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Episode 17: Compliance Isn’t Just a Box to Tick with Rob Carpenter, President of Carpenter Compliance

Brent – 00:00:01:

Welcome to Freight Nation, a trucking podcast where we explore the fascinating world of trucking and freight management. We dive deep into the freight industry and uncover why the trucking industry is more crucial to our country now than ever before. Stay tuned to uncover the driving forces behind successful trucking businesses and hear from the hardworking truckers and leaders who keep the world moving. Let’s hit the road. All right, Freight Nation, welcome back to another episode of Freight Nation, a truckstop.com podcast. So glad that you gave us your time today. We know there’s lots of things you can do with your time that benefits you. And we hope on Freight Nation that we’re a benefit to you in helping you run your business, whether you’re a carrier, whether you’re a broker, whether you’re a shipper in this marketplace. And by the way, we all three need each other in order to beneficially move freight. Just appreciate you joining us today on truckstop.com’s Freight Nation. I’m Brent Hutto, your host, your ball-headed guy. So I’m here to talk with really a topic that a lot of people don’t like to talk about because it’s like, oh, do we have to talk about the C word? Do we have to talk about compliance? The answer is yes, yes, yes, we do. And here’s why. And I learned this through the pandemic. I learned through the pandemic that the four capacities, what we call crunches, over the last almost 20 years now, and they’ve all been driven by regulations. And you know what compliance is all about? Adhering to regulations. And so if you want to run a really successful business and you want to run a legitimate business, you’ve got to really pay attention to compliance. And a lot of it is just common sense. And joining me today to talk about that common sense and to bring his expertise, which is vast in a compliance marketplace, is Mr. Rob Carpenter, the VP of TruckSafe Consulting. And so we just appreciate Rob joining us today and to bring his knowledge and talk through this, what sounds like a mundane topic, but is much, much more intense than you think it is because of the way in which it runs every day. So Rob, thanks for joining us today.

Rob – 00:01:58:

Yes, sir. Thanks for having me.

Brent – 00:01:59:

Yeah, man. We’re talking earlier. You’re sort of near Virginia Beach. You’re in a town called Yorktown, Virginia, right?

Rob – 00:02:06:

That’s it. And no one knows where it is, even though that’s where Independence was won. But we’re in Virginia Beach. That’s the best way to explain it. Everybody knows that.

Brent – 00:02:14:

Yeah. Well, Yorktown is a famous place in U.S. History.

Rob – 00:02:17:

Yeah, absolutely. So both of my sons are big historians and they like to talk about those things. So lots of fun. So our family knows where Yorktown is. I hope. And the others do.

Brent – 00:02:26:

I’m so glad that you decided to help us talk about compliance, because if you can really understand it and anticipate it, it doesn’t run your business. You run it, which I’m sure that’s a big part of people being successful in compliance. But before you became compliance, you know, one of the compliance leaders and consultants in the industry, you had a history that led you into this. And if you don’t mind, I’d like for everybody to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and really what makes you tick. So tell the Freight Nation listeners and watchers a little bit about how you got into this industry, how you got into transportation.

Rob – 00:02:56:

I think it’s one of the things that kind of lures people to me is the practical experience that comes from it. Because I started as a driver. I drove whether it was hazmat or household goods or port rage or whatever. And then I managed some companies, ended up buying a company, and owned my own motor carrier authority. And then I didn’t want to tell anybody no. So I started my own broker authority and I had brokered a little bit in between there.

Brent – 00:03:21:

So you’re a carrier and a broker. You’ve worked on both sides.

Rob – 00:03:25:

Yeah. And really, when I got out of driving, I went into brokering first because I wanted to understand the business aspect of it. You got a lot of drivers that are thinking, hey, truck drivers are making four to six. These truck owners are making four to six thousand a week. There’s huge money in it. And then you get into it and you realize this is really cash flow intensive. So there’s a lot of things that drivers don’t understand. And I think seeing it from both sides, broker and carrier helped a lot, but ended up running some enterprise carriers. For private equity. And now I’m in compliance. But ultimately, what got me into compliance and out of that operational mindset, because anybody that knows me knows that I’m white ghost on Twitter for a reason. I used to just be the wildest driver you ever met.

Brent – 00:04:09:

Yeah. All right. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. You said white ghost. Now, I hadn’t heard that. Tell me what white ghost is.

Rob – 00:04:15:

That was the old CB handle. So what ended up happening was, you know, I would run sometimes 36, 42 hours because what was important was that the wheels were turning. It didn’t matter. The rules didn’t matter. You could air loose leaf out. But ultimately, I ended up getting hit by a truck and I couldn’t walk for a while and I had to basically be fused together. And really, that was what kind of started the safety aspect of it. So you went from you didn’t really care as much about the safety side to you got to care about the safety side. So that’s kind of how we got here.

