Western Express
Western Express2 630e31780ba7a

How one fleet is staying on the cutting edge of safety

Oct. 31, 2022
FleetOwner For-Hire 500 carrier Western Express deploys various technology and strategies to maintain high CSA scores in what its safety director calls a fleetwide effort to praise drivers for safe habits and coach them when necessary.

As Daniel Patterson, director of safety at Western Express, reflected on his company’s long-standing satisfactory CSA rating, he was just as quick to point out that the company’s investment in technology is paying off.

“In the past five years especially, safety technology has taken a big leap into the 21st century,” Patterson said. “We’re now using a number of advanced solutions and always looking for new ideas.” Western Express is No. 46 on the FleetOwner 500: Top For-Hire Fleets of 2022 list.

According to Patterson, one of those is E-Smart, which allows the fleet to set maximum speeds based on posted limits in different locations such as highways and urban areas. The system uses GPS and digital maps that include information such as speed limit, road type and grade, and traffic data. E-SMART is compatible with technologies such as adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation systems.

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Another E-Smart feature in use at Western Express is its geofencing capability. “We’ve geofenced low bridges in areas like those around New York City,” Patterson explained. “When one of our vehicles approaches a bridge that’s too low to pass under, the driver receives pop up and verbal alerts, and the engine is derated to prevent an accident.”

Western Express also has partnered with Drivewyze to test and use its Severe Weather Alerts geofencing function in the Drivewyze Safety+ driver notification platform. The integrated technology uses weather data to pinpoint extreme or severe occurrences and alert drivers based on location and heading up to 50 miles in advance.

“Now our drivers have a heads-up on things like snowstorms where chains may be required or when states don’t allow empty trailers to be transported due to weather conditions,” Patterson explained. “We’ve even used alerts in the summer to send out heat advisories, which is really important for flatbed drivers because we want them to stay hydrated and not have any heat-related health incidents.”

Drivewyze Safety+ is running in the background on electronic logging devices (ELDs) at Western Express, which are supplied by Platform Science. The tablet-based ELD app also provides a range of reference materials to help drivers operate safely and efficiently. For example, there are how-to videos on pre-trip inspections, load securement, and safe-driving practices.

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Another use of ELDs at Western Express is in conjunction with the e-Inspection solution on the Drivewyze platform. The tool allows for carrier and driver credentials, as well as hours of service data, to be transferred wirelessly so inspection officials don't need to collect or enter information manually.

“The e-Inspection solution is a win-win for law enforcement and industry,” Patterson said. “It’s more efficient for our drivers and helps eliminate data entry mistakes.”

With more than 3,500 tractors in operation, Western Express routinely hires new drivers, according to Patterson. “We bring on operators at all levels, including new and veteran drivers,” he said. "We provide everyone, regardless of their experience, with continuous training using the Infinit-I Workforce Solutions catalog of over 1000 videos.”

“We also use technology for monitoring driver behavior,” Patterson added. “Hard braking, stability control system activation, and lane-drifting events, along with things like following time and turn signal use, help identify when coaching is needed.”

Much of that information is accessed by Western Express on the SafetyDirect video-based driver safety platform from Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. The system transmits driver performance information and event-based data from video, vehicles, and sensors to a web portal.

Western Express is an asset-based dry van truckload and flatbed carrier headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, with terminals throughout the U.S. Founded in 1991, the privately held carrier deploys over 3,500 power units and more than 8,100 trailers.

With its extensive and diversified operations, Western Express is using as much technology as it can to help make its fleet safer. And there’s proof that its drivers are on board as well. Duane Dornath, one of its longest tenured drivers at the company, was named the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance International Driver Excellence Award (IDEA) recipient for driving over 40 years and more than 4 million miles without incident.

“Overall, we’ve seen a steady reduction in our accident rates and consistently excellent CSA scores,” Patterson said. “By using a variety of technologies and because of the attentiveness to safety by our drivers, we’re one of the safest fleets on the road today.”

About the Author

Seth Skydel

Seth Skydel, a veteran industry editor, has more than 36 years of experience at fleet management, trucking, and transportation and logistics publications. Today, in editorial and marketing roles, he writes about fleet, service and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues. 

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