Medium-Duty Truck Safety: Q&A with J. Scott Roberts

Most medium-duty trucks operate in crowded urban or suburban environments.

Most medium-duty trucks operate in crowded urban or suburban environments.

Medium-sized trucks are a different breed than long-haul trucks. Which is why we rolled out our medium-duty truck curriculum about a year ago. We talked recently to Scott Roberts, CTP, CDS about medium-duty truck safety.

ITI: What’s the typical day like for a driver of a local/regional driver of a medium-duty truck like? How does that differ from a long-haul driver?

J. Scott Roberts: The typical day usually involves some type of load-out where the driver loads their own freight. Routes include multiple stops, ranging from 10-25 depending on the type of fleet activity and they will unload their own freight as well. Mileage is usually significantly lower than long haul operations, no more than 150 miles per day without any type of layover and drivers almost always report back to the same location. Most driving activity is done in business or residential environments rather than interstate driving.

ITI: What unique challenges do medium truck drivers face? Especially those making multiple deliveries a day?

Roberts: Almost all driving is done in city or residential environments rather than on the open interstate highway. This requires a different type of focus when talking about defensive driving techniques or speed/space management. For example, other motorists can be far more aggressive in this type of environment when driving near trucks.

  • Pedestrian traffic
  • More turning, stopping and backing
  • Parking
  • Fixed objects and overhead hazards
  • Vehicle security

ITI: Long-haul fleets seem to worry a lot about drivers getting pulled over and/or inspected. Do medium-duty drivers worry about that as much?

Roberts: Not as much, nor are they likely to be stopped as often; however, CSA has definitely stimulated greater roadside activity and medium trucks are stopped much more often than in years passed. This has translated to medium truck fleets having to be focused much more on each inspection that does occur and many medium fleets have now found their scores were in need of significant improvement since CSA became active. Roadside compliance have certainly moved much closer or up to the front burner.

ITI: What’s it like driving in an urban or suburban environment?

Roberts: Requires a different type of focus regarding hazard perception.

ITI: Many drivers of medium trucks have job responsibilities other than driving: selling and stocking, assembling whatever was delivered, inventory, etc. How do companies make training for *driving* a priority?

Roberts: That is a cultural commitment. Organizations who understand the costs of accidents will see that a safer fleet is more efficient and costs less to maintain. Driver turnover is typically lower and the company brand is protected. Many of these vehicles are branded so they are a billboard to the hundreds if not thousands of vehicles that observe their driving behavior during a day of deliveries.

ITI: What should a company focus on in training for a new driver? For an experienced driver?

Roberts: Defensive city driving and speed/space management for both. I would also add, that a driving record for these drivers is an especially good indicator for driving behavior, so any driver who accumulates a violation should always receive remedial education.

ITI: Do medium-duty trucks have more incidents, accidents, crashes and dings than heavy-duty trucks? What are the most common types of incidents?

Roberts: The data varies, because there’s such a broad definition of what an accident is from company to company. But it does suggest that, yes they do experience more incidents, accidents and crashes. Although the medium truck accident is not always reported to the FMCSA like a larger truck because of inconsistent practices among agencies and states. The accident factor for medium trucks is allowed to be 1.7 vs. 1.5 by the FMCSA because historically they are involved in more incidents. I would say the most common accidents include rear-end collisions and fixed object collisions.

About J. Scott Roberts
scott-robertsJ. Scott Roberts served as a police officer in Virginia until he entered the transportation industry in 1998. Scott has held positions with both private fleets and for-hire/dedicated carriers.

As Division Operations Manager, Scott managed a highly specialized private fleet, transporting 10’s of millions in US currency daily, without a single vehicle or cargo loss. As a Facility Operations Manager and a Regional Operations Manager, Scott has overseen For-Hire/Dedicated fleets transporting goods for a number of major retailers before aligning his focus to safety and regulatory compliance. As a Director of Safety, Scott developed and administered a safety program for approximately 50 locations and 500 drivers resulting in large improvements in D.O.T. scores, accident costs and accident rates.

He has been recognized by transportation professionals within the industry as a subject matter expert for medium truck sized fleets and continues to develop safety and training materials for an organization specializing in safety/compliance training and education.

Scott is a member of the National Private Truck Council (NPTC), where he earned the Certified Transportation Professional (CTP) designation in 2009. He is a member of the NPTC Safety Committee, serves on the CTP exam grading team and Driver Hall of Fame candidate selection team. Additionally, Scott attended the North American Transportation Management Institute (NATMI) where he earned the Certified Director of Safety (CDS) designation in 2010.

Scott graduated Magna Cum-Laude from the NVCC/George Mason University Criminal Justice Program and as the “runner-up” from the nationally accredited, Prince William Criminal Justice Training Academy in 1995. Scott has presented as an industry expert for the NPTC, AHFA (American Home Furnishings Alliance), Furniture Today and for Marsh USA regarding CSA and accident management.

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