Photo courtesy of Dana Achartz | Design by Eric Van Egeren
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Fleet safety director: 'My passion is my superpower'

Aug. 22, 2022
Commercial Transport's safety director stresses the importance of giving drivers the tools they need for success.

Dana Achartz, director of safety for Commercial Transport, refers to her passion for what she does her “superpower.” She has worked in trucking safety for 16 years and just can’t get enough of the job.

“I knew early on in my career that this is where I belong,” Achartz said. “I love what I do, and I love coming to work every day. People think I am sick, but I just love it.”

Her passion, however, wasn’t innate; it grew over time. Achartz’s father and grandfather were truck drivers, and because of the demands of the job, Achartz’s father missed some pivotal childhood moments.

Even though the industry lifestyle didn’t appeal to Achartz at first, over time, she found that she couldn’t stay away. Her first job in trucking was in safety as a driver log auditor. She immediately began falling in love with the constantly evolving industry, even while she struggled to earn the respect of her coworkers.

“As a female, I just didn’t have the respect I should have had at the beginning,” Achartz said. “I had to put a lot of elbow grease in and really prove myself over time. Man was that tough and frustrating.”

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Determination kicked into overdrive, and Achartz was dead set on proving those who doubted her wrong. She worked long days and nights, on weekends, and did whatever she could to get to a point where she knew the job inside out, ultimately earning the respect of her male bosses and coworkers.

Achartz also leaned on the mentors she had along the way.

“You need a career coach or a mentor to help you,” she explained. “I had tunnel vision and just saw things one way and didn’t know how to change my perspective. But when you can trust someone to help you look at things differently, that is a huge help.”

Fast forward to present day. As the fleet safety director for Commercial Transport, which operates 155 trucks that haul mostly bulk food-grade products and jet fuel, Achartz feels most at home putting her lessons learned to good use and ensuring the company’s nearly 145 drivers are taken care of.  

“They are our front line and the face of our company,” she emphasized. “You always want to take care of your front line.”

Achartz also spends time educating the motoring public and high school students about the importance of driver safety by frequently highlighting the limitations of heavy trucks on the roadways because of the weight they carry.

Outside of her day-to-day job, Achartz is a founding member of the Women's Coalition of the Illinois Trucking Association, which formed last December to bring more women into the industry. The coalition’s main purpose is to serve as a resource for women and motor carriers in Illinois.

“When I was growing up, you didn’t really see women around in the industry,” Achartz pointed out. “Now, women are realizing we can drive the trucks, we can work on the trucks, and we can run companies. There is so much opportunity for personal and professional growth in our industry. Trucking is an amazing career; it’s inspirational.”

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When it comes to recruiting more women into trucking, Achartz suggests including more women in advertising and having women more active on the marketing side of the business.

At the end of the day, safety remains the golden rule in commercial trucking. Achartz sees technology playing an even larger role in preventing fatalities on the roadway than it does today. She also emphasized the importance of driver training.

“Training is different for every single individual, and the newer generations coming in will need a lot more one-on-one attention than maybe seasoned drivers will need,” she said.

At Commercial Transport, Achartz makes it a point to do follow-up interviews with new drivers after the first few weeks of employment. She asks drivers questions like: “Are we giving you all the tools you need to be successful? What can we help you with?”

“You want to make sure you give them what they need to succeed,” she added. “I think that’s something many companies lack—those follow-up interviews after they’re onboarded.”

As a seasoned safety director, Achartz noted that the best way to reduce turnover and retain quality drivers is by following through on promises.

“If they want to be home for an anniversary or a kid’s birthday, you have to make that happen,” she urged. “I am not saying put safety on the line, but if you put them on a run where they will be home, but they are close to their hours, then it’s better that you don’t put them on that load and avoid potential risks on the road.”

“You have to do your best to accommodate their requests,” Achartz added. “Family will always come first over work, so you have to make sure you put their family first as well.” 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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