Uncle Lennie in Wichita

Len Dunman is at our Wichita, KS office today, and tomorrow, to do inspections.  His inspections count as a Louisville inspection, so if you are close, go see him!


CARB's smoke police are at it again (or, still). They popped another Mercer driver for idling for more than five minutes this morning at one of the Fontana TA's. Eight minutes, three minutes over, three hundred dollar fine, or one hundred dollars a minute. Expensive lesson. At three dollars a gallon, that's 100 gallons of fuel he gave away. At five miles per gallon, that's enough for 500 miles. That's a lot to make up. Private property in California is fair game for the Smog Police. Beware.


Every three months I sit down with our insurance company loss control representative and review Mercer accident expenses. Besides settlement amounts, we look at types of accidents, frequency of accidents, severity of accidents and which drivers are having them. Overall, the ladies and gentlemen who drive Mercer-leased vehicles do a great job keeping the highways safe. We can do better.

Of all the preventable accidents we have, there are basically two types that are the most frequent (60%) and account for the majority (51%) of all settlement dollars. These are lane change accidents and rear end collisions. The most expensive type of accident to settle is a rear end collision. It is also the most difficult to defend.

Lane management, space management and speed management are three essential skills that every professional driver must possess and utilize every day. Drivers who have lane change or rear end accidents exhibit non-mastery of these basic skills. Carriers, drivers and their insurance companies are forced to pay dearly for these kinds of mistakes because they generally cause great harm and are difficult to defend.

For 2009, we are looking to reduce these types of accidents by 50%, and so far we are on track to achieve that. However, each driver must be aware of these situations at all times to make this a reality. I urge everyone to watch their speed, maintain at least a four second following distance, scan mirrors multiple times and use turn signals when executing lane changes and anticipate situations ahead. "Good" isn't good enough. We need to be better.

Are you sleepy?

In the comments section of my last post, Maryanne mentioned that Minnesota D.O.T. had a fitness assessment program.  The D.O.T. use a checklist to determine if a driver is fatigued, and can shut that driver down for a 10 hour period.  OOIDA has filed a lawsuit to fight this.  I had heard a little about this before, and asked Len Dunman about it and he gave me a great response:

I sat through the Minnesota presentation of this program at the CVSA meeting in April (I was sitting next to the OOIDA guys). It is absolutely unbelievable. Their strategy is to engage the driver in conversation before the actual inspection to try to get him to admit somehow that he is tired. They are most active on Sunday night because they think guys have been home with the family all day and are then too tired to drive. They'll ask about family activities, yard work, vacations, anything. They will look at the driver's appearance and try to look inside his truck to see if the cab is cluttered, or there is a urine bottle, or anything to indicate the driver is running without making "regular stops." In a vote, the CVSA committee approved making the fatigue determination a 10-hour out-of-service violation. Indiana does the same thing, in fact that's where Minnesota learned it. Indiana also writes citations along with the OOS. 

My advice to all drivers is simple: Do not engage the officer in conversation. Be polite, be professional, tell him or her how great you feel, and ask the officer what paperwork he wants to see. If he asks you a question not related to the inspection, return the conversation to the inspection. Ask what he wants to see. Nothing else. Their strategy is to get you talking and then find some way, any way, to get you to admit being tired. The defense is to smile, be polite, do not talk. Yes sir, no sir, nothing else. Do not be their buddy....no matter how friendly they appear, they are not yours. Their intent is to label you as fatigued and put you out of service. That justifies the program. I don't believe tired drivers should be on the highway, but I also do not believe in entrapment. I am monitoring the OOIDA litigation closely, because law enforcement all over the US and Canada is also waiting to see how this plays out. The implications are significant for all carriers and drivers.

Hope this makes you a little more aware.  Be careful, and be alert out there.  Thanks for the tip Maryanne!


On Wednesday, June 17 I will be doing LKY inspections in the CHV office (Chattanooga, TN) all day from 8:00am until 5:30pm.

On Monday, June 22 (all day) and Tuesday, June 23 (1/2 day am) I will be at the WKS office (Wichita, KS) doing LKY inspections.

