The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Fleet Safety a Winning Value for Modern Transportation's Employees & Company

Modern Transportation, winner of the first annual Fleet Safety Award, has instilled a “culture of safety” within its organization through driver participation, incentives, and education.

August 2012, by Cindy Brauer - Also by this author

Modern Transportation’s 400 drivers pick up and deliver wet/dry raw materials to manufacturing customers with the use of 300 tractors and 500 trailers.
Modern Transportation’s 400 drivers pick up and deliver wet/dry raw materials to manufacturing customers with the use of 300 tractors and 500 trailers.

Employee safety is so deeply embedded in every aspect of Modern Transportation Services’ corporate culture; it is nearly a living, breathing entity. The company was recently presented the Fleet Safety Award, sponsored by the American Automotive Leasing Association (AALA) and Bobit Business Media, publisher of Automotive Fleet, and selected by the presidents of 10 of the largest fleet management companies.

“Modern Transportation believes the safety and well-being of all its personnel is of the utmost importance. In short, nothing we do is worth hurting ourselves or others,” according to Tammy Evans, vice president of operations, in the company’s “Mission Document.” Indeed, the company’s statement of “mission” begins with a safety-based promise to employees and customers.

Headquartered in suburban Pittsburgh, Modern Transportation provides bulk logistics solutions to customers out of 28 terminals located from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains. The 25-year-old company’s 400 drivers pick up and deliver wet/dry raw materials to manufacturing customers with the use of 300 tractors and 500 trailers.

Safety Priority Starts at the Top

When he arrived to lead the company in 2006, Modern Transportation President Patrick Cozzens brought a strong background in technology and systems, and a fundamental regard for safety, motivated by the loss of a college friend in a heavy-duty truck crash. A priority from the start was building upon Modern Transportation’s safety culture.

The company evaluated existing safety policies, procedures, and measures, according to Rich Kushner, Modern Transportation’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We took a look at where we were safety-wise and where we wanted to be,” he said.

Spurred by Cozzens’ software systems expertise, the company began building its new safety program on a backbone of safety-oriented technology solutions. Modern Transportation has been an early adopter of — and in some cases, a pilot tester for — Vorad, GreenRoad, PeopleNetwork, DriveCam, SmartDrive, Iteris, and ProTread, among others.

“We’ve pretty much put all the leading onboard safety systems into the truck for the purpose of helping ensure road safety,” Kushner said.

Vorad, the first technology Modern Transportation implemented, is a collision warning system. PeopleNet, the second technology adopted at Modern Transportation, provides real-time truck locations and electronic hours of service logs.

Focusing on the driver, GreenRoad provides an in-vehicle feedback system — a “coach with each driver, each mile, every day,” Evans explained. A simple green-yellow-red light display signals the driver of potentially dangerous events, e.g., harsh braking, abrupt lane changes, or cornering. Real-time data is translated into a driver safety score, based on a scale of 1 to 60. A score of 20 or below is considered safe; over 40 is unsafe.

“We are managing our drivers to scores of less than 10, which is considered very good,” said Evans. “This plays a vital role in our overall safety program as drivers work to improve their driving skills and deliver the lowest scores possible.”

Building a Driver Safety Culture

Driver buy-in and participation begins before drivers are hired. Very strict hiring guidelines are employed, and each job candidate undergoes an online psychometric assessment to determine his or her risk profile, helping spot those with predispositions to risk-taking, road rage, and overall poor attitudes toward safety, Evans explained.

Drivers receive extensive education, including new-hire, needs-based, preventive action, vehicle/equipment-specific, and regularly scheduled training.

“We are strong proponents of corrective action,” Evans said. “If a driver has an issue, we follow a two-path corrective process. First, they must take an online class module on that topic [produced by ProTread] and pass. At the same time, we assign a driver ride-along for peer-to-peer coaching or a manager ride-along.”

Committed driver involvement is further promoted through the company’s performance and safety bonus program, a financial incentive awarded twice a year.

“We establish baseline measures, then we constantly look at GreenRoad scores, motor vehicle reports are crosschecked with our own collision reports, citations, vehicle damage reports, and other factors to determine bonuses,” Evans said.

Competition for such achievements as lowest driver scores or fewest unsafe incidents has originated organically among managers and terminal staffs and helps further underpin the company’s safety ethos.

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