Brent – 00:04:46:

Wow. So that’s fascinating. Your background is that you were a truck driver and then you started your own independent business. And then you started a brokerage and you even managed some larger size fleets. So what size were the fleets that you managed for some private equity groups? By the way, tell the Freight Nation listeners what you mean by private equity.

Rob – 00:05:07:

So basically with private equity, we had 16 different DOT numbers. And how that kind of happens is private equity will come in and they’ll buy one here, buy one there. And before you know it, they’ve bought up as many as they can buy with a fund. And then they mature it and then they sell it. But when I ran the businesses there, I oversaw 16 different carriers. But altogether, it was about 2,000 vehicles, 2,000 drivers.

Brent – 00:05:30:

Oh, wow. That’s a lot of trucks, dude.

Rob – 00:05:32:

Yeah, it was pumping.

Brent – 00:05:34:

What’s it like managing 2,000 trucks?

Rob – 00:05:36:

It was complicated because it wasn’t just, you know, you’ve got trucks, you’ve got buses, you’ve got property and passenger mix. And so there’s a lot of different rule sets because they differ. Hours of service for passengers aren’t hours of service for property. So there are a lot of different things that you have to consider. So it’s a lot. You just have to learn to delegate, really. We had, I don’t know, 104 managers across the nation that you kind of delegated to.

Brent – 00:05:59:

Wow. You look like a young guy, though, man. I mean, did you start trucking when you were like 12 or something?

Rob – 00:06:06:

No, actually, I did not start in trucking at all. I started in restaurants. And you just got tired of being greasy all the time. And I was like, there’s got to be something different here. So I came home one day and said, hey, we’re selling the restaurant. I’m going to truck driving school. And my wife’s like, are you crazy?

Brent – 00:06:20:

So you like being an entrepreneur?

Rob – 00:06:22:

Oh, yeah, for sure.

Brent – 00:06:23:

Yeah, for sure. So restaurant, truck side, broker side, management side for private equity, which is kind of like an entrepreneur because you’re running your own division of a business. And now you’re consulting with TruckSafe and with your own carpenter compliance as well. So, well, that’s interesting. Right. So it sounds like you don’t mind taking the risk.

Rob – 00:06:45:

I wasn’t concerned about risk as much in the past, if it even crossed my mind, because it was just like, you know, get in there and make it happen. And then there got to be a time where because I wasn’t safe that I couldn’t make it happen. And then I started thinking more along the lines of, hey, compliance, exposure, what happens when you’re not compliant, what you lose when you’re not compliant. And that opens your mind, you know, opens your eyes to a lot of what the real deal is. So that’s what got us here.

Brent – 00:07:11:

Yeah, for sure. All right, before we jump into all the things that go into compliance, because today’s Freight Nation podcast will be a little bit more of a working podcast. So we’re going to talk about some of the details, not just the story, but the details, because that’s super important because you got to make sure you’re keeping up with these things. All right, but you said something, and I do want you to talk about a couple minutes about this, because not everybody has gone through, obviously, a physical limitation like you did when you got into your wreck. So if you wouldn’t mind just kind of talking for a couple minutes about that and then how you got through that. And then your next step into compliance. So I think it’s important that you talk about the idea that you had a physical, obviously, something very physical happened to you.

Rob – 00:07:53:

Right. Basically, I was on 58 in Emporia, like the speed capital of the world. And I realistically would drive 32, 36, 40. The most average road was probably 42 hours without a true break. And at that point, you’re just so exhausted that you’d sleep anywhere. So I was coming down 58, stopped, and got hit by a farm truck.

Brent – 00:08:13:

Where is this? You’re coming down 58. And I don’t know where 58 is. Where’s the great nation?

Rob – 00:08:17:

So 58, it’s basically the Southern Thoroughfare through Virginia. It runs basically from the Norfolk, Virginia Beach area all the way to the other side of the state along North Carolina’s Virginia border. But it’s called the speed capital of the world because everybody gets their tickets on it.

Brent – 00:08:32:

Oh, really?

