Meet The Fleet: Risk Reduction – Accident Rates Decrease by 19% at Crete Carrier
January 1, 2012
Besides the size of the Crete Carrier fleet — the company owns 5,500 tractors and 13,200 trailers — a couple other statistics from the Lincoln, Neb.-based truckload carrier tend to draw attention.
One is their very low turnover, which company officials report is only at about one-third of the national industry average.
The other is their CSA scores, consistently ranked in the top three of the leading 25 United States truckload carriers.
According to Tim Aschoff, Crete’s Vice President/Risk Management, success in those initiatives is hardly coincidental.
“We always say, ‘We hire our turnover, and we hire our risk,” says Aschoff, who has been with Crete for nine years. “We are always looking for the quality of driver who will reduce both our turnover and our risk.”
Of course, who isn’t? But Aschoff makes clear that setting the bar high often motivates safe, quality drivers to want to clear it.
“We look closely at the type of recruit we’re bringing in, and what they’re looking for,” he says. “We’re finding that what’s important to them and what impresses them — often even more than our pay package — is our level of safety, our level of quality here at Crete. They want to know, ‘Am I good enough to be a Crete driver?’
“To me, that’s evidence of the culture of safety and success we have working here.”
While drivers have always been the key to Crete’s safety and success, Aschoff helped complement their efforts with the integration of several innovative new safety technologies in 2008. The results were both measurable and impressive.
Building a culture of safety is no mere lip service at Crete Carrier and its operating divisions Shaffer Trucking and Hunt Transportation. Crete was among the first to invest in Meritor WABCO’s line of innovative safety products, including OnGuard Collison Safety Systems, Roll Stability Control, and anti-lock braking featuring Automatic Traction Control. All new Freightliner Cascadias and International ProStars that make up the Crete fleet are now equipped with OnGuard.
Karel Znamenacek is Crete’s Executive Vice President, and has played a role in equipment purchases for 42 years at the company.
“Equipment’s come a long ways over the years, but even back then safety was a key to our operation,” says Znamenacek, who notes that power steering and air conditioning, features taken for granted today, were specifications made then with safety and reducing operator fatigue in mind.
As a result, Crete’s accident rate has always been better than average, but the Meritor WABCO products gave the company an opportunity to take those rates to another level.
“We kept looking at our accident rate,” says Znamenacek. “Three years ago it was really good for the industry, but we just wanted to find ways to reduce it even lower.
“So we became pioneers. We heard about the OnGuard system, looked at it and felt there was some real benefit.
We looked at our accidents and felt there were ways to save some costs, and maybe even save someone’s life – especially someone’s life.”
Support from Meritor WABCO helped make integrating the new technologies painless.
“They really worked with us very well,” says Znamenacek. “We just tried to partner up with each other and be a team on this. We furnished them with information on how the system was working, and when there were issues, they were very interested in identifying them and getting them resolved.”
Adds Aschoff, “Any new system is going to need maintenance. They provided support and training to our own technicians and our maintenance network across the country. They not only trained our technicians, but they were willing to take feedback from them and say, ‘Here are some improvements that can be made.’ It was a pretty good two-way street.”
Both Znamenacek and Aschoff knew they needed driver buy-in to make the investment successful, and drivers had some initial concerns.
“Drivers are always skeptical of change at first,” says Znamenacek. “But after a short time the system basically sold itself. When drivers do have OnGuard engagement occurrences or alarm signals and see what the system can do for them, they really appreciate it.
“Now we’re getting positive remarks from drivers almost every day. I’m sure as time goes on that will continue.”
With driver acceptance, Aschoff could start focusing on whether or not the Meritor WABCO products were really making a difference. While driver anecdotes were useful, Aschoff looked to the numbers for further validation.
After close to 500 million miles of what Aschoff considers “apples-toapples” comparable data, the fleet has experienced a 19 percent reduction in accident frequency in OnGuardequipped trucks vs unequipped trucks. DOT preventable reportables were down by the same figure, and overall DOT reportables were down about 15 percent.
Aschoff also believes that accident severity was down as well. While a true comparison is difficult due to the greater repair cost of newer equipment, Aschoff says overall repair costs were down between 5 and 6 percent over the comparison period.
For Znamenacek, the results are validated by what he calls “true confessions.”
“We’ve had actual reports from drivers where someone pulls out in front of them and OnGuard has
alerted them or braked for them, and they say they probably would not have been able to avoid that accident,” he reports. “They say it saved an accident and maybe even somebody’s life in the process.
“If OnGuard saved one life, we’ve always felt that the system had paid for itself.”
Adds Aschoff, “There have been other systems we’ve tested. I think the active braking, that’s
the big part of the OnGuard system that makes it more viable than other systems available. There is an active engagement, not just an alert. It actively decelerates the engine, incorporating the engine brake to slow down the truck and ultimately the foundation brake if necessary, and doing it in a reaction time that’s quicker than the driver’s.
“When you have a system that’s not only alerting but taking action, the combination of the collision
avoidance with the traction control, adaptive cruise control and RSC all in one system, that’s where we really see a benefit.”
And the payoff of that benefit is their safe and loyal driver corps, says Aschoff.
“Specifying these products shows our respect for our drivers, our respect for their need to drive safely, and our expectations for them to do their jobs in a safe and legal fashion without ever having to compromise their safety or the safety of the public around them.”