Erb International Inc., and Roehl Transport, Inc., Claim Grand Prizes in TCA’s 34th Annual National Fleet Safety Awards


Las Vegas, Nevada:

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and Great West Casualty Company are pleased to unveil the grand prize winners of TCA’s 34th annual National Fleet Safety Awards: Erb International Inc., of New Hamburg, Ontario, won the award for truckload companies in the small carrier division (total annual mileage of less than 25 million miles), and Roehl Transport, Inc., of Marshfield, Wisconsin, won in the category for truckload companies in the large carrier division (total annual mileage of 25 million or more miles).

The highly coveted awards were presented to Wendell Erb, general manager of Erb International Inc., and Rick Roehl, president and chief operating officer for Roehl Transport, Inc., at TCA’s Annual Banquet and Awards Dinner held March 2, 2010, at the Wynn Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both companies will be recognized a second time during TCA’s upcoming Safety & Security Division Annual Meeting, to be held May 16-18, 2010, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The two grand prize winners were selected from among 18 division winners in the National Fleet Safety Division Awards announced in January. In order to be granted the prestigious 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.

Erb International Inc.

Erb International Inc., invests strongly in its people, believing that providing employees with the proper tools, training and recognition is the key to safety success.

The company’s safety program begins with open and frequent communication. Besides traditional communications methods, such as newsletters, a magazine, and staff meetings, all levels of Erb’s management team use a “walk-about” management style. Leaders, including the general manager and president, interact frequently with staff and drivers, demonstrating their accessibility to, and interest in, all employees. This style of leadership encourages communication on all issues, including safety concerns, and reflects a true open-door policy.

A comprehensive Safety Management Program (SMP) is in place which defines the corporate safety culture and covers all aspects of the carrier’s operations. The SMP includes standards manuals, an emergency response plan, providing immediate feedback on potential safety risks, defined expectations for all personnel, training programs, and support resources.

Erb’s Pro-Drive Program is a driver performance monitoring and incentive program. Electronic Onboard Recorders are used to measure the driver’s speed, hard-braking, idle time, routing, and mileage. These measures are then benchmarked according to company and best practice standards and shared with the drivers on a monthly basis. The goal is to instill best driving behaviors, which reduce a driver’s accident risk, creates financial savings, and rewards a driver based on high performance. Those who do not meet the minimum company benchmarks (above average industry standards) receive further evaluation, training, and corrective action. Annual recognition is given to top performing drivers, owner operators, and terminals. Incentives are also given for drivers who remain injury- and accident-free.

In 2009, Erb’s driver turnover rate was just 10%. This long-term tenure can be partially attributed to its two-way communication between management and drivers, driver perks and incentives, ongoing training, and strong support of the driver while on the road. But the company also takes great pains to ensure that potential drivers are good matches for the job and for the company. Personal interviews are conducted with each applicant in a manner which stimulates the candidate to voice his/her opinions and answers; a simple “Yes” or “No” is not enough. A second personal interview is required for entry-level drivers, who are invited to bring along a spouse or significant other. This interview is used to determine if the applicant truly understands the job, the industry, and the lifestyle he/she will be experiencing and committing to once hired.

In addition to earning the 2009 National Fleet Safety Award in the small carrier category, Erb International also ranked as a finalist for the award in five of the past eight years. In 2009, it was also a finalist in the Best Fleets to Drive For program, which is jointly administered by TCA and CarriersEdge.

Roehl Transport, Inc.

This is the second consecutive year that Roehl Transport has been honored with the grand prize award the National Fleet Safety Awards’ large carrier division. That’s because nothing—not a hot load, customer request, an approaching deadline, or even on-time service—trumps safety at Roehl.

