Be the Best: Leadership Development at Southeastern Freight Lines


The Leader of the Pack

Over sixty-six years old and a third-generation company, Southeastern Freight Lines (SEFL), with operations in the southeastern region of the U.S. (and beyond through a network of partners), calls itself, “the leading provider of regional less-than-truckload (LTL) transportation services.” To sustain its leadership position, Southeastern knows it needs to develop its leaders and its unique culture so the company and its associates will continue to flourish. Here’s how they do it.

Human Relations

All associates at Southeastern are part of an Individualized Quality (IQ) workgroup team. Several times throughout the year, Southeastern conducts a 3-day Human Relations Seminar for its team leaders. Seminar participants study Principles of Human Relations, “proper Corrective Action, follow up technique, Safety, and cultivating a strong Southeastern Culture within their IQ Workgroup.”

Each morning the participants took tests which covered the previous day’s material. These test scores were used for both individual and group competition.

Quest for Quality

The company motto is “Quality without Question.” Southeastern is committed to improved quality and trains all of its leaders on Statistical Process Control (SPC) and Lean methodology.

Southeastern Freight Lines Lean 5S

Techs Too

Training at Southeastern doesn’t stop at the manager level. In-house technicians undergo Associate Continuing Education (ACE) training and certification, conducted by their maintenance department and outside vendors.

“If you take care of your people, they will take care of the customer, and that will take care of the future.” W. T. Cassels, founder, Southeastern Freight Lines

Fast Facts: Southeastern Freight Lines

Size: 3,036 power units, 4,048 drivers

Motto: Quality without Question

Company Saying: “Everyone sells and everyone serves.”

Risk Partner: Self-insured

Lessons Learned:  Develop and invest in your people. Adapt best business practices to fit your culture. Fully adopt new business tools by a show of unwavering support and commitment. Make best business practices part of your unique culture.

Thank you for reading this.

Five Bold Choices by Jay Coughlan and Larry Julian

5 Bold Choices by by Jay Coughlan and Larry Julian

Who Are Jay Coughlan and Larry Julian?

Jay Coughlan ran several successful software companies and Larry Julian writes bestsellers on the intersection of faith and work. Together their combined stories provide the synergy that resulted in Five Bold Choices: Rise above your Circumstances and Redefine Your Life.

Masters of the pitch, be it Coughlan making sixteen presentations in a day on Wall Street, or Julian pitching publisher’s row 19 times for his first book, they now direct their attention to anyone seeking transformation–based on the knowledge and experience they gained from their own ups and downs.

Coughlan and Julian found transformation is only possible through volition. Change needs to be not only a choice, but a Bold Choice.

This was not always apparent to either of the authors in the course of their lives. Both authors were able to change who they are from who they were. And they want to help others to reach their potential.

The Bold Choices

The first Bold Choice is Clarity or keeping the important things important. Sometimes that can be as simple as writing down your goals (most people don’t). Other times it’s distinguishing between the things that are energy giving or energy draining.

The next Bold Choice is that of accountability. Did you know a survey of over 500 executives by the American Management Association found 38% of business leaders cite fear of being held responsible for mistakes or failures, as one of the factors holding them back? (page 64) But failure can be turned around. Coughlan says instead of asking what you did wrong, start with asking what you did right–then move to what could you have done differently, and what do you need to change?

The third Bold Choice is adaptability. Coughlan goes to prison and had to adapt to his new reality. Julian talks about his struggles over seven years to get his first book published. Only after internal change had taken place could they see any progress.

The fourth Bold Choice is confidence. Confidence often comes in two flavors–too little or too much. Both can be a dominant tendency in your life and both can result in poor leadership or decision-making. The authors suggest the key is less hubris and more humility.

The last Bold Choice is balance. Balance can only be achieved by making the decision to decide, a word from the Latin decidere, which means, literally, to cut off or cut away. One decision-making method as to what to let go is the 168-Hour Test, based on 168 hours in a week, listing out the important, as well as the unimportant things, to restore balance. And that will take you back to the first Bold Choice, to repeat the cycle of Bold Choices.

The authors end with several chapters on gratitude. Be thankful for all your challenges in life and business, good and bad. It’s all about the journey. It always was.

There are seven discussion guides in the book, to help the reader reflect on the lessons of the Five Bold Choices.

I recommend this book for anyone who feels someone they know or their own life or career could be off-track or out of balance and need practical answers. That could include parents, counselors, life-coaches, and executive-coaches.

Thank you for reading this.

Disclaimer. A review copy was provided by the authors. 

Wanted: “Geeky” Leaders

Leaders of Tomorrow

Data, Data, Everywhere

Organizations of all sizes literally have mountains of operational data available at their fingertips. One common problem, that just won’t go away, is no one in operations or safety does much or anything with it as they should. Trends are missed and opportunities are foregone.

On November 14th through 15th, the Annual WSJ CEO Council was held to discuss  “trade, education, regulation, energy policy, immigration, national security and other matters directly affecting business.”

One of the speakers at this year’s CEO Council meeting was Andrew McAfee, co-director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at MIT. McAfee spoke on “The Future of Jobs” and the importance of leadership style in what some now call the Second Industrial Revolution.

Common Themes and Consistent Patterns

McAfee sees five common themes and consistent patterns in “the companies that are creating the future.”

  1. They are bold and not afraid of making big bets.
  2. They move in a series of small, but rapid steps.
  3. Their strategic vision remains, but plans go no further than three to six months.
  4. They are dominated by evidence.
  5. They are open minded.

McAfee says these days the dominant mode for decision making is to rely on what he calls are the HiPPOs–the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.

Should a problem arise, says McAfee, everyone turns to the highest paid person in the room and asks, “Oh, HiPPO, what shall we do?”

McAfee suggests, instead, problems need to be solved by first looking at the preponderance of evidence (the data) and then go where it tells you to go. Then act on this new information. McAfee calls this “Geeky Leadership.”

The traditional method of problem solving–asking the HiPPO for an opinion–may not serve your organization well. A much better alternative is to conduct small scale experiments or pilot programs and find out what works or doesn’t work. Then let the hard evidence and facts be your guide, not a persuasive pitch or personality.

“This is what I see the excellent companies doing–over and over.” Andrew McAfee

McAfee intentionally avoided using the word “technology.” Technology is a given. There are many technological changes occurring all around us. It’s truly mind boggling at times.

For the most part, these changes will be good . . . in the sense they will contribute to a greater rise in the overall standards of living for most people. If your company or career is caught in the cross-hairs of change, your opinion may differ.

