Trucking companies (or companies that just use trucks): Make the most of your industry associations

trucking associationStrength in numbers. The power of a team. A built-in support system.

No matter the size of your fleet, if you use trucks in any capacity, joining an industry association is a smart idea for your business. From big rig haulers to landscapers with a couple of light duty box trucks, the trucking industry has particular needs and a host of problems to solve, not to mention regulatory and legislative battles to fight.

Yes, you can go it alone, but why suffer through it solo when associations like the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC) can help you “make things happen”?

Founded in 1920, MTAC is a fantastic, effective group that provides a host of services for its member businesses. Part of the American Trucking Associations (a federation of associations), its mission is to protect and promote the interests of the Connecticut trucking industry: In other words, your interests.

Obviously, the first step to success here is to join an organization like MTAC, but to really maximize your membership, you need to tap into the resources it provides. Consider being proactive in these five areas where an association can really benefit your business.

Education — Industry associations make it their business to know what you need to know to operate your business effectively. They can be founts of knowledge, with best practices information about issues such alcohol and drug testing, weight laws, driver qualifications, and vehicle maintenance, to name a few.

Driver Training — A best-in-class fleet has best-in-class drivers who are up-to-date on safety protocols and a wide variety of specialty areas, such as keeping cargo secure and knowing the ins and outs of braking systems. Industry associations offer the kind of training your drivers need to stay safe and productive.

Networking — Getting out of the office (and the truck!) and getting into seminars and gatherings is a great way to follow industry trends, find business partners and customers, and bounce ideas and concerns around with others who understand the industry. Trucking associations provide a full calendar of seminars, meetings, and other events that will help you make these important connections.

Lobbying — One of the most important services a trucking association will provide is lobbying on behalf of its members at the state and federal level. Though you don’t necessarily need to be climbing the Capitol’s steps, you do need to make sure your association understands your concerns. After all, they are there to represent you. Make sure your representatives know what’s on your mind!

Problem Solve — Industry associations exist to help your business thrive. They can help you work through thorny problems and they can help with things like supplying log books, driver qualification files, vehicle maintenance records and other compliance documentation.

Join your association, but don’t neglect it! Make sure you make the most of it.

P.S. Many of these offerings will help your business in one key area: keeping your worker’s compensation costs as low as possible. For more information, check out my recent [link] white paper, “How to avoid worker’s compensation claims in the trucking industry.”

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trucking Risk Insights: Top 10 Vehicle Violations – 2016

Top 10 Vehicle Violations—2016

A roadside inspection is an examination of individual commercial motor vehicles and drivers by a Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) inspector to determine compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and/or Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs). Serious violations result in the issuance of driver or vehicle out of service (OOS) orders. These violations must be corrected before the affected driver or vehicle can return to service.

Trucking ViolationsJonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Trucking P&C Pro-File Newsletter – February 2017

New Study Links Multiple Health Conditions to Preventable Crashes

It can be extremely difficult for commercial truck drivers to stay healthy on the job. Drivers often work long hours without rest, stay seated all day and don’t have access to exercise or nutritious meals. However, a new study conducted by the University of Utah School of Medicine found that drivers with three or more health conditions are much more likely to get into preventable crashes.

The study, which examined the medical records of nearly 50,000 commercial drivers, tracked a number of medical conditions that could have a negative impact on a driver’s performance—such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

Although the study found that drivers who have only one of the conditions

could often control it while on the road, the number of crashes increased significantly when drivers had three or more conditions. The average rate for crashes that result in an injury for all truck drivers is approximately 29 for every 100 million miles traveled, but the rate is 93 for every 100 million miles traveled for drivers who have at least three of the flagged conditions.

Transportation Industry Seeks to Limit New Rule-making

Representatives from the transportation industry have petitioned the Trump administration to slow the rule-making procedures of various federal agencies by adding more steps to the process and including business representatives in future rule-making discussions.

