FOR A tank truck carrier operating in some of the busiest and most congested urban areas across the central United States, a zero-reportable accident target can seem like a daunting objective. Wynne Transport Service Inc just proved it is not only possible but achievable.
The Omaha, Nebraska-based chemical and petroleum hauler put in a truly award-winning effort in 2014. The first recognition for the zero-accident achievement came earlier in 2015 when Wynne Transport Service received the grand safety award for all truck fleet members from the Nebraska Trucking Association. That was followed by the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) Outstanding Safety Performance Trophy for fleets under 15 million miles.
The recent awards serve as validation that a smaller tank truck carrier can achieve a top-ranked competitive safety program, according to Robert “Bob” Wynne, president of Wynne Transport Service. “We knew we had a good safety program, and we knew we had achieved a very good safety record in 2014,” he said. “Still it came as something of a surprise when we were notified that we had been selected for these awards. We’re not a big carrier, and it seems like to larger fleets often dominate these safety award programs.”
Alan Roberts, Wynne Transport Service director of safety, adds: “Winning these awards was incredible. They mean recognition as the best of the best in safety by our peers. We were a first-time recipient for both of these awards, and we are so proud of this recognition.
“Most importantly, these awards recognize the safety contribution made by every employee in this company. The safety department at Wynne Transport Service really is the entire company. Everyone contributes to the program, especially our drivers and our mechanics.”
Wynne Transport Service earned the Outstanding Performance Trophy in the under 15 million miles class for 2014 with a frequency of 0.314 accidents per million miles in the 12.5-15 million miles class. The carrier also received the Grand Award for Competitive Safety in that mileage class and the Honor Award in the Personnel Safety Contest, in which the company recorded 0.89 lost-time injuries per 100 employees. Roberts was named NTTC’s Safety Professional of the Year in the under 15-million-miles class.
Roberts has been with Wynne Transport Service since 1991, most of that time as safety director. He oversees a relative low-profile safety program for a company that is also relatively low profile.
The family-owned tank truck carrier he works for specializes in hauling refined petroleum (including asphalt) and a range of chemicals that includes anhydrous ammonia, herbicides, and pesticides. Chemicals and asphalt account for 60% of the business, and many of those shipments are longhaul.
Founded in 1952, the carrier’s operations are concentrated in the central United States with operations extending into Canada and Mexico. While most US operations take place between Illinois and Colorado’s Front Range, the carrier serves some East Coast and West Coast customers.
“We believe our Midwest location beneficial for a number of reasons,” Wynne says. “Most importantly, we see a better work ethic in this region, and that has a positive impact on our efforts to operate safely and efficiently.”
Average overall trip length is 550 miles. A mix of local, regional, and longhaul activity gives Wynne Transport Service the ability to offer its drivers a variety driving options. “They can be home at the end of every shift or they can stay out up to two weeks at a time,” Roberts says.
Wynne Transport Service currently employs roughly 178 company drivers, and management would like to build up the driver corps to around 200. The carrier operates 205 tractors (including 61 owner-operator units) and roughly 410 tank trailers. Drivers and vehicles are dispersed across three terminals—Omaha and Geneva, Nebraska, and Houston, Texas.
Safety has always been important for the company, and the key tenets of the program have not changed. “We hire good people, and we run good equipment,” Wynne says. “We don’t cut corners with equipment or maintenance. We have an open door policy, and drivers can talk to any of the management team without an appointment. Most importantly, our managers know the names of our employees.”
“At the same time, we are tweaking our safety program in several areas. For instance, we are developing more driver trainers, and we are providing them with more training. We believe driver trainers will need to spend more time with newly hired drivers in coming years.”
Good communications is critical at all levels of the company. For instance, drivers are encouraged to talk with mechanics, and they have full access to the company maintenance shops in Omaha and Geneva. In addition, mechanics have been included in safety meetings since 2003.
“We believe good communication between drivers and mechanics is critical,” Roberts says. “Drivers are more likely to report mechanical problems, and mechanics are more willing to say something when they believe a driver is abusing the equipment.
“It’s all about encouraging drivers and mechanics to take ownership of the safety process, and it is working. We’ve been very successful in educating drivers on the importance of good roadside inspections under FMCSA’s CSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability) program. One tiny problem on a roadside inspection can lead to bigger issues. We want to get it right with every roadside inspection.”
The company uses a variety of ways to communicate and promote safety with the driver force. In addition to a formal annual safety meeting, managers and trainers meet with drivers as needed for informal one-on-one and small group safety meetings.
