Ode to the Safety Managers

Hello folks hope all is well, I am laying the framework and a set of rules for all the safety personnel that this industry depends on so heavily. My friend and colleague Mr. Jim O’Neil, President of O&S Trucking, put it as directly as I have heard, Jim made safety his platform as Chairman of TCA just before I was rewarded that honour, Jim stood in front of a crowded room of his peers and stated loud and clear that ‘Safety was a moral imperative to the trucking industry”.

I love that quote and whenever I get the opportunity to use it, I do, giving Jimmy full credit for being its creator of course. If you’re a driver at a company that does not recognize safety as one of its primary values you’re in a dangerous situation. If you think about it from one of these companies’ perspectives, safety is a drain on resources. This department produces no revenue and should exist to keep the company on the plus side of legal and nothing more.

The enlightened know that this is not the case; as a matter of fact an ongoing investment in safety is actually an investment in the longevity for a well ran company. An effective safety department is the cornerstone of a well ran trucking company and effects every department. It will affect turnover positively and will create driver loyalty how does it do that, when you invest in the safety and well being of employees it shows them that you are concerned for them and are prepared to invest in their future. It will help keep insurance rates at bay, including WSIB, roadside assistance, company benefits etc., it attracts a better quality of personal to the company, it assist greatly in on time performance on customer freight etc., etc.

In my past life I had a couple of very good safety managers’ work for me and I did my utmost to support them in their difficult role. I attribute much of any success I have had over the years to these individuals and I thank them. A couple of the rules your about to read come out of that experience and my absolute respect and admiration for the folks who have chosen to take on our most valued resource, our drivers, and train and them to be responsible safe driving professionals.

Rule 1, If I could I would legislate that every company over, let’s say 30 trucks, must have a safety manager on staff and that manger must have their CDS certification (Certified Director of Safety). One of the efforts from my past I am most proud of was bringing Mr. Jeff Arnold Executive Director of NATMI (North American Training and Management Institute) in to meet with the safety division of the OTA and getting unanimous support to offer this training in Ontario, check them out at www.natmi.org. If you see an individual’s resume or plaque on the wall showing CDS certification you are dealing with a safety professional who warrants serious consideration.

Rule 2, safety managers must have a healthy dose of common sense when it comes to enforcing and creating the rules of behaviour. This industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries there is when it comes to the rules of the road. A good safety manager must know when to use the carrot and when to use the stick, it’s a fine line, but the best in the industry have this talent.

Rule 3, keep it fresh, there is nothing more boring that having a safety meeting where the Manager gets up in front of a group of drivers with his 4 X 8 foot log book and rails the crowd on how to fill it out. I am not saying that this is not necessary, it might be in certain situations, but this message is best done mixed in with other messages and speakers. News flash drivers want to know what is going on in the industry outside of their trucks and CB radios. You can make your meetings interesting by inviting guest speakers; bring folks up to date on the latest news from the company and the industry at large, whatever it takes but keep it interesting.

Rule 4, ask your drivers for feedback and input on your department and what they need to be safer operators, nothing makes people feel engaged like asking them their opinion, nothing! Beware here though you absolutely have to respond to the feedback you get, as powerful as asking for peoples feedback is it can be just as much a negative if you do not let them know that you valued their input. Feedback can be gained by running company draws, fill out a survey and your name is entered for company items, jackets coolers etc. Let them know that they have input into the safety program at your company.

Rule 5, recognition of individual positive behaviour will reinforce that behaviour to happen again and again, as a Safety Manager your job is not to just search out the bad guys it is also to recognize the hero’s and the top performers. Truckload Carriers Association has a great program for this call Highway Angels and a great safety division. Check them out at www.truckload.org. When I was chairman of TCA I had the opportunity to spend some time with the division at their annual meeting and at the planning session for their meeting and it in all honesty it rejuvenated my spirit for this industry just being around these folks and picking up on their passion for what they do.

Here is a bit of advice to those drivers who are reading this article and might be thinking of looking for a new job, it might not be your favourite subject but if you search out those companies who demonstrate a true commitment to safety you will be the winner in the end. These companies likely have sound equipment and a strong commitment to maintenance. They likely have a clean and healthy work environment, they likely demonstrate employee and owner operator loyalty in as many ways as they can find and they likely try and get your family involved in as many ways as possible. Want to work for a winner find a company with a strong dynamic safety department and you have likely found a good home.

Safe trucking





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Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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  • Ray you are 100% correct on your comments. There are so many organizations out there the cannot understand why they are struggling financially, why drivers are leaving as fast as they come.
    It is all about your culture and safety has to be part of the whole thing.