Trucks at Work
The ‘Ripken Way’ of safety

The ‘Ripken Way’ of safety

Safety is a commitment … but it is much more than that. It is a moral issue and an important character trait.” – Steve Keppler, director of policy and programs, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

It’s not every day that you see parallels drawn between safety in the trucking industry and the personal work ethics of baseball players – and not just any players, mind you, but one of the greatest of all time: Cal Ripken Jr.


It may seem a stretch to make this comparison, but Steve Keppler, director of policy and programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) did just that in a recent speech before the Arizona Trucking Association this year – and whether you agree with his particular brand of analysis or not, it still makes for interesting reading, I think.

“Companies and individuals that exhibit this ‘safety commitment’ trait are almost without exception leaders, both in the industry and in their communities. Oh, and by the way, many are profitable as well,” he explained.


“Why is this the case? Because safety is NOT a cost; it is an investment," he stressed. "It is also about doing things the RIGHT way. “

And that, to Keppler’s way of thinking, is where Cal Ripken Jr. comes into the picture.

“Even if you are not a baseball fan, unless you live under a rock you probably have heard of Cal Ripken Jr.,” he said. “Most people recognize him as the holder of the consecutive games played streak, an impressive 2,632 games. This is an unbelievable record that probably will never be broken.”

More important, however, are the methods and processes Ripken used to achieve that huge milestone in baseball history – an approach summed up by the term the “Ripken Way.”

“The ‘Ripken Way’ is a mindset – an approach, if you will – that if done properly will provide results,” said Keppler. Boiled down to their essence, the important components of the “Ripken Way” are as follows:

• Master the fundamentals

• Perfect practice makes perfect

• Use your head; and

• Hard work pays off

“I will not describe each of them since they are pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. They are also not complicated or scientific,” said Keppler. “Yet, how many people in today’s world want to over-analyze or over-complicate things?”

From this perspective, he stressed, safety becomes less about rules sand subsets of rules than a mindset; a particular philosophy that drives a company’s actions.


“It is NOT just about regulatory compliance. It is something you have to practice every day. It is about going above and beyond the typical … as the ‘typical’ will not allow you to separate yourself from the crowd,” Keppler noted. “Investing in the safety mindset pays dividends in many ways. Some of these dividends are tangible, and some are not. However, they ALL help to improve performance and results.”

OK, so – as the old Wendy’s advertisements used to crow – “Where’s the beef?”

Keppler pointed to detailed safety statistics compiled by his group every year – data that goes into what CVSA calls “SAFER” runs on the group’s above-average motor carrier members to see how they stack up against more “typical” motor carriers.

CVSA’s last SAFER covered the time period from 2004-2006. For 178 CVSA member motor carriers, the following were the results:

• Vehicle OOS [out of service] rate: 8.4%, vs. the national average of 23.4%

• Driver OOS rate: 1.4% vs. the national average of 6.6%

• 74.7% had Satisfactory Safety Ratings vs. the national average of 57.9%

• 4.5% had Conditional Safety Ratings vs. the national average of 30.1%

• 0% had Unsatisfactory Safety Ratings vs. the national average of 9.2%

Finally, CVSA’s member fleets recorded a 1.15 per 100 million miles fatal involvement crash rate, versus the national average of 2.15.


“Clearly, these data show that the safety mindset DOES pay dividends AND helps separate you from the ‘typical’ carrier,” Keppler (pictured at right) said.

“So, as you go to work each and every day I would ask that you think about the ‘Ripken Way’ and think about that safety mindset,” he noted. “Are you doing everything that you can do to separate yourself from the typical? Does that safety culture permeate every aspect of your organization? Does the senior management at your company understand that safety is not a cost, it is an investment? Are you fully able to articulate the value that safety brings to the company’s bottom line? Are you able to put a value on the intangibles?”

The good news, he said, is that all of that can be done and that it is worthwhile – as CVSA’s SAFER statistics bear out. It’s something to keep in mind as the focus on trucking safety continues to tighten every day.