Rob – 00:08:33:

Anyway, I was hitting a farm truck, and it basically separated my pelvis and my spine. So I had a broken back and a bunch of spots, and the whole stuff just shut down. And you basically ended up having to get pelvis and spine fused together from the mid-back down. So there was a whole lot of off-duty time and physical rework. What really got in my mind at that point was kind of like what’s happened here and why the behaviors that I had exhibited over time of just not caring about the rules that were obviously there for a reason now put me in this place. And then going into the future, at that point, I couldn’t get a med card because I was just prohibited from it. So my thought process was, well, now I’m done. Like, what do I do? I can broker freight, but I really can’t do a lot right now. So I started looking at safety and that was when I really started looking at things that I could do to get into the safety realm, whether it was reconstruction classes at Northwestern University of Public Safety or Institute for Police Technology and Management. And just started getting into like claims management and HR management. And basically that whole. Encompassing piece that is compliant. You can’t just say, hey, I know FMCSA without knowing all the other parts that are going to surround it. You’re going to deal with claims. You’re going to deal with HR. You’re going to deal with all these different pieces. And I just started hitting one at a time. And then after I had managed programs for a while, that’s when I went to NAPME and got my certified director of safety and maintenance and equipment and went from there.

Brent – 00:10:06:

All right. For everybody on Freight Nation, tell them what NAPME stands for.

Rob – 00:10:09:

Sure. North American Transportation Management Institute.

Brent – 00:10:12:

Great. That’s one of the governing associations to help you understand how to teach within the industry or teach compliance in the industry.

Rob – 00:10:20:

Yep, that’s it. Basically, if you’re going to go to work for Walmart or FedEx or Amazon, generally in their description, they’re going to say, we prefer that you have a CDS designation.

Brent – 00:10:30:

Right. Fantastic. All right, so you found yourself going to NAMI, realizing that maybe your misery would become your ministry.

Rob – 00:10:39:

That’s it. Yeah, you go right there.

Brent – 00:10:41:

And you would help others. And this is so funny, Rob. I can hear it over and over and over, man, where people go, this happened to me. And if I can do something to keep this from happening to others, I want to do something about it. Yeah. That’s what I mean by your misery becomes your ministry.

Rob – 00:10:56:

And it’s kind of funny, you know, you live a life of like almost reckless risk.

Brent – 00:11:01:

Yeah, sure.

Rob – 00:11:02:

And then you get to this point where now with my kids, it’s like, don’t go within 100 feet of the street. Everything is at risk. You see risk everywhere. So it’s, you know, you go from the extreme unsafe to the extreme, probably paranoid risk.

Brent – 00:11:18:

Well, I’m a dad with five kids, so I know what it’s like to feel that sort of panic about kids. Yeah, man, I think that’s pretty normal for parents. So you got into the industry, and where did you enter into compliance? Did you go to work for a certain business and start and do compliance there? Were you just consulting in the beginning? How did you start your career out? And once we kind of got started, I want to talk about some of the tactical questions that you would want carriers to be able to answer.

Rob – 00:11:45:

Would say I started in non-compliance and then I moved into the real jobs. I really got familiar with non-compliance because I was so focused on how to beat the rule. And even when I was a truck driver, I understood the rules so that I could work around. And that was really where it started. I got so good at being not compliant. I became really good at understanding the rules. And then I went into consulting and then went into different management roles at smaller companies before I was hired by Private.

Brent – 00:12:14:

Yeah, they say the best people to teach people how to not do something that’s against the law is to hire people that used to break the law.

Rob – 00:12:23:

A hundred percent.

Brent – 00:12:24:

So that’s exciting, man. So, all right. So what strikes me a little bit, Rob, is that even though you maybe led a life that, or you behaved some within your business where you go, you know, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t do it the same way. And so I appreciate your humility and being honest with our Freight Nation listeners and watchers about how you got to where you are. I really appreciate it.

Rob – 00:12:46:

I think it goes a long way. And I think where I come from, it creates a familiarity. And I think that’s one of the things that’s driven my success in the industry that I’m in now is there’s familiarity with what they do every day at a driver level, at a broker level. And You can build rapport with pretty much anybody because you’ve been there and you know what they’re dealing with. You know what it’s like to load on a load board and answer 3,500 calls to try to find somebody to get on your load or drive a truck all across the country looking for parking or whatever the issue is. You’ve got that rapport building history. So it goes a long way.

Brent – 00:13:19:

Well, yeah, for sure it does, man. So it’s always interesting to see. What I’ve been enjoying a lot on the Freight Nation podcast guests that have come on is that it’s always like, well, I was in trucking here and I saw an opportunity to do something and I took it, took the risk, and now I’m building this. It’s one of the most unique things you see. They always come from a standpoint of like, I just enjoy transportation. It’s a great opportunity to see the opportunity that people can take in. It’s really encouraging to me from a standpoint. All right. So you started down the compliance road and obviously in compliance, you deal with a lot of truck drivers. You deal with people that are beneficially moving goods around America. So there’s a lot of really sort of nuts and bolts, as some would call it, if you use a sports analogy, the blocking and tackling of safety and compliance. And so let’s talk a little bit through some of those things when you think about like, OK, well, first and foremost, you need to be following the rules because there’s a lot of exposure out there. So you think about compliance and exposure that’s in the market and building a defense against that. Talk a little bit about what that is and why that’s important.

