Premier safety culture

Jan. 8, 2015
Strict policies ensure only the best drivers drive for Sentinel

Founded nearly 20 years ago, Sentinel Transportation is a national model of exceptionally high safety management standards and operational practices.  The company’s 750 employees, including 650 drivers and 400 tractors, operate out of 40 terminals. Sentinel provides specialized transportation and logistics services, delivering high hazardous chemical and petroleum products exclusively for DuPont and Phillips 66, its parent companies.

Although Sentinel is owned by the parent companies, and the transportation services provided are restricted to only parent company business, the parent companies are not required to use the private fleet.  Therefore, the fleet must compete on either a straight cost-per-mile or cost-per-delivery metric.

Cost is just one of three standards that must be met.  Service is another and is measured by the ease of doing business and consistent delivery dependability.  Safety, of course, ranks first and foremost as the strongest selling point for the private fleet—with a caveat. “Safety failure can get us fired overnight,” says Adam Gregori, president and CEO of Sentinel.

Widely regarded as one of the nation’s top private fleets in the most exacting and demanding of specialized fields in the trucking industry (hazardous bulk tank transport),  Sentinel’s performance record in safety, customer service, and cost efficiencies stands as a benchmark of continuous improvement.

“The legacy hallmark at Sentinel is a deeply embedded safety culture,” says Gregori.  “We are stewards of a corporate tradition and family-like environment where everyone involved feels, lives and talks safety. Our Monday safety call each week reviews and follows up with action as appropriate on every incident of any kind that occurred in the past week.”

Gregori says making this culture work requires an “authentic commitment” as demonstrated in recruiting and retaining the very best class of drivers possible, deploying the best equipment with the latest safety technologies, ongoing training, innovative safety protocols, and a rigorous discipline of performance scorecarding and accountability.

Policies are comparatively strict.  For example, Sentinel has a mandatory 60 mph maximum speed standard for drivers and a zero-tolerance policy for cell phone use while driving.  This policy applies to all employees at all levels—and that includes the CEO. 

“Our continued relevance as a private fleet is dependent on getting the right kind of professionals behind the wheels of our trucks and playing by our rules,” Gregori notes. “Not every qualified driver is suited for our strict standards and frankly, this does create some challenges for us when we find that a good driver leaves our employment out of fear of termination due to zero-tolerance policies like cell phone use.”

The trade-offs, however, are impressive.  Sentinel promises that a dream career and good retirement benefits await the driver with the right stuff. Driver recruiting at Sentinel is an all-hands-on-deck, around-the-clock campaign.  All prospects are reviewed daily, and provisional employment offers can be made within hours.  “The stakes are high with little margin for shortfall. We must get and keep great drivers,” Gregori concludes.  “Safe as we strive to be, we keep on our toes knowing we’re only as good as our next load.”

Gary Petty is president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. The council’s website is His  column appears monthly in Fleet Owner.

About the Author

Gary Petty

Gary Petty has more than three decades of experience as a CEO of national trade associations in the trucking industry. Since 2001, he has served as president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council, the national trade association founded in 1939, representing the private motor carrier industry. Petty is the Private Fleet Editor and columnist for FleetOwner, where he writes monthly articles about successful managers and business models in the private fleet market.

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