The company has worked hard to build a corporate culture that is based foremost on safety, as opposed to traditional corporate values. While many trucking companies provide “defensive driving” courses to their drivers, Roehl’s driving system, called “The Roehl Way,” is billed as “protective driving.” Each driver accepts responsibility for others who share the highway. Drivers are asked to think of the motoring public not as “four-wheelers,” a term which depersonalizes the people in the cars that surround Roehl’s trucks, but as “14,” which is the number of parents, children, relatives, friends, and loved ones who die each day in accidents with commercial motor vehicles.

The company provides its drivers with ongoing safety and job skills training, while non-drivers are educated through Roehl’s Transportation Business Academy. Drivers receive extensive training that is divided into two segments lasting 10-13 days each and a third segment lasting six weeks, with time home with family in between. The training focuses on everything from the basics, to learning how to handle freight and trip-planning, to specialized training from a fleet manager coach. Non-drivers learn about interpersonal relations, leadership, problem-solving, and conflict resolution.

In particular, fleet managers play a vital role in maintaining and strengthening the company’s safety culture. They are given traditional classroom training, but also participate in an innovative “call coaching” program that empowers them to have effective conversations with drivers about safety. If a complaint is received, management reviews the recorded telephone conversations that occurred between the driver and his manager regarding the incident. The goal is to help fleet managers work the concepts and language of The Roehl Way into real life situations that happened in the driver’s life. Managers are coached to discuss values and appropriate protective driving techniques with the driver. They are encouraged to have the driver reflect on what happened and what the consequences could have been. The objective is to teach the manager how to help the driver find solutions to the issue that caused the complaint.

Managers are then asked to assess whether a driver has “bought in” to the importance of the situation. If, after reviewing the call, managers are not convinced of this, a follow-up conversation occurs with the driver. It is common and acceptable for a coach manager to spend two or more hours in response to a single driving complaint. Call coaching is also employed when a compliment is received: in addition to saying “good job,” managers are coached to talk about values, protecting lives, and driving with integrity when they discuss positive reports with drivers.

Roehl’s core safety values seem to be paying off for the company. The Department of Transportation’s SafeStat reporting system consistently ranks Roehl as the safest large carrier in the United States, and its safety record in Canada (not tracked by the SafeStat system) is also exemplary.

The judging process for the National Fleet Safety Awards began with the determination of the top companies in each of six mileage-based 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. In an effort to ensure the highest level of integrity in the contest, all grand prize finalists were audited by independent auditors not affiliated with TCA or any of the carriers.

The following companies are the top divisional winners based on low accident frequency per million miles:

Division I – Less than 5 Million Miles

1st Place – Specialty Transport, Inc., Knoxville, Tennessee

2nd Place – PAF Transportation Inc., Scarborough, Maine

3rd Place – Frerichs Freight Lines, Inc., Belleville, Illinois

Division II – 5-14.99 Million Miles

1st Place – Davis Transport, Inc., Missoula, Montana

2nd Place – Refrigerated Food Express Inc. / RFX Specialized Division, Avon, Massachusetts

3rd Place – AAT Carriers, Inc., Chattanooga, Tennessee

Division III – 15-24.99 Million Miles

1st Place – Erb International Inc., New Hamburg, Ontario

2nd Place – Nationwide Express, Inc., Shelbyville, Tennessee

3rd Place – Ace Doran Hauling & Rigging, Cincinnati, Ohio

Division IV – 25-49.99 Million Miles

1st Place – MacKinnon Transport Inc., Guelph, Ontario

2nd Place – Kennesaw Transportation, White, Georgia

3rd Place – Freymiller, Inc., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Division V – 50-99.99 Million Miles

1st Place – Carter Express, Inc., Anderson, Indiana

2nd Place – Earl L. Henderson Trucking Co. Inc., Salem, Illinois

3rd Place – NFI, Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Division VI – 100 Million or More Miles

1st Place – Bison Transport Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba

2nd Place – Gordon Trucking, Inc., Pacific, Washington

3rd Place – Roehl Transport, Inc., Marshfield, Wisconsin