Rocha Transportation won the award for companies with a total annual mileage under 25 million miles, and Roehl Transport won in the category for over 25 million miles.
TCA presented the awards to Corrie Toste, corporate secretary for Rocha Transportation, and Rick Roehl, president and COO for Roehl Transport during TCA's annual convention this week in Orlando, Fla. Both companies will be recognized a second time during TCA's 2009 Safety & Security Division Annual Meeting May 17-19 in Louisville, Ky.
The two grand prize winners were selected from among 18 division winners in the National Fleet Safety Division Awards announced in January. To win the grand prize, both companies had to demonstrate that they strive to meet stringent standards in their overall safety programs, on and off the highway, and were judged to be the best in their commitment to improving safety on our nation's highways.
For Rocha Transportation, the basis of an outstanding safety program begins with a total commitment to safety, starting at the highest levels of the company. According to Henry Dirksen, president of Rocha, "The day we stop operating safely is the day that I will shut the doors and we'll go home."
This philosophy is carried from senior management to the driver level, where drivers are "fanatical about safety," according to Rocha's award application. Drivers have monetary incentives to be safe; they are offered quarterly and annual safety bonuses that can exceed $1,000 annually. They are told from the very first day of employment that an unsafe company does not generate a profit and that their pay will be directly affected by Rocha's safety record.
"Our drivers understand that the money used to pay claims could be better used to reward their hard work with pay raises and bonuses. … Our drivers have seen their compensation package increased every six months for the past four years and know it's due to their outstanding safety record. We expect that trend to continue. … We are a safety driven company … because we know that safety pays," the award application states.
Rocha doesn't just talk about safety; it is willing to spend money to make sure its drivers have all the tools they need to be safe. In 2008, 2.5 percent percent of Rocha's annual budget - or about $275,000 - was allocated to safety-related activities. The company trains new drivers and retrains existing drivers on a driving simulator and plans to purchase a second one at a cost of $100,000 - a significant safety and training investment for a small company. When a driver does have an accident, the unfortunate experience is turned into a learning tool for future accident prevention. The driver receives counseling and retraining as necessary, and is given a summary of exactly how much the accident cost the company (this eye-opening experience is often humbling to the driver and acts as a future deterrent). Above all, drivers must demonstrate that they have learned from the experience and are not likely to make the same mistake again, or else there's a good possibility of losing their job.
Roehl Transport doesn't feel that safety "program" adequately describes the company's commitment to safety. Instead, it has successfully built a safety "culture" - the moral beliefs and customs of a group. Roehl's safety culture is built around safety as every employee's deepest value. A "value," as described in Roehl's award application, is a "deeply held belief beyond compromise... that doesn't change based on the circumstances of the moment." Thus regardless of the priorities that might arise during a given truck driver's day (perhaps a hot load that must be delivered or an impending snowstorm that is bearing down on the driver's location), safety must always trump all.
While many trucking companies provide "defensive driving" courses to their drivers, Roehl's driving system, called "The Roehl Way," is billed as "protective driving." "To drive defensively imparts an 'Us versus Them' mentality, with the focus on not allowing 'them' to harm us. Protective driving, on the other hand, is a team philosophy where each driver accepts responsibility for others who share the highway. … We see it as an opportunity to protect the welfare of the others - who in the end are our own family, friends and loved ones," writes the company. "We put the lives and safety of people first, before dollars, or time schedules, or whose fault it was."
"The Roehl Way" protective driving course is attended by both drivers and non-driving staff so they can interact and receive the same consistent message. The beginning of the course provides a highly interactive focus on the "ethics" of the professional driver, which gives participants the ability to draw their own conclusions about values and holding safety as a personal value. The rest of the course asks participants to identify what safe driving behaviors are essential for a person to be considered a safe driver. "Because the participants themselves identify the behaviors that constitute safety, they more readily adopt them and understand the necessity of living their value of safety by performing the correct behaviors all the time… in other words, not compromising on safety," writes the company.
Roehl's core safety values seem to be paying off for the company, which has been consistently ranked as the safest large carrier (for U.S. miles only) through the Department of Transportation's SafeStat reporting system.
The judging process for TCA's National Fleet Safety Awards began with the determination of the top companies in each of six mileage divisions. The division winners (listed below) were selected based on accident frequency only. The top three winners in each division were then able to compete for the two grand prizes. The grand prize-winning companies were judged on their excellent overall safety programs, both on- and off-highway. During the judging, some of the factors considered included safety program organization, employee driver/independent contractor selection procedures, training, supervision, accident investigation, inspection and maintenance of equipment, and outside activities, including general highway safety. In an effort to ensure the highest level of integrity to the contest, all grand prize finalists were audited by independent auditors not affiliated with TCA or the carrier.
The following companies are the top divisional winners based on low accident frequency per million miles (listed first through third place):
Division I - Under 5 Million Miles
Rocha Transportation, Modesto, Calif.
Crown LSP Group Inc., Rocky Mount, N.C.
Frerichs Freight Lines Inc., Belleville, Ill.
Division II - 5-14.99 Million Miles
Stone Belt Freight Lines Inc., Shoals, Ind.
Glass Operating Group LLC, Newkirk, Okla.
Landstar Gemini Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.
Division III - 15-24.99 Million Miles
Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution, El Paso, Texas.
Witte Brothers Exchange Inc., Troy, Mo.
CRST Dedicated Services Inc., Birmingham, Ala.
Division IV - 25-49.99 Million Miles
MacKinnon Transport Inc., Guelph, Ont.
Freymiller Inc., Oklahoma City
Kennesaw Transportation, White, Ga.
Division V - 50-99.99 Million Miles
Carter Express Inc., Anderson, Ind.
Landstar Inway Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.
Navajo Express Inc., Denver
Division VI - 100+ Million Miles
Bison Transport Inc. Winnipeg, Manitoba
Roehl Transport Inc., Marshfield, Wis.
Hogan Transports Inc., Bridgeton, Mo.