For the first time a private tank truck fleet captured one of the coveted Heil Trophies in National Tank Truck Carriers’ annual North American Safety Contest.
LSP Transport, LLC (LSPT), a wholly owned subsidiary of LiquidPower Specialty Products Inc. (LSPI), secured the trophy in the Sutherland division for 2020 operations with a frequency of 0.344 accidents per million miles in the 5-7 million miles class of the Competitive Safety Contest. The fleet also earned a Grand Award in the Personnel Safety Contest. The Sutherland division covers tank fleets operating at or under 15 million miles annually.
“Winning this trophy was absolutely unexpected,” says John Defoor, private fleet manager for LSP Transport. “We thought we were sending Joe Maple (HSE manager transport) to the NTTC Annual Conference in Indianapolis (Indiana) just to receive a Grand Award in our mileage category of the NTTC annual safety contest. It’s very special to get this recognition from our industry peers.
“While we were very surprised by the award, we knew we had very good safety procedures in place. Our program has been steadily improving year by year. In large part, our safety program is driven by the top-down safety culture in place at LSPI, our parent company.”
In his Heil Trophy acceptance, Maple said: “These awards don't happen without a lot of work behind the scenes. We've got a great company … starting at the top. We have a great leadership team guiding our safety program. In addition, the most important factors in our safety success are our drivers, who buy into our safety culture, do the best they can to go home the same way they came to work, and take the extra time to do what needs to be done to make sure we do it safely. Without them, there's no way we could make this happen.”
LSP Transport became a subsidiary of LSPI in 2015. The fleet serves LSPI customers throughout the continental United States.
Now a Berkshire Hathaway Company, the operation that became LSPI began developing drag reducing agents (DRAs) for pipeline applications in the 1970s. LSPI provides pipeline flow improver products to customers in more than 40 countries on six continents. The products are used to treat more than 50 million barrels of hydrocarbon liquids each day.
According to LSPI, the drag reducing agents are part of a comprehensive full-service solution that encompasses leading-edge technology, quality manufacturing, technical support and consulting, reliable supply chain, and injection equipment and field service.
The parent company has made significant investments to expand its network of regional warehouses, which is enabling shorter truck routes and reducing the number of days drivers spend on the road at a stretch. The expanded warehouse network also is helping to minimize supply chain interruptions and risks due to weather, highway incidents, road closures, and other disruptions. All of this means more flexibility in managing product distribution.
LSPT fleet operations are directed from the headquarters terminal in Bryan, Texas. Covering 13 acres, this is the largest of the five terminals in the LSPT system and the only one with a full-service maintenance shop. The other terminals are in San Angelo, Texas; Stanton, North Dakota, Chickasha, Oklahoma; and Granite City, Illinois.
LSP Transport runs approximately 75 tractors, with roughly half based in Bryan, and more than 100 tank trailers.
A typical round trip for a driver is approximately 1,200 miles and involves the transport of of range of liquids, including hazardous materials, and products that require multiple drops.
Safety was a critical management focus from the very start of LSP Transport. Veteran fleet managers with extensive previous transportation experience brought their safety mindset and culture to LSPT, and workedclosely with their corporate parent to build a solid fleet safety program.
“Most of us on the management team have spent a majority of our work lives in the tank truck industry,” Defoor says. “Safety is a passion for us, and we were able to bring the best of what we had learned and merge it with LSPI’s longstanding safety culture to build a leading-edge tank fleet safety program. That’s one reason LSP Transport joined National Tank Truck Carriers in 2016. It’s also why we are involved in the National Private Truck Council.
“We believe the NPTC’s Certified Transportation Professional program is especially valuable, because it helps build better fleet managers. Four of our managers have now achieved CTP certification.”
