Episode 20: Ignoring Safety Is Not A Risk Worth Taking with Sam Watts of Wattsmen Diesel House

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. Well, hello to the Freight Nation. I hope you’re doing great out there today, Freight Nation. We got another great podcast coming at you. So appreciate you joining us today on Freight Nation, a trucking podcast from We’re so thankful, as always, that you give us your time and your effort and your energy. And we know you get a lot of places you can put it. And we appreciate you listening and watching us today with another great episode of Freight Nation. One of the things that is paramount. To running a successful trucking business is the safety of your business. And we’re gonna talk today with one of the leading safety experts in the marketplace. And the reason why we’re doing this is that, we at Truckstop and the speaker today want you to enjoy your business as much as possible. And the way to do it is to make sure you protect your business. And you can do it through safety because it’s federally required for one thing. And number two, it’s just the best way to run your business. So you can enjoy doing what you love to do, which is to drive the truck. And so joining me today is Sam Watts. I appreciate you joining us today, Sam. Sam, he has his own business called Wattsmen Diesel House. And he’s also the safety supervisor for Meiborg Brothers Transportation. So, man, Sam, thank you so much for joining Freight Nation and bringing your expertise.

Sam – 00:01:43:

Right. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be right now. And that intro you gave me is a reading safety expert. I will send you the 20 bucks later that I promised when you said to say that.

Brent – 00:01:53:

Well, I tell you, as you and I talked about, and as I’ve learned over my 25 years in this market, we have the FMCSA for a reason. I appreciate the FMCSA. I know that may not be the most popular thing to say among some truckers because of regulations. And some regulations are not the best regulations in the world. And I get that. But, we have a government, and I learned this really mostly through the pandemic, that really is for what’s best for our industry and what’s best for the consumers and what’s best for our citizenry. And you have to respect that because the people that run the FMCSA are just individuals, citizens like the rest of us, trying to make the roads safe so trucks can run on the roads, so people can drive on the roads, and so freight can get delivered. And so I get it, but safety is a mandated part of our industry. And so if you got to do it, man, why not do it well? And so in order to do it well, you need to talk to experts like yourself in the market. So that’s why at Freight Nation, we want to make sure we’re bringing information that helps you run a successful business. And so that’s why we have Sam on today. He’s dedicated a lot of his life to this. It’s been a big endeavor of his to help trucking entities have the most safe, profitable, and by profit, I mean, as long as you can run, you can create a profit. But you got to be able to be able to run. So safety is important to it. And that’s what we mean by protecting your business. It takes every part of it. So, Sam, you’ve got a really cool past. All right. So, well, first off, just for the Freight Nation, if you’re watching this today, you probably see something that may be consistent among the two pictures that you’re seeing that. Just so you know, Sam and I are not related. Just because we’re bald-headed does not mean we’re related. Okay. He’s got a beard, I don’t. There’s the separation point right there. So we’re going to talk about a whole bunch of great things today. But before we do that, Sam, I always like for the Freight Nation community here to know the person that is talking today. That’s a guest today on the podcast. And so we trust people that, you know, that’s why I always ask the people that come on to tell their story because I trust them enough to have them on. All right. And so I want you to build some trust with them to be able to hear the information they want to bring that helps you with your business. All right. So, Sam, tell me a little bit about this. So there’s a very interesting thing, by the way, Freight Nation about Sam’s background. All right. So his education is very unique. He did not study trucking and trucking interpair or how to deal with the FMC or how to deal with the government. He studied communications and Bible studies. At the University of Northwestern St. Paul. So I think that’s fascinating, Sam, because so many people come from different backgrounds and how they end up in trucking. They have to come from these really crazy backgrounds. So tell a little bit about your background and how you ended up in communication and Bible studies and then how you got to the transportation industry.

Sam – 00:04:32:

