Manfredi Motor Transit Co Hits Another Home Run in Fleet Safety

June 1, 1998
Using a baseball analogy, Manfredi Motor Transit Company is batting .500 when it comes to winning major safety awards in the tank truck industry. The

Using a baseball analogy, Manfredi Motor Transit Company is batting .500 when it comes to winning major safety awards in the tank truck industry. The Newbury, Ohio-based company just hit another home run by collecting its fifth National Tank Truck Carriers Inc Outstanding Performance Trophy in the past 10 years.

No other tank truck carrier has won as many Outstanding Performance Trophies, which have been handed out since 1948. Most impressively, Manfredi Motor Transit garnered all five under the leadership of the same safety director-Fred Sajewski. Two of the trophies came back-to-back.

"We didn't build this program just to win awards, but this trophy is very special because it comes from our peers," says Richard J Manfredi, president of Manfredi Motor Transit Company. "Safety always comes first at this company. We don't compromise. Everybody in our organization understands that. By and large, so do our customers.

"Safety awards are something to be proud of. They are visible proof of our commitment to safety. We have a very good group of employees, and that includes all departments. They receive excellent training through the safety department. We provide our drivers with what we consider to be some of the safest vehicles on the road.

"With all of these factors combined, we have built what we believe is the best safety program in the industry. Tank truck carriers are the safest segment of the trucking industry, and winning five tank truck safety trophies is a major achievement."

Manfredi Motor Transit earned its first Outstanding Performance Trophy in 1987, just a year after Sajewski was named safety director. In the years that followed, Sajewski gained a number of responsibilities in addition to safety. He now carries the title of director of safety, compliance & insurance.

The carrier earned back-to-back trophies in 1992 and 1993. The most recent trophy, as well as one for 1995, was separated by one-year intervals.

The trophy for 1997 was earned with a Department of Transportation (DOT) accident rate of .307 per million miles. The carrier's personnel injury rate was 1.64. Manfredi Motor Transit also was recognized for 10 years of safety improvement.

A winning safety program has brought more than trophies for the tank truck carrier. The safety program clearly has impacted the bottom line.

"It plays a role in our marketing efforts by making us more attractive to shippers," Manfredi says. "It helps attract some of the better drivers in this industry, and we believe it even detracts some of the lesser drivers from applying for jobs with us.

"The trophies have helped us gain stability in our insurance program. We don't have to go looking for a new insurance carrier every few years, and we were able to negotiate a three-year insurance policy that runs through 1999."

Insurance rates also have been lowered. For instance, the carrier's self-insurance cost for worker compensation is less than half the state rate in Ohio. In addition, the carrier has qualified for higher worker compensation deductibles in other states.

Lower insurance rates and long-term contracts are the result of a team effort in safety. Every employee at Manfredi Motor Transit has a role in the safety program, and that includes office workers as well as truck drivers.

Communication has been a big factor in making the safety program a success at Manfredi Motor Transit, and good communication is stressed throughout the operation. Dispatchers are taught to work more closely with drivers. Training covers communication skills, including active listening and understanding body language.

Dispatchers also are counseled on how to communicate effectively with the customers. For instance, managers stress the importance of telling a customer that a load will be late if a driver runs out of hours.

"It's important that we have an honest relationship with our customers," Sajewski says. "Our safety program is built on honesty and consistently doing what is right. Many of our customers have been with us a long time, and they have responded well."

One reason for the positive response from customers is that Manfredi Motor Transit does everything within its power to ensure that loads are delivered on schedule. Typically, drivers aren't assigned to loads unless they have enough hours to make the trip on time. When problems occur, the details are shared with customers immediately.

The carrier is working aggressively to enhance its communication capabilities. For instance, headquarters policy now states that pay issues must be resolved before the next payroll.

Companywide, employees are being encouraged to make greater use of e-mail. Desktop computers being installed at the terminals give drivers a means of evaluating different routes before they leave on a trip. Sajewski can be reached by e-mail at the address

A new fleet management system from TMW Systems Inc has been installed, and dispatch operations are being fully computerized. "Our goal is to move into a paperless dispatch operation," says John Hazenfield, senior vice-president at Manfredi Motor Transit. "The computer system provides much more detailed information on our operations. There is no way to fit as much detail on the dispatch boards that we've used for so many years."

The TMW system is operational at the headquarters terminal in Newbury and is under implementation at most of the carrier's 18 terminals. Final modifications should be complete by the end of the year.

A number of safety factors were added to the dispatch module in the TMW system. Most importantly, drivers can't be assigned to loads unless they have adequate hours and all of their records are up to date.

Work is underway now on an interface between the TMW software and the Qualcomm satellite communication units on the fleet's 348 tractors. This project should be finished in June, according to Hazenfield. It will give dispatchers immediate access to vehicle status reports and will enhance communication with drivers.

In the near future, customers will have on-line access to some of the same information that is becoming available to the Manfredi dispatchers. Details are still being finalized, but certain data will be made available through the carrier's Internet

"We'll provide the information that our customers are requesting, including on-time delivery reports," Hazenfield says. "The new system makes it much easier to keep that information up to date. We update every hour."

