I am writing this column “live,” so to speak, from the Truckload Carriers Assn. Safety & Security Division Meeting in Louisville, KY. With nearly 300 truck safety personnel in attendance, a lightbulb went off in my head today: In this day and age, safety is certainly no secret. Judging from those in attendance, if trucking safety were a poker game, no one would bluff — and most would lay their hands down on the table for all to see.
Networking is at its finest here. Place safety professionals in a room together and after a certain period of time, each will know which practices work best at every company represented in the room, such as return-to-work or safety incentive programs, and how those could result in an improvement in their own fleet. Networking success is not just limited to the “veterans” of safety either. Many come to safety meetings with only a year or two of safety experience under their belts. At the very least, they walk away with new contacts, many of whom are experienced safety professionals, to use as mentors for their programs.
More and more people are getting involved with one intended goal and that is to save lives on our roadways. Many safety directors feel that their secrets are worth sharing and the federal government agrees. In 2004, the FMCSA issued §391.23, a final rule requiring new or prospective employers to seek a driver's safety performance history. With the help of §391.23, carriers can continue to enhance their networking by sharing minimum safety performance history and past drug and alcohol test results for newly hired drivers. Any help in lowering the reported $200,000 cost per crash with injuries (according to FMCSA's web site) by making sound hiring decisions is help worth accepting.
The federal government is intent on sharing more information to make our roads safer. For example, S.1113, a bill recently introduced in the U.S Senate, establishes a clearinghouse for the drug and alcohol test results of our nation's commercial motor vehicle operators. With a zero tolerance policy placed upon our commercial drivers, safety personnel are required to research a driver's history to ensure that each driver behind the wheel has performed at the highest possible level of safety. The passing of a drug and alcohol clearinghouse bill would certainly make it easier for safety personnel to access past drug and alcohol test results of drivers looking for employment in their fleet.
In addition to the moral and ethical obligations that trucking safety personnel endure in relation to reducing accidents, they also rely on their network of professionals to help reduce the cost of accidents. Again, there are no secrets in safety. What helps the bottom line of one company could almost certainly help the bottom line of another. That, in and of itself, has led to the development of a “safety society” that is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the safety of individual fleets and the industry overall.
I have witnessed many safety professionals' networks grow by leaps and bounds here in Louisville, and I encourage everyone in safety to continue expanding your circle of friends to increase networking possibilities, and to improve the programs that your fleet currently uses. Safety education always continues outside of the classroom, and reliance on peer interaction and personal experience can only help your fleet to constantly improve its safety performance.
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn., responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Forward comments to Mr. Heller at [email protected]