CHAPTER 31

EMPLOYER & PUBLIC RELATIONS

 

Introduction

 

A professional is someone who "demonstrates a polite, diligent, and usually businesslike approach in the workplace." The roads of the country and the locations you visit while making deliveries are your employment as a professional driver. Successful driver always conducts themselves professionally. To be a genuine professional and get a career in the trucking business, you must master the skills, tactics, and legal requirements covered in this chapter.

 

Trucking Industry Image

 

As with any organization or sector, it only takes a few bad actors to ruin the reputation of the whole thing. Particularly in the case of the trucking sector. Inconsiderate and aggressive drivers, especially those who speed, tailgate, and honk at other vehicles, are to blame for giving other drivers a negative opinion of professional drivers and the trucking sector.

 

An industry's negative reputation has a lot of repercussions. Outrage from the public and the media may have a significant impact, often leading to new or altered rules and regulations that can be expensive for the trucking sector. Why does this matter to you? Increased usage taxes, road limitations, and other legislation that is hostile to the sector may result in lower profits, which may result in less employment.

 

Remember, it is often said that when something bad happens to someone, that individual tells ten others of his/her experience.

 

Contact With the Public

 

Obey the law — All people are supposed to be protected by laws and rules. Respect all rules and regulations to maintain your professional image.

Make a good appearance — Frequently, the first impression is the most enduring. When it comes to first impressions, the look of the vehicle and the individual are crucial elements.

 

Your car should be spotless and well-kept. A soiled automobile, a tarp that isn't secured, or chains that are dragged all convey the idea that you don't value your employees. Utilize your pre-trip checks and additional inspections performed during the day to make sure your car is in excellent condition.

 

Consider your car as a mobile billboard for your company and the trucking industry. Anyone who interacts with your car will leave with an opinion about the sector and your business.

 

Your appearance is important, and neatness matters. As a spokesperson for your business, you. Your attire should be tidy, spotless, and business casual. Your hair should look nice, and any mustaches or beards you have should be kept in check.

 

Share the road — Good driving habits are top priority. This includes:

 

  • Following posted speed limits;

  • Maintaining a safe distance between vehicles;

  • Making sure there is a clear path when changing lanes;

  • Making sure there is adequate space to safely pass;

  • Giving early warning when planning to turn;

  • Not using the vehicle’s size to intimidate other drivers;

  • Being courteous when using high-beam headlights — don’t blind other drivers;

  • Being aware of other drivers, vehicles, and the flow of traffic when stopping your vehicle.

  • Always remember to drive cautiously, legally, and respectfully. Be professional and maintain your composure. As permitted by business rules and when necessary, assist others. Think about how you would want to be treated while driving. Unsafe situations may arise from negative responses.

 

Customer Relations

 

The majority of contact between a business and a customer is made via phone, fax, or computer. Often, you, the professional driver, are the only representative of a company the customer deals with face-to-face.

Be on time. Usually, the customer schedules his or her day of work around your arrival. You or your dispatcher should call the customer to let them know you expect to be late if you know you will. This may save a tonne of time and headaches for both you and your customer.

 

When interacting with customer service staff, be kind and welcoming. Never vent your aggravation on the consumer or engage in conflict with them.

 

Be honest with the customer. If you can’t answer his/her question, assure the customer that you will check with your company and report back with the answer. Once you have the answer to the customer’s question, promptly share the answer with him/her.

 

A customer’s impression of you can lose or gain business for your company. Make every effort to be courteous at all times.

 

Follow company rules in handling cargo and documentation. Also, know your company’s procedure for dealing with freight problems. A prompt solution is good customer service.

 

Be aware of what types of services your company offers. Customers may ask if your company can handle a certain type of shipment, deliver to a specific area, or carry a specific product.

 

Respect your customers' property at all times. Consider yourself to be your client. Consider your reaction if a delivery driver damaged your windows or dragged dirt into the carpets in your house. Deliver everything the way you would want it delivered to your house. Carefully handle all goods. Nobody wants to have their order handled improperly.

 

Respect the requests of your customer. Make every effort to follow the rules of the company where you are making the delivery. Be aware of special delivery or pick-up instructions.

 

Use extra caution when driving on your customer’s property. Watch for low telephone and power lines as well as porches, overhangs, steps and loading docks that stick out from buildings. Use the same care when driving on a customer’s property as you would on other roads. Follow posted directions. Don’t speed and watch for pedestrians.

