Contracting Courier Drivers, Do’s And Don’ts: Part I 

Contracting Courier Drivers, Do’s And Don’ts: Part I 

According to National Safety Council, driver error is the single biggest cause of motor vehicle accidents. Therefore, the drivers you hire, employees or contracting independent drivers, are critical to your success at controlling losses.

When employing fleet drivers, you can - and should - do more in the way of significant testing, training, and ongoing inspections. After all, other things being equal, you can't expect a driver to take as much care with your property as their own.  Make sure to document your loss control and safety standards.  Not only will documentation ensure better compliance, but it also will help you reap the lower insurance rates available to companies that can demonstrate their commitment to professional hiring standards. The modest investment will pay off handsomely, and will also help ensure that standards are maintained after your focus moves on to other areas.

In particular, it's helpful to maintain a database or spreadsheet of key driver information.  Individual files are important, but for purposes of loss control analysis and insurance company applications, a good summary sheet is best. 

List the drivers' names and set up columns for the following:

  • date of birth
  • driver's license number
  • experience/date licensed
  • auto accidents and/or tickets for three years (or point system)
  • auto insurance company
  • policy number
  • insurance expiration date
  • vehicle year, make, and model
  • vehicle type (car, van, pickup)
  • date of hire


So, what are the essential elements of safety-oriented driver hiring?  All delivery companies should scrutinize age, references, experience, and motor vehicle record (MVRs). For owner-operators, vehicle condition, and insurance deserve checking as well.  Depending on the types of items being delivered by your firm, other background/criminal checks and health/drug screening can be undertaken.

The Indiscretions of Youth

  • For those of you tempted to contract any able-bodied person with a valid driver's license, consider these facts from the National Safety Council:
  • Rates for fatal and non-fatal motor vehicle accidents for those age 20-24 are twice that of those age 35-54.
  • Rates for fatal and non-fatal motor vehicle accidents for those age 19 and under are triple that of those age 35-54.
  • There's a substantial difference in the accident rates for 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds.

ln short, while there will always be exceptions, age matters! Both temperament and lack of experience conspire to produce a volatile brew in younger drivers. Many delivery companies adhere to minimum age standards of 23 or 25. Some even try to contract only drivers in their 30s or older. At minimum, all drivers in trucks should be age 21 or older with no more than 10 percent of the entire pool under 21.

Check, please!

Reference checks are the least controversial aspects of hiring practices. Unfortunately, in these litigious times it can be difficult to extract information from previous employers beyond a worker's start date, finish date, and position.  Nevertheless, the opportunity to gauge someone's prior work attitudes and achievements - and to verify their honesty is well worth the effort.  Some managers only check references when they are "unsure" of a prospective driver. Others respond that it is the smooth sounding applicant who is more likely to be fabricating a story that a reference check might expose.

Rookie Year

In New York, we have a story about a tourist who stopped an old man on the street and asked him, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The old man responded, "Practice, practice, practice," and continued on his way!  Most experienced Big Apple drivers could easily find another route to the landmark concert hall, but some novice drivers might have a harder time.  Experience counts.  Confused drivers who need to refer often to maps inevitably pay less attention to traffic and pedestrians, and might not know the warning signs of vehicle trouble.

While we recommend standards of experience for all delivery drivers, it is especially important for all drivers who may use a truck (over 10,000 GVW). Federal DOT regulations recognize the need for screening all truck drivers by establishing 11 criteria for qualifying truck drivers, as well as nine types of documentation that must be kept on file. For trucks over 26,000 GVW, a commercial license is required.

Curiously, while this area receives a lot of lip service from courier company owners, it is rarely documented or tracked.  Follow through on recording your standards - and the exceptions you make - to keep track of the true picture. 

In part II of this blog series, we'll look at other critical elements to hiring courier drivers.

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