To protect your company (and your career), look for ways to take advantage of your available data streams, and always be ready to present this information when needed. You are probably already doing this, but if not, plan on having more data and facts to support whatever you are doing.

Thank you for reading this.

Safety Leadership Starts Here

Leading People Safely

If you are a leader who wants to do things right, Leading People Safely will help you become a better leader. Better yet, if you are a safety consultant, safety manager, work in loss control or risk management, this book will give you a practical framework or model to help setup a cutting-edge safety program.

Fielkow and Schultz’s central thesis is that an organization needs a strong “culture of prevention” to operate safely. “‘Safety’ is not a department.” And it should be not the function of the safety department to assume the responsibilities of management.

Fielkow and Schultz point out that management generally scores itself high on safety leadership—but the front-line workforce would often beg to differ. Leading People Safely presents a number of practical tools to help align perception and reality.

Leading People Safely

The quickest way to clear a room is to mention the words ‘safety’ or ‘leadership.’ The most common excuse is, “Really great ideas, but they won’t work here.” Fielkow and Schultz might retort, “Then try building a safety culture, not a cost culture.” (Chap. 1 & 2) We learn in Chap. 3 there are some things money can’t buy: Culture drives happiness. Culture is based on the 3 Ts: Treatment, Transparency and Trust to ensure employee engagement. To know safety, one must know accountability (Chap. 4), in all its flavors, on an individual level, organizational level, and pee-to-peer level. We’re not talking about compliance (Chap. 5), but overcoming at least 12 common safety challenges under the rubric of ‘Dysfunctional Creep.’ (Chap. 6) That ends Part I of the book. Then it gets better . . .

Part II: How to Build a World-Class Safety Culture

Fielkow and Schultz jump right in with a Case Study (Chap. 7) of a real mess that needed to be cleaned up. Safety, we find, is not a department, but, rather, the responsibility of management. Safety is leader driver (Chap. 8) requires Good Leadership Habits (Chap. 9), execution of your plan (Chap. 10), and a ‘Just Culture’ (Chap. 11) to sustain it. In these days of “Nuclear Verdicts” and over-zealous regulators, learn how to protect yourself and your organization (Chap. 12) while implementing change. Like management, employees, too, must own safety (Chap. 13). Vet and mentor your workforce (Chap. 14) while developing your managers (Chap. 15) It’s all about engagement (Chap. 16-17), even engaging the family. (Chap 18)

We find small safety events and incidents can be a precursor to something major. “Severity is a matter of luck.” (Chap. 19) Always do a Root-Cause Analysis. (Chap. 20). Learn how to build a safety “brand” inside your organization. (Chap. 21) Let employees write their own handbook. (Chap. 22), to help against “Normalization of Deviance,” (Chap. 23) On day one, have them sign a “Culture Contract” (Chap 24), specific to how your culture operates. Take advantage of new safety technologies (Chap. 25)

But any organization can start to wander off course, and when it does, sometimes a “Shock and Awe” move can put it back on track. (Chap. 26). Finally, help your workforce to develop a list of your organization’s Life-Critical Rules (Chap. 27).

Thank you for reading this.

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy by one of the authors.

Texting & Trucking . . . A Deadly Combo

total crash

Why Didn’t You Stop?

Before passing sentence on John Wayne Johnson, who admitted his guilt on nine counts — including five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide, the judge asked him a question. Why didn’t he stop his tractor trailer?

Johnson had no answer.

In an earlier disposition, Johnson admitted he was texting a woman while driving .

The April 22, 2015 crash resulted in the deaths of five nursing students. Two other students were seriously injured. Johnson slammed into stopped traffic at an estimated 70 MPH on I-16 eastbound near U.S. 280.

Criminal charges against the company were dropped in exchange for a $200,000 payment to a nursing program. Johnson was sentenced to five years.

So far, settlements in this collision have added up to about $80 million.

Buried in a 2014 company Driver Manual, was the following: Use of handheld electronic devices while driving. Absolutely no texting while driving!

Texting is an Industry Problem

While the DOT has huge fines in place for both commercial drivers and motor carriers, some drivers are not getting the message.

“Everybody does it,” said one trucker.

The following recommendations on abating texting come from Lance Evans, Senior Safety & Loss Control Representative at Great West Casualty from an earlier post:

  • Have a Policy and Procedures manual. (Update it, if you haven’t recently.)
  • Signs posted so when a driver leaves the yard they see the company is serious about this issue. “No call, no text, no ticket, no crash.”
  • Stickers in the Tractor that say “It can wait.”
  • Stress the issue in safety meetings.
  • Ask your insurance company about discounts available for having a policy on the use of a hands-free device.
  • Signs on the trailer, “Is our driver texting” or “Is our driver on the phone” 1-800 xxx-xxxx or @company name (twitter).
  • Lastly, reward drivers by showing appreciation for following the Company’s Safety Model.
  • Stress the point that lives matter, one life lost is one to many.

Thank you for reading this. Much thanks to Lance Evans of Great West.

Trucker Dave is Not Happy: Why We Need to Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Trucker DaveMeet Trucker Dave

Trucker Dave is a seasoned, professional driver. Trucker Dave blogs on and on its YouTube channel

Trucker Dave responded via YouTube to a Transport Capital Partners (TCP) blog about a survey that indicated, due to lackluster demand, driver wages won’t increase by much in the next year. Trucker Dave is not happy.

A substantial majority, 70% of carriers surveyed, expect wage increases of only 1% to 5%. Transport Capital Partners

Trucker Dave is incredulous. He can’t believe it. His perception is different . . .

The cost of living has nothing to do with the freight index.

The cost of living on the road  has nothing to do with the freight index.

Freight volume is not tied to your pay.

It’s a nice try. It’s another excuse for not raising our wages, but that just doesn’t cut it. By God— Don’t buy it for a second.

Freight volume has nothing to do with the money we make.

Following their logic — in low volume years — they expect drivers to live in grass huts and eat nothing but cabbage and potatoes.  That’s the kind of logic that’s coming out of that argument. Thank you, TCP, but we’ll look elsewhere for advice. Appreciate it . . .

Here’s my response to Trucker Dave . . .

  1. Price is information. Price (i.e., wages) is also known as price signal. When things become scare, they can become more valuable. A thirsty man will pay more for that first glass of water, then he would for a 100 gallons of water, especially after his thirst has been satisfied. Price is information that helps in decision making.
  2. Wages are flat during recessions. Everyone in the U.S. experienced a shave and a haircut during the Great Recession. Trucker Dave is based in Ontario and Canada never really experienced what happened in the U.S. during the recession.
  3. Wages in trucking are one of the top expenses. According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), 34% of trucking’s operational costs per mile is driver pay ( An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking).

