COMPANY: Bruce R. Smith Ltd.
OPERATION: Flatbeds, six-axle heavy-haul, refrigerated, heated, dry van
John H. Smith, Chairman and CEO
Family-owned Bruce R. Smith Ltd. is an Ontario-based carrier serving the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and the eastern United States as far south as Texas. Founded in 1947, the company today is the 20th largest carrier in Canada, with a fleet of 450 power units and 1500 trailers operated by some 600 drivers. About 60% of this very diverse operation is short haul, with drivers slip-seating day cabs. The remaining 40% is long haul.
It is also a company with a vision, to become the safest carrier in Canada. “Our motto is, ‘we always do the right thing. Always,’” explains John H. Smith, son of the company founder and its chairman and CEO. “Doing the right thing includes being a safe fleet, the safest fleet in the country.”
In order to achieve that goal, company executives determined that they needed to do several things, including create a quality driver strategy and track current driver performance with real-time measurements. “We wanted to capture enough detailed information to change driver behaviors,” says Smith.
Smith decided to install RouteTracker electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) from Turnpike Global Technologies (www.turnpikeglobal.com). RouteTracker utilizes Bluetooth technology to provide Internet-delivered vehicle tracking, driver performance monitoring, automated hours-of-service and fuel tax reporting and more. “Before we implemented RouteTracker, we had no way of knowing what drivers were really doing,” says Smith. “We needed good information in order to provide good feedback and coaching.
“All we wanted to do was to get drivers to change their bad habits. Installing EOBRs got everyone's attention right away. Although installation of the unit takes about ten minutes per truck, we began the process by having meetings with the drivers even before the installation. Then we moved to ‘soft enforcement’ of the rules. Some drivers were doing an excellent job already, of course. I have to admit that we eventually did have to dismiss about 2% of the drivers whose behavior just did not change, but they were probably putting us at risk anyway and we just did not see it before.
“Now, I feel like I am sitting beside every driver every day. At 7:00 a.m. each morning, I see a report on the whole fleet over the past 24 hours. We really focus on three things: speed, hard braking and idle time. Every driver has a scorecard. The System enables us to see his or her speed history, a count of hard braking incidents and a location map of where they occurred, and idle time. Our idle time has gone from an average of eight hours per day to 30 minutes per day. (We don't permit idling because the company provides Espar heaters or Thermo King Tri-Pac APUs.)
“I feel like any carrier who does not take advantage of this technology is missing a big opportunity to improve their operation,” Smith offers. “It is a small investment for what you can achieve. It has helped us to improve our drivers' performance, and it is helping us achieve our goal of becoming the safest fleet in Canada.”