Jun 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
Building a winning safety program was no accident for 13-year-old Andrews Logistics Inc
Andrews Logistics continued...
“As activity grows going forward, we're sticking with customers that stayed with us through the recession. We need stable revenue so we can attract more drivers and pay for the new higher-priced equipment that we are buying.
“From a revenue standpoint 2009 was largely flat for us. As the recession took hold in late 2008, we lost a $10 million customer to bankruptcy. We knew 2009 was going to be a tough year, but we had already begun right-sizing our operation even before the failure of that large customer. By the end of 2009, we had replaced most of the lost business, and it turned into one of our better years as we got back to 2007 revenue levels.”
Even with the sharper focus on the bottom line, the management team at Andrews Logistics never lost sight of the safety objective. “We knew we couldn't let up on our safety effort,” Eschle says. “Regardless of other issues, a tank truck carrier can't take its eye off safety. If you do, you're going to have accidents or incidents, and you are on your way out of business. Little events can snowball into major catastrophes.”
As 2009 progressed, it became clear that Andrews Logistics was turning in an excellent safety performance. “We knew we couldn't take it for granted, but we started to sense that we were in the running for the NTTC's Outstanding Performance Trophy,” Eschle says. “It is, after all, a very competitive program.”
It is important to note that winning the Outstanding Performance Trophy became a management objective at Andrews Logistics as the company diversified from dry freight into liquid bulk cargoes. Management began to see trucking safety in a new light.
Eschle explains that he and Odgers came from the dry freight side. “Many on the dry freight side believe a satisfactory safety rating is enough,” Eschle says. “Liquid bulk shippers want a safety program that goes beyond that, and they take a much closer look at the overall fleet safety effort. In many cases, this includes annual safety audits.”
Andrews Logistics' safety program began its evolution to industry leader in 2003 when the company joined NTTC, and Odgers started participating in NTTC's Safety & Security Council activities. “I got a lot of help from the other tank fleet safety managers,” he says. “We run with some companies that have great safety programs, and it's very good company to keep.”
Odgers attended his first fall regional NTTC safety meeting in Houston, Texas, in 2004. The safety program had evolved steadily at Andrews Logistics, and the company participated for the first time in the NTTC annual safety competition in 2005 (2004 data). The company received its first Improvement Award that year and has earned an Improvement Award every year since.
In 2006, Andrews Logistics captured the Merit Award in its mileage category in the NTTC safety contest. “After the awards were presented that year, I told Darron that I wanted more than a third-place finish in the future,” Odgers says. “I had already decided in 2005 that I wanted that Outstanding Performance Trophy.”
Odgers explains that it's not all about the trophy. “Our goal is to build the best safety program in the tank truck industry,” he says. “Winning the trophy is validation that we are on the right track. It also reinforces our effort to build a strong safety culture within this company.”
The top-down safety focus means that every manager at Andrews Logistics is part of the program and has a responsibility for communicating the safety message to other employees. Managers were encouraged to become even more in the safety effort during a 2008 campaign.
“We encourage them to get out on the road and see how our drivers are actually performing,” Odgers says. “We require managers to do at least two field observations of drivers each month. These are written observations that are submitted to the safety department.”
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