Hello folks, hope all is well. This month I am laying a framework for all of the safety personnel that this industry depends upon so heavily. I reported on this once before but the message bears repeating; the Truckload Carriers Association benchmarking service, www.tcaingauge.com reveals that companies with lower insurance costs have higher operating ratios overall. FACT: Safety is good business. Not just because it is good corporate citizenship but because safer carriers make more money!
If you’re a driver at a company that does not recognize safety as one of its primary values then you are in a dangerous situation. If you think about it from the perspective of a company that doesn’t make safety a priority, it is likely because safety is a drain on their resources. The safety department produces no revenue and exists to keep the company on the plus side of legal and nothing more.
The enlightened know that this is not the case. As a matter of fact, an ongoing investment in safety is actually an investment in the longevity of a well-run company. I would go so far as to say an effective safety department is the cornerstone of a well-run trucking company which affects every department. It will affect turnover positively and will create driver loyalty. How does it do that? When you invest in the safety and wellbeing of employees it shows them that you are concerned for them and that you are prepared to invest in their future. It will keep insurance rates at bay including WSIB, roadside assistance, company benefits etc. It attracts a better quality of people to the company, it assists greatly in ‘on time’ performance on customer freight, claims and on and on.
In my past life, I had a couple of very good safety managers work for me and I did my utmost to support them in their difficult role. I attribute much of any success I have had over the years to these individuals and I thank them for their knowledge and dedication. A couple of the rules you are about to read come out of my experiences and my absolute respect and admiration for the folks who have chosen to take on our most valued resource; our drivers – and those that train them to be responsible, safe, driving professionals.
Rule 1: If I could, I would legislate that every company over, let’s say 25 trucks, must have a safety manager on staff and that manger must have a CDS certification (Certified Director of Safety). One of the efforts from my past that I am most proud of was bringing Mr. Jeff Arnold, Executive Director of NATMI (North American Training and Management Institute) to meet with the safety division of the OTA and then getting unanimous support to offer this training in Ontario. Check them out at www.natmi.org. If you see an individual’s resume or plaque on the wall showing CDS certification then you know you are dealing with a safety professional that warrants serious consideration.
Rule 2: Safety managers must have a healthy dose of common sense when it comes to enforcing and creating the rules of behaviour. This industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries when it comes to the rules of the road. A good safety manager must know when to use the carrot and when to use the stick. It’s a fine line but the best in the industry have this talent.
Rule 3: Keep it fresh. There is nothing more boring that having a safety meeting where the manager gets up in front of a group of drivers with his 4 X 8 foot log book and rails the crowd on how to fill it out. I am not saying that this is not necessary as it might be in certain situations. But this message is best done mixed in with other messages and speakers. News flash! Drivers want to know what is going on in the industry outside of their trucks and CB radios. You can make your meetings interesting by inviting guest speakers; bring folks up to date on the latest news from the company and the industry at large. Whatever it takes but keep it interesting.
Rule 4: Ask your drivers for feedback and input on your department and what they need to be safer operators. Nothing makes people feel more engaged than asking them their opinion. Nothing! Beware though that you absolutely have to respond to the feedback you receive. As powerful as asking for people’s feedback is, it can be just as much a negative if you do not let them know that you valued their input. Feedback can be gained by running company draws, providing surveys to fill out and entering their name into a draw for company items such as jackets, coolers etc. Let them know that they have input into the safety program at your company.
Rule 5: Recognition of individual positive behaviour will reinforce that behaviour to happen again and again. As a safety manager your job is not to just search out the bad guys, it is also to recognize the heroes and the top performers. Truckload Carriers Association has a great program for this called Highway Angels and a great safety division. Check them out at www.truckload.org. When I was chairman of TCA I had the opportunity to spend some time with the safety division at their annual meeting and at the planning session for their meeting. In all honesty, it rejuvenated my spirit for this industry by just being around these folks and picking up on their passion for what they do.
Here is a bit of advice to those drivers who are reading this article and might be thinking of looking for a new driving job. It might not be your favourite subject but if you search out those companies who demonstrate a true commitment to safety you will be the winner in the end. These companies likely have sound equipment and a strong commitment to maintenance. They likely have a clean and healthy work environment. They likely demonstrate employee and Owner Operator loyalty in as many ways as they can find and they likely try and get your family involved in as many ways as possible. You want to work for a winner? Then find a company with a strong, dynamic, safety department and you have likely found a good home.
Ray J. Haight
Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.