Yeah, so you’re exactly right. I grew up in the trucking industry. So when they talk about the good old days, I was in those. And the reason I grew up in it is because my father was in it. It started off as a driver. And then when I was born, my mom said, hey, you should probably get off the road now and help me raise these kids. And he obliged. And so he got into dispatch role, the customer service, and just kind of started working his way up from there. So I remember being in trucking companies, man, when I was five, six years old, you know, we’d go in and visit dad at the company. And that was back in the days when everybody could smoke at their desk, you know, just use ashtray, just piled high. And, and, you know, I still like to call it the good old days, but I’m sure we’re a lot healthier now, maybe. So I grew up in the industry and I started doing odd jobs in trucking companies. We moved around a lot. And when I got to be of a certain age, my dad said, hey, you can work now you’re an able-bodied young boy. So I started off like mowing lawns, just doing the basic grunt work that needed to be done. I unloaded trailers, I loaded trailers, all that kind of stuff. And when I got to be a senior in high school, I said, I think I’m going to take a shot at getting away from this. And so, yeah, I went to college. I still love movies. I love broadcasting and communication. So I went and did that. And the thing with the college I went to at the time, which was Northwestern College, it’s now they’ve changed, now they’re a university. But the thing is you automatically double major. So I majored in communications and then you automatically had a biblical major as well with that, whether you like it or not. Now, again, I didn’t mind it. I’ve been raised in the church my whole life as well as still participate in the church, lead music, all that stuff. So I was like, yeah, let’s do it. So I thought this was going to be my shot at getting away from the industry. And what I realized in the communications department is that basically every entry-level job in broadcasting communications was being overtaken by robots. And so our professor literally said, you’re going to have a tough time doing this if you want to keep going. Well, I said, well, that was fun. Let’s go back to something I know. And so I jumped back into trucking and I had another brief moment where I worked in a wood shop for just a couple of years. But even then I was still in trucking because we were shipping stuff out of there and drivers would come in and they say, I need a BL. And nobody knew what a BL was except me. So I got to be kind of the automatic shipping director as well. And then when that was done, I was back in trucking full-time and haven’t looked back since.

Brent – 00:06:58:

All right, Sam. So you worked in a woodshop. First off, you worked with your dad in the day, right? Back in the 70s. I just watched a movie about the Uruguay rugby team that crashed in the Andes and, you know, all that way back in the 70s. They were smoking on the plane. You know, I thought that was funny because, I mean, you know, today you’d be kicked off the plane for that. But so you were back in the day. So my big question before we jump in any more details is you worked in a woodshop. My question is, do you still have all your fingers?

Sam – 00:07:22:

I do. I got 10 and 10. Yeah, there was a couple of days I didn’t.

Brent – 00:07:26:

I think wood jobs are missing some part of some finger, so.

Sam – 00:07:30:

Yeah, they got nicked up pretty good. And I learned what a kickback was on a table saw. And if you know what that is, you know how terrifying that is. So I did everything, but no, I still have all my digits.

Brent – 00:07:40:

Fantastic. So you got back into what you knew. And did you find out that you actually really missed it and like love being in that market? Or how did you morph your way into it?

Sam – 00:07:49:

Yeah, it’s kind of one of those industries. I always like to joke around that the best things in my life have come from trucking. And also the worst things in my life have come from trucking. So it’s one of the most unique industries out there. And granted, I haven’t explored the other ones, but I love trucking. And when I got back into it and really kind of bought into it, so to speak, I haven’t looked back. It’s changing. It evolves. But at the end of the day, we’re just picking stuff up and moving it to the next place. And we’re literally the industry makes America moves. And so I love being a part of it like that.

Brent – 00:08:20:

Yeah, no doubt. All right. So before we jump into some of that, one more question about your past. What did you really enjoy about working with you there?

Sam – 00:08:26:

That’s a great question. I mean, I don’t know if we have enough time, really, but me and my father think very much alike. And so it was nice to just have a person that you could kind of go to and bounce some ideas off of. And he would say, yep, I see where you’re going with that, but maybe we’ll tweak it this way. And then you kind of work together on that. And, you know, do we have our disagreements? Yes. Yes, we did. Did we have times where I’m like, I’m done with this? Yeah, we did. Now, we didn’t go full like Orange County chopper on each other, you know, throwing chairs and yelling at each other like that. But it was just nice to have that familiarity. And he had this much more experience than I did. So I would come in with a hot idea. He said, that’s great. I tried that 15 years ago. This is how it turned out. So maybe we should do it this way because he had that experience that I just I didn’t have. And now looking back on it, even the times I didn’t really want his advice, but he gave it to me anyways. Now I can look back and say, okay, that’s why he did it. You know, 15 years later, I’m now using that advice that I kind of wrote off at the time about now, I use it every day.

Brent – 00:09:28:

Yeah. Wow. What a great history to that. I got to work with my dad for quite a while too. And yep, had the same things you did, but that’s part of it. And I miss him every day. He’s no longer on this planet and I miss him every day, but very, very thankful for that. So you got back into trucking and that was around 2017?

Sam – 00:09:44:

Yeah. 2016, 2017, somewhere in there. Yep.

Brent – 00:09:47:

Okay. And where did you enter back in and then how did that get you along the path of getting towards this? I’m going to focus on safety.