Although agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) currently go through public steps in their rule-making processes, some business owners believe that the Obama administration bypassed these processes through executive orders and safety advisories. They say this could force businesses to adopt costly new procedures with little evidence of their effectiveness.

New Interstate Passenger Resource

The FMCSA recently released an online

resource to help businesses that transport passengers across state lines. The resource includes a list of requirements that have changed over the years as a result of litigation, legislation, and rule-making. Additionally, passenger carriers can determine their registration requirements, minimum levels of financial responsibility and any applicable safety and commercial regulations.

For more information on keeping your business compliant with FMCSA regulations, contact us at 203-265-0996 today.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Construction P&C Pro-File Newsletter – February 2017

New OSHA Beryllium Standards

On Jan. 9, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to amend its beryllium standards for the construction, shipyard and general industries.

The final rule will reduce the eight-hour, permissible beryllium exposure limit from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. It also establishes a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter over a 15-minute sampling period.

The rule will require additional protections that include personal protective equipment, medical exams, medical surveillance, and training.

The final rule becomes effective on March 21, 2017. Affected employers must provide newly required showers and changing rooms within two years after the effective date and implement new engineering controls within three years after the effective date.

OSHA estimates that the new rule will prevent 46 new cases of beryllium-related disease and save the lives of 94 workers annually.

Employers should become familiar with the new standards and evaluate their current workplace practices to ensure compliance with the final rule.

DOL Sues Contractor for Firing Safety Manager

According to a lawsuit filed on Dec. 28, 2016, a Tampa roofing contractor discriminated against its safety manager after he cooperated with an OSHA investigation. The Department of Labor (DOL) lawsuit was a result of an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

Under the program, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or government. The lawsuit seeks back wages, interest, and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Construction Workers at Highest Risk for WMSDs

According to a recent Occupational and Environmental Medicine report, U.S. construction workers are at a higher risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) than all other industries combined. The back is the primary body part affected, with overexertion named as the major cause of WMSDs.

Employers should adopt ergonomic solutions at construction sites, such as training employees on safe lifting practices, in order to reduce the number of WMSDs and prevent lost wages.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

High blood pressure — A hidden danger for your truck drivers

Doctor with patientIf you’re running a logistics business or division, you know how important it is to have reliable and healthy truck drivers. Although most health conditions are easy to diagnose and treat, there’s one in particular that’s tricky to spot — High blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) often doesn’t show any symptoms, and that’s a real problem.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to significant problems for your truck drivers including:

  • An enlarged heart, a big risk for heart failure.
  • Aneurysms in blood vessels, which can be fatal.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Vision problems and blindness.

It’s estimated that over 65 million Americans (around a third of the adult population) have high blood pressure, and one in three of those people aren’t aware they’re affected.

Why high blood pressure is a real issue for truck drivers
Truck drivers have a greater risk of high blood pressure than others, mainly due to the nature of their work. Some of the causes of high blood pressure include:

  • A poor diet with too much salt — Eating healthily on the road is a real challenge, and many truck drivers will opt for fast food. Unfortunately, the high proportion of salt and lack of other nutrients is a risk factor.
  • Too much alcohol – We hope you already have drug and alcohol testing policy and procedures in place to ensure no drinking on the job, but you can’t control what happens after hours.
  • Lack of exercise — Spending almost all of their working life behind the wheel of a truck leaves little time for exercise. Being overweight or obese significantly increases the chances of high blood pressure.
  • Stress and anxiety — Dealing with other road users can create significant stress for long-haul truck drivers.

