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MANAGING RISK: Keys To The Road

“You’re driving a 26,000-pound billboard and people see your name on the side of the truck—but people don’t always have the most honest intentions,” says Cheryl Lowe, human resources manager at Beaumont, Texas-based Parker Lumber. With 17 locations in Texas and four in California, Parker Lumber uses a uniform, mandatory hiring practice at all of its locations. A background check and MVR (motor vehicle record) are run on all potential drivers, according to Lowe.

Insurance companies, brokers or agents can help dealers establish what is acceptable from candidates, especially if they have prior violations. Some examples are how many points do they have on their license or what types of violations have they incurred? Do they have any DUIs in the last two to five years?

“Ideally you want to get a clean MVR, but in today’s world that can be difficult to find,” Pianko says. For instance, cell phone use in New York State could result in five points on a license—after 11 points have piled on, the license is suspended.

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Felony convictions will eliminate a candidate immediately at Parker Lumber. The company is also hesitant to hire those with misdemeanor convictions— particularly if it’s for theft, Lowe says.

The Right Stuff

After a position is posted for the hiring of a new driver, the next step is interviewing candidates. This is a crucial step that could have a long-lasting impact on the position. Informal referrals based on a candidate’s previous experience could result in finding a person that has been an excellent driver at their last or current position.

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Despite the candidate’s experience, the company conducting the hiring needs to ask if the candidate has the potential for competent LBM deliveries based on their prior line of work and what types of vehicles they were driving. There’s a big difference between making deliveries to a jobsite, including an established residence, and hauling baguettes in a bread truck all day.

If the candidate’s records come up clean, and they pass a drug screening, a manager or dispatch personnel should conduct a ride-along to see how the driver handles the road and a vehicle.

“Once a candidate is clear, we call them in again and make sure they are physically able to do the job,” Lowe says.

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During their mandatory ride along, Parker’s managers will look to see if the operator is driving safely and following the rules of the road.

Pianko recommends that safe driving audits continue to be run on all drivers periodically, even if the driver is a veteran of thousands of deliveries. Once a driver is making deliveries and collecting a paycheck from your company, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re as good as gold on the road.

Although CDL drivers are required to take random drug tests by federal DOT standards, Pianko recommends all operators of company vehicles—including salesmen—be tested periodically. These employees are also representing your company when operating their vehicle, and what they do away from work can play a part if they are involved in an on the job accident.

“The more formalized and documented your overall fleet safety program is, the better chance you have to reduce your potential for an accident and defend yourself,” Pianko says

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