Sam – 00:09:54:

Yeah. So it turns out that one of the guys that I worked at the woodshop with, he was a banker as well. And so he still kind of had some connections in the banking world. And he came to actually me and my father, because he knew we had trucking pass and said, there’s a trucking company we’d like you to go take a look at. They’re having some issues with some stuff. And we just kind of want you to explore why they’re having some issues. And so we went out basically as independent consultants to this company and figured out what was going on. And long story short, really long story short, my father ended up buying that trucking company because the owner wasn’t really interested in running it anymore. And he had some decent lanes and some decent equipment. And so he ended up buying that from him. And we ran with that then.

Brent – 00:10:40:

Okay. Well, that’s cool. So what was your direct role in that?

Sam – 00:10:43:

So he bought it. And then there was kind of two divisions. They had a over the road division, then they had a logistics division. And so my dad kind of concentrated on the OTR. I looked at logistics, kind of got some stuff cleaned up in that, and then after that, I kind of helped out the OTR stuff. Because again, I come from an operations background. So I’m all about moving the trucks, getting them going, making the money, all that kind of stuff. Well, when we were doing that, we got an audit. And that’s when all of a sudden I said, we have no safety parameters, procedures, or anything like that. And so it was kind of a trial by fire when I started getting into safety because it was an absolute necessity. We were being audited and we had nothing. So we quickly came up with what we needed. And through that trial by fire, I figured out, okay, this is important. This is important. We don’t need this. And that’s kind of how I got on my road to safety was basically through that.

Brent – 00:11:38:

So that was the day when the audit came down. Tell me what went through your head when you said, oh my gosh, I’m not prepared for this. What do I do?

Sam – 00:11:47:

I can’t say that on this podcast. It was some long lines of son of a gun. We got to figure this out here because, again, I come from an operations. My father was operations and he worked at very large trucking companies his whole life. I think the smallest one he was at was like 300 trucks. So I was kind of along for the ride with that. And now all of a sudden he owned a company that I think we’re at the time like 18 trucks. So it was a very small company. So he was used to just saying, well, okay, we have an accountant department. We have an IT department. We have all these different departments that will handle that down to now. It’s like, hey, it’s me and you and one other guy that are running this entire company. And so we did have safety. I mean, we knew the basic rules. Here’s what I always like to say. We knew enough to kind of get around safety issues, but we didn’t really know why the safety rules were there. And we weren’t really following them per se, but we just knew enough to not get caught too bad. But then, like I said, when the audit came, we kind of said, we’re going to need to figure this thing out here. And I kind of stepped up and said, well, let me give it a try. And then once I got into the safety world and really kind of figured out how it worked and all that, I really found it fascinating, which is not like me. There’s a lot of legal language involved with it. And there’s a lot of rule following. And I grew up very much. I wouldn’t say I was a rule breaker, but rules were just there to be broken. You know, the legal language, that’s just not really in my vocabulary. But once I really got into it, I was like, this is really interesting. So, I understand how it works now. And I understand how you can incorporate these rules into a trucking company. And like you were saying earlier, how you can make the trucking company better by following these rules, because if you don’t, then you have the possibility of your truck breaking down or you get shut down by DOT. And now you’re not making money. Your truck is sitting still when you could be making money, making a profit. You’re sitting still now. But if you would follow the rules, if you know what the rules are, then you can follow them and you can keep going on your day and be a very profitable company in the end.

Brent – 00:13:49:

Yeah, no doubt. I can only imagine all the things that you had to get really good at really quickly in order to protect your business. Because, yes, our government authorities can be generous, but they still have to follow the law just like everybody else. And so that’s super interesting. So you started really diving in. And started to understand this. All right, so let’s shift gears. I see how you got to where you are and you found it compelling, which is kind of really cool. Like I feel like I can make a difference. That’s the key, right? When you feel like in business, it can make a difference. I want to dive into some of the operational parts in this. So Freight Nation, if you take away sort of a pro tip, pro tip on this is be prepared. Because I’m listening to what Sam’s talking about here is that they were prepared for just about everything else in their business. They just hadn’t prepared properly for the safety aspect of the business and every piece matters, all right? So be prepared. That’s super important on things like this is that be prepared with the information that you have to have to run your business. So when it comes to safety, it is so important to understand the definitions and understand the why behind the what. We all hear about the what. They beat you over the head with it, right? But the why is important. So let’s talk a little bit about, as you approach consulting with somebody or talking with somebody about safety, what are the first things that you talk about? What is the foundational things that you want to have set up before you start really building out your safety program? And I want you to talk about it from a standpoint from a really small business, right? Somebody who might limit resources. You know, not 300 trucks, okay? We have very few 300 trucks that are using freight matching on a load board. There are some, absolutely. But for the most part, it’s that one to five category.