 

How you respond to an irate client may make or destroy your business's relationship with that consumer. Never take a customer's irate attitude personally. Concentrate your efforts on resolving the issue that enraged the client. Respect others and keep your cool. You'll be able to think clearly as a result.

 

Even if the issue wasn't your fault, apologize for it. You don't have to accept responsibility for what happened, but you should apologize. Never be condescending when expressing your worry that something didn't go as expected. An irate client wants to know that you are concerned.

 

Even if you or your company aren’t at fault, accept responsibility and assure the customer that you will do your best to make things right.

 

Decide what actions your business can take to put things right. For guidance on what may and cannot be done, you might need to speak with your supervisor.

 

Try to come to some sort of solution with your customer before leaving. If you need to return to your company to work with your supervisor or others at the company to correct the problem, assure the customer that you will contact him/her as soon as possible and make sure you follow up on that promise.

 

Before you leave, if you can provide remedies to the issue, let the client decide which course of action is best for his or her company.

 

Follow up with the customer to make sure the course of action agreed to worked out as planned. Following up shows that your company cares about the customer and wants to continue a positive business relationship.

 

Employer Relations/What Do Employers Look for?

 

You, the professional driver, are a representation of your firm, as was already stated before in this chapter. You are the person with that the general public is most closely associated with your business. As a result, while recruiting, businesses search for the ideal individual to match the image of their business. According to company policy and federal requirements, they are seeking someone who is qualified.

 

The FMCSRs — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) demand that a commercial motor vehicle driver fulfill specific requirements. You are eligible, according to Section 391.11, if you: - Are at least 21 years old;

  • Can read, write, and speak English well enough to do your job;

  • Can drive your truck safely;

  • Can pass a DOT physical exam;

  • Have only one current commercial driver’s license (CDL);

  • The FMCSRs require a driver to meet certain qualification standards.

  • Have given your company a list of any violations you have been convicted of in the last 12 months;

  • Are not disqualified  to drive a commercial motor vehicle;

  • Passed a road test.

The use of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) may only be authorized by your employer if you are capable of assessing the correct loading, distribution, and security of the goods being transported. Additionally, you need to be knowledgeable on how to secure goods in or on the CMV you drive.

 

Driver Qualification File — Section 391.51 of the FMCSRs states that an employer is required to maintain a driver qualification fil (DQ) for each driver it employs. The following documents must be included in your DQ file

 

  • Application for employment;

  • Motor vehicle record from state(s);

  • A license or certificate copy is allowed in place of the road

  • test form and certificate.

  • A copy or the original of the medical exam certificate;

  • A certificate of skill performance evaluation (SPE) or a document proving medical exemption;

  • Response of each state agency to the annual review of

  • driving record inquiry;

  • A note relating to the annual review of your driving record; and

  • List of violations.

 

Your DQ fil must be kept by your employer for the whole time you are employed by your employer plus three years.

According to Section 383.51 of the FMCSRs, you are prohibited from operating any sort of vehicle (commercial or non-commercial) if you have been found guilty of any of the following significant crimes (including forfeiture of bail or collateral).

 

  • Possessing an alcoholic beverage in excess as permitted by state law;

  • Using a restricted drug while under the influence;

  • Refusing to submit to a breath test when required to do so by a state or jurisdiction per its implied consent laws or regulations;

  • Leaving the scene of an accident;

  • Using a vehicle to commit a felony; or

  • Use of a vehicle in the commission of a crime involving the production, distribution, or dispensing of a restricted drug is referred to as offense number 24.

 

If you are convicted of any of the following serious crimes while operating a CMV, including loss of bail or collateral, you are prohibited from driving:

 

  • Having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater;

  • Driving a CMV when your CDL is suspended, revoked, or canceled due to past infractions you committed while operating a CMV, or you are otherwise prohibited from operating a CMV; or

  • Causing a fatality through negligent operation of a CMV.

 

Depending on the seriousness of the conduct and your prior record of disqualification, the disqualification term might be anywhere from one year to life.

 

If you are found guilty of any combination of two or more of the following major traffic offenses while operating any vehicle (CMV or non-CMV), you are prohibited from driving.

