Safety blueprint requires training, not just cameras

June 17, 2020

Wendy Parker


Consider this promise of safety, if you will.

You’re in for a regular check-up, say, something like your DOT physical, and the examiner finds you have an irregular heartbeat. It could be nothing to worry about or it could indicate you have a serious condition that needs to be treated. Most examiners would refer you to a cardiologist, someone who is further trained in the medical arts regarding specific physiology of the heart. Because that’s what cardiologists do. Hearts.

But what if your examiner says, “Hey, let’s forgo all this business about being trained in cardiology – I know how the heart works. Let me open you up and poke around in there. I’ve got a machine that goes ‘beep’ when I’m in the wrong body cavity. There’s a much slimmer chance I’ll nick your liver with a scalpel with it. It’s saved a third of my victims – I mean, patients’ – lives.”

I do realize there are some of you who are ornery enough to say you’d allow this atrocity just to thumb your nose at medical authority. The great majority of sane people, however, would opt for the better trained physician to form a second opinion before allowing anyone to poke around inside their general person, especially if they might mistake a liver for a heart.

“Well that’s just silly,” you say. “It could never happen because that’s not how things work.”

And you’re probably right, although as crazy as things have been in the world of late I have learned to never say “never.” That being (not) said, the reason I took you on this silly journey to imagination-land was to pave the way for a very serious journey to “de-risk” what has been perceived for quite some time as “most likely to crash” when experienced drivers talk about safety and large fleets.

According to a recent piece in Commercial Carrier Journal, the new CEO of Phoenix-based Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc., Dave Jackson, professed his goal “to be the safest company in the truckload industry the world has ever seen.”

So before we go any further, let’s make a couple of things clear.

I’m not bagging on the CCJ piece at all. It was well done and reported concisely. I feel like it’s important to recognize that in the current climate of “all journalism is crap because journalists are evil and want to destroy the world.”

Nothing could be further from the truth, but try arguing that with someone who relies on one news source only and takes everything they see or read from it to be solid truth.

(That’s rhetorical. Don’t try it unless you love crushing failure and bashing your head against a brick wall.)

I’d also like everyone to quit acting like Swift never produced a good driver. There are a lot of folks who got their start at Swift and won’t admit it. Granted, most of the memes containing completely incredible flub-ups contain a Swift truck or trailer, but have you ever considered that a lot of those might be PhotoShopped, or there are exponentially more Swift trailers on the road than most fleets? Sheer volume alone would dictate being more visible when incredible flub-ups happen.

Also, Swift has been known historically as a training fleet. That means they have a whole lot of newbies or folks that haven’t driven in a while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, Swift is also historically known for a certain lack of oversight in its training program, which is indeed a problem for a training fleet. Because driver training is important to safety.

Which brings us all the way back around to what my whole point is. (Thanks for hanging in there, it’s almost over.)

In the entire 1,114-word safety article in which Dave Jackson professes his desire to be the safest trucking company in the world, the words “driver training” appeared once.

Granted, the piece is titled, “Replacing video recorders the latest move in Knight-Swift’s push to make Swift fleet safer,” but the insane little person inside of me who screams, “Driver training is the key to safer drivers!” took over my brain and I thought they might have finally understood that machines that go “beep” are no substitute for a solid driver training program.

My hopes were dashed when I read the article (a novel idea I would suggest, because as we can see here the title didn’t complete the story) and found they mentioned driver training in passing and continued quickly on to more machines that go “beep.”

So here we are. And until the FMCSA actually gets around to enacting the entry-level driver training rule we can’t do much more than hope Dave leads this humongous herd of commercial vehicles to the safety lands he dreams of. I sincerely wish him the best because when megafleets have safer drivers the roads are safer for all of us.

I don’t need a machine that goes “beep” to tell me that.

(Shout-out to the people who read the whole thing before commenting. There’s a special place in heaven for you.)


Other Land Line commentary by Wendy Parker: