Oftentimes, the ideas for my columns come from my day-to-day experiences in the office. I can honestly say that every day is different and each certainly provides me with ample material to write about regarding safety regulations or the happenings at TCA. Recently, I received an email from a member regarding his search for a federal regulation pertaining to the frequency or number of safety meetings that a motor carrier should have each year.
Safety meetings themselves are not addressed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs); however, no safety person or fleet owner would ever deny their existence or the benefits derived from having them. According to 390.3(e), “every employer shall be knowledgeable of and comply with all regulations contained in this subchapter which are applicable to that motor carrier's operations.” While this regulation does not address having a safety meeting outright, I can think of no better way of actually sharing knowledge of regulations issued by the agency than via a meeting that is attended by the majority of the drivers in your fleet.
Call them what you will — staff meeting, safety meeting or employee conference — these meetings provide a valuable opportunity for safety departments to deliver timely information, gather opinions about future rulemakings, or even update drivers on policies that carriers may be instituting. Regardless of their purpose, these meetings have long been deemed valuable by an industry intent on spreading and receiving information that indeed makes fleets and drivers alike inherently safer.
Safety meetings don't just have to occur in meeting format either. At times, it is nice to just touch base with your drivers, put a face with the name, and listen to what they have to say. Often, the results of casual conversations between drivers and management will lead to a better corporate environment that not only makes your drivers happy but can be beneficial to the carrier, too. For example, at Covenant Transport, a specially designed mobile grill made from spare parts is often used as a barbecue for drivers in Chattanooga, TN. This creates an informal, relaxed environment for safety personnel as they touch base with their drivers while traveling through the state. The safety department finds that this is an excellent opportunity to relate to drivers by providing them with “home-cooked” food and openly discussing issues, safety connected or not. Safety personnel will often use driver opinions gleaned from these cookouts to make company-wide improvements.
While not everyone has the talent to assemble a barbecue grill from spare parts, allow your safety department to adopt a meeting style that best fits the fleet's needs. They could discover a line of communication that aids them in obtaining driver input on pending regulations, possible operational changes within your fleet, or even helping instill that “team” approach that people today believe leads them towards operational success.
Finally, remember, driving a truck is a safety-sensitive function. By providing a format that allows drivers to consistently focus on safety or compliance issues, whether it is in a formal meeting environment or a setting such as a casual barbecue, you will encourage safety and compliance to always be at the forefront of their thoughts. This, in turn, should eventually lead to a safer driving team and an opportunity to receive valuable information from your most precious asset, your drivers.
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].