Regular Omnitracs messages are sent out with reminders on safety issues, pre-trip inspections, and the need for regular exercise. Safety issues account for much of the content in a monthly newsletter that is mailed to each employee’s home address.
“That newsletter is an important part of our communication effort,” Wynne says. “It keeps our drivers in the loop no matter where they are based or how much they are on the road. It also lets family members know what our safety concerns are.”
Incentives to encourage safe performance include bonuses, such as $25 for each good roadside inspection. Bonuses also are based on incident-/accident-free performance and tenure. A driver can earn $400 to $500 in bonuses each quarter.
Without question, the winning safety program has helped the effort to recruit drivers, Roberts says. “It shows that we are a company with a strong focus on safety and that we have a winning record.”
That’s not to say that the tank truck carrier has a surplus of applicants for its truck driving positions. “We’re definitely working harder to find enough company drivers,” Roberts says. “On the other hand, we’re regularly getting calls from owner-operations, and most stay with us once they sign on. The future looks good in that respect.”
To bring in more company drivers, Wynne Transport Service is developing a new program to recruit from local truck driving schools. “We plan to launch this program in Spring 2016,” Roberts says. “We’re looking at three truck driving schools in the Omaha/Lincoln, Nebraska area that have the sort of documented training programs that we believe would meet our requirements. Many of the students at the schools are already 21, the minimum age we will hire. Our insurance company has been receptive so far.”
Roberts adds that the Wynne Transport Service leadership see plenty of value in getting these school-trained drivers into tank trucks right way. “We believe most of the people we recruit from the driving schools will stay with us long-term,” he says. “We’ll put them through an extended training program of five to six months to bring them up to speed on tank truck operations.”
While the driving school graduates will come in with no actual truck driving experience, the current company policy calls for a minimum of two years of truck driving experience for company driver positions. Over-the-road driving experience is preferred, but the carrier will consider applicants with farm truck experience.
Owner-operators and newly hired company drivers begin their tenure with Wynne Transport Service attending a one-week orientation at the Omaha headquarters terminal. That is followed by roughly four weeks of on-the-job training with a driver trainer.
Over time, drivers are trained to handle every type of cargo hauled by the carrier. Each type of business has different training needs, and a driver may spend several weeks learning about each operation.
Late model tractors are a positive factor in recruiting company drivers, and the carrier has invested a lot in updating the fleet over the past two years. Of particular interest to drivers, the carrier has begun buying the Kenworth T680 tractor with the new 72-inch mid-roof sleeper.
“We got the first of the T680s with the mid-roof sleeper, and we will probably buy 20 of them this year,” Wynne says.
The T680 was ordered with the Eaton Advantage Package consisting of a 450-horsepower PACCAR MX-13 engine and Eaton Fuller UltraShift automated transmission. The carrier also runs Kenworth T660s with Cummins ISX15 engines and Eaton Fuller 10-speed manual transmissions.
Omnitracs on-board computers are a critical part of the safety equipment on the tractors, handling electronic drivers logs, vehicle inspection reports, and monitoring a range of performance factors including hard braking and stability incidents. Tractors also are specified with Bendix roll stability and Stemco Air Bat tire pressure monitors.
The tank trailer fleet is very diverse. On the general chemical side, the carrier runs Brenner and Polar DOT407 trailers that typically have a 7,500-gallon capacity. Tank hardware includes Betts valves, Girard pressure-relief vents and ground-level vent actuators, and Blackmer product pumps and compressors. Product hoses are supplied primarily by Hart Industries.
The newest tank trailers in the fleet are being specified with Hendrickson Intraax air suspension system.
Seventy of the chemical trailers used in metered deliveries of herbicides, pesticides, and fuel additives carry MicroMotion of LC meters. “We haul a lot of these products,” Wynne says.
For refined fuel hauling, Wynne Transport Service runs Fruehauf, LBT Inc, and Polar trailers. The older Fruehauf trailers have a 9,200-gallon capacity, while the newer tandem-axle trailers can carry 9,500 gallons and four-axle petroleum trailers used in Nebraska hold 11,000 gallons. The newer petroleum trailers were specified with the FloTech overfill sensors and Dixon Bayco API adapters.
Anhydrous ammonia and propane are transported in MC331 trailers, most of them with a 10,500-gallon capacity. The newest units were built by Mississippi Tank Inc and have Fisher or RegO valves. Wynne Transport Service uses the Smarthose system for emergency shutdown. ♦