Many fleets pay a competitive wage for quality drivers. Quality drivers are in demand and will be for a long time.

No Facts about the Future

No one knows what will happen in the remainder of 2016 and beyond. There are no facts about the future. But in the possibility of a continued freight slowdown, the likelihood of driver pay increases as seen in 2014 and 2015 is not that high.

Tip: Top companies conduct business literacy training programs to . . .

• Help employees understand the business information shared with them.
• Develop future, high-level leadership.

We need to constantly communicate not only what is going on in the business, but in our industry and how it affects operations.

Thank you for reading this.

Safety in a 0.5% Economy

No shorts cuts on the road to success.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. — Joseph P. Kennedy

Safety Critical

If you operate commercial motor vehicles as trucks and buses, then you are in what is known as a safety critical industry. A safety critical industry is one where failure to perform as expected can have dire consequences.

If you are in the trucking business, operations are always sensitive to market turbulence, economic cycles, seasonal variations, and the like. It’s no secret that the general freight market is not as robust as it once was. When the economy sneezes, the trucking industry catches a cold, as the old saying goes . . .

One serious mistake, that is oft repeated in times like these, is to react, not respond to market conditions. And the biggest reaction might be in cutting back in safety and then, in maintenance. Orientations, safety meetings, and training can be trimmed, service of equipment can be delayed, safety personnel and mechanics can be laid off . . .

After all, they are an expense, part of the overhead, and don’t bring in revenue, right?

Oddly enough, things may even keep running smoothly for a while, confirming the decision.

But the problem is not a short term problem. The problems start showing up in the long term. Dumb stuff starts to happen. Wheels begin to fall off vehicles. Turnover increases. And right or wrong, a new reputation soon emerges . . .

Plan For Turbulence

In a service-based economy, swings in demand are the new normal. Plan for them.

  1. Keep staff informed. Nobody wants to find out from secondary sources on what is going on. Nobody likes surprises. Without real-time information, drivers and staff may believe things are far better than they are . . . or things are much worse.
  2. Structure your communications so that every person who is working in the business plays a part in helping to work on the business. Your employees know, better than anyone, how to best improve operational inefficiencies and save money.
  3. Talk to your customers as well. Seek ways to add value. Help them to better manage your accounts receivable. Review your accounts. Offer discounts for quicker payments and perhaps add on fees for late payments.
  4. Bonuses are not entitlements, but at the same time should not be modified or changed during the year for any reason. Your bonus structure should relate directly to your goals and be non-discretionary.  Bonuses should inspire employees to apply their best efforts to meet mutually-agreed upon results.
  5. What are the mission critical success factors of the business? What are your top three strategic initiatives? How do you add value? How can you add more value?

In turbulent times, beware of the quick fixes and avoid them. Think about the repercussions of your decisions to cut back or under-invest in recruiting, safety or maintenance.

A better solution may be to involving all of the employees in finding alternative ways to put the business in an improved competitive position.

Thank you for reading this.

Turnover Up . . . Safety Down?

In-n-outTruckload Carriers’ Turnover is Up


The annualized turnover rate for large truckload fleets rose two percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 102%, the second straight quarter it was at least 100% – the first such streak since 2012.  — ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, April 25, 2016 Press Release.

Insurance companies are interested in an organization’s employee turnover for a number of reasons. High turnover can indicate employee dissatisfaction — never a good thing. High employee turnover can indicate lower levels of productivity and profitability. Mostly, high employee turnover can indicate potential safety issues and, therefore, more risk. Turnover is a measure of safety.

In my 40 year safety career, I’ve found that companies with the lowest turnover rates in their type of industry usually also have low accident rates and excellent safety cultures.  While there are certainly more precise and scientific measures of safety culture,  I believe that turnover rates provide the best quick, easy, and cheap “snapshot” of an organizations’ culture. — Dave Weber, a former Safety and Environmental Manager and founder of Safety Awakenings

What is Turnover?

Turnover (also known as the attrition rate or churn) is sometimes measured as . . .

the annualized number of drivers per 100, who voluntarily or involuntarily leave (terminate) employment with the employer.

Turnover is easy to calculate. If you had 100 drivers last year and 11 left their jobs or were terminated, your turnover rate was 11 percent. This was the 2015 turnover rate at less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers. The 2015 truckload (TL) turnover rate was about 93 percent, but jumped in the last two quarters to 100 percent.

Top Tip: The turnover rate should be calculated on a quarterly basis for top management review.

Employee departures will occur from time to time as part of the employment process. But when turnover percentage increases, management needs to look to identify applicable improvement opportunities to reverse the trend.

Turnover is Expensive

Direct costs of replacement hiring include:

• Recruiting (sourcing)
• Interviewing
• Hiring expenses

On-boarding costs include:

• Orientation/training of the new employee
• Acculturation to the culture and organizational expectations

Hiring costs are conservatively estimated to be 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year) or around $8,000. Part of that cost is the opportunity cost of lost revenues from having an idle vehicle.

Studies show that an organization’s efforts put into orientation/training and acculturation are sound investments that can result in greater employee longevity and higher productivity.

First Year Employee Turnover

Another turnover metric to look at is first year employee turnover.

To calculate first year employee turnover . . .

Divide the total number of employees who leave in less than one year by the total number of employees who leave in the same period (multiply by 100).

For example, if 4 of the 11 employees who left employment were first year employees, the first year employee turnover would be 4 / 11 = .3636 *100 or about 36.36 percent. Compare this number to the industry standard for turnover, or to organizations in your local area. Your state industry association may track these numbers to help you compare your findings.

Knowing your first year employee turnover rate is another tool that can help indicate to management if a review of your hiring or on-boarding process is necessary or even overdue..

Thank you for reading this.


Keeping Drivers Safe on the Road

Golden rules of driving

Fatal Truck Driver Collisions On the Rise

SInce 2009 there has been an increase in work-related fatalities of large-truck occupants, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why is that? What is driving this? What can be done?

Not Wearing Seat Belts / Safety Belts

The most effective way to prevent crash injuries/deaths in large trucks is simple: drivers (and occupants) need to wear a safety belt (or bunk restraints) while driving.

Studies show about 1 in 6 truck drivers doesn’t use a seat belt. Other studies show seat belts/safety belts could have prevented up to 40% of these crash-deaths.

Three other significant facts arise from safety-belt studies and driver behavior. Unbelted drivers usually:

  • Work for an employer without a written safety program
  • Have had at least one moving violation in the past year 
  • Often drive 10 mph or more over the speed limit.

In other words, the unbelted driver is a risky driver or high risk driver.

What Employers Can Do?

