If you ask anyone in motor carrier management to describe the purpose of their safety programs, they’ll most likely respond that it’s to reduce violations, accidents, and injuries. While that’s an accurate description, it’s also a very narrow definition and it misses some very valuable outcomes.
In order for any company-wide program to be effective, there must be buy-in from the entire workforce. Organizations that master this concept actually wind up implementing a safety culture rather than individual safety initiatives that target specific problems. We don’t have enough space here to fully discuss safety culture, but we can look at an example using a common challenge facing motor carriers.
Getting From the Problem to the Solution
Let’s say that motor carrier “A” decides to put in place a program to reduce an increase in violations associated with the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC in CSA. They’re not quite in Alert status, but their score is trending upward and they’d like to avoid the extra attention they’ll receive if that happens.
The company decides to pay drivers a bonus if they have a roadside inspection with no violations. The general thought process is that violations will be reduced if drivers receive an incentive to complete a thorough pre-trip inspection. We can measure the results by simply analyzing the data over time and compare violations received both before and after the bonus payments.
It’s likely that the program may not be as effective as hoped. One problem is that the motor carrier took a description of the problem (an increasing number of equipment violations) and proceeded immediately to a solution (pay a bonus for clean inspections) without considering all of the factors that are driving the equipment violations.
Step by Step Process
The first step is to identify the problem, which is fairly straightforward. However, don’t proceed immediately to the solution. The most effective process is to analyze the violations over time to determine what types are being received and also look for trends such as certain types of equipment, portions of the fleet, geographic area, and identifying who has the most effect over certain types of violations.
Could a proper pre-trip inspection, for example, uncover the fact that a brake is out of adjustment? Would a driver be able to spot a chafed air hose behind the trailer tandems? If a driver does spot a violation during an inspection, what procedure is in place to repair the problem before the truck is driven?
Asking these types of questions will help you develop a list of all of the factors and personnel that influence vehicle violations. What’s more important is that you should engage everyone in the company when you’re compiling this information. Not only drivers but dispatchers as well as anyone involved in maintaining equipment. Dispatchers may not be the “eyes” that spot problems, but they are certainly a part of the solution when a violation is discovered on the road. Don’t overlook the role that the frequency of preventive maintenance plays in this process.
Tying It All Together
Have we gone too far? It seems that we now have safety professionals going beyond the confines of their “world” and getting into maintenance and operating issues. Remember, the first solution fell short because it was developed without the due diligence of examining all relevant factors. By the same token, after the due diligence is completed, the solution most likely will not work if it’s reached unilaterally.
The ultimate goal of a safety program should be to bring benefits to all facets of the operation. For example, using the information gathered, the company could initiate refresher training for the drivers based on actual roadside inspection results. Vehicle maintenance can fine tune their focus based on the same roadside inspection results. Finally, operations receives the benefit of fewer mechanical issues that affect driver utilization and on-time performance.
The best way to achieve this desired result is to look upon safety as a companywide initiative with input and involvement from all. The best way to achieve buy-in is to involve all parties in the solution. Start small, select one outcome you’d like to change and follow this process. We think you’ll like where it leads you and encourage you to broaden the scope.
About the Author
National Transportation Consultants succeeds by applying operating and enforcement experience to make it easier for our clients to operate their fleets safely, and in compliance with applicable DOT regulations, without sacrificing efficiency or profitability. We offer practical, cost-effective solutions combined with expert resources to enhance the safety and compliance of fleets, their equipment, and their drivers. Our professional team – which includes former top motor carrier enforcement officers in several states, motor carrier inspectors, auditors, and administrators – brings significant enforcement experience with federal and state authorities to help fleets that want to do the right things for the right reasons.
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