 

  • Excessive speeding (15 mph or more over posted limit);

  • Reckless driving;

  • Improper/erratic lane changes;

  • Following the vehicle ahead too closely; or

  • Violating state or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than a parking violation) arising in connection with a fatal accident.

 

If you are found guilty of any combination of two or more of the following major traffic offenses while operating a CMV, you are prohibited from driving.

 

  • Driving a CMV without obtaining a CDL;

  • Driving without a CDL in your possession;

  • Operating a CMV when ineligible for a CDL or endorsement;

  • Disobeying a state or municipal regulation on motor vehicle traffic control that prohibits texting while operating a commercial motor vehicle; or

  • Violating a state or local law or ordinance on motor vehicle traffic control restricting or prohibiting the use of a hand-held mobile tele- phone while driving a CMV.

 

The disqualification period can range from 60 to 120 days.

An enforcement officer may suspend you from duty during a trip for a certain amount of time or until a specific issue has been resolved. If you are found guilty of breaking such an out-of-service order, you will be liable to a fine and a term of disqualification.

 

The disqualification period ranges from 180 days to 5 years with penalties for drivers of vehicles carrying hazardous materials being more severe. Fines for violating an out-of-service order range from $2,500 to $5,000.

 

You are disqualified from driving if you are convicted of operating a vehicle requiring a CDL in violation of a federal, state, or local law or regulation pertaining to certain offenses at a railroad-highway grade crossing.

 

If you are convicted of a railroad-highway grade crossing violation, you are subject to a disqualification period of between 60 days and 1 year. See Chapter 17 for details.

 

General job qualifications — The following are some of the things a prospective employer is looking for when hiring a driver:

 

  • A general knowledge of the various types of vehicles used by the trucking industry as well as vehicle systems and components;

  • An understanding of the language of the industry;

  • General knowledge about required paperwork (record of duty status, inspection reports, etc.)

  • The ability to safely drive assigned vehicles;

  • A basic understanding of cargo handling techniques and procedures.

 

A prospective employer is also looking for an individual who has a good, positive attitude. This means being interested in the job, mature, responsible, enthusiastic, and safe.

 

Company policy — Each company that hires drivers has its own policies and procedures. Know your company’s policies and follow them. Some of the policies may vary from what you have learned in this driver training program, but do keep in mind that you should always operate safely and legally. It is illegal for an employer to require you to violate federal, state, or local laws/regulations.

  • A typical company policy covers:

  • Hours of work;

  • Compensation (pay and benefits)

  • Safety rules;

  • Vehicle inspection and maintenance requirements;

  • Rules for trips;

  • Public/customer relations.

 

Whistleblower protection — If workers become aware of wrongdoing on the part of their company, they are allowed to report the behavior without worrying about repercussions. Whistleblower protection legislation is based on this. A "whistleblower" is someone who reports a corporation or someone working there or otherwise tries to get the firm to cease doing anything they think is wrong or unlawful. Making a report to management or the board of directors, or reporting the action to a government body, are examples of "whistle-blowing" acts.

 

Several laws protect workers who report wrongdoings. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is a recent example, which has brought about a lot of improvements in the field of corporate governance and offers extensive whistleblower protection to individuals who disclose wrongdoing. Other instances include federal discrimination laws, which prohibit reprisals against people who file claims or object to discrimination in other ways.

 

According to Department of Labor laws (29 CFR 1978), an employer is not permitted to fire, discipline, or treat you differently from other employees when it comes to salary, conditions, or privileges of employment because you did one of the following things:

 

  1. You file a complaint related to a violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety regulation.

  2. You have testified in or will testify in a proceeding related to a violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety regulation.

  3. You refused to operate a commercial motor vehicle, because of one of the following two items:

  • You would have violated a federal safety or health regulation.

  • You had a reasonable apprehension you, or someone else, would have been seriously injured or impaired had you operated the unsafe vehicle.

4. You accurately report your hours on duty.

5. You cooperate with a safety or security investigation by a federal agency.

6. You provide accurate information to a regulatory or law enforcement agency on an accident or event that included commercial motor vehicle transportation and resulted in property damage, injury, or death.