Dealing with high blood pressure issues for your drivers
As with most health issues, prevention is much better than cure. That’s why taking a few simple steps could reduce the risk of high blood pressure in your drivers, help them stay healthy, and reduce downtime due to sickness. Some of the steps you can take include:

  • Education and training — Let your truck drivers know about the risks of high blood pressure including why and how they could be impacted. Encourage them to get tested and provide clear, simple ways for them to get training on how to avoid the issue.
  • Policy changes — Introduce policies that encourage healthier behavior. Give truck drivers a 30 or 45 minute break each day that they can use to exercise. Incentivize them to eat more healthily by providing discounts for particular types of restaurants or meals.
  • Support and resources — Get some help in place. Arrange for a nurse to come on site to provide blood pressure testing and personalized advice on what your truck drivers can do. Provide maps of where to find restaurants with healthy eating options on the popular trucking routes. Introduce a formal wellness program into your workplace.
  • Health insurance and medication — Even with all these preventative measures, you will still have some drivers who develop high blood pressure problems. In those cases, you’ll want to ensure they have the right health insurance and get access to the doctors and medications they need to control their medical conditions.

If you want to keep your truck drivers healthy and happy, you can start right now. Just using one or two of these suggestions could significantly reduce the frequency and impact of high blood pressure problems. That means healthier employees, less time off sick, and a more efficient trucking operation.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

blood pressure trucking

The Modern Office & Managing the Risk

modern officeToday’s employers are placing a premium on employee wellness and engagement. And rightfully so, hard working employees deserve some love. But in addition to doing right by their people, businesses that provide comprehensive wellness plans and lifestyle perks for their employees are realizing huge benefits from it. But with more unconventional and physical activities going on in the office, there comes a whole new set of risks for employers.

Let’s talk about what employers are doing for their people, how it’s working, and how to manage the risks involved in the modern office.

A New Age of Employee Engagement

Now more than ever organizations in business are truly investing in their people. Employee perks and benefits are evolving to an all new level thanks to forward-thinking companies like Google with state of the art fitness facilities, fully stocked game rooms, free bicycles and more cool perks for employees. Who ever thought we’d see a rock climbing wall at the office?  Googles’ perks go so deep that past and current Google employees have gone online to list their favorite perks working for Google.

Here are Some Common Contemporary Employee Benefits, Perks and Activities

  • Fitness gyms
  • Yoga, Karate, Pilates studios
  • Basketball courts
  • Table games: Ping Pong, Foosball, Billiards, etc.
  • Video games
  • Reading rooms
  • Massage chairs
  • On Site Pet Care
  • And yes, even rock climbing

A New Age of Risk

Not to be a wet blanket, but you can get hurt playing Ping Pong, and the bottom line is: If you’re putting perks and activities in place that present the potential for an accident or injury, you have a responsibility to manage the risk and provide the safest environment possible for your employees. So, before you put up the basketball hoop, put some basic risk management measures in place.

Here are some simple things that you can do to manage the risks involved with lifestyle perks:

Liability Waivers: If you’re offering activities with any level of physicality or potential for injury, it’s a common best practice to get signed waivers from participants…even if it’s only Ping Pong.

Medical Clearance: Depending on the physical level of the activities you make available, you may consider requiring clearance from a doctor before employees may participate in any activities.

Restrict Access: To reduce employer risks, allow only employees of the company (and not friends and family) to take advantage of the amenities (Gym, Sports Court, etc).

Safety Programs: Institute a safety education program covering the equipment and activities, and post safety guidelines in game rooms, gyms, and on ball courts or playing fields.

Get Covered: If you’re thinking of providing any new perks or benefits for your employees, make sure that you have adequate liability and workers’ comp  insurance coverage in place (yes, even if it’s ping pong).

The modern office landscape is changing, and with this new era of employee engagement and all of the perks that go with it, a new set of risks arise. So, if you’re considering taking your benefits package to the next level, talk to us at Sinclair. We specialize in measuring your risk and covering your exposure. We’re also Liability and Workers’ Comp experts, so this is right up our alley.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
shudspeth@srfm.com

Why your business needs a wellness program

Changes from the Affordable Care Act in 2017 — What you need to know

Doctor Tablet Computer Affordable Care ActThe Affordable Care Act is making some changes in 2017 and if you’re providing health insurance via a group plan you need to make sure you’re compliant. Here’s a quick guide to the main changes and what you need to do to ensure you meet all the new guidelines and regulations.

