Your policy & procedure manual: Is it creating unnecessary risk?

JJ Keller fleet manager on laptop

JJ Keller policy manual

probably have a company policies and procedures manual. You may call it the
company handbook, driver’s handbook or even just the employee manual. Every
employee who walks through the door receives a copy, but do they all read and
acknowledge it, and importantly, is it accurate? If it hasn’t been updated in
at least a year, it may not be current and could be creating additional risk
for your business.

Setting proper policies and
procedures is an ongoing task for transportation entities, and a yearly review
of policies is critical to managing operational risk. Technology advances and
regulations change, necessitating regular reviews and updates of policies.

Take, for instance, the electronic
logging device (ELD) rule. Until Dec. 17, 2019, some fleets were still allowed
to run automatic onboard recorders (AOBRD). That is no longer the case, but did
you update your fleet’s manual to reflect the change? Other recent rules
changes include the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse rule that went into effect
in early January and the entry-level driver training rule which, as of November
2019, was set to go into effect in February only to be delayed two years in

According to human-resources blog
HRDaily, there are five important reasons to have up-to-date policies and
procedures. Updated policies:

  1. Set expectations
  2. Keep management accountable
  3. Ensure compliance with the law
  4. Can help defend against employee claims
  5. Let employees know how to proceed with complaints or concerns

According to Todd Ward, transport consulting practice manager at compliance specialist J.J. Keller & Associates, a strong policy starts with setting the right culture, and it starts at the top.

JJ Keller Fleet manager's playbook

“The direction to operate and place
safety first must begin at the top of every organization,” Ward said. “As
safety professionals obtaining certifications such as a Certified Director of
Safety (CDS) know, the first topic taught is how important a fleet safety
policy is to an organization and how it ties in to the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Regulations (FMCSR) Safety Management Cycle.”

Ryan Bradley, a lawyer with
Champaign, Illinois-based law firm Koester & Bradley, wrote an article for on the importance of businesses updating policies.

“Many … either avoid instituting
policies altogether, or worse, scrape a boilerplate policy from the web,”
Bradley wrote. “The truth is, your business needs effective and current
policies and procedures now more than ever with the ever-changing regulatory
framework and the proliferation of threats that did not exist even a few years

Ward said when consultants conduct
on-site reviews, companies are most often out of compliance because of a lack
of knowledge, lack of training or lack of management oversight.

“Great companies don’t leave
compliance to chance and are in compliance by design,” he noted. “Reducing risk
and exposure to litigation and claims is important, but let us not forget what
is most important: saving lives, reducing injuries and accidents.”

An updated policy manual is just
the start of this. Having detailed and documented policies provides a smoother
operating structure, gives employees the knowledge to do their jobs correctly
and safely, and gives managers the tools to ensure compliance with rules and

“Outdated and ignored policies
create the ideal breeding ground for liability,” Bradley wrote. “Even if the
policy in question no longer relates to your business activities, the mere existence
of a policy often mandates that it be followed.”

Ward suggests assigning roles and
responsibilities to management, and this includes management training. Properly
trained managers are able to use tools such as the Compliance, Safety,
Accountability Safety Measurement System to review hours-of-service compliance,
roadside inspections and crash data.

Conduct a yearly policy review

A policy manual is not like a
Dickens novel — it won’t age gracefully. Successful companies with strong track
records of safety and compliance use data gleaned from their safety programs to
make effective changes to the policy manual. New equipment or technology
introduced into the fleet are other reasons why a manual will need updating. As
such, yearly reviews are important to ensure the document remains accurate.

Examples of policies that need
updating include those around recent regulatory changes such as using ELDs,
Ward said. “Fleets now need to update fleet safety policies to comply with the
Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse regulations that apply to drivers operating
vehicles with CDLs,” he added.

During the review, J.J. Keller
advises dating each page of the policy manual to reflect its original date or
last revision date; maintaining a file for all memos, directives, articles or
other items that contribute to the policy change; and establishing a regular
schedule for reviewing policies so that it becomes routine.

“The fleet safety policy should be
considered the spoke in the wheel that your safety program revolves around,”
Ward said. “It establishes standards and expectations, provides guidance and
knowledge, educates managers and drivers, and ensures that the company has
guidance for progressive disciplinary actions when needed.”

Communication is key

Communication is vital to
maintaining strong policies and ensuring compliance. That starts with managers
and supervisors who deal directly with employees. It is these staff members who
must enforce the policies, but they are also responsible for training every
employee from the time they walk in the door.

“A fleet safety policy should be
utilized during the driver’s first day on the job, and the fleet safety
procedures should be used to train new drivers to the company standards and
expectations,” Ward said. “How can we hold our professional drivers accountable
if we don’t train them to our standards and our fleet safety policy?”

J.J. Keller recommends developing a
mechanism for employee acknowledgement of policies. This is a critical
component of minimizing risk, as the organization can show that the employee
was aware of the policy, should litigation arise.

Seek outside help

It’s OK to ask for help. In fact,
many companies seek outside assistance when developing their policies and
procedures manual. That help, though, shouldn’t end there. Policy management
and employee compliance is an ongoing process. In fact, contracting with
outside experts can be vital in ensuring policies and procedures are up to date
and communicated with employees properly, that needed follow up is conducted,
and that documentation is maintained. Lawsuits can be won or lost based on

An organization with current and
accurate documented policies and procedures can expect more informed employees,
lower costs due to paperwork reduction and fewer disputes, improved compliance
with rules and regulations, and more effective risk mitigation.

“The fleet safety policy is a
living document that must continue to be reviewed on a routine basis and
updated regularly,” Ward said. “Then drivers and managers must be trained on
the updated changes to ensure continuity in a great company’s safety program.”

Regardless of the policies, though,
the key is to follow them.