As states began to get tougher about enforcing carrier safety standards, Bennett Field Office Manager Joan Birdsong was seeing more citations coming in and knew she had to come up with a solution.
Joan was recently recognized by Bennett’s vice president of safety, Randall Vernon, for being a leader in implementing pre-trip inspection best practices and exemplifying Bennett’s commitment to safety. As part of his safety report during a Bennett Today News Network panel discussion that was streamed live to Bennett employees, Randall called out Joan for being a model safety citizen for Bennett.
Recalling a trip he made to Joan’s company store in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., Randall says: “Joan had gotten some write-ups for bald tires and insecure loads and decided enough was enough. So she decided to use some of her guys to look at the truck before loading. If the truck has any visible defects, Joan will swiftly tell the driver they have to fix the truck before loading. I hardly get any violations from her terminal anymore.”
Joan, whose store is located in one of the most stringent regions in the country known for random pull-overs, says she trots the fine line between being firm with her drivers and supportive at the same time. “We kind of hold a finger over them, but any way we can help them, we do,” she says. Joan has trained her forklift drivers and employees how to inspect trucks as they are being loaded. If anything looks awry, such as tires, lights or straps for securing the loads, the forklift drivers stop loading.
Joan says those problems don’t happen that often, but when they do, they can usually be addressed quickly right there at the store. “We take the drivers a few blocks away to a store where they can purchase the items they need, and we have a mechanic here who can help out,” she says. “We also keep some parts on site such as lights and mud flaps. Now our drivers know what to expect and they actually are grateful when we find things they missed because they don’t want to be stopped and cited either.”
Joan shares about a case, in which a driver had two low tires that she knew would not get through a scale. The driver explained that he did not want to replace the tires because he was planning on selling his trailer. Understandably, he did not want to take on that expense since he would have the truck for a short time, but Joan knew where he could get good quality used tires for only a $100 each.
“He was thankful that it didn’t cost that much, and he was able to get through a scale without being stopped,” Joan says.
Driver Safety Meetings Key
Joan makes sure her drivers are fully informed about where they need to be careful before they pull out with a load. She holds safety meetings with her drivers, in which she shares information that Randall shares with the field offices about where “the heat” is the hottest and what states are targeting on the lanes for violations. “I’ll be able to say, hey, in Arizona this month this is what you have to worry about.“
Joan shares that just recently in Arizona, the highway patrolmen were pulling over drivers who were going 60 miles in a 55-mile zone. “They’re really tough out here,” she says. “Just yesterday, we got pulled over for a random inspection, and thank God we got a clean inspection.”