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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 26 - July 02, 2019


project-documentation-article 4cf10By Brian J. Riker

We all have heard the saying, "If it isn't written down, then it didn't happen." That is an absolute truth, especially when dealing with regulatory agencies and law enforcement; it is important to consistently document everything.

In the preceding five years there have been 53 CalOSHA investigations resulting in sanctions with an average penalty of $1,225. The majority of these violations were simply missing pieces of paperwork.

As a compliance specialist, I can't stress enough the importance of documenting all your company policies and procedures. This transcends simple regulatory compliance and will affect your ability to collect invoices, defend claims and can even prevent some issues before they occur.

Having a written policy detailing your standard operating procedures (such as your basic response to a motor vehicle crash service request) can justify your invoice when the payee questions why you dispatched a wrecker, service truck and a spill response vehicle.

Documentation goes beyond this ... way beyond. A towman in Michigan recently was cited for two missing documents unrelated to the reason for the OSHA visit, resulting in several thousand dollars in fines. OSHA wanted separate documents proving his employees had been trained—not only in the required personal protective gear, but also in how to wear it. They also wanted documentation showing the employer had written up non-compliant employees.

The tower had his PPE requirements in his employee handbook but did not have a separate training document. Having very little turnover, there were very few times he had to discipline an employee, which led to the lack of documentation.

A common complaint from insurance companies is that towers do not have enough oversight of their team. Conducting regular periodic inspections and employee reviews will not only increase your oversight, it will help you prove compliance and take corrective action when necessary. You can't fix a problem you don't know exists!

These inspections do not have to be complicated. There are several companies that can help you with creating and maintaining these inspections, including some that make compliance a simple automated process with online forms and recordkeeping.

Telematics (GPS) provide incredible amounts of data at very reasonable cost. This data will help you proactively manage your fleet and drivers with easily visible cost benefits such as reduced response times, increased utilization of your assets and even fuel savings.

The hidden savings are even greater. Suppose I told you that by monitoring the driver scorecard metrics provided by most GPS devices, you could prevent your next crash? You can if you simply review the data and then use it to coach your drivers. I am not suggesting you micromanage their every move, but if you notice a pattern of speeding or hard braking events, that tells me your driver is being aggressive and could use some defensive driving coaching.

Cameras are another great way to capture documentation. Almost all of us have cellphones with good cameras built in, so why aren't we using them? Many digital dispatch programs tie images taken to the specific call, making archiving and recalling simple.

How about truck-mounted cameras such as dash cams? They seem intrusive to your employees, but in reality they will protect them if they are doing their job properly.

While it is common for accidents to be staged to collect from your insurance, a simple camera can defend you from these types of false claims. A four-camera system can show more, such as how a vehicle was handled from start to finish of a job. My only caution is to check with your state regarding recording audio and video as there may be restrictions—especially on audio.

Note to drivers: A driver-facing camera may seem intrusive; however, with what you are exposed to daily, it can protect you from false claims. False accusations are very common. There's no difference having a driver-facing camera in your cab compared to having a camera covering the dispatch office, storage yard or the clerk at the gas station. I have used dash camera footage to prove that drivers were reacting as expected to incidents. Without this proof the driver may have been found at fault for the crash.

Bottom line, we need to create a data trail to prove we did our jobs properly. It is not a matter of if--but rather when will a claim or accusations arise? Be prepared to defend yourself by having clear and consistent documentation.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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