Enforce a mandatory safety belt/ safety belt use policy. Drivers need to be aware of the policy and the consequences of violation.

Of course, one of the best way to keep truck drivers safe on the road is to prevent crashes. Invest in safety. Invest in new technology.

But new technology can only go so far. How you recruit, train, and monitor drivers is where new technology can help the most.

Beside using a seat belt/ safety belt employers can encourage and monitor drivers:

  • Not to use their cell phone
  • Not to drive over the speed limit
  • Never use alcohol or drugs on the job
  • Plan the trip: encourage driving during daylight hours rather than after dark, whenever possible.

These, plus the use of a safety belt are called the golden rules of safe driving.

“Poor safety is nothing more than a lack of leadership.”

Be a Safety Leader

Other safety initiatives include incorporating a Fatigue Management System for drivers. Fatigue is a major hazard because it affects most aspects of a driver’s ability to do their job. As such, it has implications for safety. One such option is Omnitracs Analytics’ Driver Fatigue Model.

Behavior based Driver Training should be de rigueur for every driver employer starting with Defensive Driving Training (Instructor-led training or E-learning modules) and continuing with advanced training or even remedial training for the drivers who need it.

Take and make safety initiatives that are unique to your set of operations. Sometimes this means taking at look at your safety awards or safety incentives program. Some regulatory bodies like OSHA do not like incentive or bonus programs because they believe poor safety can be hidden. One option is to pool the names of safe drivers and randomly pick a winner for recognition. Another bonus option is to find out if there are any particular privileges a driver may want as extra-long weekends or the like. Find out what works best for your particular drivers,

Improve a Little at a Time

It took a long time to get wherever you are at. Changes will take some time as well. The idea is to keep looking for unique solutions that can make a big difference in the long haul.

Thank you for reading this.

File Under . . . Driver Hiring Standards Undone

Trapped It was a violent crash. Anytime a vehicle is caught between two trucks it never turns out good.

The CDL driver said he does not know what happened. The driver was convicted of driving without a license, and allegedly has two drug charges pending against him.

An investigation by WRAL found the CDL driver had eight driving-related violations since 2008, but seven were dismissed.

The owner of the truck said the driver was his cousin, had a CDL and  passed an insurance background check.  He expressed shock at his cousin’s bad driving record.

Lessons Learned

Many times in the course of a loss control inspection, I will ask small fleet owners if they have driver hiring standards. They say they sure do. When pressed for details, however, they admit their standards are not in writing, they are not sure of the exact details and, in any case, they rely on their insurance company for the yea or nay before hiring.

When driver turnover is low, this might not be that unusual. It seems like a hassle to put down some of your expectations for  a new driver, especially when you have never had any problems before. Besides, who doesn’t have enough paperwork to do as it is?

This type of — lets say — complacent attitude is being noted today by insurance companies. When you don’t know what you are looking for in a driver, how will you know that you have hired the right one?

And should your insurance company act as your de facto HR screener? They are going to reject obviously risky drivers, but as the above situation shows, when driving violations are dismissed, occasionally bad drivers are hired.

Put It in Writing . . .

A driver hiring standard looks something like this:

  • The minimum age for a driver: usually 23-25, but younger may be acceptable.
  • The minimum past driving time or experience: 1 to 3 years. While this is not a DOT requirement (the driver must be qualified by reason of experience or training), more experience gives a candidate a better track record.
  • Minimum education: high school diploma or GED. Note research has found that smarter drivers have the most longevity on the job. Always hire smart.
  • Training standards. Has the driver attended a professional school appropriate for the class of license and vehicle they will be driving? Has the driven taken (or will the driver be given) any defensive driving training?
  • Motor Vehicle Record (MVR): no more than 1 moving violation in 2 years or no more than 2 violations in 5 years. Some organizations use a flexible standard, looking for a pattern and seriousness of the violation. Others use the insurance company point system: such as a maximum of 4 points in 3 years. Serious moving violation include: Speed at or in excess if 15MPH;     Running Red Light/Stop Sign or other traffic control device; Following Too Closely; Erratic/Unsafe Lane Change; Unsafe Driving. Other serious offenses include: Fleeing a police officer; Racing on a public highway; Careless or reckless driving; Leaving the scene of an accident; DUI/DWI listed on MVR.
  • Collisions: The average driver has one collision about every five years. If a driver has had several at-fault accidents in the most recent three-year period, the odds are that the driver will have more. It is recommended by some safety experts that a maximum of one at-fault accident ever be accepted. Tip: Accidents/collisions appearing on the MVR can be supported with a copy of a police report or other official documents before hiring.
  • Disqualifying factors: violent crime, felony, DUI (7 – 10 years back maximum), some go back over the driver’s lifetime.
  • Work History: This may vary by sector, but a candidate with a history of frequent job changes may continue the pattern.

Be innovative in selecting the driver hiring standards that make sense for you. The efforts you put into it are well worth it to your organization.

Thank you for reading this.

5 Powerful Tips to Start A Trucking Company

insuremyrig.comYour Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

If starting a business is challenging, starting a new trucking business can be extraordinarily challenging.

Roemer Insurance was founded in 1934, specializes in truck insurance and has helped many companies succeed over the years.

One of Roemer’s most popular informational videos is about starting a trucking company. Having worked with a number of startups over the years, I believe their advice should be called the 5 Commandments of starting a trucking company— not merely tips

Here they are . . .

  • Tip #1 Start with one or more core customers
  • Tip #2 Have 90-120 days operating capital on hand before
  • Tip #3 Improve your credit rating
  • Tip #4 Start Small
  • Tip #5 Pick 3 professional advisers

Core customers are profitable customers and profitable customers are always difficult to find. Trucking is an extremely difficult business because unless you can find equally profitable return freight, half of your miles will be empty (deadhead miles). Some lanes of traffic simply might have little return freight because there are inbound states and outbound states for freight, as well as seasonal variations and business and economic cycles.

Having sufficient operating (working) capital means you can pay your bills (fuel, insurance, and wages, even if it is to yourself), while waiting to get paid. There are occasions, for various reasons, that you may not get paid at all or customers learn you’re okay with slow payments, or perhaps you are slow in your billing. How many months can you afford to wait? What if your main customer suffers a reversal or changes their policy and there is no money for a while longer than anticipated?

Your credit score may be used to determine what kind of risk you could be to the insurance company. This is turn may affect your ultimate premiums.

Pilot, pilot, pilot. Anyone starting a business is usually shocked at how quickly the bills add up. Not having done it before, a new business owner will find that there are many blind-spots, traps and pitfalls in getting a new business up and running. Everything, it seems, takes twice as long and costs two to three times more than expected. Do test runs and work the kinks out of your processes, paperwork, and procedures.

