. Many drivers (and motor carriers) are still just trucking along oblivious to it until it finally goes into effect later this year and hits them like a ton of bricks.

The main thing is that you don't want anything other than "no violations" noted on an inspection report. Nothing, zip, zero, nada. Any violation noted has a point value that counts against the carrier's safety rating, the driver's individual safety rating, or both. Anything counts, everything counts. There are something like 3500+ individual violations from which an officer can choose.

I recently retained one of the CSA 2010 pilot program vendors to place Mercer's SafeStat data into the CSA 2010 format so I could get an idea what we looked like in that environment.  All in all, we have a great bunch of drivers who are better than most. To put this in perspective, out of more than 1,800 qualified drivers at Mercer, I currently have twelve......twelve on probation for moving violations and/or preventable accidents. That is 0.0067% of our drivers. A pretty safe bunch. Or at least I thought so.

Here's the shocker......under the 2010 format, I have at least one hundred drivers who potentially could have problems. Not with tickets, not with accidents, but with DOT writeups for "speeding" on their inspection sheets. Or log violations. Or securement violations. Those count. And they count big time. No ticket, not even a warning, not OOS, but just the writeup. The bad thing is, all of this started being compiled in January, 2009. Folks with clean inspections are in good shape. Folks who have been written up for anything in the past year, anything, will be starting out with a problem when CSA 2010 goes live later this year.

Drivers who look to me as those who will be most at risk will be receiving a letter from me within the next couple of months. You will be "invited" to come in, spend some "quality time" with me and look at what I'm seeing, and what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeing, concerning your driving record and safety fitness. We will discuss an appropriate strategy for improving your record and will set a timetable for that to happen. Improvement will not be optional.

The bottom line is this: you need to have clean inspections, period. Out of service or not is no longer the issue. Warning versus ticket is no longer the issue. "No Violations" is the issue. This is a big deal and it is going to change our industry. I encourage everyone to read about this as much as they can and redouble their efforts to run 100% legal at all times. That is the standard of CSA 2010. That is the standard to which we will all be held. That is our new reality.


CSA 2010 requires motor carriers to look at both themselves and their drivers in a much more critical light. The bar is being raised significantly and what used to work will simply no longer be enough to be considered a safe motor carrier or a safe driver.  Drivers, as well as motor carriers, will receive a rating by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration based upon their roadside inspection performance. Most Mercer drivers "get it" about this stuff, but unfortunately there are still some that don't, and make it harder for everyone.

Right now, as a few folks can attest, a driver who gets an out of service violation gets a trip to Louisville. If it is vehicle-related, it's for a Louisville inspection. A load securement violation earns a trip in for Flatbed Orientation. An out of service violation for logs, or a citation for a log violation requires log reorientation and log probation for 6 months.

Under CSA 2010, this may not be enough and it reacts to the problem rather than preventing it. A lot of the problem seems to be that drivers gamble too much on the PrePass and assume they are not going to get inspected. Then, if they get a red light, they are not prepared and both them, and Mercer, get stung. That can no longer happen.

PrePass is a privilege earned by trusted carriers who have good safety records and operate in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. A driver who receives an out of service violation is not doing that. Out of sevice violations cause more PrePass red lights and makes it hard on everyone.

Effective as of last Monday, I have began shutting off the Prepass transponders of drivers who receive out of service violations. A driver with an out of service violation will lose his or her PrePass for 6 months, in addition to the trip to Louisville.  Our standard is clean inspections. CSA 2010 will require that of all of us. Like it or not, everyone has got to get this stuff right.


Over the next few weeks, I am going to try to give you a lot of information on CSA 2010.  This is a major change for us as a carrier, and all of you as Owner-Operators.  On the right side of this blog you will notice that I added "CSA 2010" to the category list.  You can click there to find previous blog articles about CSA 2010.  Len has had a couple really good write-ups on the topic, so check them out if you haven't already.  Here are some helpful links, click on them to learn more as well:

90 minute video on how CSA 2010 works




A lot of folks have been stopping in to discuss CSA 2010, which will replace the current audit-based carrier safety rating system. I've written about it a lot and talked to a bunch our drivers about it, both in Louisville and at every field inspection location I've visited this year. It is important to understand that not only will carriers be rated, but drivers will also receive a rating, also based on their roadside performance. Data collection for that process began this year and the data will be on each driver's record for three years. Not only will a driver's current carrier have access to it (beginning in December) but any prospective carrier to which a driver applies will also have access to it. It will add a fourth element to the driver's background check. Carriers will look at experience, MVR, criminal history and CSA 2010 driver fitness rating in making a lease or hire decision. Anything written up on a roadside inspection will affect both the carrier's and the driver's fitness rating. Anything. The point weights of the various violations vary, but everything is assigned a value. Everything counts.

Most of our folks are getting the message about this and I'm seeing more and more clean inspections. Some need to do better....quickly. Here's what I see:

Speeding. If you don't want to be inspected, don't speed. Not a nickel over, not a penny over. Most of our inspections are the result of getting pulled over for speeding. Remember, under CSA 2010, if "speeding" is written on the inspection report, you just got burnt for it, regardless of whether or not you were issued a ticket. Any problem with logs, any, will be a big problem for you and will be on your record for three years, starting in 2009. Most log problems show up on the roadside when a driver is stopped for speeding. Remember, running hard doesn't make you a "hero", it just shows that you are in a hurry to find another line of work.