Mari Roberts, CTP, senior director of transportation for Frito-Lay, and chair of the NPTC Institute board of directors, describes the objectives of the CTP program in this way: “Graduates with the CTP designation have demonstrated the knowledge and ability to understand complex operational and regulatory issues, identify and evaluate potential costs and savings, and develop systems and practices that best meet their company’s transportation needs and objectives. The CTP designation is a benchmark of excellence earned by a special few, but available to any fleet or transportation specialist willing to make the commitment of dedicated effort.”
As one of the newest graduates of the CTP program, Maple says safety is not an option at LSP Transport. “Our standard is to operate every mile safely and to make every delivery without incident,” he says. “Our expectation is zero DOT reportable accidents. Going forward, our goal is to continue to foster safety excellence and win another Heil Trophy.”
The fleet sets high expectations for drivers; and even with the growing truck driver shortage, management has not relaxed requirements for new hires. Basic requirements include at least two years of verifiable tractor-trailer driving experience; tanker and hazmat endorsements; stellar driving and safety record; and the ability to pass a criminal background check, DOT drug and alcohol screening, and DOT physical.
“Our objective is to employ best-in-class drivers who put safety first, are honest and ethical, are dedicated to doing their job well,” Defoor says. “We’re looking for drivers who want stable and long-term employment. The biggest challenge we face with new hires is slowing down their work pace to ensure they are operating to LSPT standards. We don’t want them working so fast that mistakes are made.
“Experienced drivers are critical in our operation. Most of our recent driver hires have been in their late 40s and have years of truck-driving experience under their belts.
“We hired four drivers directly out of truck driving school in 2018, and three are still with us and are performing well. It was a very costly process, in terms of dollars and time, and it took a full year to bring the newly trained drivers up to our safety and operation standards. They spent a lot of time in on-the-job training with more experienced drivers.”
Regardless of experience, all new hires receive at least six weeks of initial training when they sign on with LSP Transport. The first week of training is conducted at the headquarters terminal in Bryan.
“We built a training system that is designed to meet the specific needs of our operation and the customers we serve,” Defoor says. “We have tried to incorporate everything that is expected of our drivers.
“We’re continuing to refine the training program, and our drivers are playing an important role in that process. Our drivers asked us to add the Smith System for accident-avoidance training. We now have five trainers qualified to teach the Smith System.”
From the very start of training, drivers are reminded that safety is not optional. Training includes detailed instruction on the tractors and trailers used by the fleet, including safety technology such as forward- and inward-looking cameras.
Trainees spend time with mechanics to gain a better understanding of vehicle maintenance issues and how to help the maintenance department track down equipment issues on the road. “A better-informed driver can reduce the difficulties posed by emergency service calls on the road,” Defoor says.
New-hire drivers learn about system service requirements and what to look for to ensure injection systems are operating efficiently.
Following the initial week of orientation, new hires are assigned to driver trainers for on-the-job training. LSP Transport has seven trainers and new hires are assigned to a different trainer for each of the following weeks of the training.
“This gives us the ability to accommodate different learning styles,” Defoor says. “It makes it more likely that we will catch training deficiencies before a newly hired driver is sent out on his own.”
Coaching over discipline
When risky behavior is noted on the job, drivers are assigned to a trainer for additional instruction. Any driver who goes more than six weeks without delivering a certain product must be thoroughly retrained on the processes for delivering that product. “We believe training is key to a solid safety program,” Defoor says. “We prefer coaching over discipline.”
Technology plays a critical role in the fleet safety program, and managers receive constant updates on fleet activity across the entire operation. “For instance, we get an alert if a truck is parked in an unsafe location,” Defoor says. “We provide the ability to gauge road conditions in real time wherever the users our technology providers are operating.”
In the event of an accident or incident, managers use cause mapping to identify underlying causes and implement mitigation strategies. “We study these events in detail to determine root causes,” Defoor says. “The system has enabled us to find things we didn’t see before. Preventive measures are identified and tracked going forward. We never stop looking for ways to raise the level of safety at LSP Transport.”