Obeying DOT regulations is a key part of succeeding in the transportation industry.  The rules of the road, even those you may not agree with, are intended to protect both professional drivers and the public.  Breaking them can result in fines, loss of business or licensing, or even lawsuits and imprisonment.  Failing to abide by prescribed regulations can also have more tragic consequences, such as injuries and death.  So here are some tips for ensuring that DOT regulations are always followed at your company.

Communication is Key

What is meant by the word “communication” is often, well, miscommunicated.  Most folks think it comes down to simply telling another person something, like “don’t walk on the grass.” In reality, however, communicating is an art that requires a little practice to get the hang of.  It breaks down into the following steps:

  1. Understanding the information – you can’t make sure your people understand DOT regulations if you don’t have a good grasp on them yourself.  So lead by example – understand the rules well enough to explain them to others and to answer basic questions.
  2. Sending the message – this can be done in written form, through company meetings, or by using audiovisual materials like slide presentations.  The most effective way to share a message, however, is by using a mix of all these methods.  That’s because people learn in different ways: some learn by listening to a body of material, others by reading it, and still others by seeing it acted out, like in a training video.
  3. Asking for feedback – in a nice way, ask your employees to explain their understanding of the information they have received.  This is crucial because it’s the only way to know whether your message has been understood.  For example, you might tell an employee, “DOT regulations say you can only work 11 hours a day,” but this leads to the question of what the word “work” actually means.  Does it refer to driving, loading and unloading, talking to the dispatcher, filling out a logbook, or to all of these activities?  The point is to make sure that your people know what you mean, not just what you say.  The difference between the two can be very important.

Accountability: An Essential Ingredient

Once you’re certain that your workers understand the message, the next step is to hold them accountable for following it.  Doing this effectively can be tricky, as it’s easy to sound overly negative.  One key is found in the classic business book The One Minute Manager: catch people doing something right and let them know you appreciate it.  This will raise their morale, making the workplace more positive and encouraging them to care about their jobs.

People are never perfect, though, which means that, sooner or later, they screw up, either by mistake or intentionally.  When this happens, then you should bring this to their attention as well.  After all, the consequences for disobeying DOT regulations are severe.

Here are some tips for handling a situation where someone has made a mistake:

  1. Never call the person out in front of others.  It’s fine to praise someone in front of the crowd, but disciplinary matters should always be dealt with behind closed doors.
  2. Stay calm.  Use a professional tone and never shout.  If the offense is relatively minor, and if the person has a good track record so far, then you can even be friendly and a little casual.  However, you should never come across as angry or mean-spirited.
  3. Let the person speak his or her mind, and listen to what is said; in the vast majority of cases, mistakes are the result of a misunderstanding and are not done on purpose.
  4. Develop a plan of action to correct the problem, and end the conversation on a positive note.

Following these steps may seem a little daunting, but following them will pay off for you in terms of happier employees, a better work environment, and, of course, more revenue.  So take the time to make these tips a part of how you manage your business.  Your people will appreciate the difference, and so will you.

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