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Axing Paperwork and Unintended Consequences

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Double-edged sword. Cuts both ways. Mixed blessing. Unintended consequences.                                                                                                                                                  These contrast-evoking expressions come to mind when I read about the intent of the Department of Transportation to eliminate nothing-to-report inspection paperwork for trucking. By axing the requirement to record daily driver inspection reports of trucking equipment with no defects, there is a purported yearly savings of $1.7 billion. Equipment (e.g. tractors, trailers) with defects will continue to be documented and records retained for three months.

This change would mean that drivers will continue to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection of their tractor and trailer(s). However, if no defects are found, drivers will not have to take the time to fill in such things as carrier name, driver name, mileage, date, tractor and trailer number, and odometer mileage on a form. There will be no form (or electronic equivalent) to file if nothing is detected.

We’re all fed up with government bureaucracy. Times are tough; profits are stressed. Everyone wants to eliminate excess. Ninety-five percent of all inspection reports show no defects. No one wants to keep an unnecessary burden on trucking that began in the 1930s.

But a little voice in my head says, “Be careful.” Don’t let this go the way of health club memberships or dieting. You know. Everyone starts out with good intentions but after time passes, resolve fades. This is common sense, not pop psychology.

We can’t allow diligence to fade. We can’t allow the detailed inspection of vehicles to become a broad brush once-over. We can’t stop looking for all the safety issues.

When this change goes into effect, it will become a local carrier issue. Local problems require local solutions. There can be no backsliding on inspections. It won’t be easy. With an eased paperwork requirement, many will be tempted to do less. Some may feel that it’s somehow less important. Others may gradually look for fewer defects or fail to report everything. “I’ve got to fill in a whole form to report an LED out?” Some may not even use pre and post trip checklists as they walk around the vehicle and trailer. I fear that the worst drivers won’t do the inspection at all.

There’s time to think this through. The critical issue is not eliminating paperwork, but finding defects that can lead to costly breakdowns, accidents, OOS orders and damage to the organization’s reputation. Start thinking about a clear and positive plan to guarantee that all your drivers will diligently perform their inspections. It’s up to each carrier to ensure the promise of a safer future.
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Lou Graziani
Transportation Performance Analyst
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