Sam – 00:15:36:

Well, where I would start is tell me the good, bad, and the ugly. That’s kind of the first thing. I don’t care where you’re at. In fact, I just talked with a guy on Friday, and I’m kind of helping him out. He’s a good friend of mine, and he just bought a company. And he called me up and said, hey, this company has nothing. They have a couple trucks, not much. Their main deal isn’t even necessarily a trucking company, but they have enough that they need a DOT number. And he said, we have nothing. I said, okay, what do you have? What do you need? What do you need help with? And like I said, I want you to be as very honest with me as possible. I don’t care if you don’t have anything. But that’s something that someone needs to know. If you’re going to start building a foundation in safety, you need to know exactly where the bottom is. Because you get going along a little bit, and all of a sudden, oh, we don’t have this piece. Or even as simple as, do you have driver qualification files? That’s always kind of the easy, basic thing to do. Because that’s going to be one of the first things DOT is going to want to see is, hey, you have guys out on the road. And these big rig trucks. Should they be on the road? Do they have valid CDLs? Do they have valid med cards? Have they done a road test if they needed one? Those are just the basics. Do they have an application? A lot of people don’t know that, but you need to have an application in the driver file. And a lot of people just don’t. And I don’t think it’s necessarily trying to skirt the system or trying to get around it. But I think a lot of times it’s just, they didn’t know. You know, when we were running our business a couple of years ago, I knew we needed a driver qualification file. So anything I had on a driver, I’d just throw it into a vanilla folder and put it away. But we were missing stuff. And we had stuff in there that we did need. And it wasn’t that we were trying to get around anything. It’s just, we didn’t know. And I think a lot of times, especially those small companies, they’re started by owner operators who have driven trucks for 20 years. Now they’re tired of driving. They’re getting it out. They bought two, three trucks. They’re going to make some money doing it. They don’t know what they don’t know. You know, so they’re trying to do what they do know. That’s operations. They know how to get the loads picked up, get it to the destination, bill it and collect the money. They know that. But safety is one of those where if you’ve never really been a part of a safety department or never really dove into it very much, again, you just don’t know what you’re missing. So that’s always the first thing that you should really figure out is, okay, what do you have? Do you have this? Do you have this? Do you have this? And don’t be afraid to say no, because that’s what safety people want to hear. It’s like, well, not necessarily what we want to hear, but we want the truth. You know, it’s kind of like going to a doctor, like what’s your pain level? One to 10, you’re like a two. Then he touches you and you’re at a nine. It’s like, just tell me you’re at a nine, okay? That way we can really diagnose what the problem is. So that’s kind of always the first thing is, where are we at? Like, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, get down to the basics. Do you have driver qualification files? Do your trucks have binders? I mean, it’s even as simple as, do your trucks have current registration? You have to redo that every year. Have you done it? Do you have IFTA stickers on there? Have you registered with IFTA? Do you have a UCR? You know, the Unified Carrier Registration. These are just things that a lot of guys just don’t know because they’ve had other people do it or whatever. So those are some of the basics of just getting that stuff down. And then from there, you know, I always like to say that safety department, there’s a lot of work in the safety department and you can get it to a level where it’s a lot more maintenance. You know, you’re not necessarily finding stuff. You’re not having to do a lot of stuff. You just have to maintain it. Make sure that you’re staying on top of expiration dates. And, you know, the beautiful thing with technology now is that we have all the software that will help you out with it. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t even know off the top of my head that I just have plugged in. And when the month is coming, they’ll say, hey, this one’s expired. Beautiful. You know, it used to be you have to go and make notes on everything. But now we have software to do it for. So in one day, I do like technology for that. But yeah, just get down to the basics, building up the safety department. And, you know, it’s not terribly difficult. It’s just getting everything in its right place. And then once you get to a certain level, then it becomes more maintenance. So just make sure. You’re staying on top of things. You’re not having to scramble. That’s what we did when we had the audit come in. We go, son of a gun. What do we have? You just give them everything. And this is pre-COVID, too, when they would bring guys out. It was a lot slower process. But now, since COVID, their audits are a lot quicker. And you have to give them the information a lot quicker. And it’s all aligned now. You know, with COVID, they never went out anywhere. So they would do it all aligned. And they just basically say, hey, send me this stuff. And you have 48 hours or whatever it was. And you had to get it to them. So it’s a lot quicker. And because of that, there’s been more audits that have happened, you know, in the last couple of years. Just because they can do more now. So get down to the basics. Get those covered. Build it up from there. And like I said, that’s driver qualification files. Make sure you’re registered with everything. A lot of states have their own permits that you need. Are you running through those states? Do you have them? You know, just things like that.

