SAFETY FIRST: (L-R) Grant Allen, general manager; Tony Spring, vice-president; and Darrell Spring, president, have taken a safety-first approach to running Wheeler Transport.
PORT MOODY, B. C. – Safety has become a major priority for a Port Moody, B. C. fuel transport company – and it’s paying off.
Wheeler Transport has earned this year’s Best Carrier Performance safety award from the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI). It’s a step up for the company, after winning last year’s CPPI Improvement Award for Reduced Product Mixes.
Wheeler Transport, a fleet with about 100 pieces of equipment between trucks and fuel tankers and a branch in Kamloops, credits three safety initiatives for rising to the top spot. One of those initiatives is a safety bonus for all Wheeler Transport drivers, a straight percentage of the gross. If the drivers are incident-free, they get this payout at the end of the year, an incentive that’s typically earned by 90% of the driving staff. It’s a financial bonus that ultimately creates a cost savings to the company, according to the president.
“If you have no incidents, in the long run you’re actually saving money,” says Darrell Spring, a copartner with brother Tony.
The other key ingredient to Wheeler Transport’s safety program is a full-time health and safety officer. It’s the total focus of Kelly Stead, a former driver who knows the job well.
“He is continually having what we call tailgate meetings with the drivers at shift changes, putting on safety meetings, inspecting site locations and working with the drivers,” says general manager Grant Allen. “It’s really an ongoing process with the safety officer, and you have to really believe. Like anything else, you have to be committed to safety. It’s not a job you can do in a haphazard way. To be effective, it has to be your total focus.”
The third successful initiative is the company’s implementation of the Smith Defensive Driving traffic safety course, a program promoted widely in the US, and by a few oil companies on this side of the border.
“Initially both Chevron and Imperial were believers and asked us to look into the system, and we adopted it three or four years ago,” says Allen. “We’ve put all of our staff through this system, including drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, and all of us (management).”
The initial course is eight hours, and a refresher is four hours. One goal is to encourage drivers to focus on the present traffic scenario, and to look as far ahead as three traffic lights along a route in preparation for the next maneuvre.
“So, instead of hammering the brakes, you can gear down on the truck,” explains Allen. “You can bring it to a nice slow pace, and then pick up when the light changes, because you’re in the right location. It’s those little nuances that really do make a difference.”
Another safety initiative promoted by the Smith Defensive Driving system is encouraging drivers to keep an appropriate distance from the vehicle in front, and to drop a common impulse to prevent a car from cutting in front by driving aggressively to close the gap. It’s an exercise demonstrated to be not only safer but also, just as time efficient.
“The times don’t change, and if they do, it’s very, very minimal,” Allen says.
The principals of Wheeler Transport attended the CPPI’s fifth annual Western Division Fuel Carrier Safety Awards luncheon at the Westin Calgary on Apr. 16 to receive their award. However, the president prefers to pay tribute to the 50-plus employees who work for Wheeler Transport, and who have continually improved the company’s safety record.
“We’re very proud of the fact that our employees have earned this award,” says Spring.
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