Guardians of the Road
Each month NPTC President and CEO Gary Petty writes a column in Fleet Owner magazine that focuses on the individuals, companies, best practices, and resources that make private trucking the force that it is in the American economy. Reaching more than 100,000 subscribers, three-quarters of whom are private fleet professionals, this column provides an excellent forum to communicate the value of the private fleet. Click here to view the archive.
Gary Petty | firstname.lastname@example.org | Private Fleet Editor for FleetOwner Magazine
Gary Petty has more than 30 years of experience as CEO of national trade associations in the trucking industry. He has been the president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council since 2001.
KeHE’s driver safety training program benefits everyone.
Founded in 1952 by Art Kehe, an entrepreneur who started the business delivering food to retailers in the Midwest, KeHE Distributors delivers natural and organic, specialty, and fresh products to retailers across the U.S. and Canada.
Headquartered in Naperville, IL, KeHE has experienced rapid growth in recent years derived from increases in its own organic business, plus several strategic acquisitions that include Tree of Life in 2010, Nature’s Best in 2014, and Monterrey Provision in 2016.
The company’s private fleet has experienced significant growth in the process. In 2013, the fleet ran 15.8 million miles with 250 drivers. Last year, the fleet ran in excess of 40 million miles with 600 drivers. Currently, the fleet serves 12 distribution centers across the country with 465 power units and 772 trailers.
A retired U.S. Air Force veteran and KeHE manager since 2007, Greg Sikorski, director of transportation safety and compliance, oversees a company-wide campaign that focuses on these drivers—from a variety of work cultures and standards—and teaches them how to meet the high safety performance expectations of the company.
“We take a comprehensive approach to driver fitness for duty and conduct behind the wheel,” Sikorski explains. “This includes in-cab cameras, active safety technologies, health and safety wellness programs, monitoring HOS, and Guardians of the Roadway, our in-house program of insight-based training. We want drivers to pretrip themselves to be at their very best every day.”
Company trucks have onboard camera systems with inward- and outward-facing cameras. Video clips are the driver’s “game tapes” and are used for coaching the driver to greater self-awareness and improvement. All new power units are ordered with lane departure assistance, forward collision warning with brake assist, and adaptive cruise control.
KeHE’s employee well-being program gives drivers the tools to get active, get healthy, and get rewarded by earning points for daily and monthly activities which can then be redeemed for gifts or deposited into personal accounts as cash. Reward points can be used for good sleep and nutrition practices.
Launched in 2017, the Guardians of the Roadway program sets expectations that begin with the idea that professional truck drivers at KeHE are directed with the responsibility to operate in a safe manner at all times. “We called this ‘The Charge,’” said Sikorski. “Being a guardian on the roadway means you are operating in such a way as to not only keep yourself safe, but in such a way as to make due allowance for the mistakes of others. Each driver has a legal and moral responsibility to operate safely and in turn protect the motoring public.
The six pillars of the training program focus on distractions, poor awareness, conduct, driver condition, traffic violations, and workplace safety.
With this peer-to-peer approach, classroom training sessions are being used as an opportunity to engage the team and have open forum on subjects such as fatigue and sleep apnea.
“Hearing a fellow driver talk about untreated sleep apnea-induced fatigue from a personal perspective, how it impairs reaction time, impairs decision making, and can be life threatening—and how his fatigue has been greatly reduced by undergoing treatment—is a very powerful learning message,” Sikorski said.
The Guardians of the Roadway program is especially helpful in bringing drivers a greater self-awareness of their personal strengths and weaknesses as decision makers operating a commercial truck.
“What’s particularly persuasive is giving drivers a thorough grounding in the complexities, disarray, complications, distractions, mistakes, disorganization, and surprises that make up the challenges of truck driving today,” Sikorski added.
Some 540 drivers have completed the in-house training program thus far. Overall driver critique rating of the experience is 4.65 out of 5. An additional 100% of drivers complete online training modules on a monthly recurring basis on subjects like backing up, inclement weather, fatigue, workplace safety, and health/fitness.