As a newly named America’s Road Team Captain, I’m looking forward to speaking to a wide array of audiences about the importance of professionalism and safety in the trucking industry. One of the topics I’m most excited to discuss with other industry stakeholders is the role that mentoring can play at a trucking terminal.
Truck driving can often be seen as an individual job - solitary hours of driving with limited face-to-face interactions. And while I would challenge that assessment of a driver’s daily job, I do think trucking companies have to make an intentional effort to create a team environment for drivers.
A team approach to safety can pay huge dividends for the motoring public, trucking companies, and the truck drivers themselves. At my company, TCW, I’m pleased to report that we established a Master Coach program and are already seeing benefits in the form of improved safety performance and fuel efficiency. In conversations with management, the one reason they always point to for our recent improvements is the Master Coach program, so let me explain what it entails.
The mission of TCW’s Master Coach program is to “build a better team of safety focused drivers through positive reinforcement.” What do I mean by that exactly?
Master Coaches are selected because of their commitment to safety and the company’s overall success. We have to have excellent driving and safety records because we serve as coaches to other drivers in the fleet. My daily duty simply entails talking to other drivers, getting a feel for their engagement in our team, and leaving them with encouraging messages. Sometimes, I serve as a liaison between my fellow drivers and management, offering ideas for how to improve operations or promoting a new safety focus for the week, like following distance. Other times, I’m helping introduce new drivers to the TCW team and emphasizing reception and integration.
Integrating new drivers is one of the keys to our teambuilding success. We want them to be engaged during safety meetings, willing to ask questions and offer their perspectives. At the end of the day, it’s important that new hires understand that our company is excited to hire them and committed to providing the tools and information they need to be successful within the company. Safety, profitability, and personal job satisfaction can all be tied to an environment of teamwork, but it takes buy-in from every piece of the puzzle. Should a driver feel like he or she is not part of a larger team, that driver may not pay attention to the small safety details crucial to driving a truck, leaving the motoring public and company potentially vulnerable.
It’s one thing to say that teambuilding and collaboration is important, but how do we know the Master Coach program is working? We have objective proof.
TCW uses a service called SpeedGauge, which monitors the truck’s speed and tracks speeding frequency. TCW’s overall goal is for every driver to speed less than 1% of the time he or she is driving. To put that in perspective, a 2011 NHTSA study stated that 9% of noncommercial drivers report being pulled over for speeding in the previous 12 months, so we’re doing better than the general public but want to keep improving. Each month, we publicly post the SpeedGauge numbers for drivers to compare their performance to the rest of the fleet. This gives me an opportunity to look at trends. If I see a driver’s number creeping up, I know that I can address that and reiterate our goal as a company or ask a driver why he or she might be speeding. If I see a driver is meeting his or her goal, I can turn to that driver and thank him or her for contributing to our overall success. In either case, I have something tangible to take to a driver and provide positive reinforcement. Since 2014, when the Master Coach program was implemented and I was selected as a Master Coach, I’ve seen these numbers decline and I know that my colleagues are taking the coaching seriously. Because we track and explain coaching events on a tablet device, we are becoming even more data-driven and strategic with our coaching decisions.
From here, I’d like to see our Master Coach program grow in internal company visibility. I want to make sure that all new hires know what the program does, why it exists and who the Master Coaches are. I’d also like to see other trucking companies adopt similar programs. Now that I’ll be attending industry events with America’s Road Team, I’ll be able to testify to the masses about the power of coaching programs. The message is simple: we are truck drivers with an important responsibility to move America’s freight and if you buy into the safety message, you will help make our highways safer for everyone.
This article previously appeared in the 2nd Quarter 2017 edition of CVSA's Guardian Magazine.