Dealership Security and You {A License To Deliver}

Dealership Security and You {A License To Deliver}

IN many ways, truck drivers represent the lifeblood of the ag retail business. They transport many of the raw materials and crop inputs retailers need to keep their businesses working properly and their grower-customers happy. Not surprisingly, drivers have to undergo a rigorous verification process to do their jobs. This includes regular safety training, numerous background checks, and obtaining special Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs), which permit these individuals to transport hazardous materials.

In 2005, however, the rules for CDL drivers have become even stricter. In accordance with the new regulations from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the nation’s current CDL drivers will have to submit to more extensive background checks (including information from their personal driving records) and undergo fingerprinting tests (which will then be screened by the Transportation security Administration and the FBI). CDL holders have until May 31 to complete these checks. They will then have to wait approximately 60 to 90 days to find out if their CDL application is approved or rejected.

According to Jim Thrift, vice president of regulatory affairs and corporate relations for the Agricultural Retailers Association, the additional cost and time required to complete the new CDL approval process will likely discourage many of the nation’s current 2.7 million CDL holders to drop their licenses. “Some conservative estimates say the CDL force could be reduced by 20%,” says Thrift. “If this happens, it could severely limit the options retailers have when looking to hire CDL drivers.”

Although retailers can’t be sure which current CDL holders will remain in the program, there are measures they can take to keep their driver pool as deep as possible.

1 Plan Ahead, Do Homework On Drivers

One of the first things retailers can do is plan ahead. “The government is saying it will take up to 90 days to complete the checks, so allow a minimum of 120 days for your CDL drivers to complete approval,” says Jenny Boeckman, marketing manager for Regulatory Compliance Inc.

In addition, many of the background checks and fingerprinting tests will need to be conducted at the state Department of Motor Vehicles or private testing centers. The majority of these will be located in major metropolitan areas, not the rural locations where most retailers are based. “Retailers need to be flexible with their drivers going through this process, giving them the time they need to take all these tests,” she says.

Boeckman also recommends retailers conduct their own background checks on drivers, to make certain their CDL qualifications are current.

2 Consider Electronic IDs, License Checks

At many dealerships, checking an incoming driver’s physical license or vehicle license plates is used as a way to confirm identity. But, says Stacy Evens, general manager at Ag Depot, Inc., Grand Forks, IMD, licenses/plates can be forged or stolen. Instead, Ag Depot has developed an on-line driver verification program called Driver Passport.

“This software is meant to supplement current driver security procedures,” says Evens. “Driver information is entered into the system, along with a photo capture of the driver. If a driver pulls up in a truck, he just pulls out the Driver Passport card and it is matched up with the information in the database. If they don’t have a card, we won’t do business with them until they get one.”

3 Use Locks, Lighting To Protect Loads

Once retailers have made certain the drivers are who they claim to be, securing the load itself is a priority. According to CaI Birkhofer, crop protection manager for Grainland Coop, Haxtun, CO, all vehicles carrying products should be locked each night at the close of business and kept in a well-lit area. “Someone should also inspect all incoming and outgoing trucks to see if anything looks out of place or any prohibited items such as wrenches are present,” says Birkhofer.

4 Make Sure Deliveries Are Taken Into Custody

When a vehicle arrives at the retail site with materials, custody of its contents should be taken by someone on the grounds rather than simply left at the loading dock. “The easiest way to make certain that products end up where they are supposed to at the retailer is to have someone ready to sign for them and see to it they go to the proper place,” says Kent Kutnink, regulatory manager for Agriliance, LLC, Inver Grove Heights, MN.

* Next installment: Evaluating Security Systems


Copyright Meister Media Worldwide Feb 2005

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