Richard Manfredi stresses that the satellite system on the tractors is for communication and little else. "We don't monitor our drivers," he says. "We don't need to. We have a very good group of drivers, and the overwhelming majority are committed to doing their very best."

With its strong reputation, Manfredi Motor Transit has had no difficulty attracting drivers. The carrier also has been very successful at retaining drivers. "We work hard to make this an operation that they can be proud of," Manfredi says. "When people come on board, they stay on board."

When hiring, the carrier looks for drivers who are at least 25 years old and have a minimum of two years of over-the-road tractor-trailer driving experience. No more than two moving violations in the past three years are allowed.

Applicants are evaluated by the manager of the terminal where they apply and by Sajewski and his safety staff in Newbury. Manfredi Motor Transit requires a DOT written test and a physical.

Newly hired drivers begin a training program that never stops. Initial training takes 10 to 30 working days, and includes a combination of hands-on instruction and classroom sessions. Videotapes have become an important part of the training program.

"We're moving to interactive training, using materials from a variety of sources, including NTTC," Sajewski says. "The one problem with these programs is that they don't always identify where a driver had difficulty with something. We need to know so we can plan additional training."

During initial training, drivers study alcohol and drug abuse issues, general hazardous materials regulations, shipping documents, emergency communications, vehicle inspections, placarding, and safety policies for customer sites. Considerable time is spent on loading and unloading procedures. Logs are a key part of the training program. "We watch logs closely, and we expect drivers to stay within the law," Sajewski says. "We're shopping for a new computer program to evaluate logs."

Driving conditions are reviewed along with accident frequency. "Our frequency rate is affected by a growing number of external factors, and our drivers face some difficult challenges on the road," Sajewski says. "We see a lot of bad driving by the motoring public, and incidents of road rage are growing."

Instructors point out that right-hand lane change accidents predominate at Manfredi Motor Transit. These collisions account for about 30% of the carrier's preventable accidents. Impact is usually in the area ranging from the front bumper to the cab.

Drivers receive detailed instruction on their responsibilities in the event of an accident or spill. They are issued disposable cameras that are to be used to take pictures at an accident scene. Drivers are automatically charged with an accident if they fail to take photographs.

Mechanics and wash rack workers also are included in the training program. Manfredi Motor Transit has 14 maintenance shops employing a total of 137 mechanics and shop workers. Terminals in Newbury, Dayton, and Huron, Ohio, have tank cleaning racks. Workplace safety receives particular attention during the training sessions with mechanics and tank wash workers. Right-to-know requirements, lock out/tag out issue, use of personal protective equipment, fall protection, confined-space entry, and back injuries are among the topics covered during the training.

Training is coordinated by three corporate safety supervisors. They are assisted by 20 driver trainers working at Manfredi Motor Transit's 18 terminals. The trainers are now called fleet development instructors as part of an effort to boost the image of the function. The instructors spend time studying in the classroom, as well as teaching on the road. They attend a two-day training program every year in Newbury. Topics range from new regulations to accident statistics.

Sajewski and his safety supervisors work with fire departments and Local Emergency Planning Committees in the areas where the carrier operates. They conduct drills with emergency personnel, and they provide equipment orientations.

Manfredi Motor Transit has coupled the training for its employees with a generous program of incentives. About 10% of a driver's compensation comes from incentives at Manfredi Motor Transit. Incentives are paid monthly in cash or as part of a 401K savings program.

One feature of the program is that an employee who has a chargeable accident, injury, or incident will lose only a single year of the incentive. However, he does return to zero with two chargeable events in a 24-month period.

The Million-Mile Club now has 48 members, including seven two-million-milers and one three-million-miler. Drivers qualify by achieving at least one million miles of accident-free performance. Each has received a diamond ring. The carrier adds a diamond for each additional million miles of accident-free driving.

"This program has really promoted good performance," Sajewski says. "As a driver closes in on the million miles, he becomes more cautious. He starts listening to what we are saying. This is the driver who gets out of the cab and looks before backing up."

Incentives and training aren't the only accident-prevention methods at Manfredi Motor Transit. The carrier has gained a reputation for equipment innovation.

Back in 1985, the carrier began removing the trailer brake application valves from the tractors. It took seven years to complete the project, but the results have been spectacular. "I don't think we've had more than four jackknife accidents in the 12 years since we started that project," says James R Greco, director of maintenance. "We believe hand-valve use was causing many of those accidents."

All 348 tractors and about a third of the 560 tank trailers in the fleet have antilock braking. The carrier has standardized on the four-channel MeritorWABCO system. "It has been a phenomenal tool in our accident-prevention effort," Greco says.

The carrier also sets tractor engines for a 62-mile-per-hour maximum speed. "We think lower speed is one of the best ways to prevent accidents," Manfredi says. "We haven't had a freeway ramp accident since 1990, and credit goes to all of these factors."

The carrier has tested a variety of equipment to prevent lane-change collisions, but results have been disappointing. Radar and sonar systems were plagued by false readings from guard rails, telephone poles, and bridge structures. Large fender-mounted mirrors work to some degree, but blind spots remain.

"We'll continue to look at systems designed to prevent lane-change collisions," Sajewski says. "We never stop searching for ways to make our operation safer."