Remember, we’re here to help, so if you have any questions about any of this, please do get in touch. The main changes include:

  • Grandfathered plans — Check your plan is still grandfathered.
  • Deductibles amounts — Changing deductibles for EHB and HSA plans.
  • Employee contributions — Changes to FSB contribution limits from employees.
  • Group plan information — Changes to how information on group benefits and coverage is provided to employees.
  • Reinsurance — No reinsurance fees for self-funded plans in 2017.
  • Large employers — Must offer health plans if you have more than 50 full-time employees.

Grandfathered plans — Check grandfathered status for 2017

You likely have a “grandfathered plan” if the plan was already in existence when the ACA came into effect in March 2010 and it hasn’t had significant changes since then. Grandfathered plans can retain their old benefits, premiums, and other features and fees so long as they don’t have prohibited changes made.

  • If your plan has been grandfathered, check that there aren’t any changes being made that will make it lose the grandfathered status in 2017.
  • If it does lose grandfathered status, you’ll need to ensure it meets all of the regulations and guidelines that the ACA requires.

Essential Health Benefits (EHB) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA)  High Deductibles plans — Amounts changing in 2017

Under the ACA, the Out of Pocket maximum fee for EHBs can’t exceed $7,150 for self-only coverage and $14,300 for family coverage in 2017.

  • Check your plan’s out of pocket maximums to make sure it complies with these guidelines.
  • If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan with high deductibles, make sure those deductibles are below the ACAs allowed limits. In 2017 that’s $6,550 for self-only and $13,100 for families.

Health Flexible Spending Account (FSA) contributions changing in 2017

The amount an employee can contribute, pre-tax, to a health spending account was $2,550 in 2016 and may be increased in 2017. Note that this amount does not apply to employer contributions or to contributions to other benefits such as dependent care assistance.

  • Check to see what the new FSA limit is in 2017, it’s normally announced at the end of the year.
  • If you aren’t able to get that information, use the 2016 limit of $2,550.

Summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) information needs to be updated

The ACA has strict guidelines on how information on benefits and coverage is provided to plan members. In 2017, these guidelines are changing, and a new template will be introduced for SBC information.

  • Use the new SBC template for open-enrollment plans or plans starting on or after April 1 2017.

Reinsurance fees in 2017 — Applies if you are a self-funded plan

From 2014 through 2016, self-funded plans needed to pay fees to a transitional reinsurance program. Starting in 2017, reinsurance fees no longer apply, although your 2016 fees will be due in 2017.

  • Submit the 2016 reinsurance form and make the appropriate payments for the 2016 benefit year.

Applicable Large Employers (ALE) will be subject to penalties if they do not provide appropriate insurance coverage to full-time employees

ALEs must offer affordable health coverage to their full-time employees. They will be penalized if any full-time employee receives a subsidy for health coverage through an Exchange.

  • Calculate the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees — These are individuals working, on average, more than 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month. If you have more than 50, you are likely an ALE.
  • Ensure that you have proper health care coverage in place for your full time employees in 2017.
  • Report the coverage to your employees and the IRS.

If you’ve got any questions about how this affects you, we’re only a phone call away. We’ve got the experience and expertise to talk you through any changes you need to make.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Understanding the changes in rules for Crane Operators

Construction worker talking to crane operatorBack in the year 2010 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented a rule outlining new regulations for the certification of crane operators. The new regulations stemmed from a high rate of accidents and fatalities related to crane operation in the construction industry. Since the new OSHA standards were released much has transpired regarding some specifics of the rule and the impact on both employers and employees in the construction business. This article will explain the rule, the changes, and the implications for employers.

2010 OSHA Crane Operator Certification Standard: The Basics

OSHA released a final rule in 2010 regarding operator qualification and certification for Cranes and Derricks in construction.

