All That's Trucking

Safety: Getting it Right

September 23, 2010

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In an apparent case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, even as Schneider National's safety VP Don Osterberg was participating in the National Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C., this week, the company was using texting in its recruiting ads.

Wednesday on the Sirius XM radio show "The Lockridge Report," host Evan Lockridge (who happens to be a contributing editor to Heavy Duty Trucking as well as my other half), was playing a clip of Osterberg's remarks from a panel discussion on "Confronting the Distracted Driving Challenge Moving Forward." The safety guru talked about Schneider's no-cell-phones policies, and pointed out that even if a driver calls the recruiting department and recruiters can clearly tell from the background noise that the driver is behind the wheel, the recruiters are to ask the driver to call back after he or she has had a chance to safety pull over.

One of Evan's listeners pointed out the irony that Schneider's radio ads asked drivers to text the company, a behavior that if done while driving is even more dangerous than simply talking on the phone behind the wheel. A source tells us that when Osterberg found out, he said he was "livid" and it would be fixed.

If you've ever talked to Don about safety, as I have several times, you can just imagine the consternation it created back home in Wisconsin. You see, Don Osterberg is a "true believer," who's sincere and serious -- passionate, even -- about improving trucking safety. He's pioneered efforts such as using high-tech driver training simulators and screening drivers for sleep apnea. He calls the close to 5,000 people killed each year in truck-related crashes "an unacceptably high number."

Unlike many trucking executives who grew up in the industry, Osterberg came to trucking with an outsider's perspective. He served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army, retiring at the rank of colonel. He came to Schneider National about nine years ago, and he's used that fresh perspective ever since to develop industry-first programs that improve both safety and driver recruiting/retention.

Here at HDT, we named Osterberg a Truck Fleet Innovator two years ago to recognize his outstanding safety efforts. Heck, even the safety advocacy groups, normally at loggerheads with the trucking industry, gave him an award this year!

The moral of the story is, don't take it for granted that everyone in your organization is on the same page when it comes to safety. If even the company with probably the nation's best-known fleet safety guy can let something slip through the cracks, so can yours. With the increasing focus on safety by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, with CSA 2010, texting bans, a push for electronic onboard recorders and more, we as an industry are going to have to work harder than ever to get it right. And the people in your organization need to know that, whether it's a vice president or a driver, a recruiter or the advertising department.

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Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

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All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.


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