Rob – 00:14:28:

Well, so I think one of the big pieces is you have compliance, which anybody who can read a book can kind of at least grasp compliance at a basic level. I mean, that drivers do it every day. Pretty much if you can read the book, that’s understanding compliance. Hey, we need the following systems and processes in place to meet the basics, seven basics. But then you have exposure, and that’s one of the pieces that I think people totally lose it on. And you can be compliant and still face exposure. So, you know, if you say, let’s just use road tests, for example. To be compliant, you can use CDL in lieu of a road test. You don’t have to do it as long as they have a CDL. But if your driver gets in that accident and hasn’t had a road test, that plaintiff’s lawyer in any highway litigation case is going to say, yes, you were compliant, but how much time would it have taken you to just do a 10-minute road test? Just know that that guy knew how to drive. And then that opens up a whole can of worms. And then it’s, well, it’s 10 minutes of your time not to do the road test. Does that not equal the value of the life that driver took on the road? And then you’ve got juries that award $200 million because you didn’t do a road test. Yes, you were compliant, but you could have done X. Or continuous license monitoring is a great one. You only have to run MVRs once a year. That’s compliance. But exposure, you’re not doing anything during the year. And that’s $2, $2 a month. And it’s constantly running MVRs all the time. So you might run an MVR today and somebody get suspension tomorrow for child support and not have a license all year long. And you just didn’t know. And sure enough, that driver gets in an accident, kills somebody, hurts someone. You’ve got a big judgment for having a disqualified driver. You were compliant until you weren’t. You didn’t know it. So that exposure piece is huge. And when the litigious society that we found ourselves in, especially in the past five years, 10 years. Exposure is a huge part of it.

Brent – 00:16:24:

Yeah, wow, that’s super important. If truckers knew what was at risk, is it fair to say they’d probably pay a little bit more attention to being really super detailed on their compliance?

Rob – 00:16:34:

Yeah. You just got to make sure. I mean, compliance leaves holes in your system. There’s no question about it. So you have to find those little holes and that plaintiff’s attorneys are going to extort and then fill them to limit your exposure. And it’s not just carriers. Brokers face the same thing. When I was a broker, I carried contingent auto and contingent cargo. And everybody’s like, well, you don’t need any insurance to be a compliant broker. Well, no, you don’t. But I don’t want to employ a carrier who gets their insurance dropped and then wrecks a load. And then I got to pay for the cargo. Because I get sued, you know, contingent. So all kinds of little pieces of exposure for everybody. And they just don’t think about it.

Brent – 00:17:12:

A super smart move on your part on protecting yourself, protecting your business, regardless of which side it was, the carrier or the broker side. Yeah, super important. Yeah, it’s interesting. I appreciate you saying that, that just because you may be compliant, it doesn’t mean you don’t face exposure. Because you are running a commercial transportation operation up and down the highway with other people around you all the time in their vehicles. Yeah, you’ve got exposure. A lot of it. And sometimes, and I know this to be a fact, in many of the accidents on the highway, it’s not the truck’s fault.

Rob – 00:17:46:

Right. And they say the rule is 80%. It’s 80% of the crashes that involve commercial trucks. It’s not the fault of the commercial truck. So it kind of goes back to the collision avoidance and the defensive driving piece. That’s another thing that I went into instructing that and taking Smith system and being familiar with that because I wanted to be able to talk that with drivers to say, like, you have to learn to drive for other people, not just for you. So anticipating the actions of others is not just for the driver. It’s for the company too huge presets closure.

Brent – 00:18:17:

Yeah, man, no doubt. So let’s talk a minute about. When I got in the market in 1998, you heard a lot of the, I don’t want a big brother inside of my cab with me. All right. Heard a lot about ELDs coming around. That was 98. And then, boy, they didn’t get instituted. You know, they didn’t become mandatory to what, 2019? Is that right?

Rob – 00:18:36:

Yep.

Brent – 00:18:37:

Yep, 2019. So ELDs, the technical word is telematics. Telematics didn’t become mandated as a regulation until 2019. And, boy, it created a challenge in the market. So when telematics were first talked about, were you somebody who supported them? Were you like, I don’t know about those. It seems like it’s intrusive. It doesn’t seem like it’s fair. It doesn’t seem like it’s trustworthy. So what is your point of view on telematics? And where do you see the carrier be able to best utilize them?