Brent – 00:20:28:

Yeah. Okay. So what I hear you say is, first off, and this is definitely a pro tip. Know where you are. Be open and honest about where you are. It does nobody any good for you to not disclose. Where you are in the foundation of setting this up. And by the way, Freight Nation, you know this better than I do. Ignorance is no excuse. You get no pass with an instituted law just because you don’t know that you have to do it. You may run into a real generous state trooper or something one time somewhere or an investigator somewhere. But for the most part, the law has to be followed. Ignorance is no excuse. I love something you said, Sam. You said use tech to your advantage. In other words, let it do what it’s designed to do, which is all the minutia, all the stuff that has to be done over and over again. It has to be stored somewhere. Let it do what it’s designed to do. And then just basically make sure you stay on top of your details. Fantastic, man. So that’s the foundational part. So then what are some of the areas in which you really need to have a really good understanding in? You’ve talked a little bit about the acronym BASICS. And the industry, your acronym for the trucking industry, I think the acronym means behavioral, analysis, safety, improvement categories. Is that right?

Sam – 00:21:43:

Sounds good to me.

Brent – 00:21:44:

Yeah. I think that’s defined by the FMC.

Sam – 00:21:47:

I have technology to tell me this stuff. I don’t have to know that off the top of my head.

Brent – 00:21:52:

All right. So there’s a lot of categories in that. So you talked about the need to understand those. Talk a little bit about why that’s important.

Sam – 00:21:58:

I mean, it’s important just because like everything else we said, if you don’t understand what you don’t know, then you’re in trouble with the law. You know, I like what you said there. Ignorance is not an excuse. That is 100%. I’ve heard that from DOT officers say, I didn’t know that. That’s not an excuse. Okay, I know that the Green Book is that thick, you know, full of regulations, but you still need to know what’s in there that pertains to you. So, I mean, the basics, it’s everything that a safety department is built off of. You know, you have like driver fitness. Again, does a driver have a CDL? You would be shocked that how many drivers are out there on the road right now that don’t have a valid CDL. I mean, it’s almost a little concerning. Now, usually the big companies, they don’t get away with that. But it’s sometimes the smaller ones that I’ve seen. And it’s not to say that they don’t have a CDL per se, but it’s expired. That’s a big thing. Like you have to go get that thing renewed. And even like med cards, a lot of guys always tend to forget to do their med cards every year. So it’s just. Those things are building up. And then, you know, you have your hours of service, your ELDs. Do the drivers know how to use those properly? Now, we just had an orientation class here at my board yesterday that I was a part of. And one of the things I always like to tell the guys with the ELDs, everyone likes to complain that we’re on electronic logs now. And, you know, back in our day, we ran paper. And I know I’ve heard the stats that, you know, paper logs versus ELDs. There might not be that much safety improvement. The fact that honestly might be the other way, but we’re not going to get into that right now. But I always tell the guys with these ELDs, use these things as a tool. Okay, this thing is a tool for you. We allow our drivers to use personal conveyance. We allow our drivers to use yard moves. We have adverse weather conditions. Those things are whole tools that could be used to use that all to your advantage. Like I said before, use technology to your advantage instead of complaining about it. Use it to your advantage. And that’s one thing where I try to really hammer home to our drivers is understanding how hours of service work. You know, are you going to do an 8-2 split or 7-3 split? Okay, how do you do that? How many hours do you get back with that? These are things that drivers need to know so that they can fully utilize their clock. Because I guarantee you, the guys that know how to use the PC, the yard moves, and the splits are the ones that make the most money on any fleet they’re a part of because they’re using their hours to their advantage.

Brent – 00:24:11:

Right. Yeah, that’s solid advice, man. Super solid advice. So on the basics end, you’ve got seven categories. You’ve got unsafe driving, hours of service compliance, driver fitness, controlled substances, vehicle maintenance, hazmat compliance, and crash indicator. So those are things you need to know. That’s seven categories. They’re not two categories, seven categories. So you need to know what those are because you can be tested on any of them.

Sam – 00:24:35:

Any of them. Every single one of them has like over a hundred violations that you can get hit on with that. So, I mean, and that’s why pre-trips are so important. You know, catch that vehicle maintenance stuff right off the bat, driver fitness, making sure that you’re watching your expiration dates. Like I said, hours of service, using those things to your advantage. I mean, it’s important when we do orientation here, we go through every basic category and I tell them this is what’s in there. You know, even unsafe driving, don’t speed. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I understand that sometimes it’s going to go fast. I get that. But I always tell the guys that is the easiest way for you to get picked up, and then all of a sudden you got an inspection coming in because you spent, you know, you were going too fast when you really didn’t need to. Everything’s got cruise control. We even have adaptive cruise control now in these trucks. It will slow you down. And so just set the cruise, don’t speed because, that’s just an invitation to let DOT in to do more inspections. And then usually if you’re a habitual speeder, that probably means that you’re not running your E-logs as tight as you should be. So there’s probably some violation in there that you’re going to get hit up on. And it just opens you up to such a, yes, if you do that. So.