The OSHA rule is quite lengthy but essentially these were the three main points for debate:

  1. It requires employers to ensure that crane operators are certified  by an approved entity before operating a crane
  2. It states that once an operator passes a certification course, they are “deemed qualified” to operate a crane thus replacing the employers duty to ensure that crane operators are competent and well trained
  3. It states that operator certifications are to be based on crane load capacity (multiple certifications would be required for each type of crane; 50 ton, 100 ton, 200 ton, etc.)

Initially, the rule passed down by OSHA would require all operators to be certified by November 2014.

The rule stems from a litany of accidents and fatalities in the industry surrounding the operation of cranes. Cranes pose a significant danger to employees and OSHA has estimated that 89 workers per year are killed in crane-related accidents.

Specifically, crane-related injuries and fatalities have been caused by:

  • Electrocution
  • Being crushed by the equipment
  • Being struck by the equipment or a load
  • Falls

 Rule Appeal and Certification Extension

Industry professionals universally recognize the need for improved training and certification processes regarding crane operation, but after the final rule from OSHA was released it was received with much criticism.

A coalition of experts and industry stakeholders called out OSHA on two main points:

  1. Although necessary, third party certifications alone were insufficient in guaranteeing operator safety and should not replace the employers’ duty to ensure that operators are trained and competent.
  2. Requiring multiple certifications based on the load rating of the crane did not provide any significant safety benefit and would cause an undue financial burden on both employers and employees.

In response to these concerns, OSHA has made changes to the rule. Specifically, they have done two things:

Issued an extension of compliance: The new deadline for employers to ensure that all crane operators are certified has been extended to November 10, 2017.

Revised the crane operator certification standards: OSHA has removed the mandate requiring multiple certifications based on load capacity, and they have reworded the text surrounding “deemed qualified” to put qualification responsibilities back on the employer.

OSHA didn’t quite get it right the first time, but they listened to the feedback from experts in the industry and made changes to make the rule better. Safety in the construction industry is paramount. This new rule regarding crane operation will save lives, cut down on injuries, and keep employees safer. For employers it will keep qualified operators on the job longer, reduce the amount of workers’ comp. claims, and lower operating costs. It’s a win all around.

At Sinclair, we are committed to helping you keep your team safe, reduce risks, and save money. Our construction specialists work with clients of all shapes and sizes and fully understand the diversity of the industry. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for your operation.

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto Head Shot

You’ve Hired Someone with a Questionable Record: What’s Next?

You’ve Hired Someone with a Questionable Record: What’s Next?As a hiring manager, you know how difficult it can be to find the perfect candidate. In unsteady economic times like these, thousands of people can reply to the same job ad. It’s your duty to comb through them to find the best candidate for the position.
However, all those phone calls to verify employment and forms to request database information can take time. There’s work to be done! When you need someone right now, it can be tempting to cut corners. Don’t – it’s not worth it in the end.  Let the process do the work.
What do you do when you discover your new hire has a criminal (or otherwise questionable) record?
It sounds harsh, but hiring someone with a criminal record, industry sanctions, or other black marks on their record can pose a significant risk to your business and expose your company to liability.
1. Confirm your information is accurate. Verify in any way you can that the record actually belongs to your new hire. Data entry inaccuracies on your part and/or the database you used are quite common. In many cases, a small detail (like an old address or a middle initial) will clear up the confusion. If you use a third-party screener, double check they have provided you with the correct information.
2. Understand the conviction or sanction. Carefully investigate the employee’s past infraction that concerns you. Depending on the type, severity, and distance from the questionable mark, you may choose to disregard it. Of course, infractions in certain industries can’t be ignored, like the medical and financial sectors. It may be helpful to speak with a lawyer to make sure you don’t violate the new hire’s rights. If the person has a parole/probation officer or case counselor, speak with them as well.
3. Execute a Pre-Adverse Action. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a job candidate or employee must be given an opportunity to dispute or explain any information uncovered on a background check. The employer must issue a Pre-Adverse Action, which is a document that informs the new hire that they can be terminated based on the information in the background check. You are also required to give the employee a copy of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the background report, and a reasonable amount of time to respond.
4. Execute an Adverse Action. If the employee is unable to offer a suitable explanation or adequate proof that the results of the background check are inaccurate, you may issue an Adverse Action and termination. This must be done in writing. 
5. Review your screening process. If someone slipped through the cracks, your screening process needs some work. First, identify where the error occurred. Were the interview questions less than thorough? Were the references checked? Was each step of the background check completed? Were any licensing or accreditation agencies contacted? 
It’s worth mentioning that by hiring a felon, you may be creating a fiercely loyal employee. Job prospects for felons (or anyone with unfavorable marks on their records) can be slim. By giving the hire an opportunity, you may be rewarded with an outstanding employee who won’t leave a safe, steady job. 
Hiring a candidate should be a thorough multi-step process that uncovers problems and red flags as early as possible. That’s why a proper background check should always be a part of your screening process. You must simultaneously ensure the candidate/employee’s rights are protected and business is insulated from potential harm.
Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director

