Safety director group seeks common ground
The job of the fleet safety director is no picnic, what with all the regs to stay on top of and all the drivers to keep on the straight and narrow.
And while every fleet's safety programs may vary in design or scope, there are numerous management issues most safety directors commonly face.
Recognizing there is strength in number of ideas, the Truckload Carriers Assn.'s (TCA) Safety Council has embarked on several initiatives to help bring safety directors together to solve their common problems.
Chief among these is a proposal to establish and maintain an archive of individual Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) safety auditors that would record what they actually looked for during their fleet audits. This would include the types of documents they specifically requested for review, such as hours-of-service and equipment-inspection data.
According to TCA, developing such a detailed profile will be valuable because it will give fleets insight into which safety areas are being emphasized by FHWA. What's more, it would detail issues discussed with auditors after onsite inspections begin.
On the downside, TCA notes, "there is some understandable hesitancy among safety directors" who are concerned about the possibility of "FHWA retaliation" against a carrier. To address this, the Safety Council is considering an additional component that will deal with training on how to best handle a safety audit.
However, concern about reprisals has been outweighed by several perceived benefits of the archive. TCA says these include the ability to foster an understanding of how an auditor prefers to conduct an audit; the identification of particular regulations that may be "the source of differing interpretations," and information about recent FHWA developments that may help carriers demonstrate safety compliance.
TCA believes much of the most valuable information safety directors will receive from the archive will be subjective. And it hopes any criticisms relayed will be constructive.
Subjectively observed characteristics of an auditor - including demeanor, attitude, professionalism, flexibility, willingness to listen, and even sense of humor - could be rated on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. It's easy to imagine that safety directors would thrill to get that kind of real-world skinny on their auditors before the games begin.
While all this sounds like an idea whose time has come - and will be welcomed by safety directors far and wide - there is a slight catch.
Once set up, the archive will reside confidentially within the members-only section of TCA's Web site.
Since only TCA members will be able to access the archive, safety directors at truckload fleets not already members may want to push their powers that be to sign up with the ATA affiliate.
Once in the restricted section of the Web site, members will be able to access the archive and scroll through filed reports organized by region, state, and auditor to gain some insight into how a particular auditor ran an earlier audit. And once their audit is wrapped up, members can in turn submit a report to the archive of their experiences and observations.
Chair of the Safety Council Bud Pierce, whose day job is vp-safety & human resources at Daymark Inc., is now seeking comments about the archive project. He can be reached by phone at 800-288-3951, ext. 2203. Others to contact include Immediate Past Chair Jeff Davis, vp-safety & human resources at Jet Express (937-274-7033, ext. 30155) or Bob Rothstein in the TCA office (703-838-1950).
The audit you save may be your own.