Trucks at Work

Swing for the fence

"The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well and doing well whatever you do." --Longfellow

When Peter Dannecker, director of loss prevention for the A. Duie Pyle Companies based up in West Chester, Pa., received the 2007 National Safety Director Award from the American Trucking Association this week, I really wasn't surprised -- because A. Duie Pyle is just one of those fleets that keeps knocking it out of the park time and time again in the trucking business.

Dannecker is responsible for the development and execution of his company‘s safety programs governing almost 2,000 employees, 700 drivers, 14 terminals and six warehouses throughout the Northeast and the ATA's award recognizes his -- and the company's -- forward-thinking approach to driver training and selection.

For example, back in 2005 A. Duie Pyle put together what it called a "CDL hazmat endorsement subsidy program,” designed to reduce the cost of getting fingerprinted and obtaining background checks for all its drivers, said Peter Latta, at that time the carrier‘s president (Stephan O'Kane later took on that role in 2006).

"Paying up to $150 to satisfy regulations that appear very complex so they can haul hazardous materials does not seem like a worthwhile option to many drivers," said Latta at the time. "That‘s why we are determined to carry some of the burden on their behalf."

A. Duie Pyle also formed its own truck driver training school last year to give warehouse and other non-driving employees the chance to get behind the wheel -- a strategy that's rarely been seen since J.B. Hunt shut down their famous in-house school in 1997. Pyle decided to open a school so they could create drivers ready to handle HazMat shipments the way the carrier believed they should be -- and it's proved to be quite a success.

What's perhaps the biggest indicator of the success of these and other driver-focused strategies at Pyle? Fewer accidents. Under Dannecker‘s leadership, Pyle saw a 49% improvement in its preventable accident rate from 2000 to 2006. And that record helped the carrier earn a slew of safety awards over the years, from the New York State Motor Truck Association, New Jersey Motor Truck Association, Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association , as well as the ATA President‘s Trophy in 2005.

And A. Duie Pyle doesn't just seek to improve safety or the skills of its driver corps. Despite being a regional fleet, they went ahead and developed their own in-house maintenance system, designed to fit the needs of their 12 shops (which employ about 76 technicians). It can be pretty scary thinking about undertaking an IT invesment of this scale but Jim Minske, the carrier's director of maintenance, told me a while back the benefits have far outweighed any potential risks.

"Our system is tightly focused on making sure vehicles get the proper PM at the proper service interval, and can be managed in accordance with performance and maintenance cost, not by pre-set years or mileage markers," he told me. "We're trying to get away from retiring our equipment solely on the basis of how old it is or how many miles it's run," noting that Pyle's equipment is usually retired after five to six years, during which 500,000 to 600,000 miles are covered.

"We want to move away from a hard-and-fast retirement date based on age or miles, and instead look at how a truck is performing on the basis of maintenance cost," he points out.

It's refreshing to see fleets that think out of the box like this -- and to see them rewarded for their efforts. So hats off to you all at A. Duie Pyle -- keep swinging for the fences.