Rob – 00:19:04:

When we first started, we would be at truck stops. And at that time I was a driver and you would hear people saying, hey, the ELDs are coming. And that’s when I first learned like, hey, this new Keep Trucking app has come out and you can try it for free. We’ve got to become more familiar with it. And I downloaded it and I played with it and I got more familiar with it. So it kind of started there. But I never looked at it like it was necessarily an unfair thing. I looked at it more as a threat to my income potential because I’m somebody that might run a Norfolk to Martinsville, Virginia this morning and then run a Norfolk to Charleston, West Virginia tonight and just do a full 26-hour trip. Now, that’s $3,500, $4,000 for that day, which is really good income, right? If I can’t do that and you cut one of those loads out, my income now gets cut in half. So really, that’s where my mindset was. It wasn’t about compliance at all. But where I think that carriers can use the system, it depends on where we’re looking at it. ELDs are good for hours of service. I mean, obviously, it’s going to affect your revenue. I mean, you can only run X amount. There’s no more tearing the loose leaf pages out and throwing them away and saying, I didn’t run this morning. There’s that piece, but hours of service violations are double weighted, which affects your score twice as much. So there’s that piece. So that helps you from that aspect. But another piece of that is a lot of these ELD providers are providing dash cams. That’s where I really have found the value of where they pay for themselves from an insurance claims perspective. So. It kind of can go both ways, but generally, I’ve personally reduced auto claims 40% in a year just by using telematics. So they pay for themselves. And in markets like this, people think, well, telematics costs. Well, it costs. But there’s a thing now about revenue preservation. So anything you can do to save some money, you’re going to try to do it. And this is a way to do it.

Brent – 00:21:00:

Revenue preservation. That’s a good way to put that.

Rob – 00:21:03:

If you have these cams and you’re looking at this driver and you say, hey, this driver’s got an issue with close following, and he’s had two close following accidents where he rear-ended other people. I go to the kind of the coach, not the cop mindset. And I say, you know, let’s coach this person because you have to manage the data that’s coming in. So I think that visibility gives carriers awareness and that can promote prevention.

Brent – 00:21:26:

Wow. Yeah, no doubt. I love the idea. Well, anything is provable. The dash cam helps so many things on approvability. I get it, especially the ones that where some companies might require one that’s driver facing, but in the end, they protect you greatly. And if it can help you hedge a lot on your insurance costs, that’s fantastic. So let me ask you a question on telematics. This is something that I’ve been watching. So DLDs and telematics created the ability to measure time in a truck that wasn’t measured before. The time wasn’t measured. And this is something I’ve been talking about with the American Trucking Association. Do you see? A time when, because we have ELDs in the truck and time can be measured, that we will be shifting away from a per-mileage charge and do it from a timed charge, or in other words, a time bill on hauling freight.

Rob – 00:22:17:

No, I think that would be a good thing. And, you know, I’ve encouraged some carriers to take up that because there’s times where they’ll try to kind of just jam that driver into like this weird Monday through Thursday thing. And the drivers feel pressured to get everything done by X, whatever that time is. Well, my point is, it’s like you gave them an extra day and didn’t pressure them as much and pushed it into Friday. You could kind of create this time based charging rather than you’re getting paid by the mile. And they don’t feel as pressured. So they don’t feel like they have to run as hard. But a lot of carriers don’t want to do that. To some extent, I get it. To some extent, I really don’t.

Brent – 00:22:53:

So the reason that I bring this up is I think about two things. Number one, I think about the combo of traffic and parking, because that’s an efficiency killer. And then I think about detention. Where you never got your money back on detention because you couldn’t really prove it. But now you can prove you were sitting at this location for this amount of time. And so I’ve talked to many carriers that are out there. Obviously, everybody’s full of ELDs that have a good negotiation point for much more efficiency being had on the lowering the detention at docks and being able to get back some of their money that’s promised inside the contract with them. And so I just think about that. I think about ELDs and telematics and being able to help maximize the truck owner, whether it be one truck or more trucks than that, truck owner being able to really maximize their. Time, which is really what everything is based on. I know we put it in miles and all that, but honestly, it’s time because there’s other things you can’t control. So that’ll be interesting to see how that works out.