Brent – 00:25:40:

For sure. If you give the authorities the opportunity to look into your business, they’re forced to look into your business. So don’t give them a motivating reason. All right. So I want to talk a lot more about carriers, but I want to ask a quick question about the broker marketplace. So brokers, they have to hire carriers. So what is your advice to a broker about a carrier safety ratings or safety behavior in the marketplace? What’s your advice to a broker about hiring a carrier and the importance of their, diligence to safety?

Sam – 00:26:09:

Sure. I’m not as well-versed. I know there’s been a ton more technology introduced in the brokerage world since I was in it a couple of years ago. But again, I would say use the tools available and check those safety ratings. Okay. Don’t skim over because I have seen times where brokers have hired carriers to pull loads and they say, well, you know, this guy’s kind of on the fence, but you know, he’ll take the load and we’ll do it. And then if that carrier were to get into trouble, as far as like crashing, rear-ending, all that stuff, you are potentially on board or liable for all that as well. I mean, I don’t say it to scare people. I say that because I have seen it firsthand where a brokerage, because they ignored the safety signs, because they said that everything pointed that this carrier was an unsafe carrier and the broker said, well, we’ll do it for 200 bucks less or two or whatever. So we’re going to take them. And then all of a sudden they get into a crash. I’ve seen rollovers happen on broker loads. And all of a sudden the carrier is being served paperwork, you know, from the judge saying, you’re liable because he went to bed on this road if you hadn’t given him the load. And that’s a real honest to goodness scenario that I have seen. So if you are researching things as a broker, you’re researching carriers. Don’t ignore the red flags that the carrier might be presenting to you. They’re usually there for a reason.

Brent – 00:27:28:

Yeah. So the broker has a thing called vicarious liability. And so they’re doing their best to make sure that they’re hiring the best. But if there’s information, if you’re a broker out there, and let’s say you’re new to the industry, if there’s information on that carrier and you don’t get it, but it could have been gotten, then the court can actually drag that in to a court case if needed. So just so you know, just because you don’t get it doesn’t mean you’re not liable for it from the standpoint that it could have been gotten because that’s all doing your due diligence and protecting the markets. That’s super important.

Sam – 00:28:01:

It goes back to that ignorance thing. Ignorance is not an excuse. It’s not an excuse in the carrier world, in the broker world, anything. If there’s information available to you and you openly ignore it. You’re just playing with fire at that point.

Brent – 00:28:14:

Yeah, for sure. For sure you are. That’s wonderful advice on the broker end, obviously. All right, so let’s swap back to carriers again. So what’s the advice you have to give to some carriers from time to time?

Sam – 00:28:26:

The advice that I would typically give is, I know safety isn’t necessarily the coolest thing. Safety is not going to make you any money, but safety will cost you a ton if you ignore it. And that’s usually what gets a lot of people’s attention is that I’m not gonna book loads and make revenue for you. But if you don’t follow safety, if you’re putting guys out on the road that shouldn’t be on the road, if you have vehicles out there with defects on them that’s illegal by DOT, it’s going to cost you money. Have you looked at a tow bill lately? I mean, just simple tow bills are over $1,000. That’s your profit on the load for the next seven loads potentially. So that’s why I would say, I know safety isn’t necessarily the most fun thing to follow, but it is, I’m not gonna say the most important because, every department in a company is important, but safety is just as important as operations because if you ignore it, it will come back to bite you. It’s not if, it will come back to bite you in the form of, like I said, a truck breaking down, drivers getting caught doing something or even if you get audited. So back to our original story of me learning safety because we got audited, the result of that audit threw us down from satisfactory to a conditional rating. Now, you can work your way out of a conditional rating, but it is difficult. If we were any worse than we were, we would have gotten the unsatisfactory rating, goodbye company. So if you ignore safety to that point, I guess I’m not a fear monger. I don’t say any of this to scare anybody. It’s just, this is a reality. If you ignore safety, you could lose your company. Or even a lot of things that guys don’t understand too is if you don’t know safety people or if you’re not following safety procedures, your insurance could skyrocket. And we all know that insurance is super cheap right now in the trucking company. But if you ignore safety, all the insurance companies look at your safety scores. And when I say insurance companies look at safety scores, it’s not like they glance and go, oh, okay, you’re doing well. They dive really deep into your safety scores. I have insurance guys tell me stuff that I don’t know sometimes. Like, hey, do you know about, it’s like, how in the world did you find that? They’ve got their systems and that’s what they’re there to do. And underwriters for insurance, and I don’t mean any disrespect by this, but they must sit in just a blank room and just do nothing but type no all day because they are looking for any excuse to not insure anybody. So if you give them that inch, they’re going to take that mile and you’re going to have issues with it. So there’s so many factors that could go wrong if you ignore your safety. Like I said, towing and all the truck maintenance, that’s the cheap end, honestly. The high insurance rates or even losing your company, that’s what’s really going to cost you.