Due to the current economic conditions, and the closing of our Fontana, CA yard, my California LKY inspections will only be in Stockton this year. I will be at Carl's Restaurant on Monday, July 20 and Tuesday, July 21 from 7:30am until as late as I need to stay both days.

I will have HM 232 materials with me at all locations and can do hazmat recertifications as needed.

Future field LKY inspections this year will be at MSU in September, HIA and Newberry, SC in October, and TPA in November. Exact dates of these trips has not yet been determined.

Remember that today, tomorrow and Thursday are the CVSA blitz days. We need clean inspections. OOS items hurt Mercer's safety rating and make it tough on everyone. Our "brand" is safe operation, top quality equipment, and drivers who are the best of the best. That's who we are. Be safe.

Alabama Coil Certification Update

As of Monday, June 1st, the State of Alabama will begin enforcing a new State Law, requiring all drivers loading, or delivering in Alabama, to have an Alabama Steel Coil Certification.  Failure to have the Alabama Steel Coil Certification will result in a fine up to $10,000 to the carrier, and also up to $5000 to the driver.

If you do not yet have this certification, please click here, and you will be redirected to my previous post  that will give you specific info on how to acquire the certification.  When you acquire your certification, the certificate, must be sent to Mercer's Safety Department!  They have to countersign the certificate, and make a copy, then send you back the original.  If you decide not to get the certification, you will not be offered any steel coils (stand-up, or skidded), that load, or deliver in the state of Alabama. 


As everyone prepares for the long Memorial Day weekend, it is important to take some time to remember and honor the meaning of Memorial Day. This time was set aside to honor the sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made, throughout every generation, to defend and protect the American way of life that we all enjoy. Mercer has drivers and employees who have served in the various branches of the military in Korea, Viet Nam, Bosnia, Grenada, Panama, Germany and throughout the Middle East. Each of these individuals is a hero to which we should all be grateful.

Nearly every year I ride to the Wall in Washington DC to remember the sacrifice that members of my generation made. No, I didn't have to go.....I was in ROTC at Murray State when Nixon ended the draft (and shut down ROTC).  A number of my friends did go, and every year I touch some of their names on the Wall. They were real people who didn't get to continue on life's journey: Didn't get to marry, or have kids, or grandkids, or anything else.  Doing that is the least I can do to honor and remember what they did. It was called "duty"......a lot of folks don't have much understanding of that word today, it seems. The word "honor" doesn't seem to mean much to people anymore, either.

Drivers, if you served in the military, and especially during Nam, thankyou.  This country may not be in real great shape today, but it would be in far worse shape had you not stood your watch protecting our freedom. Because, as you know, more than anybody else, it's not free.

TCA Owner-Operator of the Year Wayne Lowe

If you have seen the May issue of Overdrive you may have seen the story about Wayne Lowe, who was named 2009 Owner-Operator of the year by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). The annual TCA Safety and Security conference was held in Louisville this year, and yesterday morning I had the privilege of listening to Mr Lowe's thoughts concerning our industry at breakfast.

Mr Lowe is a remarkable individual.  He has been leased to FFE for 42 years and has over four million miles of accident-free driving.  He's not politically correct and calls it like he sees it. He's been married and divorced three times ("cost me a half million dollars") and believes in electronic logs (thinks "all RV's and motorhomes should have them").  When asked what he liked best about FFE, he said, in front of his safety director, that he appreciated them leaving him alone and letting him run his business. Matter-of-fact kind of guy, not arrogant, not flashy, listens more than he talks, but a man who has worked hard all his life for what he has and is genuinely humbled by the recognition he has received.

He was asked why he has done nothing but truck his entire career. His answer was a simple one, but so profound that it no doubt applies to every driver out there: "It's in the blood, it's in the heart." That's the kind of business trucking is. That is the type of passion that has allowed trucking to come through all previous recessions and will get us through this one, as well. It's all we know how to do. Well said, Wayne, well said.