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”
― Oscar Wilde

Good advice is plentiful. So is bad advice. Good advisers are outnumbered by the bad advisers. Finding a helpful adviser you can trust is difficult.

In addition to having a good accountant, attorney, and insurance agent, find someone who is up on DOT regulatory requirements. Sometimes your insurance company has a Loss Control department that will provide help in this area at no additional charge to you. Another key player on your team is having a good, honest mechanic who is available when you need them.

Mike Lawrence from gives his Top 5 Tips . . .

The 6th Commandant

I would like to add a sixth tip. It is always prudent to write a business plan for your new business. Working in a business and running a business are two different things. Becoming a business owner is a new role that requires a new mindset. One of the most common errors I see in many transportation businesses is the lack of proper documentation. Start off right with a business plan to put you in the proper mindset. Many local community colleges may offer a class on starting a business and can help in this area. Learn how to document everything— all of your plans, policies and procedures — and get in that mindset.

What does any of this have to do with safety?

If you are not profitable, safety falls to the side.

If you aren’t at least break-even, you can’t pay your bills and maintenance will fall to the side along with safety.

If you can’t pay yourself, your business will become a burden instead of the joy it was meant to be and safety will falter.

Much thanks to Mike Lawrence from for his informative video.

Thank you for reading this.

Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.


Resolving Conflicts at Work

conflictHeaded for a Conflict

If conflict does arise at work, then it probably should. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.

Conflict can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive. Conflict is not the same as open hostility (and its attendant verbal attacks and threatening gestures) or anger.

Avoiding conflict, however, will only make matters worse.

How is conflict defined?

Conflict exists when one person has a need of another and that need is not being met.Conflict Resolution

The participants at odds with each other need to engage in constructive conflict which is similar to the negotiation process during problem solving. Ultimately, the parties at odds have (or should have) the final responsibility to resolve the conflict.

Conflicts need to resolved in a step-by-step manner. The first steps are probably the hardest:

1. Express the need.
2. Find out if the need can or cannot be met.
• Yes, means the conflict is resolved. • No, means the conflict needs to be managed (If No, then go to Step 3. Management of Conflict)

The first steps are to always express the need and then determine if the need can be met. These steps are not always done, sometimes out of misplaced respect for the other person, sometimes out of fear of triggering a bad mood or some other reaction in that person.

Common mistakes in conflict resolution are to either totally avoid resolving the unmet need, or skipping the first steps and jumping directly into the management of the conflict.

More conflict is caused by walking away than standing and fighting and sorting it out.  Jeff Muir, Consultant

The third step is to resolve the unmet need. Start by communicating. Effective one-on-one communication techniques include:

  • Using facts, not opinions (make sure you know the facts).
  • Using “I” statements (“You” statements put people on the defensive).
  • Being direct and to the point (keep it in the here and now).
  • Being consistent (repeat the same message to everyone, every time).

Step 3. Conflict Resolution/Negotiation Checklist

  • Is there communication? Is active listening occurring?
  • Is there mutual respect in the relationship?
  • What are the underlying interests? Are they shared?
  • What are the best alternatives?
  • Have all the options been brainstormed?
  • Are there objective, legitimate criteria that are fair to all?
  • Is there sufficient time to commit? Can it be done?

Putting Conflict Resolution to the Supreme Test

Based on my experience, not everyone is open about their unmet needs. If dealing with members of the public or even business people for the first time, often they may not articulate their needs. This can lead to conflict.

Staff may delay passing on crucial information or try to filter it, if it is negative or will reflect badly on them. No news is good news.

Customers may be disappointed or less than satisfied and yet say nothing about their experiences. Then one day they simply disappear and the phone stops ringing.

The simple fact is, from time to time, everyone’s needs change. Employees seek new challenges, customers seek additional value. Business is never static.

The answer is good communication. The answer is always good communication.

But keep in mind, most communication is covert, not overt. The water is often muddy, signals get crossed, emails don’t arrive, and the message isn’t received. Effective communication takes effort and practice.

The supreme test of conflict resolution is to communicate at a level that conflict resolution is a natural byproduct of communication.

The Rules of the Business Game (in Resolving Conflicts)

Thank you for reading this.

The Driver Training Process

Indy_Celadon_Driving_AcademyMaximum Workforce Engagement

Every job requires learning new skills or brushing up on old skills.  Employees cannot deliver value to an organization without the proper knowledge and skills.

Every company does things a little differently. New employees need to know and to learn company policy and procedures.  Longer-term employees need to refresh their skills.

Most skill development will take some training. Training increases productivity by teaching the skills that increase productivity. Training is not an event. Training is a process.

The term “process” implies an ongoing program.  Without training reinforcement up to 80% of what is learned may be lost in several days.

Most training is too brief, sometimes known as the “hit and run approach.” There is little or no follow-up or refresher training. Hit and run training results in few skills being transferred to where they are needed — on the job.

Structured Training Program

All training should be structured. Structured training is a starting point to employee engagement.

Engaged employees know what to do and want to do it.

Surveys show only half half of employees feel “engaged” with their work.

A structured training program has:

  • Clearly defined training objectives or goals
  • A scheduled time frame
  • Outlines of learning activities
  • Assignment of responsibilities for the learner and training leader
  • Formal processes

Job Instruction Method

Adults do not learn well in lecture-type settings. One popular “hands-on” adult training method is called Job Instruction.

Job Instruction has 4 Steps:

Step 1. Put the learner at ease. Explain what the learning concept is about. Determine what the learner already knows about the concept.

Step 2. Patiently and carefully present the concept, task or operation to the learner. Stress the key points, one at a time. Do not overload.

Step 3. Have the learner try out or do the task. Have the learner explain the key points. Ask questions and give feedback. Don’t stop until you know that they know.

Step 4. Provide feedback through frequent checks. Encourage questions. The learner should look for key points. Slowly taper off the coaching and checkups to occasional feedback. Ask the learner questions.

The 10—2 Teaching Rule

Do no more than 10 minutes of teaching— followed by 2 minutes of “absorption time” to allow the learner time to absorb the material. Use the two minutes to provide context for the material by telling stories or asking questions.

A mistake is to try to teach everything in one session. Large-scale change happens only in steps.


  1. Always break-down the new information into chunks.
  2. Give time for the learners to:
    1. Reflect on and absorb the information
    2. Use it experimentally
    3. Apply the new principles

According to the “somatic marker hypothesis” this is the way we make decisions and learn— through socialization and experiential learning. It’s not only a process, but a slow, drawn-out process.