Why your business needs a wellness program

How High-Net-Worth Individuals Can Protect Their Assets from Lawsuits

Flood Insurance Rethinking Coastal LivingHigh-net-worth individuals face a greater risk of being sued, especially when unemployment is high and economic growth is tenuous.

According to a survey by ACE Private Risk Services, 80% of households with $5 million or more in assets believe their wealth makes them a target for lawsuits. These are real fears. Under the doctrine of joint and several liability, any defendant can be held accountable for a plaintiff’s injury, so smart lawyers will target the defendant with the highest net worth.

In spite of this, less than 40% have coverage of more than $5 million and 21% have no coverage at all.

Many wealthy families leave themselves open to liability and preventable lawsuits for two reasons:

  1. They underestimate the cost of damages they could be forced to pay.
  2. They assume the cost of effective protection is higher than it really is.

Typical homeowners’ and auto insurance policies will only cover $300,000 to $500,000 in damages, but lawsuits in the millions are common.

It’s important to purchase coverage that prepares for the extreme cases, not just the likely ones. Trusts and foreign accounts can shield some assets from litigation, but courts have tremendous reach. The best way to protect yourself is with excess liability or umbrella liability insurance.

Both policies are far cheaper than most people realize. They often cost just a few hundred dollars per policy for millions of dollars of coverage. This cost can be offset with slightly higher deductibles in other policies.

People often confuse umbrella liability insurance and excess liability insurance. While both protect people and businesses from dramatic loses by giving them access to additional coverage, they have a few differences.

What is excess liability insurance?

Excess liability insurance is an extension for another type of liability insurance. When a claim is reported to your insurance company, the underlying primary policy is the first to pay. If there are more damages, the excess liability insurance picks up the rest (up to your policy limit).

Excess liability insurance adds additional coverage to only that policy. It can’t be applied to another policy. If coverage isn’t provided by your underlying policy, it isn’t provided by the excess liability policy either. Excess liability insurance usually pays for the legal costs of defending the claim.

What is umbrella liability insurance?

Umbrella liability insurance is similar to excess liability insurance, but it can be applied to multiple underlying policies. It can also cover claims that are not included in the underlying policies.

For an umbrella policy to cover a claim, clients need to pay self-insured retention. This is like a deductible, but it’s paid directly to the claimant.

It’s important to make sure your policies work together without gaps. For example, if your umbrella policy is set to pay damages in excess of $500,000, make sure your other policies cover you up to $500,000. If there’s a gap, you could be forced to pay.

For the best protection, combine your insurance policies with a single company. This reduces the overall cost of your insurance and provides a single, coordinated legal defense in the event of a lawsuit.

Rachel Winslow

Personal Lines Account Executive

rwinslow@srfm.com

How High-Net-Worth Individuals Can Protect Their Assets from Lawsuits