When Michael Lasko was first contacted by a recruiter for a position with Boyle Transportation, the Billerica, Massachusetts, company sounded “a little too good to be true.” But this year’s HDT Safety and Compliance Award winner changed his mind when he started meeting with Boyle’s department managers, including the retiring safety manager of the security-sensitive cargo and hazardous materials hauler.
“The thing that blew me away was how highly everyone I met spoke of the professional drivers,” says Lasko, Boyle Transportation’s manager of safety and quality. “I noticed that in every conversation, I never heard the words ‘driver’ or ‘CDL holders.’ It was always ‘professional drivers.’ I knew immediately that this company placed immense value in its team and treated their drivers as professional colleagues. It was the company I wanted to work for.”
Previously, Lasko worked in safety for three different companies in different segments of the industry, including a stint as regional safety manager for an LTL trucking company. Prior to that, he worked for Panera Bread in distribution management and was the chairman of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Transportation Safety Committee. At Panera, he was mentored by Bob Deighan, the national distribution safety, compliance, and logistics manager.
“He had an innovative approach to safety that I wanted to emulate,” Lasko says. “He would analyze every possible piece of data, every process, and develop systematic corrective actions that connected with people on an individual basis. He made me realize that ‘safety out of a box’ wasn’t as effective as giving safety a personal connection.”
But overseeing the safety of Boyle’s drivers isn’t as simple as emulating the actions of his mentor. Lasko deals with challenges during his day-to-day duties, including the biggest challenge of all — creating and implementing safety programs and initiatives that everyone will not just tolerate but embrace.
“In order to be a successful safety professional, you need to accept that everyone is human, and everyone has different strengths and weakness. The key is to identify those strengths and weakness and use them to create an advantage for each employee,” says Boyle.
The caliber of the professionals he works with can help overcome this and similar challenges, which is why he credits the highly engaged and committed leadership at Boyle, as well as the professional drivers who help create and maintain this all-encompassing safety environment. This approach to safety pervades throughout the organization to every employee at Boyle, according to Lasko, which he believes is the main reason Boyle has been recognized as one of the Truckload Carriers Association’s “Best Fleets To Drive For” the last four years.
“The best part is that I don’t need to ‘sell’ safety here; safety and security are simply what we do,” adds Lasko.
And while the drivers are there on the road living this philosophy every day, Lasko is at the home office making sure he is supporting them in every way he can. According to this year’s award winner, everything else comes second to that. Professional drivers have a demanding job that involves hard work, long hours, and not enough thanks, explains Lasko.
“The most important part of my job is to be an advocate for them and support them when they need a hand. I do everything in my power to avoid that ‘company hammer’ stereotypical safety approach. I’m a coach, advocate, and a part of the professional driver team before anything else.”
Nevertheless, technology also plays a role. The fleet of more than 100 tractors uses radar-based forward collision mitigation systems with emergency braking, lane departure warning systems, electronic roll stability, tire pressure monitoring systems, auto tire inflation systems, blind spot cameras, and a forward-looking video event system. Each of these systems by themselves helps, but the video system took them another step.
“The video technology connects to all these systems and provides us with tools to develop a holistic analysis of each professional driver,” Lasko says. “That allows us to really get specific with coaching, training, and protecting each of our professional drivers from false claims. We can give the training and skills development that each professional driver needs rather than something out of a box that doesn’t fit the needs of the individual.”
It’s apparent that this is all working; Boyle was able to drop its accident rate to zero from the previous year. Lasko’s role in educating and providing the resources necessary for all Boyle employees to excel allows them to all work toward the same goal of “delivering world class results for our customers.”
“We do that by working as a team,” Lasko adds. “To get those results there is a lot involved, but being proactive and preventing problems before they occur is key. There is no one reason why we have had great results — there are about 140 of them. Not coincidentally, we have 140 professional drivers.”