Jun 1, 2005 12:00 PM
SAFETY is so much of a priority for one tank truck carrier that it's mentioned three times in the company's one paragraph mission statement. Like so many other tank fleets, this company combines some of the latest accident prevention technology with a proactive safety-training program for drivers.
The company is J P Donmoyer Inc in Ono, Pennsylvania, and its mission statement contains the following: …where safety is paramount to success…is a safety driven company…dedicated to complying with governmental regulations, customer safety requirements.
That mission statement calls for a total company commitment to safety, according to Jim Kretz, controller of the trucking company, which hauls limestone, fly ash, cement, pulverized coal, and feed-grade products. Nowhere is that commitment more vital than at the top, and that's where Frank Costanzo, vice-president and general manager, sits. Kretz credits him for being the “driving force that not only supports, but also promotes safety first. Frank has given us solid backing with every safety initiative that we have presented to him.”
Roughly five years ago, Costanzo says Eaton made a presentation to several trucking companies in the area and provided a demo truck to showcase the merits and costs of a collision warning system. He liked what he saw and decided to go ahead and make the investment. The J P Donmoyer fleet now has 112 of its 114 company trucks fitted with Eaton Vorad EVT-300 systems.
The other two will be equipped soon,” adds Kretz. That's because the company has verifiable proof of the system's success, as well as chilling testimonials from two drivers who credited the system with preventing what easily could have been catastrophic accidents.
“One of our drivers who does a lot of night driving had the system activate as he was approaching a disabled tractor trailer being towed by a wrecker with no lights on,” says Kretz. “He was able to pull over to the right in plenty of time.”
Says Alan Eby,the driver, “it was a situation that could have very easily turned into one heck of a wreck. Had it not been for Vorad, my truck and at least one other — maybe two or three more — would have plowed right into that guy. Instead, they were able to follow my lead and move on safely.”
Eby's been driving since 1984 and has logged well in excess of two million miles.
“On another occasion, we had a driver operating on the New York Turnpike in heavy fog and snow,” Kretz says. “After receiving a signal from the Vorad unit, he too pulled over and safely passed a vehicle traveling at 15 miles per hour. An owner operator behind our guy called on the CB to ask him how he knew a car was there.
“As far as we're concerned, those two incidents alone more than paid for the system. The drivers were profusely thankful.”
The company also uses Vorad's Vehicle Information and Management System (VIMS) to track driver speeds and following distances. That, too, has been effective. Incidents in which a J P Donmoyer truck is within zero to one second of another vehicle are now less than one-and-a-half of a percent, significantly lower than the 8% rate of five years ago.
Kretz is quick to point out, however, that products like collision warning systems are only as effective as the people who work with them. The company commits roughly 40 hours every week to downloading information, putting it into a readable format, and analyzing the data. Drivers with unacceptable speeds or following distances are then counseled. The company also is currently looking into investing in new mobile communications capabilities that will significantly streamline the process.
“We put a lot of time and money into safety, and it's a process that receives support at every level here,” added Kretz. “As a result, we're seeing tremendous progress in terms of overall accident reductions.”
There is no silver bullet when it comes to implementing a solid safety program, says Tom Rule, vice-president of operations for Logex, an Orange, California-based dedicated contract carrier that specializes in hauling industrial gases. Maybe not, but that hasn't stopped Rule from arming his fleet with some of the best ammunition available.
That arsenal includes two technology products — collision warning and lane departure warning systems — that Rule believes have been especially effective. These systems are now standard equipment on all new tractors in the Logex fleet. About 70 new tractors will be added this year, and approximately 125 trucks total have been equipped with the collision warning and lane departure systems.
Rule, a 40-year veteran of the trucking industry, is also big on driver training and safety incentives. All 32 Logex terminals participate in million mile awards, and the company's 585 drivers work toward Driver of the Quarter and Driver of the Year awards. “We want to ensure we provide every safety element for success that we can,” says Rule.
The safety focus runs consistently throughout the Logex organization, and recently resulted in the induction of a company driver into the National Private Truck Council's Hall of Fame. Jimmy McGee, who has been with Logex for 30 years, captured the honor after accumulating more than three million miles of driving with no preventable accidents.
“It's our job to give every driver the edge he needs to get the job done, and done safely,” added Rule. “Being a bulk hauler only adds to the importance. Just one rollover accident can be overwhelming.”
Rule believes fatigue is the number one root cause, or high contributing factor, of major accidents. Several industry studies, both government and private sector, support Rule's contention. And that's the primary reason he's opted for collision warning and lane departure systems.
With the Vorad collision warning system, Rule always includes the SmartCruise option in every purchase. Logex vehicles are programmed to automatically maintain a preset speed, as well as safe following distances behind other vehicles on the road.
Eaton estimates that SmartCruise-equipped vehicles can reduce rear-end, rollover, and road departure collisions by up to 70%. “I'd go higher than that,” says Rule The lane departure system, manufactured by Iteris Inc, also has been very effective. “We've had many reports where it has helped our drivers maintain their correct lane positions, even when visibility is poor due to rain, snow, and fog,” says Rule. “I have no doubt that it kept us out of numerous accidents.
“We don't have any concrete numbers, but we do know that our accident rates are significantly lower since making the decision three years ago to go with these safety technologies. In my opinion, not making the investment would have been the biggest mistake of all.”
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