“These are professionals, from day one, [with whom] we emphasize they are the captain of the ship and we trust them to use their judgment and experience to make the call to shut down [if needed],” said executive vice president of U.S. Truckload for TFI International, Greg Orr. “They trust us to provide them with the equipment, training, and support to be as safe as possible.”
For carriers like TFI, a solid safety reputation is vital for recruiting and retaining experienced drivers, especially as new technology continues to make its way into truck cabs across the country.
Because of this, continuous and proactive safety training efforts allow veteran drivers to continue improving their skills and habits while also allowing newer drivers to build their safe driving behaviors. Applying telematics and recording device insight and data to training processes, along with regular driver feedback and input, has made the continual training methods in place easier for many carriers, such as Estes Express Lines.
For the LTL carrier, this kind of technology brought some hesitation among drivers, but thorough communication helped put minds at ease, according to the company’s vice president of safety and risk management, Curtis Carr.
“We went on a road trip to many of our terminals and met with our drivers to explain what we were doing and why, how it would work, and how it would help them,” he explained. “We told them what we’d be measuring and the parameters for what events [the software] would track.”
Once guidance and coaching were made commonplace with such new technological advances coming to the cab, drivers began lessening their opposition to the changes.
“It’s just like a football coach,” said Carr. “These are the game tapes we are studying. If there’s something you’re doing well, keep it up. If there’s something we can improve, let’s work on it. We bring coaching opportunities to the driver’s attention in a positive, encouraging environment.”
Additionally, drivers want to know that all equipment at hand is maintained properly and is modern enough for regular use in today’s supply chain, noted Bettaway Supply Chain Services president, John Vaccaro.
“Nobody wants to break down, he said. “It’s our job to give them a truck that’s properly maintained so they can turn the key and go without any safety issues. It’s the driver’s job to do a thorough pre-trip, and if something comes up, [to] flag it so we can fix it before he goes out and point out anything when he comes back in.”
Still, drivers need to know the huge safety boosts that come with collision avoidance technology, in-cab cameras, and other innovative technological systems, Carr noted.
“What’s better than stopping a truck before an accident can occur?” he asked. “It’s been nothing but a great tool to help us defend our drivers from false claims and coach them in a positive manner [on] how to improve their skills and become even safer. I can’t understand operating a fleet those days who would not have a drive-cam.”
Most important, though, is a carrier’s overall culture of safety, explained vice president of safety and risk for Pitt Ohio, Jeff Mercadante.
“They know we put safety first,” he said. “We are ethical–we won’t have them break the rules in any way. Attitude and work ethic are everything. Our job is to provide the necessary training and provide the best equipment with the latest safety technologies so they can do their jobs safely.”
When drivers at CFI–a truckload carrier at which Orr also serves as president–were asked why they decided to drive for that particular carrier, most brought up the company’s exemplary safety record.
“Seventy percent answered that they’ve read reviews about us and how we emphasize a ‘captain of the ship’ mentality,” Orr said. “They watch videos and talk with other drivers. That’s the best endorsement we can ask for.”
Carrier leaders should also always prioritize personal connection with drivers and be willing to hear their worries and opinions on any given safety matter, Orr added.
“That’s really the key–staying connected with that driver, resolving issues, [and] being there for them at all times,” he said. “At the end of the day, they want to be safe and we give them the support, responsibility, and accountability to do that.”