Emotional memory— memories and habits are formed through experiences associated with strong memories.

The 70—20—10 Rule

  • 70% of learning comes from direct experience
  • 20% of learning comes from the influence of others
  • 10% of learning comes from formal classwork and reading

In Conclusion

Engaged employees directly affect the bottom line. It is the primary task of management to provide the necessary resources, including training and skills development, for staff to meet minimal standards. Only then can staff realistically be held accountable.

Thank you for reading this.

More:   3 Tip-top Truck Driver Training Tips

Backing Tragedy Unfolds When Truck Driver Stops to Help

backing accident

Palm Coast, FL— A dump truck driver stopped to help free a man’s pickup stuck in the dirt off the side of the Forest Grove Drive and killed both the 29-year-old driver and a 22 year-old pregnant woman.

The double fatality happened late Thursday night (Feb. 11, 2016) at about 10:30 PM. When several tries to free the pickup failed, the dump truck backed up and may have unknowingly killed the two young people. The dump truck driver left the scene and was flagged down about a mile up the road. The dump driver was taken to a local hospital for chest pains. Charges against the dump truck driver are pending, according to WESH-NBC.

The Problem

Fatalities and injuries in backing crashes are tracked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).

“A backover occurs when a driver reverses into and injures or kills a nonoccupant such as a pedestrian or a bicyclist.” NHTSA

Backovers that occur on a public roadway are called traffic backovers. Backovers not on a public roadway, for example, in a driveway or in a parking lot are called nontraffic backovers and these type of backovers are 37 percent of all off-highway fatalities (or about one person every workday — about 250 per year).

The true number of people injured and killed in nontraffic backover events is most likely higher, as some public safety departments are not allowed to respond to incidents occurring on private property.

Fact: Backing collisions are 100 percent preventable.

Preventing Backing Collisions

Research in backing collisions tells us two things:

  1. The main cause of all backing accidents is human error. 
  2. Organizations with motor vehicles need to develop special programs to help prevent backing collisions

While we will never be able to prevent all human error, driver errors can be mitigated by safety training and indoctrination and a strong safety culture.

In talking with small fleet owners, I have never had the topic of backing training brought up by the fleet owner. I’ve seen good on-site backing practices, but it’s hard to attribute one or two observations to a good safety culture or to the safe practices of one or two drivers.

Whether one operates on-road or off-road, the procedures for backing are always the same: insure the path is clear, use a spotter, stop and re-check things if there is any doubt.

A Personal Tragedy

I take safe backing personally. A tragic backing accident happened many years ago (before I was born) at my father’s trucking company. I learned to spot semi-trucks before I knew my ABC’s. Safety is my primary concern in writing these blogs. I know I oft repeat myself, but the reason is so the next generation of drivers and fleet owners don’t have to repeat the same tragic mistakes, year, after year, after year.

Unfortunately, as the above backing double-fatality illustrates, not everyone is getting the message and there is room for improvement. Every year hundreds are killed and thousands injured in backing incidents and collisions. (Several news media outlets called it a “freak accident.” Really?)

Not enough attention is paid to backing safely. Part of the problem may be in training (endless repetition on the backing course where the driver may check his path once, if at all), and lack of refresher backing training. Watch drivers back at truck stops. It’s scary.

Proper and safe backing is something that needs to be talked about with drivers at least once a year, if not  more, in my opinion.

Thank you for reading this.

More . . . You Want Me to do Whaaat? Preventing Truck Backing Collisions


Why Invest In Safety?

Bob Riley of Dixfield climbs out of the ice shack he made from a 1996 Freightliner tractor-trailer cab. Named Haulin' Bass, he hauled it onto Roxbury Pond in Roxbury on Jan. 1 and has been fishing out of it every weekend since.

On the ice: Bob Riley of Dixfield, ME climbs out of the ice shack he made from a 1996 Freightliner tractor-trailer cab.

The Cautious Approach

The cautious approach, proclaims the Wall Street Journal, has taken hold of executives of some of the largest U.S. companies.

Acknowledging a tough business environment based on recent trends, CEO’s are delaying capital investment and, in some cases, even laying off staff. And it is not only happening in the oil and gas sector where an oversupply and low prices have upset the oil boom. Even manufacturing and transportation have been affected.

The Safety Investment

One area we cannot afford to cut is workplace safety. (While the word safety is defined many ways, one definition is a work environment that is free of hazards).

Investment in Safety or SH&E (Safety, Health and Environment) is a core business strategy at top companies. Some would argue, sure, that’s because these companies have more resources.

But if a company has fewer worker’s comp claims, doesn’t that result in having more resources? Fewer or no lawsuits? Better insurance premiums?

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).released a white paper in 2002 on the Return on Investment (ROI) for Safety, Health, and Environment (SH&E) Management Programs. (A white paper is a type of report that is particular in terms of its intended purpose, audience, and organization.)

ASSE found that in the majority of cases — yes, there is a R.O.I. from safety as a core strategy.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) knows from data and anecdotal information that investment in a SH&E program is a sound business strategy, for any organization regardless of size, and will lead to having a positive impact on the financial bottom line

As every business or business operation is different, like any investment, results may vary. While there is no rule of thumb saying a dollar invested in safety will get you three in six months, research shows top companies invest heavily in people, processes and technology, including risk management. And coincidentally, these same top companies have higher rates of profit. (Profit is the result of the efficient use of limited resources.)

I prefer the The $1-$10-$100 Rule:

A $1 not spent in Prevention will increase to $10 later spent in Correction or $100 in the cost of Failure.

Unnecessary Risk

From my interactions working with smaller fleets, I find they generally have a lot of experience, they know their  business inside-out, and are doing things the safe way— to a point.

The point where unnecessary risk begins is in a lack of formal safety systems.

Everyone has safety procedures and processes in place  — but they do not write them down.

Everyone tells me they have frequent safety meetings: quarterly, monthly, weekly and even daily — but the safety meetings are never documented.

Everyone has a policy on use of safety belts, electronic devices, passengers, personal use of the company vehicle, etc., — but the policies are never reduced to writing and/or a written acknowledgement is never made.

Ditto for maintenance records, driver files, drug and alcohol testing, handbooks, etc.

Your Risk Partner Has Dark Thoughts

One statement I frequently hear, and have heard for years is, Well, we’ve never had an accident.

That’s an interesting fact, in of itself. Your risk partner (a.k.a. “the insurance company”), however, makes a number of assumptions. If yours is an average company, then one assumption is that your company has an average chance of an insurance claim — based on totally random events. (It may not even be your fault . . .)

