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A few of us ventured to the heart of BBQ country for the TCA Safety and Security conference. This is one of our favorite conferences to attend, focused as it is on training and safety. We gathered round a rack of ribs at the end to share few notes, quotes and bon mots, and thought you might enjoy the distilled training and safety tips.  

We didn't get names for everyone we're quoting below, and we may not be 100 percent accurate — but we're pretty sure we conveyed their sentiment.


The Moral Imperative for Training and Safety 

Don Osterberg, former Schneider Safety guru, spoke about the future of fleet safety. He cited the growing rate of fatal crashes in the US involving heavy duty trucks, and said the industry absolutely cannot accept 13 deaths per day. He spoke about the idea that training is leadership, and we couldn't agree more. He also suggested that a safety manager needs to first determine whether a problem is caused by a skill deficit or a lax attitude, then apply the right fix.

Several attendees said the tone of the conference seemed to have shifted in this direction — more executives were playing the "moral imperative" card, and challenging themselves and others to do better.



Orientation Never Stops

"How much do you remember from your orientation? If you're like most people, not a ton. It takes lots of ongoing education and training and communication to get everyone on the right page." - Josh Kaburick, CEO, Earl L. Henderson Trucking (and TCA Chairman).

"We have to embrace training because people today don't come to the industry with the same experience with machines as they did 30 years ago." - Dan Einwechter, Chairman and CEO, Challenger Motor Freight.

"Educate before you terminate. Count to 10 and think about if it's something so egregious that you can't fix them." Jill Maschmeier, Director of Safety (and new TCA Safety and Security board member), National Carriers Inc.


Share the Positive

One safety director said they like to storm into the drivers lounge and very gruffly bellow, "Where's John Smith?" or whomever. And then say, "We just heard from a client, and they said you're just the absolute best. So keep it up!" She said you can literally watch their ears and cheeks turn red with happiness when they get praised in front of everyone with something genuine like that, and it makes other drivers want to get that, too.

Another safety director said they use the positive feedback from Netradyne's camera system to recognize drivers in their newsletter and on their website, showing video of when they back off a four-wheeler or make a great, safe decision. 

Dean Newell, VP of Safety at Maverick, said he really liked the idea of telling a driver, "Thank you for your safe X00,000 miles." He said everyone knows to be appreciative of drivers, but being specific with their miles was a unique takeaway for him.


Incident-Based Training

"It used to be in safety, you decided if you were going to terminate someone. Now we coach and improve them." -Jill Maschmeier, National Carriers Inc.

"After a guy has an incident, we obviously have a disciplinary call with a driver manager. But we also have that same driver manager follow up within a day or two with a call that's basically to say, 'Everyone has a bump in the road. We're not mad, and everything is OK.'" - Dean Newell, legend of Maverick Trucking Safety. He went on to say the two-call system was helpful for stemming both driver turnover and repeat problems.


Driver Distractions

Several safety directors brought up driver distractions as a big problem. A number of them are using simulators to show how easy it is to get into a crash when texting and driving. The legal panel on the last day stressed the importance of setting a cell phone policy and enforcing it.

Jill Maschmeier from National Carriers Inc. said she found an app or device that blocked outgoing calls and texts and planned to look into how it worked. 

Dean Newell from Maverick said he heard about one fleet using some posters of a cute little girl holding a teddy bear, and the text read: "Will you tell her parents, 'It was just a text'?" That fleet's safety director told Dean that the drivers asked her to take the posters down because they were too hard to look at.


Tips to Stay Out of Court

"Use online training!" - Everyone on stage. Among many reasons cited by the three attorneys on stage: consistency of message (especially with new-hire orientation or onboarding), plus records that show you've provided training. Without those records, and without some kind of records that show what was covered in your training, a plaintiff's attorney can question whether the training was even done.

"Have company policies, keep them simple, and communicate them early and often." Among the many reasons we push clients to host their custom company policies and training courses on Sentix. 


Actively Using Video to Train

Several people cited how the use of in-cab cameras is changing the safety and training game. Stephanie Fensom, Manager of Safety & Compliance at Bison Transport, said, "In one of the round tables, and I am not sure who said it, they spoke about combating complacency by having drivers identify what is being done wrong in a video clip, photo, etc. to help keep the right actions front of mind. We do a 'What would you do?' newsletter article, but I really liked the visual identification this exercise would require. I think it is more thought provoking than only needing to pick an answer. Instead, you make them look and self-identify."



IRT (Item Response Theory): The Future of CSA

Several people cited an especially educational talk about the potential (read: likely) CSA update being evaluated and tested by the FMCSA. Allison Guidette, CEO of SambaSafety, which owns Vigillo, presented about the future iteration of CSA, which has been  nicknamed IRT, or Item Response Theory. 

IRT is complicated, but the idea is that fleets will be judged based on a "safety culture." If that feels vague to you, that's literally the point of IRT. Item Response Theory is a statistical theory about how to answer intangible questions (like "how safe is that fleet?" or "how smart is that student?") using measurable data (like fleet violations or the SAT test). ITI will provide more education about this in the coming weeks, but for now, this excellent (and long) IRT article from Heavy Duty Trucking is a good resource.


Drug Testing and the Upcoming Drug/Alcohol Clearinghouse

Bill Woolsey, Safety Director at Freymiller, was one of several people who said they found a lot of value hearing about the implications of legalized marijuana in many states, and some of the guidance about the upcoming drug and alcohol testing clearinghouse. Other ideas floated around included how to include hair testing in the random drug testing a company might do, as well as making sure that fleet recruiters are being very specific in their language with pre-offers and contingent offers of employment. 



Inspection Challenges

"Randy Steckly and Tom Boehler from ERB Transport shared that they do inspection challenges in which they hide numbered cards in defect areas. If the driver finds all the defect cards, they get a gift card; if they don’t, they have to run another course. This is a creative way to test and refresh skill sets and also identify top missed areas so additional focus and training can be put out to the overall driver groups." — Stephanie Fensom, Bison Transport



Will You Be at TCA Safety Next Year?

ITI has been a member of the Truckload Carriers Association for nearly our entire 22-year history, and we find the Safety and Security conference one of the best in the industry. In our experience, the educational speakers are more tactical (in a good way) than you'll find in other venues. But the conference also offers a unique "Safety in the Round" format, which is where small groups get together to discuss topics in a guided, mediated way. 

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