Rob – 00:23:51:

Which moves into speed limiters and how much ground you…

Brent – 00:23:56:

It could. Yeah, but if you own your own independent business, the federal government has talked about speed limiters. That’s a compliance if they put it out, something to be compliant with. I don’t know if that’ll ever come about. That’d be interesting to see. That’s a severe thing from a standpoint of freedom and independence. That’s a pretty severe thing on that. I mean, it’s been talked about in cars, talked about a lot of times. So it’d be interesting to see where that goes. All right, so let me ask you a question. The next thing that seems to be a big topic is something that’s referred to as event management. Event management and around that, the coaching and training that goes into it. So talk a little bit about event management and how a carrier needs to work on that. And what are some of the ways in which that can be brought into their business?

Rob – 00:24:40:

Well, to some extent, it really goes back to telematics. You have this visibility now. Now you have this awareness of this habitual behavior that these drivers are displaying in your vehicle. And then the question is, and it’s going to come up from any plaintiff’s counsel, what did you do throughout the history of this driver’s tenure? If they had a history of, say, they get discovery and there was 167 instances of this driver being on the telephone. On the 168th, your driver killed this family. And then the plaintiff’s lawyer comes in and says, well, why did it take 167 times? You saw it. You knew. You knew this was a behavior that this driver continued to exhibit. What did you do to change it? Did you write them up? And that’s where the event management piece comes in. You’re basically trending behavior using these telematic systems and then taking those trends and tailoring, training, and coaching to modify that behavior for the driver. I think part of it’s really good because you have one, it’s limiting your exposure. Right. But. Going back to drivers, drivers, I think they function better if they’re being coached. It’s almost like a partnership. Like we’re going to work together to improve how you drive your vehicle. We’re not going to suspend you or write you up or whatever other punitive things that can happen yet. But for now, we’re just going to coach you with the hopes of continuous improvement. And in a lot of cases, people are building incentive programs into these event management scores. So there’s a lot of good things that come from it, especially in terms of culture and retention and things like that. So ultimately, the goal is you’re learning what these drivers are doing or not doing, and then you’re going to manage those events accordingly, whether that’s training bundles for distracted driving, if that’s their only issue, or say they have hard braking, close following and speeding. Well, that behavior is indicative of you having a rear end collision at some point in the near future. So let’s focus on not putting you through eight hours of defensive driving. You don’t need all that. You just need to control how close you’re following other people.

Brent – 00:26:53:

You said earlier about exposure. And event management sounds like managing your exposure.

Rob – 00:26:59:

That’s it. A hundred percent. Cause they’re going to want that camera. Once they know you have it, they’re not going to want that one instance. They’re going to want a lot of instances. So once they realize what your habits are as a driver, they’re going to want to know why you as a company didn’t manage that.

Brent – 00:27:15:

Well, and this is really for a lot of the Freight Nation. Most of the Freight Nation carriers are one, two, three truck operations. So they’re small operations. And there’s an aspect to what you were just talking about in event management is that if you know that you could have changed it. And you didn’t change it. Guess what? You’re still liable. Transportation every trucking company i saw for ancient listeners yet you really know this well. If you could have or did have knowledge of something and didn’t do anything about it, even though you didn’t necessarily break the law at that time, you’re still liable for it. So you still have exposure to it. So anything more to add to that, Rob?

Rob – 00:27:53:

Some of it kind of goes back to an HR aspect. And there used to be this line in the sand where when you did something wrong, you got this punitive measure. And then it was a write up and possibly a termination. But in this way, you’re actually, like you said, partnering with this driver to say, hey, to keep you and us exposure proof, we need to implement this. And we’re going to help make you a better driver. And we’re also going to incentivize you while you do it. You know, if that’s the case, that’s right. You decide to go.

Brent – 00:28:21:

So, yeah, that’s actually super good advice from a standpoint of just you’d much rather have knowledge of it to be able to deal with it. So, yeah, absolutely. So let’s move on to something. You said this earlier. I thought this was interesting. You talked about hours of service. And you talked about double weighted citations. So that means you’re getting twice the amount of trouble. So talk a little bit about that, because really understanding the idea about where, because of EODs and hours of service today, talk about the outcome, the unpleasant outcome that might happen if those aren’t followed and you meet the actual requirements of it.

Rob – 00:29:00:

Yeah, so the basics, driver fitness, maintenance, hour to service, drug and alcohol, but the only one of those that’s double-weighted is hour to service. So every violation you get for an hour to service carries twice the weight. And it doesn’t take very many of those violations to put you in an unsatisfactory category. So unsatisfactory, conditional, and satisfactory or not rated are classifications with FMCSA that give you ratings as carriers for people that don’t know. We actually had a carrier up in Indiana who completely got shut down. He had an audit and all of it almost, well, 98% of his violations for hours of service. And they came in, they audited him, small operations. So he needed that cash flow. So when they shut him down, he essentially went bankrupt. And he was rated unsatisfactory because it only took just a few hours of service violation. But when he had so many, he got that unsat. They shut him down. He was out of business for almost three months while we got his rating upgraded. But three months with no money and you’ve got, say, 10 drivers that are just sitting there. You’re going to probably lose your drivers, lose your trucks, lose your credit.

