Commercial Motor Vehicle Industry Network and Practices

The trucking industry is a massive contributor to the United States’ economy, generating over 700 billion dollars in revenue annually. As a network of commercial interests, it involves and employs various agents that for self-protective reasons remain relatively distinct. For example, a shipment of material from one place to another may involve:

  • A consignor who transfers ownership or legal responsibility for the cargo or freight to a carrier
  • A carrier, a for-hire company that employs CMV drivers to transports the material
  • The CMV driver who may or may not also be the owner of the vehicle he/she drives in transit
  • A company that owns the vehicles, oftentimes an entity separate from the carrier
  • A company that services and maintains the mechanics of the carrier’s fleet
  • A consignee who receives ownership or legal responsibility for the cargo upon delivery by the carrier
  • A bill of lading, a contract between the carrier and the shipper acknowledging the transference of the freight, its destination, etc. More details about the freight may be listed in a so-called manifest.
  • A terminal where cargo is loaded, and another where it is unloaded; each may be owned and operated by a company distinct from the carrier; further, the laborers at the terminals may be independently contracted by the terminal management

Driver Management

Commercial transit carriers oversee not only the shipment of various cargo from place to place, and the maintenance of a fleet of trucks, but also the administration and management of a large crew of employees, specifically drivers. If/When this crew of CMV drivers is mismanaged, this has serious impact on drivers’ ability to operate safely on the road. Truck companies are, among other things, large-scale employers, whose policies shape their employees’ performance. Any employer relies on a system of rewards and penalties to guide employee behavior toward a desired outcome. Truck companies’ employer practices and policies have an impact on their drivers’ performance in terms of safety. “Driver management” are the activities that a carrier uses to “enable its drivers to detect and avoid potentially dangerous driving situations.” There are four distinct kinds of driver management, or practices of employment in the CMV industry:

  • Driver selection, or the process by which drivers are hired based on experience, citation history, safety record, age, certification and skill, etc.
  • Driver training, or the procedures by which a carrier company requires certification and education before and during employment.
  • Supportive intensity are the policies designed to reinforce and incentivize drivers’ positive safety behavior.
  • Motivational intensity are the policies and practices whereby consequence actions or events motivate safe driving or violations thereof.

Compensation and Safety

As in any industry designed principally to generate revenue, the trucking industry relies on management practices that drive their employees, particularly CMV drivers, to maximize profit. These practices sometimes compromise safety on public highways, particularly when they exert certain pressures on drivers. Among the most powerful ways to pressure drivers into compromising safety standards is a carrier company’s compensation structure. Depending on how they are paid, drivers may be more likely to stretch their personal limits of endurance as well as state and federal regulations concerning, for example, hours of operation. Both empirical studies and simulated models indicate that drivers who are compensated per trip and/or per mile are significantly more likely to drive while fatigued than those who were paid at a fixed rate. Still, industry groups representing the carrier interests often challenge the link between compensation formats, driver fatigue, and safety performance