Brent – 00:31:05:

Yeah, for sure, for sure. So that’s a big aspect. So all super good stuff. It’s about protecting your business. You got to protect all angles of your business where you’re exposed, where you’re exposed. And so one of the exposure things that’s going on right now is there’s a lot of fraud in the marketplace. So when I think about safety, I realize there’s the FMCSA parts of safety, but there’s also things that go back to other parts of safety in your business. Even when you’re counseling with companies, do you ever talk about things like cyber safety and stuff like that? Did you guys talk about you have private information on drivers and, you could, if you had multiple drivers, you’re instead. So do you ever talk about the idea from a fraudulent standpoint on the cyber side? Because fraud’s become a real issue, I’m sure, are well aware of. It’s becoming pretty bad out there. And the nice thing, I’m with my board right now. We have an IT team that does a fantastic job. I mean, I sometimes just like to sit and talk to the head of the guy because he used to do like forensic IT stuff. And I’m like, IT just blows your mind as to what people can do. And I don’t get too deep into cyber, that stuff, because I don’t know it very well. But we have people that know it extremely well. And they say, you got to do this. I’m like, I don’t want to learn a new password. He’s like, you have to do it because it’s like this. Okay, I get it. But it’s getting to the point now where it used to be like if you were getting the double broker. I know that’s the hot topic now is double brokering. It used to be that it would be a trucking company at Okay, well, that’s pretty easy. But now the guys are starting to hack into emails. And they’re actually starting to really get very advanced in their hacking skills and all that stuff. So our guys here at my board, they shut down some of that stuff because they have seen threats come in and actually try to hack into our system. And luckily, they built pretty much Fort Knox around here. So they haven’t been able to get in, but they can see it. And it’s becoming quite the problem. And I work very closely with our logistics department here. And they get hit up pretty often with they catch guys trying to do stuff. It’s becoming more rampant and they’re getting better at it. And that’s the scary part. Yeah, for sure. They are definitely getting better at it. I like the idea of safety being something that protects you from a standpoint of regulations, but also protects you from a standpoint of some of the bad actors in the marketplace. So let me ask you a question. Do you have any information on how safety relates to, say, the overall mechanical operation of the truck? And so like we were talking about pre-trip inspections and things like that. How does it help from the standpoint of just the overall operation of the truck?

Sam – 00:33:29:

Well, you got to be able to drive a truck down the road that’s going to get you down the road. And so pre-trip inspections are an absolute must. I mean, you have to go take a look at that because, like I said, A, you got to have a truck that’ll get you down the road. And a simple pre-trip can weed out some obvious issues pretty quickly. But then B, you know, you go into these scale houses now and they’ve got their different levels of inspections. And some of the levels they’ll have DOT guys getting under the trucks, you know, inspecting brakes, all that kind of stuff. I mean, it’s a pretty thorough inspection. And if you fail that stuff, you get put on a service for 10 or even 34 hours. So, again, it’s all about being safe with the equipment and keeping safety in front of mind. Well, how keep the wheels moving? I know a lot of people like to think that safety is the buzzkill. But in reality, if you do it and you do it right, you’ll continue to keep moving. And even with the drivers, like I’ve harped this enough with them that I’ll get drivers that will call me up saying, Hey, I’m sending you a level one inspection that I passed. And they’re like, You know, they’re excited that they pass it. For a driver, it’s almost like they beat the system. Like, well, you did. You just are taking care of your equipment, which we appreciate, which you should be doing. And they get to keep rolling that. You know, these other guys that get put on a service. Now you got a fine on top of that. And all I can. It just sucks the time right out of your entire week. It really does. It ruins your entire week because you have everything’s allotted. And now all of a sudden you got shit for 10 hours. There’s a whole day just gone. It just screws everything out. And depending on who you’re pulling for. Now, you might have to get reworked into the shipper or receiver. Now you might be sitting another day waiting for that. Oh, I’ve seen guys ruin an entire week just by getting put out of service. And it’s just, it’s no fun. We’re not making money. You’re not making money. No one’s having fun at this.

Brent – 00:35:15:

That’s no good if nobody’s having fun.