 

Retaliation — The term "retaliation" refers to accusations made in litigation that an employer retaliated against an employee by disciplining or harassing them because they brought or supported a claim against the employer. Although the most frequent lawsuits fall under federal and state discrimination laws, there are several additional pieces of legislation that protect "whistleblowers" that permit the filing of such claims. Employers are not allowed to retaliate against anyone who complains about illegal employment discrimination, engages in employment discrimination procedures, or otherwise exercises their legal rights as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

 

Most state anti-discrimination laws include similar protections. Retaliation complaints have become a large problem for employers. After a charge has been alleged, employers or supervisors sometimes take actions against the charging employee, and the employee may bring a retaliation claim. At this point, the employer or supervisor may bear responsibility for proving that the action was based on legitimate employment concerns, and was not founded in retaliation.

 

safeguards are included in most state anti-discrimination statutes. Retaliation claims have grown to be a significant issue for companies. Employers or supervisors may retaliate against an employee who makes a charge by taking action against them after the allegation has been made. At this stage, it may be the employer's or the supervisor's duty to demonstrate that the action was motivated by real workplace issues and not out of retribution.

 

An individual who alleges retaliation need not claim that he or she was treated differently because of race, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. An individual who alleges retaliation for protesting discrimination against persons in the protected group need not be in the protected group themselves. Employees can charge retaliation even if it occurred after their employment relationship ended. A charging party can bring an ADA retaliation claim against an individual supervisor, as well as an employer.

 

This is because it is prohibited under Section 503(a) of the ADA for a "person" to retaliate against a person for participating in protected behavior. A retaliation claim's components

 

There are three essential elements of an employee retaliation claim:

 

  1. The charging party opposed discrimination or participated in covered proceedings;
  2. The employer or supervisor took adverse action;
  3. There is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. Examples of employee opposition to discrimination include:
  4. Threatening to fil a charge or other formal complaint alleging discrimination;
  5. Complaining to anyone about alleged discrimination against oneself or others;
  6. Refusing to obey an order because of a reasonable belief that it is discriminatory;
  7. Requesting reasonable accommodation or religious accommodation. The manner of opposition must be reasonable for the anti-retaliation provisions to apply. For example, opposing an employment practice through unlawful activities such as acts or threats of violence to life or property would not be protected. In applying a “reasonableness” standard, courts and the EEOC balance the right of individuals to oppose employment discrimination and the public’s interest in enforcement of the EEO laws against an employer’s need for a stable and productive work environment.

 

Courts have found that the following activities were not reasonable and thus not protected:

 

  • Examining, copying, and displaying to co-workers confidential records about suspected ADEA discrimination

  • Making a large number of complaints based on unsubstantiated claims and filing complaints without following the proper channels of command

  • Badgering a subordinate employee to give a witness statement in support of an EEOC charge and attempting to coerce her to change her statement.

 

The anti-retaliation clauses do not shield a worker from appropriate punishment or termination if their protests significantly impair their ability to execute their job duties. The employee's refusal to tolerate apparent prejudice does not permit them to slack up on their obligations. If a person had a reasonable and good faith conviction that the actions they were opposing were illegal, they were shielded from suffering repercussions for speaking out against alleged prejudice. As a result, even if the challenging behavior is determined to be legal, a breach of the retaliation clause may still be shown.

 

There must be evidence that the responder acted inadvertently as a result of the charged party's protected behavior. Evidence may be proven directly or indirectly. Any written or verbal declaration by a responder (such as a supervisor against whom a complaint was lodged) that he or she took the challenged action because the charged party participated in protected behavior is direct proof of a retaliatory purpose. A written or oral statement by a responder that, on its face, shows prejudice against the charged party because of that party's protected behavior is also considered to be such evidence, as long as there is further proof connecting that bias to the adverse action.

 

If the decision-maker commented at the time the unfavorable action was taken, a connection may be drawn between the two. Rarely is revenge directly shown. Circumstantial evidence is the most popular way to demonstrate that retribution was the cause of negative action. A violation is proven when circumstantial evidence points to retaliation and the responder is unable to provide proof of a valid, non-retaliatory motive for the conduct.

 

The timing of the action is often crucial. It can be challenging to persuade the agency or court that one action did not cause the other if the disciplinary happens shortly after the protected behavior. On the other hand, it is very difficult for charged parties to persuade a court or agency that acts that took place years after the protected behavior was a result of it.

