Tandet Logistics makes safety a priority, and a winning strategy

John G Smith
Tandet Logistics was recently honored by National Truck Tank Carriers (NTTC) as North American Safety Champions among those running 5-7 million miles (8-11 million kilometers) per year.

Safety is a priority at Tandet Logistics. When
you haul hazardous materials, it has to be.

OAKVILLE, Ont. — The drivers at Tandet Logistics face safety-related reminders at every turn, and not just in the form of hazardous material placards attached to the tankers. Stickers promoting a message of “safety starts here” adhere to trucks, toolboxes, and the front door to the head office itself.

“It’s not just the big things you do. Sometimes it’s just the little things,” says Tandet president Scott Tilley, referring to the stickers. “Wherever you are, safety starts here — and it continues from here.”

The message is particularly relevant given the nature of Tandet Logistics’ cargo. Truck crashes can be messy at the best of times, but this division’s equipment is responsible for hauling loads of chemicals, plastics, oil and waste. Even a minor incident would be a cause for concern. A safe fleet is merely the price of admission when working with goods like these.

Tandet Logistics, though, is also standing apart from its peers. It was recently honored by National Truck Tank Carriers (NTTC) as North American Safety Champions among those running 5-7 million miles (8-11 million kilometers) per year, and secured the Heil trophy as the safest fleet under 15 million miles (24 million kilometers). It has earned the association’s Safety Contest Grand Award six times since 2005, and last year recorded a mere 0.150 accidents per million miles (0.09 per million kilometers).

No single measure is credited for the success. Tilley says it’s a combination of the right people, training, and a willingness to embrace any challenge as a learning experience.

“We don’t hide it, we don’t bury it, we actually bring it out to the fore,” he says, referring to the way any errors are addressed. “We’re in a business that is constantly fraught with danger, with risk … Our drive is to narrow the gap on the risks that we have.”

“Our drive is to narrow the gap on the risks that we have,” says Tandet president Scott Tilley.

Dashcams and telemetry

Tandet’s intense focus on driving activities recently took on a literal meaning, when the fleet began to install telemetry-tracked dashcams from Isaac Instruments. Some drivers and owner-operators balked at first, but the systems have already shown their worth, Tilley says.

He offers the example of a Tandet truck that was running down a six-lane highway in Texas. The camera captured a car that was passing in the median … with someone riding on the roof. Then it showed the person falling and rolling across several lanes of traffic into the truck’s path. The truck managed to stop. The would-be accident victim got up and ran away.

Without the video evidence, it would have been hard to believe.

“There are everyday things that happen – that cars, and vans and pickup trucks do in front of our trucks, that we see now,” Tilley says, referring to the way a gyroscope will trigger a recording after any hard braking or cornering.

“Cornering is a key element in what we do, because we have live loads,” he adds. “Because they move, the action of a hard brake means that there’s a surge against the front of the tank. The action of turning quickly means that the load will shift as crawls up the wall, as the liquid moves over in the tank.”

Such videos are also being used as a training tool, giving teams examples that can be used during teachable moments long before equipment is scheduled to return to the fleet yard. Drivers review selected video clips with a coach before journeys are completed, rather than following traditional reviews that were once completed four to six months after the fact.

“We can get it to them when it’s fresh in their minds. If we wait two weeks until they get back, they don’t remember the incident, they don’t remember the situation,” Tilley says.

It isn’t the only way technology has been embraced. Tandet was an early adopter of electronic logging devices, while in-cab computers are used to complete driver vehicle inspection reports and feed the all-important maintenance concerns directly to maintenance teams.

Not every technical rollout has been a success, though. An early generation of radar systems was so prone to false warnings that a senior driver completed just one trip and begged to have it removed. But even that technology has improved. Today, Tandet trucks are spec’d with optional features including blind spot warnings and lane departure warnings.

“Those are things that we’re embracing today to help the driver. The driver is still in charge of the vehicle – and in my opinion always will be. But ultimately there are driver assistance systems that will allow him to be a little bit safer,” Tilley says.

A gentle reminder that safety starts here.

Safety as a journey

Safety is an ongoing journey in this operation. Driver-focused coaching is delivered in person and online, depending on the topic. And when it comes to loading and unloading procedures, the lessons always come during face-to-face time with a trainer. The final few feet of every journey presents unique challenges, after all. Tandet’s goods don’t simply roll on and off the trailer on a forklift.

It’s also why Tandet established detailed acceptance forms that are used to acknowledge a receiver’s instructions and directions. Nothing is loaded or unloaded before those are signed.

Customers pushed back at first, but they came to realize that it was about ensuring the right product was transferred into the right containers, and that the containers had the required capacity, Tilley says.  “We don’t get the overflows. We don’t get mixes. We don’t get contaminations.”

Drivers who have honed all the related skills are obviously vital to the operation.

“When you’re a tank truck driver you tend to be the cream of the crop,” Tilley says.

Of course, this also means investing in steps to retain the personnel. He refers to practices like open-door policies and the safety and performance incentives for those who do the right things, whether they’re reflected in customer feedback forms or the cleanliness of a truck.

Tandet is more than willing to share its safety-related insights with others, too. The fleet has played an active role in training first responders across Ontario, exposing them to equipment through programs offered at locations like the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI).

Because safety begins by sharing information like that.

Read how Tandet Management controls on-road breakdown costs

John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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