ECS Roundtable Emphasizes Vigilance In Maintaining Top Safety Program

June 1, 2000
SAFETY awareness by all employees of tank truck carriers is an essential element of any responsible operation and requires safety managers to be continuously

SAFETY awareness by all employees of tank truck carriers is an essential element of any responsible operation and requires safety managers to be continuously vigilant in pursuing that goal. That was a major theme in the Safety Director's Roundtable sponsored by ECS Risk Control March 20-21 in Exton, Pennsylvania.

The roundtable was designed to help safety managers identify issues or concerns, recognize areas of vulnerability, and discuss policy, procedures, and controls for prevention. Also included were recommendations for accident avoidance and discussions of issues related to safety in the industry. Part of the two-day conference included case studies and group discussions.

While avoiding accidents and injuries is the primary concern, companies know their bottom line rests on their safety record. Insurance rates, losses from litigation, and downtime can have a significant impact to the budget. Catastrophic events can place a company in bankruptcy.

Discussions at the ECS annual meeting focused on drivers and terminal employees whose jobs place them at risk for accidents and injuries. No matter how good a safety program may be, it has to be supported by all levels of management to be successful, said Ray Riley of Miller Transporters Inc. He emphasized the importance of sincere interaction between managers and employees, especially during the training process.

"If they sense a negative focus, the program won't be successful," he said. "You have to be sincere. If you come across as insincere, you've lost them."

Bob Bonich of Suttles Truck Leasing seconded Riley's remarks, adding that company policies must be consistent. "The rules are for everybody," he said. At the same time, employees should be singled out when they perform positive actions, and managers should respond with compliments as quickly as possible. He suggested several approaches, including seemingly simple actions such as a handshake and kind word, to gifts and plaques.

Another comment came from Chris Broussard of Blue Flash Express. "Driver trainers not only have to be liked by other drivers, but they must have the ability to teach," he said. A driver who has an excellent driving record may not be the person to choose for training. Instructors should have the ability to convey information so that it is understandable and be ready to plan extensively for the presentation, he said.

Another important element of a company's safety program is the analysis that follows an accident. One question should be: "Where are we having problems?" said Riley. "Review what's been done in last six months; determine if terminal managers conducted safety meetings as scheduled. If they didn't, find out how to correct the problem."

Analysis should include a review of activities in the last 12-month period to see if a trend is occurring. "The best thing about that is the information can pick up on problems just as they are beginning," he added.

A concern voiced by Riley was the increasing use of technological equipment by the driver. Drivers should be reminded that the equipment is just a tool, not a replacement for their judgment and experience, he said. He used as an example electronic backing warnings that may not sense an object.

Broussard recommended that drivers be interviewed for suggestions they can make that would improve the workplace safety.

Paul LaPoint of Fort Edward Express pointed out the importance of retaining drivers when today's driver pools are shrinking. He emphasized the necessity for continuous training, particularly for drivers who have been involved in accidents. He recommended a peer review group to analyze driver actions when an accident has occurred. "Sometimes, they are more strict than management," he said.

Lee Drury of Jack B Kelley Inc said his company utilizes a peer review board composed of shop personnel, a disinterested party, drivers, and a safety department employee. Drivers can present witnesses if they choose. Infinger Transportation's peer review group is composed of three drivers with no preventable accidents and who have been employed by the company for at least one year, according to Doug Lax, safety director.

Lax and Riley recommended a driving competition for drivers on a regular basis. The competition can be used as a training tool while at the same time recognizing drivers for their ability and encouraging retention.

In addition to company safety programs, the roundtable included discussion of federal proposals likely to affect the industry. John Conley, vice-president of National Tank Truck Carriers, told the group to expect new regulations that call for additional rollover warning protection for tank trailers. "Expect it to be a tough standard," he said.

He said a wetlines proposal is likely to be presented soon and may very well include retrofit requirements. Conley voiced concern about retrofits and the risk involving personnel who will have to perform the welding required for installation.

Still up in the air is an Environmental Protection Agency effluent treatment proposal that would be applied in cargo tank cleaning facilities. The NTTC is making a concentrated effort to influence the outcome so that it will prove effective for the cleaning industry.

Updates on ECS services and other information related to the industry were presented by ECS representatives: Kate McGinn, vice-president, transportation business unit; Jim Derr, vice-president, fleet services; Fred Clark, vice-president, risk control; Bill Helmig, vice-president claims administrators; and Roger Klingman, vice-president claims administrators.