 

Employers must understand that coworkers and supervisors who are accused of unethical behavior—whether rightly or unfairly—tend to want to defend themselves and may respond out of passion or rage. The employer should meet with people concerned, discuss retaliatory accusations, and maintain a "business as usual" attitude to prevent such claims. To clarify that no improper acts have taken place, to clear up any misconceptions, and to create a channel of communication in case a problem should develop, it may also be helpful to meet with the complaining employee.

 

Opportunities for advancement — The recruiting procedure considers experience. Like any other sort of profession, drivers with a specific degree of experience and expertise as well as a clean driving record are given better earning, more attractive positions.

 

Recognize that finishing your driving education is a great first step in achieving any driving objectives you may have. Many seasoned drivers will admit that their first employment was transporting local freight or working in a motor carrier's yard where they jockeyed trailers, spotted trailers, and/or loaded and unloaded freight.

 

Put your best foot forward in this kind of work environment, be enthusiastic, and most importantly, perform a good job. This will enable you to advance professionally.

 

Applying for a job — The application process for a tractor-trailer driver involves a certain amount of paperwork, tests, and an interview process.

 

Much of the paperwork you will be required to fill out is mandated by the FMCSRs.

 

Application for employment — A motor carrier is required by Section 391.21 of the FMCSRs to ask you for certain information, including but not limited to:

  • Your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number;

  • The issuing state, number, and expiration date of your CDL;

  • Information on your experience operating motor vehicles;

  • A list of all motor vehicle accidents in the past 3 years;

  • A list of all violations of motor vehicle laws in the past 3 years; and

  • A list of all employers in the past 10 years.

 

Investigations and inquiries — Section 391.23 of the FMCSRs requires a motor carrier to obtain information about your work and driving history. You will be required to fill out paperwork giving your permission to the motor carrier to conduct these investigations.

 

The motor carrier must also look up your previous three years' worth of drug and alcohol testing results. You will have to sign documents authorising the motor carrier to get this information from your previous employment (driving jobs only).

 

You will also be required to complete a certain battery of tests before you can operate a commercial motor vehicle for a prospective employer.

 

1. Road test — Section 391.31 of the FMCSRs requires that you complete a specific road test before operating a commercial motor vehicle for an employer.

 

Exceptions: If a road test was administered by another employer during the previous three years, the employer may accept it. In addition, even if you don't have a tanker, double, or triple endorsement, your valid CDL can still be approved. Despite the possibility that you qualify for the exemption, keep in mind that an employer can nevertheless insist on a road test.

 

2. Written exam — Though a written exam hasn’t been required for several years, some carriers still require this test as a way of evaluating a driver’s understanding of the FMCSRs.

 

3. Physical exam — Before you may drive a commercial motor vehicle, you must pass a physical examination following Section 391.41 of the FMCSRs. A certificate stating that you are physically qualified and bearing the signature of a medical examiner is required. A copy of this certificate must also be kept by the motor carrier in its records.

 

4. Pre-employment drug test — Before operating a commercial motor vehicle, you must pass a pre-employment drug test per Section 382.301 of the FMCSRs. The FMCSRs do not mandate pre-employment alcohol testing, although some businesses have policies that mandate it.

 

The job interview is an important part of the application process. Be prepared for the interview:

  • Get to know the business as much as you can. Consult the corporate website or ask current and former employees.

  • Be prepared to ask intelligent questions.

  • Make sure you have the necessary paperwork and information with you, including information to fill out the paperwork mentioned ear- lier in this chapter.

  • Dress neatly.

  • Be well rested.

  • Get to the interview site a little early.

  • When asked, present your qualifications honestly.

  • Be positive and responsive to questions asked.

  • Keep the conversation focused on the job and why you are the best candidate.

 

The interviewer should include details about the business, the workplace, and any corporate rules. If they don't, you need to inquire. Do not wait till you are employed to learn this.

 

Remember that most individuals experience anxiety during job interviews. Be genuine. Attempt to relax and enjoy the occasion. Ensure that you leave the interview on a successful note. Make sure to show your interest in the position and the organization, and thank the interviewer(s) for their time and consideration. Ask what will happen next, including the process the business will use to decide before you leave.

 

Summary

 

You have learned what it takes to become a truck driver professional in this chapter. This includes having a polished appearance, providing excellent customer service, and having the necessary qualifications to work in the transportation sector.