Sam – 00:35:17:


Brent – 00:35:17:

No doubt. So I want to transition to a couple of quick things. We got a couple of minutes left here. And one of the things that I’ve heard it said is that it is important for a carrier and even a broker when it comes to safety in a truck. To remember the phrase that whatever’s happening within your safety part of your business, you need to think about how would this hold up in a court of law. So I thought that was really a salient point. So what is your point of view on that sort of operational phrase in someone’s head?

Sam – 00:35:49:

Yeah, it’s incredibly accurate. In fact, I even spent a couple of days out in California a couple of months ago, and there was a bunch of safety guys out there and some insurance people. And we were learning basically how depositions work and what they want to get out of you and what you shouldn’t do and what you should do and all that kind of stuff. And basically what it boils down to is that every decision that you make as a company, as a safety person, every opinion that you give out to the driver, that can all come back into court of law. I hope it doesn’t happen. It’s not necessarily the most common thing per se, but every opinion you have, or if you say, well, I know you went over your hours, but you got to get to the receiver. You only got a half hour, just PC it and get on in there. You potentially have to answer to that. Can you get away with it a lot of times? Maybe. But that one time you don’t, it only takes one time. And then you’re in big trouble and you’re going to have lawyers talking about you and asking you questions that you’re not going to want to answer because you know you screwed it up. So yeah, everything. I do in the safety department, a lot of other safety people do this as well. We always have that in the back of our mind. Now we’re not lawyers, although I do know a couple of guys who are safety and lawyers. They’ve got both going for them. I’m not a lawyer, but I do always have that in the back of my head going, okay, if I say this, or I suggest this, is that not only safe, but is it legal? Can I defend it? Should I ever need to? And that does weigh on a lot of decisions that we make it a lot of opinions that we do give as well.

Brent – 00:37:17:

Yeah. Fantastic advice. So this is a closing sort of question. You mentioned this just a second ago. When you get into court, give a real quick on what are some of the things you do say and what are some of the things that you don’t say? Because I’ve heard some mixed advice and I know you’re not an attorney and I’m not an attorney either. This isn’t advice. This is just some friendly information. Anytime you’re getting into a legal framework, every word you say is going to be measured. What’s your advice on that?

Sam – 00:37:46:

Don’t say too much. Don’t do it. That’s what I’m doing right now on this podcast.

Brent – 00:37:50:


Sam – 00:37:51:

Just keep your mouth shut for as much as you can. Because the person that was leading the thing, he said, and this goes with depositions, which is what a lot of it will end up being is depositions. He said, you’re never going to win a deposition or you’re never going to win a case in a deposition, but you will lose a case in a deposition. So he said, don’t ever offer more advice or more facts than what they’re asking for. Yes and no are very acceptable answers. And I do not recall or some form of that is also a very acceptable answer as well. So just don’t say more than you need to. That’s the biggest thing.

Brent – 00:38:26:

Right. That’s fantastic advice, Sam. Well, what a great class on safety, you know, and I appreciate your candor. Freight Nation, I hope you appreciate Sam’s candor in this, hearing from somebody who has some expertise in safety. Is that a better way to put it?

Sam – 00:38:42:

There you go. I read the book on safety. Let’s put it that way.

Brent – 00:38:45:

Yeah. You know, your job is to help run safety for a fleet. And then you also have a real desire to want to help create education in the marketplace for it. And so just appreciate it. I love it. So what we learned is be prepared, fully disclose, know where you are, use tech to your advantage. In other words, the things that you have to do repeating all the time, stay on top of your details. Remember the question, how would this hold up in a court of law? Whatever your behavior is. If you’re a broker, it’s very important to pay attention to the safety record of the carriers you hire, because obviously you have liability against it. That being safe can help reduce fraud in the market. You have more time to focus on things. And then if you do have to answer any questions from any part of the legal part of the industry is don’t say too much. I think that’s what she said.

Sam – 00:39:29:

Don’t offer up too much.

Brent – 00:39:31:

Don’t offer up too much. Well, fantastic, Sam. I appreciate your time. I appreciate your generosity to come and be on Freight Nation and give the Freight Nation watchers and listeners a really good piece of education on what safety looks like.

Sam – 00:39:43:

Thank you for having me. It’s been a blast.

Brent – 00:39:45:

Well, man, so really appreciate you, Freight Nation. This is another wrap for another great episode, another good podcast. Hope it was a benefit to you. It’s always our goal to be a benefit to you and your business and to your families and to your life that you want to run. So you can always look to us to be your partner in that. Thanks a lot. And I appreciate you guys listening. Don’t forget, we always say on Freight Nation, don’t forget to work hard, to be kind and stay humble. Thanks a lot, Freight Nation. We’ll catch you the next time. On behalf of the Truckstop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to 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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