Brent – 00:30:10:

Oh, sure you are. They got to eat, too.

Rob – 00:30:12:

They got to eat, too. So during that time, you know, I asked him because my first question, I’m trying to get his rating upgraded to get him back to at least a conditional rating to eat so he can run. And I said, what are you doing about the drivers? Did they leave you? And I just hate seeing that kind of stuff. He said, no, we’re paying them $100 flat a day, which is not a lot for drivers. But they were at least paying them for three months, 10 drivers, $100 a day, and he kept them for the whole time. They stayed. They hung it out, even though the holidays.

Brent – 00:30:41:

That is amazing. Well, he did what he could do, right?

Rob – 00:30:44:

He did what he could do. And I think they respected that piece of it. But it can be costly to the point of closing your doors, not just an exposure standpoint. I mean, losing revenue is huge, especially in small fleets.

Brent – 00:30:58:

The FMCSA is not playing around when it comes to the out-of-service violations because now It can be measured.

Rob – 00:31:06:

They can.

Brent – 00:31:07:

My encouragement to carriers out there, the Frank Nation listeners and watchers, is just every circumstance that you’re presented with can be utilized to be a benefit for you if you figure out how. So follow, figure out how this hours of service thing can be a big benefit to you. So let’s talk a little bit about One of the big ones, one of the really, really big ones, because I know the number one thing that puts small carriers and a lot of carriers out of business. And that’s if you have a major mechanical catastrophe in your vehicle. So let’s talk a little bit about the predictive maintenance aspect on this. So this will be our fifth item on the list. So talk a little bit about why you should pay close attention to that.

Rob – 00:31:56:

I think. For me, managing fleets of larger sizes, it was more about the forecasting ability of predictive maintenance. One of my big things to the mechanics across the country that worked for me was do the airplanes that take off for Delta, do they change the engine when it falls apart or do they change it before it fails? They change it before it fails, right? I mean, they’re in the air. I mean, it can be dangerous, but to me, it’s more dangerous on the road. You’ve got these trucks that aren’t well maintained. And I mean, we put a lot of them on LinkedIn and we joke about it and we talk about how bad people’s maintenance is, but it can be catastrophic. You had the brake deal in Colorado. I don’t know. It was four or five years ago where the guy lost his brakes because he didn’t do his pre-trip and he ended up killing a lot of people when he came down the hill. So he ended up going to prison for life. And I think it eventually got turned around. But it can have catastrophic effects. So my whole point with the predictive maintenance thing is. Participatory, not reactive. It’ll help you better forecast and keep your vehicles better maintained for the road. But maintenance is its own compliance category. So it’s not just about the exposure and safety and compliance. It’s about breakdowns and visibility. And it can kind of come in two parts. I break it down a lot of times and you have a driver-focused maintenance issue where it might be pre-trips and lights, tires, etc. Or you might have a systemic maintenance issue where constantly having brakes out of adjustment. Things that drivers can’t check during pre-trip. It’s a lot to a maintenance program, but that’s one of the key components of any highway litigation case. They’re going to want to see maintenance records for that vehicle. Trash.

Brent – 00:33:35:

Yeah, it’s always easier. To be proactive about your maintenance than to be reactive about. Your maintenance, reactive, just as you said before, when you were first doing your business, if the wheels aren’t turning, as they say, you’re not earning. So it’s the idea of predictive maintenance just allows you, I know some people go, well, I fix it when it needs to be fixed. Yeah, but that’s when it costs you the most. Because you may be somewhere where it’s very difficult to get it fixed. You’re going to be timed down on the road. You may have a time sensitive piece of cargo that you have to deliver somewhere. There’s all kinds of things that may end up costing you money and time, which is money. So that’s interesting. So, all right. So those are five good ones. All right. So what are the couple of big things that you see from small companies that they’re out there, small operations that are out there? What are the couple of big things that they miss?

