FOR A tank truck carrier operating in some of the busiest and most congested urban areas across the central United States, a zero-reportable accident target can seem like a daunting objective. Wynne Transport Service Inc just proved it is not only possible but achievable.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based chemical and petroleum hauler put in a truly award-winning effort in 2014. The first recognition for the zero-accident achievement came earlier in 2015 when Wynne Transport Service received the grand safety award for all truck fleet members from the Nebraska Trucking Association. That was followed by the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) Outstanding Safety Performance Trophy for fleets under 15 million miles.

The recent awards serve as validation that a smaller tank truck carrier can achieve a top-ranked competitive safety program, according to Robert “Bob” Wynne, president of Wynne Transport Service. “We knew we had a good safety program, and we knew we had achieved a very good safety record in 2014,” he said. “Still it came as something of a surprise when we were notified that we had been selected for these awards. We’re not a big carrier, and it seems like to larger fleets often dominate these safety award programs.”

Alan Roberts, Wynne Transport Service director of safety, adds: “Winning these awards was incredible. They mean recognition as the best of the best in safety by our peers. We were a first-time recipient for both of these awards, and we are so proud of this recognition.

“Most importantly, these awards recognize the safety contribution made by every employee in this company. The safety department at Wynne Transport Service really is the entire company. Everyone contributes to the program, especially our drivers and our mechanics.”

Wynne Transport Service earned the Outstanding Performance Trophy in the under 15 million miles class for 2014 with a frequency of 0.314 accidents per million miles in the 12.5-15 million miles class. The carrier also received the Grand Award for Competitive Safety in that mileage class and the Honor Award in the Personnel Safety Contest, in which the company recorded 0.89 lost-time injuries per 100 employees. Roberts was named NTTC’s Safety Professional of the Year in the under 15-million-miles class.

Roberts has been with Wynne Transport Service since 1991, most of that time as safety director. He oversees a relative low-profile safety program for a company that is also relatively low profile.

Family fleet

The family-owned tank truck carrier he works for specializes in hauling refined petroleum (including asphalt) and a range of chemicals that includes anhydrous ammonia, herbicides, and pesticides. Chemicals and asphalt account for 60% of the business, and many of those shipments are longhaul.

Founded in 1952, the carrier’s operations are concentrated in the central United States with operations extending into Canada and Mexico. While most US operations take place between Illinois and Colorado’s Front Range, the carrier serves some East Coast and West Coast customers.

“We believe our Midwest location beneficial for a number of reasons,” Wynne says. “Most importantly, we see a better work ethic in this region, and that has a positive impact on our efforts to operate safely and efficiently.”

Average overall trip length is 550 miles. A mix of local, regional, and longhaul activity gives Wynne Transport Service the ability to offer its drivers a variety driving options. “They can be home at the end of every shift or they can stay out up to two weeks at a time,” Roberts says.

Wynne Transport Service currently employs roughly 178 company drivers, and management would like to build up the driver corps to around 200. The carrier operates 205 tractors (including 61 owner-operator units) and roughly 410 tank trailers. Drivers and vehicles are dispersed across three terminals—Omaha and Geneva, Nebraska, and Houston, Texas.

Safety has always been important for the company, and the key tenets of the program have not changed. “We hire good people, and we run good equipment,” Wynne says. “We don’t cut corners with equipment or maintenance. We have an open door policy, and drivers can talk to any of the management team without an appointment. Most importantly, our managers know the names of our employees.”

“At the same time, we are tweaking our safety program in several areas. For instance, we are developing more driver trainers, and we are providing them with more training. We believe driver trainers will need to spend more time with newly hired drivers in coming years.”

Good communications is critical at all levels of the company. For instance, drivers are encouraged to talk with mechanics, and they have full access to the company maintenance shops in Omaha and Geneva. In addition, mechanics have been included in safety meetings since 2003.

“We believe good communication between drivers and mechanics is critical,” Roberts says. “Drivers are more likely to report mechanical problems, and mechanics are more willing to say something when they believe a driver is abusing the equipment.

“It’s all about encouraging drivers and mechanics to take ownership of the safety process, and it is working. We’ve been very successful in educating drivers on the importance of good roadside inspections under FMCSA’s CSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability) program. One tiny problem on a roadside inspection can lead to bigger issues. We want to get it right with every roadside inspection.”

Communication effort

The company uses a variety of ways to communicate and promote safety with the driver force. In addition to a formal annual safety meeting, managers and trainers meet with drivers as needed for informal one-on-one and small group safety meetings.

Regular Omnitracs messages are sent out with reminders on safety issues, pre-trip inspections, and the need for regular exercise. Safety issues account for much of the content in a monthly newsletter that is mailed to each employee’s home address.

“That newsletter is an important part of our communication effort,” Wynne says. “It keeps our drivers in the loop no matter where they are based or how much they are on the road. It also lets family members know what our safety concerns are.”

Incentives to encourage safe performance include bonuses, such as $25 for each good roadside inspection. Bonuses also are based on incident-/accident-free performance and tenure. A driver can earn $400 to $500 in bonuses each quarter.