If your company lacks formalized safety systems and processes, any claim against it will be harder to defend. By your own actions or inaction, you have given up on your right to the most forceful legal defense.

What’s my point? The little things make a big difference. Remember the $1-$10-$100 Rule. A small investment in safety and safety systems can make a big difference later.

Do you want to invest $1 now or $100 tomorrow?

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is a Risk Engineer, and Safety Advocate. (989) 474-9599

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Dennis Todd memorial procession

Be so good they can’t ignore you. Steve Martin

That saying brings to mind the name of Mr. Dennis Todd, who passed away on March 16, 2015, from natural causes.

Here is what others have said of Mr. Todd . . .

Dennis was a beloved member of the community.

He was well-known for his quick wit, practical jokes, his devious smile and his overalls.

Todd was so dependable that even heavy snowstorms couldn’t keep him away when he was needed at collision sites.

Dennis had a big heart; he would help anyone in need, and he was a very loyal and devoted friend who will be greatly missed by all those who had the honor of knowing him.

For about 25 years Mr. Todd owned Todd’s Towing in North Bend WA. Dozens of his towing friends put together a memorial procession in his honor. Attendees at Mr Todd’s funeral were requested to wear their best pair of overalls in his memory.

Mr. Todd was interviewed prior to passing by the film crew of the “Highway thru Hell” documentary, airing on the Discovery Channel.

Trucking is the lifeblood of America and literally puts food on the table for millions of people. But trucking can’t do it without the assistance and help of the many ancillary support segments as towing and recovery, first responders, insurance and risk management, repair, special equipment, vehicle accessories, fuel suppliers, restaurants, banking and finance, law enforcement, and other sectors, too many to mention. When the chips are down, in every sector there are people like Mr. Todd, who put on their overalls in the middle of the night, in the worst of conditions, to risk life and limb, to help restore a semblance of order out of chaos.

As we move into another year, may we remember and uphold the high standards in business and safety as exemplified by Mr. Dennis Eric Todd.

Thank you for reading this. Please have a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2016.



The Accident Severity Model


The Accident Severity Model 

One of the most profound implications of the federal rule requiring the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) is the real-time capture of driver performance data.

What if this data could be used to prevent serious collisions? Sounds futuristic?

Omnitracs (formally a division of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), but now owned by Vista Equity Partners, a U.S.-based private equity firm) recently announced their Accident Severity Model can do that (that — meaning the prevention up to 85% of the most serious accidents by the riskiest drivers) . . . and more.

What the Data Says . . .

Did you know that about 50% of the fleet’s drivers will have 90% of the major collisions? Another way to look at this statistic is to say the other half of drivers will have only 10% of the serious collisions.

A serious or major collision is considered by Omnitracs  to be one of the “Big Six:”

  • Roll-Over
  • Run-off Road
  • Head-on
  • Jack-knife
  • Side-swipe
  • Rear-end

The severity of these collisions was further compounded by the fact that the drivers were completely disconnected from the driving task. Drivers . . .

  • Took zero evasive action
  • Could have seen the point of impact 6-7 seconds prior to impact (if awake), and
  • Made no attempt to minimize damage at the point of impact (brake or steer).

Drivers were sleep impaired or driving drowsy and the data indicate that 75% of these loss of control collisions occurred between the hours of 11 PM and 6AM.

10% of the riskiest drivers have 31% of the collisions.


Preventing Collisions

The Accident Severity Model is focused on helping the 10% riskiest drivers to prevent “loss of control” collisions as well as preventing the frequent, low-value claims. The model does this through the use of predictive modeling, by detecting subtle changes in driver physiology.

Part of Omnitracs’ program includes training of front-line management (as driver managers or dispatchers and driver supervisors) on techniques to speak with drivers when the data shows elevated driving risk. Drivers (preferably spouses, as well) are provided with a two-hour long sleep-science education class to better understand their behavior.

Once an at-risk driver is identified by the model, appropriate interventions (called remediations by Omnitracs) are then discussed with the driver as taking a rest break, bumping the appointment time, or the timing of future breaks.

“The biggest challenge with trying to manage severe accidents is they are typically infrequent and appear to be random. However, contrary to popular belief, many are not random at all, but a natural culmination of a series of subtle indicators that can be detected and addressed well in advance of an accident.” Omnitracs

Technological changes make new collision prevention and accident-prevention tools available to fleets of any size. This in turn will result in carriers of all sizes competing on safety as their primary competitive edge.

Thank you for reading this.

Related: “I Thought I Could Make It . . .”





Critical Reasons for Truck Crashes


The Facts

The 62-year-old truck driver drifted off the road into the grassy ditch alongside the highway, rolling his truck and trailer.

A family of four was stopped for a left turn when their pickup truck was struck in the rear by a bobtail semi truck, killing their two daughters in the back seat and critically injuring the parents.

Three adults and four children were in a jeep, stopped in a construction zone, when it was struck from behind at an “Interstate speed,” killing all seven . . .

These crashes had one thing in common: police concluded that the drivers were not paying attention to the road.

In a study of truck crashes (the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS), conducted from 2005 to 2007), the “immediate reason” leading up to the crash is referred to as the “critical reason.” (The critical reason is not presumed to be the same as driver’s fault.)

Although the critical reason is an important part of the description of events leading up to the crash, it is not intended to be interpreted as the cause of the crash nor as the assignment of the fault to the driver, vehicle, or environment.

In February 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHHTSA), National Center for Statistics and Analysis, released a statistical analysis of crash data from the NMVCCS study classifying the critical reasons in truck crashes.

Critical reasons concerning driver error in truck crashes are broadly classified as:

  • Recognition errors,
  • Decision errors,
  • Performance errors, and,
  • Non-performance errors

The analysis found that driver error occurs in 94 percent (±2.2%) of the crashes.

Here’s the Breakdown . . .

Recognition error (as driver’s inattention, internal and external distractions,
and inadequate surveillance),  at 41% (±2.2%) was the most frequently
assigned critical reason.

Decision error (driving too fast for conditions, driving too fast for the curve, false assumption of others’ actions, illegal maneuver and misjudgment of gap or others’ speed) accounted for about 33 percent (±3.7%) of the assigned critical reason.

Performance error (such as overcompensation, poor directional control, etc.) was the critical reason in about 11 percent (±2.7%) of the crashes.

Non-performance error (ex. driver fell sleep) was the critical reason accounted for 7 percent (±1.0%) of the crashes.

Other driver errors were recorded as critical reasons for about 8 percent (±1.9%) of the drivers.

Critical Reason Attributed to Vehicles (2% of Crashes)

Critical reason attributed to vehicles are about 2 percent of the NMVCCS
crashes, (although none of these reasons implied a vehicle causing
the crash).

