A recent article by Matt Cole for Overdrive illustrates how large commercial carrier CRST Expedited is seeking exemption from a particular training regulation that requires a person with a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) to be a front-seat passenger while a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holder drives the truck, allowing the permit holder to drive without the CDL holder in the front seat if he or she has passed the CDL skills test. In practice, this would allow the CDL holder to sleep in the truck’s berth while the CLP holder drives. The same exemption was granted to C.R. England in 2015, and CRST asserts this exemption will allow them to “promote greater productivity” and help make new driver training more efficient and allow new drivers to “return to actively earning a living faster.”
But the user comments that follow the Overdrive article demonstrate that the drivers themselves—the front line of trucking companies—may not share the same outlook on the value of the exemption CRST seeks, asserting that the exemption seeks to cut corners in important safety training and awareness, and thus putting saving money ahead of driver safety. They ask, for instance, what benefit the CDL holder provides the inexperienced driver if he or she is asleep in the berth? According to these drivers, the exemption would only put more inexperienced drivers on the roads, and that creates a potential risk for the company, their property, and the goods being transported, not to mention the health and safety of the CLP holder, the CDL holder, and other motorists on the road.
Recently, a 23 year-old new driver caused significant damage (but luckily no one was hurt) when she attempted to drive her 21-ton truck and trailer over a long-standing bridge of historical note, despite the bridge’s posted weight limit of 6 tons as well as a sign reading “No Trucks.” And not surprisingly, the user comments for this story on Overdrive echo those regarding the training exemption sought by CRST: companies are putting inexperienced drivers on the roads before they are sufficiently trained, new driver training is inadequate, and companies are putting their need to generate revenue above their need to ensure safety among their drivers. In the case of the young driver trying to cross the bridge, the error will likely cost the carrier a profusion of time and money, which may involve litigation stemming from the need to repair and restore the historical bridge.
The comments by truckers and trucking personnel on these stories represent a common perspective among front-line employees about the executives and managers whose day-to-day tasks have little to do with the basic functions at the heart of their businesses, whether assembling parts on a line, extracting ore, or in this case, driving a truck. When corporate decisions are viewed by front-line employees as jeopardizing safety, it only strengthens the stereotype that corporate executives are disconnected from their workforce, inattentive to the circumstances or environments present among the front line, and that making money precedes a need to work safely. A company in which the workforce has lost confidence in management’s ability or desire to protect their safety is not a company people want to work for.
A commonly held notion is that improving safety necessarily requires a commensurate rise in expense. But to believe that one must be compromised for the other is narrow thinking. Although all aspects of a business are inextricably linked to cost, solutions can be implemented that both buttress occupational safety while minimizing expense and increasing potential for productivity.
According to our experience and research, many executives and managers can often underestimate the domino-effect impact that incidents and accidents can have, which we explored in a previous blog entry, “The Hidden Costs of Accidents.” Instead, improving safety training, safety monitoring, and instilling a positive safety culture cannot only reduce expenses arising from incidents, but it can have a marked influence on employee morale. Plus, when accidents are prevented, costs are reduced, and money is saved.
Front-line employees, as explored in John Kello’s ISHN article, “Positive Cultures,” want their employers to “get it”—in other words, they want their bosses to understand their positions and what they entail, along with the associated hazards, but also simply to take their safety and their livelihoods as seriously as they do. Predictive Safety advocates that instilling proactive, predictive, and positive safety cultures and programs protects a workforce from injury or illness, and consequently protects the work itself from interruption or complication. And when productivity is protected, so too is the company’s ledger.