Rob – 00:34:23:

Well, I started as like, it was just me. I started with one truck when I started my business. And I think one of the big things I missed was the maintenance part. I mean, I missed a lot. And there was a lot of things I didn’t understand until I had my hands really tied to it. But the maintenance piece was a huge piece of it. I don’t think people understand the expense of it, the complexity of it, what it costs you in terms of lost customers or downtime, tows, you know, tow expense. And some of that even went to spec and vehicle. I love Volvo trucks. I started with a Peterbilt. I love Volvos. But one of the things with a Volvo is I would never buy a Volvo with a Volvo in it. A Volvo is with Cummins in it because anybody can work on a Cummins, but not everybody can work on a Volvo. So there’s a lot of different things that you think about. And I didn’t think about that. The first Volvo I had had a Volvo in it. So I learned real quick that I don’t want another Volvo motor. It’s just little things that you learn along the way, and you don’t really learn it until you’re the one that’s got to pay for it. So that hard-headed mentality, I guess. But a lot of truck drivers have it. I know I’ve had it.

Brent – 00:35:29:

Yeah, for sure. All right, so you’ve got one that’s on the maintenance end. What’s another big thing that gets missed?

Rob – 00:35:35:

Hours of service used to be a big thing, especially and not just in retention, but you had form of manner errors. But now it’s a whole different world out there. And now it’s personal conveyance where. I think there’s a big, big issue where drivers just think I can just move to PC. And I’ve seen some carriers with drivers that run 12 or 13 hours in personal conveyance. You have to think that’s a lot of violations and they’re double weighted with PCs. And it’s a huge thing that’s killing carriers now, 20 trucks and less. Those violations are eating them alive, not just in civil penalties, but unsatisfactory. Like our biggest business right now is getting safety ratings upgraded back to at least operational status. And a lot of its hours of service violations. So I probably think the next one would be driver fitness. People just not thinking about the full qualification aspect of a driver. The idea of. Just getting a driver in the seat to where we can make some revenue. That’s always been an issue. Even when I was in business, my wife kept telling me, Rob, why do you keep messing with that driver? He’s never on time. This guy we were talking about, he was always late. He was not reliable. But one day he left Port of Virginia with a MERS trailer. And because he was late, he had two boxes to get out, right? He drops Merce’s load on the side of the street outside the port and goes back in to get number two. He doesn’t have time to take it back to the yard. Well, guess what happened to Merce’s box? Of course, it gets stolen. So now I’ve got to buy a Merce’s box. I’ve got to buy a chassis that was rented. And then I’ve got to pay for the cargo. My insurance goes up. So a lot of it goes to just the headache that comes from hiring bad people and not qualifying them the way that you should. And I just always had in the back of my mind, it’s worth it to keep him because it keeps revenue going. But sometimes it’s not.

Brent – 00:37:25:

Right. Yeah, no doubt. That’s a great piece of advice. So. You’ve got your truck safe endeavor going on right now. Talk a little bit. So you talk a little bit more about truck safe and what’s going on with truck safe, and then we’ll wrap it up for this episode.

Rob – 00:37:39:

That’ll work. So I’ve always done the carpenter compliance thing. I do a lot of risk control for insurance companies and captives. And Brandon and I have kind of run into each other kind of since we run into the same circles, Brandon Wiseman, and I’m the only. I guess, non-lawyer partner there now. But Brandon and Jared are the founders of it. And they just said, hey, we really have the same mindset here. We really focus on compliance, exposure, and defensibility of carriers. Come on over with us. So I did. And we kind of jumped on board and we’ve been running with it ever since. Like I said, a lot of safety upgrades, helping carriers get things upgraded, a lot of educational stuff. Speaking at the Big Tech’s conference next month in Dallas. We’ve been to our tech’s risk control conference in Orlando, March. So we’ve got a lot going on. And we just started managed services where we help carriers, especially the small guys who don’t really understand compliance and don’t want to hire a safety guy or can’t afford a safety guy. Throw somebody a hundred bucks and they manage it for you. So it’s there.

Brent – 00:38:43:

It’s always good to have those types of new businesses out there that can serve a lot of them. With great service, man. Well, look, Rob, thank you so much for coming on today and talking about a mandatory topic. You need to be an expert of this, but a mandatory topic for the trucking industry, the freight transportation marketplace. Really appreciate you giving all of your expertise and your counsel and just being open and honest about your business.

Rob – 00:39:06:

Yep. I appreciate you having me.

Brent – 00:39:08:

Yeah, man. So great. I really appreciate you being on. Well, all right, Freight Nation, that’s another episode of the books. Hope this was a good one for you. One that you learned more how to protect your business so you can keep growing it. It means a lot that you give us your time, effort, energy to listen to Freight Nation today. And as we like to always say, don’t forget to work hard, be kind, and stay humble. Catch you next time, Freight Nation. On behalf of the Truck Stop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to truckstop.com forward slash podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. Until then, keep on trucking and exploring the open roads with Freight Nation, a trucking podcast.

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