Big Wheels Keep On Turnin…

So this week the OSHA Compliance Advisor featured us in the Compliance Report section of their weekly publication.  This article is only available in their hard copy edition so read on below.  If you’d like to check out some of the other great things these folks write about, check them out at 

 Keeping Big Wheels Turning . . . Safely.  For This Carrier, Protecting Truckers is Job One

OSHA Compliance Advisor – Issue #653

 There was a time when trucking companies did little more than check new drivers’ records and run them through a couple hours of training. Those days are over. Today transportation businesses of all sizes are acknowledging that their most valuable asset isn’t the cargo they carry but the people who carry it.

 Many have learned the hard way. The National Institute of Occupational  Safety and Health (NIOSH) and trucking groups have brought to light the fact that truckers suffer numerous health problems that are related to their sedentary lifestyle, long hours, vibration, lack of access to healthy food, and other factors.

 It’s not just the biggest carriers that are driving safety. Lily Transportation is a mid-size transportation company based in Needham, Massachusetts, that employs nearly 500 drivers and serves a diverse client base (U.S. and Canada) with customized transportation systems. Clients include NAPA Auto Parts, Legal Sea Foods, and Whole Foods. Lily’s commitment to safety and health plays out in a comprehensive program that includes training, strong policies, incentives, electronic tools, and a growing interest in driver wellness.

 Awareness Is Key  Bill Eskel, vice president of operations, says Lily uses a variety of strategies to increase knowledge and awareness on the part of drivers and those who manage them. These include training tools from Pro-TREAD and the Smith System.

 Both new and established employees participate in an ongoing driver observation program. “At least once a quarter, or more frequently if they were observed doing something wrong, our managers observe drivers unannounced,” explains Eskel. They follow the drivers on their routes and watch for infractions such as driving too close to another vehicle, excessive speed, abrupt turns, or failing to properly check trucks before leaving the yard. Observers then complete a 3-page written report. 

 The company also enlists the help of the driving public to monitor safety by having a toll-free number to report unsafe driving. In the past, Lily used an outside vendor for this program, but has now taken it in-house. It is more affordable, says Eskel, and it provides quicker feedback that’s immediately conveyed to the drivers in question.

 Lily has added digital tools to its safety toolbox. About 40 percent of its fleet is outfitted with PeopleNet onboard electronics. PeopleNet is a computer system that helps managers determine how long and how well their drivers are operating. It also benefits drivers by automating recordkeeping and other compliance-related paperwork and by simplifying communications.

 “We’ve also installed a lane-departure system in about 25 percent of our trucks,” says Eskel. The equipment, made by Mobileye, causes a beep to sound in a truck as a driver approaches the vehicle in front. The driver is warned to slow down and apply the brakes as he or she gets closer. “If you’re not dead center in the middle of your lane or get too close to the breakdown lane, it will also beep.” Eskel says Lily plans to eventually equip its entire fleet with Mobileye equipment.

 Training and Recognition  Although training is managed from Lily’s Needham headquarters, it is primarily carried out at the 30 or so client driver locations where drivers are stationed. On-site managers hold weekly tailgate safety meetings with topics based on local conditions and priorities.

 Quarterly, Eskel, along with the company president and top vice presidents, travel to each location to hold an all-driver safety meeting. “We talk to them about their record as a group or as individuals, costs, and any hot issues relative to the particular account,” Eskel explains. Lily Transportation motivates good driving habits through a few programs. Drivers with no U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) violations or accidents are eligible for a monthly cash prize. Eskel says about 75 percent are entered into the drawing each month. The program rewards both individuals and driver teams. A new Elite Driver program rolling out this year will recognize Lily’s safest drivers—those who have driven for years with no accidents or violations. They will receive special uniforms, a cash reward, and recognition.

 Commitment to Truckers’ Health  Eskel explains the life-and-death risks associated with driving for a living. “Everything we do to keep people safe is important. But in this industry, it only takes a second for everything to unravel.” He and other Lily leaders also know that vehicle crashes aren’t the only risk facing his employees. John Bunevith, director of Human Resources and Risk Management, has made the company’s effort to improve trucker health a personal one. He recently laid down the gauntlet with a Beat the HR Guy weight-loss challenge. It’s a Biggest Loser–inspired event that dovetails with Lily’s wellness education efforts.

 “I’m ‘horizontally challenged’ myself,” says Bunevith. “Like our drivers, I suffer from a sedentary lifestyle and from eating habits that just don’t promote weight loss. So in order to lead by example, I need to get out and lose weight.”  

Bunevith was looking for a challenge that would recognize many losers, not just one. So the Lily program rewards any employee who loses more weight than Bunevith over the next 5 months with a significant cash prize. The same goes for anyone who loses a higher percentage of body weight than the “HR guy.”

 The challenge is part of a larger health initiative. Lily employees who choose to be part of the wellness program agree to complete a health risk assessment and get an annual physical.

 They participate in educational sessions on topics like goal setting, nutrition, and hysical activity. And workers are rewarded for going to the gym and participating in WeightWatchers® and other healthy lifestyle programs. In return, participants get discounted health insurance premiums and employer contributions to their health savings accounts.

 “Like most employers, we’ve been subject to upward spiraling costs in health insurance,” says Bunevith. “The only way to turn back that dial is to have healthier employees who have fewer and less costly claims.” Lily Transportation is a medium-size business that’s demonstrated a large-size commitment to worker safety and health. Keeping a sedentary, aging workforce from injury and illness will remain a top priority.

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