Load Securement. Not putting an extra strap or chain on the first bundle or item of your cargo causes more securement OOS write ups than anything else, closely followed by defective straps. Smart drivers make it a habit to put one extra securement device on the front no matter what and no matter if they think they have it right or not. Always secure your load as if your career depends on it, because with CSA 2010, it does. I strongly recommend every driver become a member of the "strap of the month club". That is, make it a habit every month to replace one strap. You simply can no longer risk being written up for cut or torn straps. Toss the bad ones. No matter what you're told, my truck would have twenty good 4 inch straps on it at all times. 20, viente.

Brakes. Have someone look at your brakes and adjust them monthly. Check them daily. They have got to pass a Level 1 every week. You will see increased roadside activity under CSA 2010 and that is a biggie.

Industry observers predict that as many as 30% of the current driver workforce will be out of a job after the first year of CSA 2010 due to deficient driver ratings. Remember, since all carriers can see them, if one carrier can't handle a driver due to bad inspections, it is unlikely any other carrier will want him or her, either. And if the FMCSA says a driver is unsatisfactory, neither Mercer nor anyone else will be able to ignore it and use him or her anyway.

Several drivers have asked about training for CSA 2010. Here it is: Log legal, over secure your load, don't speed and religiously maintain your truck. I can't overstate how important this stuff is. Everyone has got to get it right. The time to break bad habits is now. Drive carefully. Be safe.

Obama Administration to Reconsider H.O.S. Rules

logbookThe Obama administration agreed on Tuesday to consider regulatory changes to the current Hours of Service rules.  As you all know, the Bush administration changed the H.O.S. rules several years ago.  Previous to the change, drivers were able to drive for 10 consecutive hours, which had been the rule for 60 years.

The Bush administration changed the rule in hopes of decreasing driver fatigue.  But consecutive hours of driving was increased to 11 hours.  The FMCSA will propose a new H.O.S. rule within the next nine months.  I'll keep you all posted.


If you need a Louisville inspection before the end of 2009 and have a hard time getting through Louisville, you have three final opportunities this year for me to inspect you in the field. On Monday 10/12 and Tuesday 10/13 I will be at Dowd's Diesel in Newberry, SC, from 7:30-5:00. Next month, I will be at the TPA office in Plant City, FL on Monday 11/9 and Tuesday 11/10, from 7:30-5:00. Finally, I will be at the CHV office in Chattanooga, TN on Tuesday, 12/8 and Wednesday 12/9 from 7:30-5:00. These are the final three inspection trips I have scheduled for 2009.  If you are planning to be at one of these locations, be sure that you or your truck coordinator gets your unit number placed on my "guest list". I will be doing HM 232 (hazmat) recertifications at all locations.


I shouldn't even have to be writing this, because I know it doesn't apply to 99% of our ladies and gentlemen, but for the 1% or so who don't get it, here it is. Mercer is a flatbed company, always has been, always will be. There are loads that have to be tarped. Aside from customer requirements, all carriers are under a common law requirement to deliver their cargo in the same shape as it was when it was loaded. Pretty simple stuff.

It does not mean that you present yourself for loading with tarps with holes, cuts or other damage. It does not mean you show the shipper a tarp which has more duct tape on it than vinyl. It does not mean you try to partially tarp a full load because you do not have enough tarps to properly protect the cargo.  It does not mean you try to get out of tarping a load that the shipper wants tarped. If you just don't like tarps, call JB or Swift or Schneider or one of those other good folks and go pull a van.

I understand that tarps are expensive, freight is slow and rates are down. That's how this business gets every few years. That is no excuse. We simply cannot afford to lose any shipper because we cannot properly and professionally protect their cargo. The same goes for securement. Ratty straps turn off our customers and burn our safety rating on OOS vehicle securement violations.  If you cannot afford to do it right, you probably don't need to be doing it...at least not at Mercer. 

When you pay a mechanic to work on your engine, you don't expect to see him use a crescent wrench or a set of channel locks on a 12 point torque bolt. Billion dollar manufacturing corporations do not expect one of the largest flatbed carriers in the country to furnish a unit that is not properly equipped to do the job they are paying to have done.  That is not what Mercer is about. Never has been and it's not going to start now.

The rules are getting tougher and the stakes are getting higher in this business. It takes a lot to be an owner-operator in today's environment. I've mentioned that several times here and elsewhere.  I can't sugarcoat it or whitewash it. Everyone who survives in this business today has got to get it right. Every day, every trip.


On Monday, October 12 and Tuesday, October 13 I will be at Dowd's Diesel in Newberry, SC doing Louisville inspections.  As previously mentioned, I will be at the MSU office in Sunbury, PA on Monday, September 21 and Tuesday, September 22 doing Louisville inspections.  I will be at the HIA office in Caddo Valley, AR doing Louisville inspections on Thursday, October 1 and Friday, October 2. I will be at the TPA office in Plant City (Tampa), FL during the second week of November, but exact dates not yet scheduled.  If you need a Louisville inspection yet this year and you have trouble getting to Louisville (or just don't want to), you have four more field opportunities this year. If you know you will be inspecting at one of these locations, call me or send me a message so I can put you on my list.


The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has announced that their annual Brake Safety Week will be Sunday September 13 through Saturday September 19.  All drivers should expect a significant increase in Level 1 inspections in all states and provinces during that week.  All drivers should pay extra attention to brake condition and adjustment at all wheel positions prior to trucking during Brake Safety Week. Getting an OOS violation for defective brakes during that week will not be a good thing. Trust me on that.