  • Tire problems accounted for about 35 percent (±11.4%) of vehicle-related
  • Brake related problems as critical reasons accounted for
    about 22 percent (±15.4%) of such crashes.
  • Steering/suspension/transmission/engine-related problems were assigned as critical reasons in 3 percent (±3.3%) of such crashes.

Critical Reasons Related to the Environment (2% of Crashes)

Critical reasons attributed to the driving environment (road and/or weather conditions) were assigned to about 2 percent of truck crashes.

  • In about 50 percent (±14.5%) of the 52,000 crashes the critical reason was attributed to slick roads.
  • Glare as a critical reason accounted for about 17 percent (±16.7%) of the environment-related crashes
  • View obstruction was assigned in 11 percent (±7.2%) of the crashes.
  • Signs and signals accounted for 3 percent (±2.5%) of such crashes.
  • The weather conditions (fog/rain/snow) were cited in 4 percent (±2.9%) of the crashes.

Using the Data

Please help spread the word about these critical crash reasons to your safety personnel, driver managers, fleet supervisors, and drivers. Drivers can do two things, and only two things while driving, to avoid a collision: manage their speed and manage their space.

As many truck-car collisions are due to errors on part of the car driver, the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver needs to drive defensively. And as all collisions are considered to have an element of “randomness” associated with them, CMV drivers need to be on high alert at all times.

Thank you for reading this.



Totally Out of Control

 First responders cover their ears as injured cattle are shot inside an overturned semi cab pulling a cattle trailer that crashed on Highway 126 near Cedar Flat Road east of Springfield. (Brian Davies/The Register-Guard)Everything rises and falls on leadership. John Maxwell

Totally Out of Control

The cattle truck driver who crashed on Highway 126 on Tuesday, resulting in the deaths of more than a dozen cows, was speeding when he failed to negotiate a curve, authorities said Wednesday.

He was cited for failing to drive within a lane, state police said.

According to court records, he has had a number of driving violations during the last decade. He twice was convicted of speeding in 2011, which resulted in the state Department of Motor Vehicles suspending his license.

In August, a man filed a claim against . . . him and his employer (at the time), alleging damages when he was hit by their truck. The lawsuit seeks at least $100,000.

The truck with trailer turned onto its side after shearing a tree and striking a power pole, trapping and killing a number of cattle in Tuesday’s crash. A crew had to remove downed power lines at the crash scene.

Additionally, a state police trooper fatally shot 12 of the injured cows that could not be saved. (The Register-Guard)

 Safety is a Choice

Why anyone would hire a driver with a bad driving record, a previous license suspension, and who brought grief to himself and his previous employer?

Did the driver lie about his driving history or withhold information?

Did the cattle hauler (yes – this was a cattle-hauler, livestock hauling is their specialty) properly vet the driver? Did they do a background check? Do they have hiring standards or a safety program in place?

What went wrong?

I have the utmost respect for cattle-haulers. It’s a tough and thankless job and requires a lot of driving skill and finesse. A cattle-hauler has to be a very good driver, a really special person.

But a tougher job is that of the first responders that have to clean up the messes that — in many cases — should have never happened. Many first-responders are volunteers. They only want to help their communities. But they are the ones who have to deal with the carnage, broken bodies, and the many horrors and aftermaths of the bad drivers and employers who made bad choices.

We can do better than this . . . We have to.

Thank you for reading this.

 Related: Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes

Who are the Safest Drivers in the USA? . . . Safety Indoctrination Works


Who are the safest drivers in the USA?

All drivers are not created equal. Some drivers just seem to have a knack for driving. Other, seemingly bright, intelligent people are all thumbs behind the wheel of a car.

In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have evaluated thousands of drivers from almost every part of the world and of various ages, occupations, and social backgrounds.

When it comes to safe driving, I have found the children of truck drivers or police officers fair not much better than average when it comes to driving. Perhaps many truck drivers are gone and let mama do the driver’s ed stuff. Due to the nature of their work, police are notorious for having some of the highest collision rates, even though being specially trained in high-risk driving.

When it comes to safe driving, there is one segment that always stands out. Here’s a hint . . . These are the children of the folks who, on a daily basis, have to deal with the direct consequences of bad driving. The folks who see the broken bones, severe burns, missing limbs, life-altering injuries, wicked whiplash, TBI, paralysis, and other horrors of bad driving that polite folks don’t talk or even think much about. These are the folks, all the livelong day, who have to take the mush and pieces that are left from a bad collision and try to make what resembles a human being from the anatomical jigsaw puzzle.

On occasion, they share their work with their trusted inner circle, the members of their family. “Yeah, that Smith kid —the only one in the car who didn’t wear his safety belt— he’s going to live. It took six surgeries over 32 hours and 42 pints of blood — but he’s going to live. He’s going to live . . .”

Yes — the children of emergency room doctors are some of the safest drivers I have had the privilege to observe. They do their traffic checks, make full stops, yield to pedestrians, check the railroad tracks, check their blind spots and the hundreds of other safe driving behaviors that many drivers “forget” to do. And they do it naturally, as if they had been driving for decades.

Two Lessons Learned

The moral of this story is twofold.

Firstly, safety indoctrination works.

1. the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle,or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view


The word indoctrination is formed from indoctrinate, a word whose Latin roots mean “to teach.” It also means to inculcate or imbue with learning.

Whether it is politically correct or not, from my observations, safety indoctrination works. If you teach it, really make an effort to teach it, they will learn.

The second point, related to the emergency care scene, is that we’ve become better as a society at patching up people after crashes. Crashes are more survivable due to vehicle safety improvements. The tools and resources and training of the first responders are better. The emergency room technology is improved.

In general, the number of fatal car crashes have been falling. The declining number of fatal car crashes might be a false metric. Are we really any safer?

But there is another statistic that should concern us all. Take a look at the handicapped parking spots at any retail store. Usually they are in use by somebody. By some estimates, there are up to fifty-six million disabled people in the U.S., sometimes called “the hidden society.” Every year thousands of people are injured or disabled, and many of these in car and truck crashes.

That tells me there is still much work that needs to be done in driver safety training and education (indoctrination) at all levels of driving. Most of us did not have emergency room doctors as parents.

Dollarize the Safety Value Proposition

The majority of companies are small and lack either a vision or budget for training and education. With everything else going in in the business, it’s sometimes hard to see the oftentimes hidden value of safety. Here’s how one safety training company dollarized the value of their safety training . . .

savings from training

Thank you for reading this.

Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.

Another Post . . .

What are the qualifications or standards to administer company D.O.T. driving tests?