2009 Roadcheck Press Release

nrcvsaWASHINGTON, DC (May 18, 2009) –Roadside inspectors patrolling North America’s highways June 2-4, 2009 will be driving home a clear message to commercial truck and bus operators: “Operate safely alongside passenger vehicles or we will stop you.” For 72 continuous hours inspectors and law enforcement officers will be conducting their annual “Roadcheck,” an event sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) which mobilizes federal, state, provincial and local inspectors to more than 1,000 locations across the continent to conduct comprehensive North American Standard Level I Inspections and other related roadside enforcement activities.

“Every year thousands of dedicated inspectors perform roadside inspections which save countless lives and make the highways we all travel on safer.” said Stephen F. Campbell, CVSA’s executive director. “We see great results because of the cooperation among a large group including industry, state and federal government agencies. In addition to enforcement, there are many educational events with government and industry happening all over the continent to drive home the safety message.”

Last year, 9,148 CVSA and FMCSA certified inspectors at 1,683 locations across North America performed 67,931 truck and bus inspections. 52,345 of the total were North American Standard Level I inspections, the most comprehensive roadside inspection. Both the total number of inspections and Level I inspections were records for the annual Roadcheck event. 2008 saw significant positive gains in out of service rates for most vehicle and driver types.

CVSA sponsors Roadcheck each year with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (Mexico).


"The Roadcheck campaign highlights the important work that commercial vehicle inspectors perform everyday to keep our roads safe and save lives," said FMCSA Acting Deputy Administrator Rose McMurray. "The number and the severity of crashes each year involving large trucks and buses is declining. We must not lessen our resolve to work together to make our highways and roads safer for every traveler."

This year, roadside inspectors will be focusing on: The NAS Level I Inspection which examines all of the following: driver's license, medical examiner's certificate and waiver, alcohol and drugs (if applicable), driver's record of duty status (as required), hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, as well as the brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake lamps, tail lamps, head lamps, lamps on projecting loads, safe loading, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, emergency exits on buses and HM requirements, as applicable; Safety Belt enforcement; Motorcoach and bus safety compliance; and, Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) compliance. In 2005 SAFETEA-LU codified UCR into federal law. It replaced the Single State Registration System (SSRS). All motor carriers (for-hire, private and exempt) – as well as brokers, freight forwarders, and leasing companies operating in interstate or international commerce are subject to the new UCR.

CVSA is an international not-for-profit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier safety officials and industry representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico. Our mission is to promote commercial motor vehicle safety and security by providing leadership to enforcement, industry and policy makers. In addition, CVSA has several hundred associate members who are committed to helping the Alliance achieve its goals; uniformity, compatibility and reciprocity of commercial vehicle inspections, and enforcement activities throughout North America by individuals dedicated to highway safety and security. For more on CVSA visit www.cvsa.org.

Roadside Inspections

There seems to be a trend in several states of inspecting a driver and not giving him or her clean inspection paperwork. Everyone has seen the drill: You get pulled over because you were allegedly doing 64mph in a 60mph zone. The officer looks at your bills, CDL, med card and log book. You are clean, but you get a warning for "speeding". What has actually happened is that you got a Level 3 roadside inspection and our safety record did not get credit for having a clean one. If that happens to you, ask the officer for the clean Level 3 inspection ( the speed "warning" doesn't matter if it's not a citation). If he refuses, POLITELY ask for his name and badge number and forward that information to me, along with that day's log (showing the time and location of the stop). I protest each of these in the DOT Data Q system. Bad inspections hurt our safety record and make everyone's PrePasses and Norpasses go red. We need the credit for the good inspections. The same thing applies at ports of entry. If they just weigh you or look at your bills, it's no inspection. If you're required to show logs and driver credentials along with the bills, it's a Level 3 inspection and we should get credit for it. PS......We don't NEED any more bad inspections. Drivers who cannot produce their previous seven day logs and are cited for that or any other log violation do not need to be trucking at Mercer. Remember, the annual CVSA Roadcheck is June 2-4. WE NEED CLEAN INSPECTIONS.


Len Dunman

Safety Director