Truck Safety… Province Wide

Pipestone Flyer

    The Inaugural One Day Safety Seminar was hosted by the AMTA (the Alberta Motor Transport Association) on a sunny Alberta weekday. A crowd of nearly seventy transport managers and owners, professional drivers and industry-related executives converged on a Red Deer hotel to learn, share and network. 

    The day was jammed-packed with presenters, and many participants were looking forward to the Breakout Session, where the audience was to be split into groups, with one question per table to be addressed. 

    The day started on a dynamic note, with Brian Bell, AMTA’s Director of Safety & Operations greeting the seminar participants. Wes Roth, a program specialist with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch (CVEB) was the first presenter, dealing with the “Most common offences on record in Alberta”. He mentioned the Mobile Vehicle Inspection Unit that scrutinizes transport vehicles. Interestingly, it was brought up that Alberta is a North-American leader in detection technology, citing the Thermal Imaging equipment that can detect defects such as faulty brakes, tires and wheels before a vehicle is stopped.

    Carrier Profiles were explained by Darren Bartkowski of Alberta Transportation, which highlighted the need to keep records on a carrier’s performance and past infractions. Amazing to hear, there are 24,500 carriers in Alberta; this is the number of transport companies, not trucks! The Risk Factor Score (R-Factor) is used to identify high-risk carriers. It monitors a company’s history, on-road violations, CVSA inspections and collisions on record (CVSA = Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance). There are five levels of inspections, i.e. Level 2 is a walk-around inspection while Level 4 is a special inspection. CVSA decals for Levels 1 and 5, valid for 3 months, are placed on the truck, to eliminate time-consuming duplication of inspections. 

    After the coffee break, where seminar attendees were happy to visit and share feedback, Fred Gould, AMTA’s COR manager (Certificate Of Recognition) and Rhiannon Mear, COO of IMS Global Corp, gave a spirited talk on the AMTA Toolbox. COR certificates are a precious commodity and only a fraction of Alberta carriers can boast of having one, while a large number of carriers are preparing for one.

    The break-out sessions were initiated by a little number tag discreetly placed behind everyone’s name tag. Guests went to their assigned tables, and each table was issued a topic to discuss, such as “Distracted Driving: how do companies implement following this law, and how do they deal with violators?” Several ideas were offered, such as educating drivers being paramount, the zero tolerance policy of some companies on cellular use while driving, and the disciplining should be overshadowed by rewards for compliants drivers. Control was deemed to be a challenge, while influence is a precious element of a successful safety culture. 

    Government campaigns supporting the Distracted Driving Laws such as the recent controversial ad campaign “Crotch kills” were deemed to be successful in educating professional drivers as well as the new generation of ‘casual’ drivers.

    One photo elicited shock and laughter, showing a transport driver with… 27 cats on board! Pets are traditionally popular companions for long-distance haulers, but it was suggested that their safe inclusion (as in… one pet!) in a long haul might require constraints. 

    Another table topic was “Pre-trip Training” dealing with in-class training of drivers to   fully prepare them for their trip, before the wheel turns: walk-around inspection of their truck, paperwork completed, the destination clearly defined, all to ensure the driver’s safety all the way to his or her destination! This particular aspect of trip planning is also applicable to leisure drivers: the better preparation, the less risk of distractions while driving! Another topic was “The merits of online training Vs in the classroom”. There were many opposing opinions on this, based on technical issues and questions of how assimilation is possible when the teacher is online!

    A transportation psychologist shared that “being cognisant of road distractions” is a key element in reducing risk for all drivers, and that over-confidence is also an element of great risk factor. Roy Craigen, CEO of TRANSCOM Fleet Services, was the keynote speaker who delivered a factual, informative presentation, starting with this comment: “Driving is like boxing: drop your guard for one moment, and someone could take your head off!” He shared that motivating a driving team is an art, and that it is necessary to create an environment that the best drivers long to be a part of. Surprisingly, statistics show that the lion share of motor vehicle accidents includes drivers in the 45-55 age group! Another comment caused a chuckle: “Don’t hire your next problem”, stating that recruiting and hiring strategies and procedures do impact safety. 

    Driver wellness is a critical factor in risk and injury reduction. A new compliance explains that a Transport company doesn’t want to be sued because a collision or accident involved a driver with health issues. Driver fitness has now come to light, and will become more of a concern in the coming years. Mr Craigen used some graphic examples to drive his points home, and comments such as “High risk can show up at any second!”. 

    The CVEB (Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch) is a flagship agency that was first accredited in 2001, and will obtain its fifth accreditation in July of 2013. 

    AMTA Health & Safety has a Program Building Course, which was explained by Kevin Vaughan, a dynamic presenter and 25-year transport industry insider. He mentioned the HSMS, the Health & Safety Management System 2-day course, as a valuable tool.

    Hazard management eliminates, controls and reduces risk to an acceptable level. A moment of levity was created at the mention of the recruitment method of the ‘80s called the “Mirror Test”, where if there is a breath evident, there’s a potential driver.  Yard Safety might not be in the National Safety Codes, but it is definitely a concern for transport companies. In March 2013, a female admin worker was run down and killed by a company truck. Tragic, and avoidable…A professional driver of 32 years was asked “How did you spend a career driving without a violation or collision?” The driver replied “Patience!”, a lesson all drivers can take note of.

    The return to the Panel Discussions (Break out session) was welcomed by all Seminar attendees. Fred Gould commented that contacting a driver on the road is in fact, violating the Distracted Driving Law, so companies and drivers should be fully prepared before the load gets moving! Emotional response to a hands-free call is greater than a chat with a passenger, because the driver cannot see his caller’s facial expressions, do his brain is engaged in guessing the caller’s mood, therefore not entirely focused on the road. Bud Rice, a respected Transportation insider, quipped that Safety Culture properly taught is contagious!”

    This report is based on a concise agenda designed by Lindsay and the AMTA Management Team, and on this writer’s feverish notes taken during this busy Seminar. All in all, this inaugural AMTA One Day Safety Seminar was informative, rich in content, and for the record, a memorable success!

    As the duties of dispatchers have increased over the past years, it is important to offer them a way to catch up on the rules and regulations that affect their industry. To fill this need, Sherwood Park-based TRANSCOM Fleet Services Ltd has designed a Dispatcher Supervisor Course. This week it will be offering its fourth sold-out course of 2013. Attended by transport supervisors from across Canada, this nine-day course, spread over a three-week period, will also cover the growing duties of these individuals whose positions are now considered to be entry-level management and who are bound by labor codes and human rights.

    ”How do you influence safety?” is a hot topic nowadays, as safety regulations have increased and are more intense and complex than ever. Companies aim to adopt a Safety Culture that requires effort, time and focus. Appreciation of these efforts must be offered to the companies who work hard at creating solid safety procedures to protect their driver’s wellbeing.