Why Your Trucking Company Gives You a Letter When You Make a Mistake

You received one! One of those ‘canned’ letters that the safety department spits out every time that you get a ticket, violation or crash. Every time that you do something wrong you get that darn letter. Why?

Well, some of it has to do with the company doing a little “CYA.” You know, cover your behind. But in truth very little is to do with ‘CYA’. For trucking companies, both the MTO and DOT require the company to have a discipline policy. This policy is to spell out what happens to you, the driver, when an infraction happens. The MTO specifically asks that all carriers or trucking companies write a letter to the driver and tell the driver that they made a mistake. And that this mistake is just one stage of the discipline process.

In other words, trucking companies are required to have a discipline policy that lays out to both the management and the drivers exactly what happens when a driver makes a mistake or gets into trouble. This system should be set out in stages. A standard policy is the Four Step Policy. Stage One is a verbal warning; Stage Two is a written warning; Stage Three will be a suspension and finally, the Fourth and final step is termination. Most policies also include a mandatory training portion. I know, you often think that the training part is the worst of it. You must return to class or watch a video and perhaps listen to a lecture. All this activity is for stuff and things that you already know about and all just because you made a mistake.

Let me take an unpopular stand here and defend this training. It has been my experience when holding training sessions with drivers that some of them are very poorly trained. It is either that the original training was deficient or they have forgotten a lot. An example: Recently, at a meeting, several drivers asked me about very basic hours of service rules. Then they proceeded to tell me about a rule that is wrong and misinterpreted. So, training for drivers is often needed.

The letter that you receive should follow a set process. By following the written and documented system the company is doing several things. They are treating you fairly by giving you notice, training and documenting the process. Should the company ever have to defend your actions in court, they have created a good defense. As well, by meeting requirements for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), the company is showing that they are paying attention and even though they are not in the cab of the truck with you as you travel down the highway, the company is doing its best to monitor and encourage safe behavior. As well, they are creating records for the Ministry of Labour and in doing so, they are doing things and creating records to use should they ever have to suspend or dismiss you from the company. They are documenting their actions. Let’s not forget the insurance companies; they want this process followed and recorded. They think that it may reduce crashes. I for one believe that they are correct.

I know you take pride in your performance as a driver and when you get this letter it hurts you. When you receive a letter reminding you that you made a mistake, part of the reason that you don’t like it is that it hurts.

What I’m trying to tell you is that these corrective action letters are necessary. They help you, the driver by explaining what behavior is acceptable. They are encouraging you to do better. Of course, they are good for the company too in that they can prove to those that care that they are genuinely trying to have their drivers behave acceptably.

So there you have it. The answer to “why did I get this letter?” Stay safe and don’t do anything to prompt a letter.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.